The Norwegian Customs Museum - Tollmuseet was established in 1915 and is a very interesting museum. It shows the history of the Norwegian Customs through almost 4 centuries, since the sixteenth century. Here on display are the original uniforms worn by customs officers through the centuries.
It is not known when the first customs were claimed, but the first taxes collected date back to the settlement of Iceland and were called Departure taxes... collected by Harald Harfagre (865-933). I know from the history of Iceland that Norwegians left Norway for Iceland as they were fleeing high taxes.
On display at the museum are confiscated contraband and methods of smuggling, very enlightening. There were all kinds of drugs on display and the methods shown how these drugs and cigarettes and alcohol were cleverly hidden, both during the prohibition years in Norway and in more recent times. It is amazing really how much contraband is confiscated, but one can only imagine how much gets through. Huge amounts of alcohol were smuggled inside logs. And during the prohibition years smugglers would tie small containers to their body filled with alcohol. Once 3 suspicious women were stopped - they looked suspicious as they were huge and waddled. They were carrying alcohol in "body-containers" all over their body, each one of them carrying 15 liters of alcohol like that.
There were also exotic animals and tusk on display. And weapons of all sorts. Plus a skate-board, but in the 1980´ it was prohibited to import skate-boards to Norway.
At the museum are also artefacts from the history of Customs in Norway.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 11:00-15:00.
After entering the museum by the main street one has to be buzzed in to get to the museum entrance on the second floor.
A recommended visit.
It is one of the newest opera houses in the World, built in 2007. Its construction costed 40 million EUR!!! It has more than 1000 rooms and the main hall has almost 1400 seats. To be honest I liked the building but it didn't impressed me much. When I heard about the money it took I understood why the locals are so proud of this building - they just have to!
(Sorry about the bad photos)
The Nobel Peace centre is amazing, a must visit in my opinion. It is located by Aker brygge.
As you enter the first hall is the golden hall of fame. Then you enter the exhibition hall of the lives of Afgan women and the lives of American soldiers in Afganistan. It is very well made, both disturbing and enlightening at the same time. And gives one hope that these women will some day gain their full freedom.
There are more exhibition halls on the "burning of the veil" - or suppressed Muslim women fighting for their freedom.
On the second floor there is a fantastic exhibition on all the wonderful people who won the Nobel prize. That exhibition is awesome, the peace in there touched me to the very core of my soul. My photos don´t capture it well enough, but the hall is like a forest or lit up flowers swaying with flickering lights with photos of the Nobel Peace Laureates appearing and disappearing. I could have stayed there for hours, it was just amazing.
You can also listen to Martin Luther King´s famous speech.
Opening hours: summer time - every day from 10-18. In winter time 10-18. Mondays closed in winter time.
Admission fee: NOK 80.
I add more photos in a travelogue.
The end area by Aker Brygge is called Tjuvholmen and it is still under construction. Tjuvholmen is referred to as Oslo´s art district and there are some some galleries open there, with much more in the near future.
There is a big museum here, where the Astrup Fearnley collection is housed. The museum building is in the shape of a ship on shore. This is the most prominent building on Tjuvholmen. Beside the museum a sculpture garden was being constructed when I last visited in May 2013. It looked very interesting and I followed how more and more statues were being put up there.
In the autumn of 2012 "Tárnet" - The Tower was opened. It is a 70 meters high spiral tower with a great view of Oslo. I was reading an interview in one Norwegian newspaper, where they expect Tárnet to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Oslo.
This area will be one of the most expensive in Oslo.
"Tjuv" actually means thief in Norwegian, as here thiefs and criminals used to hang out, so Tjuvholmen means literally The Thief island.
The main square in Grünerløkka is Olaf Ryes plass. It is a park as well, not big though. It has been a park since 1890 - named after Olaf Rye, who was a prominent Norwegian/Danish military leader.
By the statue of Eilert Sundt (1892) the drunks hang out, so it is not advisable to sit there - it seems like they "own" the benches there. When I took the photo they got angry and shouted at me. On my visit to Oslo in 2013 we frequently sat by the drunks, as we found nowhere else to sit in the sun. Some were too drunk and the police was called in, but mostly they were just friendly.
The first weekend of the summer months there is a market here for 3 days - it is so much fun and the square gets crowded with people. There are food-stalls with different ethnic food, Vietnamese, Turkish, Chinese etc. And clothes and jewellery for sale. And fun things to do for the kids - inflated jumping castles etc.
The area around the square also gets filled with people, there are so many restaurants here.
If you are into markets and crowds like I am then I highly recommend going there. It is advertised in "What´s on in Oslo".
There is a small park in Grünerløkka called Birkelunden or The Birch Grove.
