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Oslo is the capital and largest city of Norway, and the third largest city of Scandinavia. Oslo is also the demographic, economic and political centre of Norway.
Name and history
The history of the city can be traced back over 1,000 years. Oslo was founded in 1048, by the king Harald Hardråde. The city became capital of Norway around 1300, but lost its privileges during the Danish-Norwegian unnion from 1348 to 1814.
Oslo, with its approximately 453 square kilometers, is one of the largest capitals in the world by area. Most of this is forest, making Oslo a city in close contact with the nature surrounding it.
Oslo is situated in an amphitheatre-like setting, with the city centre in the bottom close to the Oslofjord, and residential areas stretching uphill from there in all directions. Behind the residential areas, the forested area of Marka extends, with flora and fauna that is quite extraordinary for a city of this size. Moose are commonplace (easily spotted in winter), and the whole of the capital is part of Norway's wolf reserve. However, polarbears are non-existing in Norway proper, even some might think so, due to old stories about Norway.
The Oslofjord is a lake in the Skagerrak bay, stretching inland from the North Sea. In the reverse direction, the inlet runs towards Øresund and the Baltic Sea. Oslo has an impressive archipelago of islands, which in summer becomes the city's favoured playground.
The inner city centre is bounded by Oslo Central Station (Oslo S) to the east, the Royal Palace (Slottet) to the west and the seafront (from Akershus fortress to Aker brygge) to the south. It is fairly compact and easily walkable. Karl Johans gate, the mostly pedestrian main street connecting Oslo S and the Palace, is the main artery of downtown Oslo. However, several of the neighbourhoods close to the centre hold interesting sights and entertainment offerings, so to explore these you should make use of the city's comprehensive and modern public transport system.
Although well into the northern latitudes, Oslo's climate is fairly temperate thanks to warm air being wafted across the Atlantic from the Gulf Stream. Summer weather in Oslo is usually mild and pleasant, with frequent hot spells and plenty of long sunny days. In winter temperatures hover just above or below freezing, with occasional cold spells. Snow is most often plentiful in the forested areas, making Oslo a great winter sports venue. Rainfall is spread across the year, the rainiest month being August.
Get in by plane
Oslo is served by three airports: Oslo Airport (Gardermoen), Sandefjord Airport (Torp) and Moss Airport (Rygge). Oslo Airport is the largest of the three and is the main international gateway to Norway.
Be aware that most Internet flight booking sites will show flights to all mentioned airports when searching for Oslo Airport. Make sure to check the actual airport from the search results before booking. If you don't want to land in an airport that is far away from Oslo, Gardermoen and Rygge airports are your best choice.
Oslo by Bike
If you are planning to go on a trip to Oslo and you want to discover the city, you can easily hop on a bike. Over the past years Oslo has developed into a real cycle city and it now even offers people to make use of the so called ¨Bysykler¨. This cycle plan offers citizens and tourists the possibility to grab a bike at over more than 100 places in Oslo.
There is also the possibility to discover Oslo with a guided bike tour, offered by various biking tour companies. For example Baja Bikes and Alternative Tours Oslo offer bike tours in Oslo. A local guide takes you along all Oslo’s highlights. In a few hours you will get familiar with the city and afterwards you could rent a bike and explore the city on your own.
Buildings and structures
Architecture in Oslo may at first seem dull. Unlike for instance its Swedish counterpart, Stockholm, downtown Oslo has only scattered monumental buildings where in particular the Parliament-Palace axis (upper part of Karl Johan Street) has a certain Parisian grandeur. The charm of Oslo can also be found in the affluent inner-city suburbs of for instance Frogner and Fagerborg as well as above St.Hanshaugen park. Northern Europe has a distinct wooden house tradition. Wooden houses are not allowed downtown, but these charming houses can be found in large numbers in villa suburbs such as Bygdøy and Holmenkollen, or former workers' areas such as Rodeløkka, Kampen, Vålerenga, Damstredet, Hellerud or Telthusbakken. Oslo also has many exciting building projects and a huge part of the city's waterfront will in a few years have changed.