Oslo, Norway – The Other “Emerald City”

For our entire trip in Oslo, Bobby kept comparing the city to his beloved Seattle. There are a lot of similarities: the cities both sit on water in an area carved by glaciers, they have large shipping/fishing industries, similar craftsmen’esque homes, and strong art/architecture scenes.  We are partial to Seattle, but Oslo gave us an unexpected sense of home despite the huge distance separating the two.  We stayed with a lovely woman who gave us great info for all the best things to see in her city: the Oslo Opera House (of course!), the islands in the surrounding area, the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Akershus Fortress, and several interesting museums.  We tried our best and saw the majority of the list in just two days!  Of course, we could have stayed much longer.

The Oslo Opera House, home of The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, was built by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta.  Interestingly enough, I first learned about the Opera House when one of the two principals of the firm, Craig Dykers, gave a speech at my architecture school at The University of Texas at Austin (which also happens to be Mr. Dyker’s alma mater).  It’s an impressive structure.  The roof of the building angles up from ground level creating a large plaza.   Pedestrians and skateboarders alike are welcomed to use the roof area, which boasts amazing panoramic views over the city.  It is especially popular at sunset; sometimes hundreds of people stop to take in the view.

Opera House from the fjord


An Italian couple we met were quick to point out that the most of the building is clad in white marble from Carrara, Italy and the sculpture in the water is by an Italian artist.

The Oslo Opera House

Sculpture by Monica Bonvicini in the fjord adjacent to the Opera House

Marble and aluminum (vertical surface to the right)

Salt flats or surface of the moon?

Oslo Opera House at sunset

Crazy reflections at sunset

After enjoying the earlier stages of the sunset, we hopped on a couple of bikes with Oslo’s bike exchange/rental program and headed to the Vigeland Sculpture Park for the encore performance.  Only after a couple of wrong turns, we made it there in less than 20 minutes!  The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions.  Gustav Vigeland made the sculpture park between 1939 and 1949, creating more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron.  The park is laid out in a cross design, with most of Vigeland’s lifework following the linear pathways, culminating in a large obelisk created from sculpted human bodies.

Vigeland Sculpture Park

Obelisk from afar

Gates to the obelisk

Close up of the bodies

Baby overload


Who is in control here?

Bronze sculpture – there’s a baby in the tree!

Balancing act

Spirit hands!

On our second day in Oslo, we spent most of our day in several museums.  We saw some of Oslo’s best art and architecture students’ work and visited both the National Museum and the Architecture Museum.  Then, we spent the rest of the afternoon on the water, taking in Oslo’s island chain.  Luckily, we enjoyed another beautiful sunny day!

Lindøya, one of Oslo’s islands

Cute and colorful homes on Lindøya

View of Renzo Piano’s new Astrup Fearnley Museet (museum)

Some of the biggest, puffiest clouds I’ve ever seen!