The park is lovely, with a music pavilion from 1926 and a statue of a foal. I have been there several times and it is always filled with people. I have read that it is quite a popular park and as in other parks in Oslo people barbeque there. But on sunny days it can get quite messy there, the trash cans get filled to the rim. The park is preserved and was a present from Thorvald Meyer with the terms that it should remain a park and that no buildings should be erected there.
Every Sunday is a there is a Bruktmarket or Flea-market at Birkelunden park from 12-19. There is so much stuff in such a small place that it is a bit difficult having a look around. But quite interesting, I love markets like this.
Beside the grove is Paulu´s church from 1892, which is Grünerløkka´s parish church.
Birkelunden and Paulu´s church are preserved as they represent Grünerløkka´s unique look in the 1800s.
By Oslo S and Trafikanten there is a very popular square, Jernbanetorget square, with a big statue of a tiger in the middle of the square. Of course all the tourists, I included, have their photo taken there with the tiger. Some people crawl on top of it and it can be quite funny watching them try to get down again :) There was a name for Oslo "Tigerstaden" or The City of the Tiger to make Oslo look like a dangerous place one shouldn´t mess with.
On this square are also stone-benches and on the ground in the paving stones there are boxes with lovely butterflies - it is a lovely idea and makes this square a lot more lively and beautiful - instead of there just being some grey paving stones there. I love things like that - everything that can make one´s day brighter :)
And of course if one wants to listen to accordion music, then this is the place to be as there are a lot of gypsies here.
Kunstindustrimuseet - The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. This museum belongs to The National Gallery.
Now this is a museum worth visiting for a couple of hours. I went here on a Sunday as then there is free admission and I need to go back as there are myriads of exhibition halls here with wonderful old art from different periods in time and from different countries as well.
There is a special exhibition on the Royal family (see my tip) and on the ground-floor there is an exhibition on the travels of the Royal family and their costumes.
There are exhibitions on several floors from 1600s to present time, which is more to my liking than contemporary art. I am a big lover of old art, barroque etc. There are permanent exhibitions on different eras f.ex. "Design and Decorative arts from 1905-2005" and "Styles from 1100-1905". There are also carved silver exhibitions, exhibitions on how typewriters got more modern, an East-Asian exhibition, where you can f.ex. see the small Japanese shoes women were forced to wear, which mutilated their feet, just endless exhibitions, so well made that I was absolutely overwhelmed.
Opening hours: Mondays: closed, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 11-17, Thursday 11-19. Weekends: 12-17.
Admission: NOK 50.
"Den Norske Opera og Ballet" - The Opera House is Oslo´s biggest tourist attraction and in 2011 1,7 million people crossed the bridge leading to the Opera.
One can walk up to the roof of the Opera House for a fantastic view and take a sunbath on the steps on a sunny day.
There is a long queue every time the tickets are sold for the upcoming year. Last year when the ticket sale to the Opera was opened some people had parked outside in a camping chair from 6 in the morning, although the ticket office opened at 10, just to be able to get tickets. When the ticket office opened there was a queue of 200 people. And just in one day 18.000 tickets were sold. The Opera hands out coffee and buns for free to the people in the queue :)
If you haven´t been able to get tickets then you can ask from 9 in the morning on the same day of the performance if there are tickets which haven´t been picked up.
There are different price ranges of course and the cheapest tickets are NOK 100 and 100 tickets are sold for NOK 100 for each performance. There are 32 "staplass" where you stand during the performance.
You can buy a subsription ticket (is this the right expression for it) and the most expensive are for the premiere with the red carpet, torches and champagne and you pay NOK 5.600 for 8 performances for the opening nights :)
There is free Internet connection and toilets in the lobby, which I have used frequently. It is lovely just sitting in the lobby or at the café there.
Utviklingshuset or the Development Centre is an exhibition/information centre about aid and development cooperation.
The centre is on 3 floors and is very educational, I spent an hour in there just reading up on Development cooperation, environmental and climatic challenges - finding out, amongs other things, that 4,5 million varieties of seeds from all over the world are preserved in Svalbard for backup. And here is also discussion on equality - I found out that women carry out 70% of the world´s work, but only get get paid 10% of all wages. This must be corrected.
On the ground floor one can also listen to a video on different Aid workers talking about their experience while helping abroad.
On the first floor one can read up on the 8 development and human rights goals that UN set out to reach by the start of the new Millennium and which they aim to reach by 2015. I so hope they do reach these goals.
On the second floor one gets to answer a series of question on help given to the developing countries. It is very informative.
Admission fee: free.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday from 10:00-16:00.
The Development Centre is run by Norad (Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation) a directorate of the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also run the Nobel Peace Centre next to the Development Centre.
A recommended visit. A centre like this serves to raise people´s awareness on what they can do to help - and how differently we live and maybe why?
There is a very big graveyard in Oslo called Vár Frelsers Gravlund - or the Cemetary of our Saviour. It dates back to 1808. It used to be the cemetary of the rich people and in 1903 it became an honorary cemetary.
Here Munch and Ibsen are buried - amongst a lot of prominent figures in Norway´s history. There is a Grove of honour - Æreslunden - where Munch and other prominent figures are buried. I had a hard time at first finding this grove, seeing that the cemetary is so big - and seeing that there are so many big statues there. Munch´s grave is here and a little further is Henrik Ibsen´s grave - it stands out with a lot of space around it - here he is buried with other Ibsen family members.
I also found the grave of Ivar Aasen, the founder of Nynorsk, which is now the official language in Norway along with bokmál. I noticed the inscription on the grave without knowing who was buried there - it is taken from Hávamál and written in old Icelandic: "Deyr fe, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama. En orðstírr deyr aldrigi hveim er sér góðan getr". I wonder how many Norwegians can actually understand their old language?
There is a special grove in the cemetary where Nazi victims are buried. It is written by the grave:
"Two of the best known victims of the Nazi terror in Norway are buried here, Harald Viggo Hansteen and Rolf Evald Johan Vickström. Hansteen was a legal adviser to The Norwegian Federation of Trading Union, and Vickström was a welder and elected works convenor at Skabo Railway Workshop. Following a strike in Oslo in 1941 they were both arrested by German police and sentenced to death by a hastily called court-martial and shot to death on the 10th of December.
It was the first hostage shooting during the German occupation and made a deep impression on the population."
There is a church in the cemetary which is now The Russian Orthodox church - dating back to 1864.
Opposite the cemetary is Akerskirke church, the oldest church in Oslo.
I recommend visiting this cemetary, even though I only recognized the names of few of the people buried here, then the cemetary is so big and there are so many statues and monuments, that it is well worth a visit.
The roof of the Opera house is made for walking on it - and up on the roof is a great view of the city, the islands and the Middle age town. It is (in 2012) the only Opera house in the world where one can walk on the roof.
It is also a very good place for sunbathing on a sunny day. I have done that often because of the view.
It is an easy walk and the tiles are not slippery - unless on a rainy day. It says on a sign by the Opera that you walk on the roof on your own risk and that no skateboarding is allowed nor bicycles - imagine if people were scateboarding on the roof of the Opera... but I guess it is prohibited for a reason as youngsters are scateboarding in too many places, f.ex. in front of the City Hall it can be dangerous to walk as youngsters use it as a scateboard area.
The design of the roof is such that it is uneven in places, and I have seen people tripping over the protruding desing in various places - and I have tripped there many times while looking in other directions.
Anyhow, this shouldn´t be missed for a great view of the city.
Trafikanten is the tower by Oslo Central Station or "Oslo S".
Here you can get maps and other information on Oslo, like timetables for the buses, trains and streetcars. And more information from the clerks behind the desk there, who speak English like natives. Sometimes there is just too much waiting as it can get a bit crowded in there. Here I bought my 24 hour Oslo Pass for entrance to most of the Oslo museums, before the Tourist Information desk here closed down in 2013.
RUTER is the name of the company in charge of all the transportation in Norway. So if you have to look up info on transportation or buy tickets then look out for machines with their sign. This sign is also on all the public transport, including the boats and ferries.
Opening hours are: Monday-Friday from 7-20 and at weekends from 8-18.
There used to be a Tourist Information desk here, but it has closed down and they refer to the Tourist Information by Oslo City Hall, where one can pick up brochures and buy the Oslo Pass.
On arriving for the first time to Oslo I headed straight for the Information center behind City Hall and got myself a lot of brochures and maps on Oslo. The Oslo Guide and What´s on Oslo are the best ones and different maps are necessary as they show different information on the museums.
At the library I found four excellent big maps for free on different parts of Oslo - with detailed information on the back on these places (see my photos of these maps). I would recommend those, as they show the history of Oslo and different areas of Oslo - just what I was looking for. The ones I used the most often were "Turkart Oslo vest" and "Turkart Oslo sentrum" - and then an excellent one "Turguide Akerselva" on the history of the factories and walks by the Akerselva river. They are in Norwegian though.
Opening hours: every day of the year - I refer to their website for opening hours as they vary for summer and winter seasons.
Grünerløkka is a district in Oslo. It became a part of Oslo in 1858 and used to be a working-class area, with a lot of factories by Akerselva river. But now it has kind of a London - artisty Notting Hill feel to it. I love going there, I feel at home there. It is now the most popular area for young people to live and I totally understand it.
The main streets are Thorvad Meyers gate and Markveien and you will find a lot of antique stores there and funky little shops.
There are several old factories in Grünerløkka as this district is located by Akerselva river. In one of them, which used to be a sail-cloth factory the National Academy of the Arts is now located.
The parks in Grünerløkka are Birkelunden and Olav Ryes plass and Grünerhagen park (see my tips on these parks).
Oslo´s most famous jazz club is located by Akers elva river in Grünerløkka (see my tip).
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