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Photo: Jørn Eriksson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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Architectural innovation

The downtown waterfront area in Oslo is reborn as a neighbourhood blending museums, restaurants and chic urban living.

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art – art island

The New York Times described Oslo as “ready to shine” on their list of top places to visit in 2013. Why? In part because of the island of Tjuvholmen and the spectacular new Astrup Fearnley Museum. Since it opened in September 2012, praise for the building has been widespread:

“Once a dirty, no-go industrial zone, the island of Tjuvholmen in Oslo has been transformed into an ideal destination for a cultural citybreak.” Financial Times, April 2013

The noted contemporary art gallery moved from Kvadraturen in 2012 to its new home in the 7,000 square metres, 700 million kroner Renzo Piano building on Tjuvholmen or “Thief Island”, next door to Aker Brygge. Designed as a public space as well as a museum, the ship-formed structure is really three freestanding pavilions across a narrow water channel under a single arching sail-shaped glass roof. This allows much of the interior hanging space to be lit by natural light.

The palette of glass, steel and wood emphasize the simplicity and essentialism of Norwegian design principles. Temporary exhibitions as well as art workshops for children are on offer all year round.

“... one of the world’s most important private collections of modern and contemporary art” The Independent, October 2012

Signature artwork by Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince and many others is exhibited at Astrup Fearnley. The Museums' neighbourhood is mixed use art galleries, retail and residential. The immediate neighbour is a designer hotel also committed to contemporary art, The Thief.

OsloPhoto: CH/Visitnorway.com

Waterfront art and culture

The Bjørvika area encompasses the waterfront around the Norwegian Opera and Ballet. A former industrial area of railway lines, shipping containers and a busy motorway is being redeveloped into a huge pedestrian space, destined to become the cultural centre of Oslo. The gentle slope of the Opera’s roof has become a popular and attractive meeting place where visitors get the feeling of sitting on a white marble beach lapped by the Oslo fjord.

Bjørvika is evolving rapidly, and at its full completion in 2025, it will also include apartments, offices and several urban parks.

In the meantime, visit an urban food project featuring 100 allotments for Oslo gardeners, called “The Glory”. Cultivated in April 2012, it is one of seven public green areas covering 5,000 square metres of “rocky building site” next to the giant cooling towers in Bjørvika.

Barcode buildings – corporate modernity

Contemporary urban development is not limited to Bjørvika. The architectural momentum is conveyed in the Barcode buildings in Dronning Eufemias gate near the central railway sidings.

At 22 storeys tall, these black and white corporate structures are each divided by a 12-metre space. Each building is different, with a pixelated appearance that gives them the name “Barcode”. In between the ground-level spaces is a sheltered public passage, and sculptures are displayed in open areas.

Like modern art, the Barcode buildings divide opinion. The impact of the buildings vary depending on where you stand and at what time of the day, so take a look from several vantage points – the railway station, Bjørvika, and Sørenga.

New styles of waterfront living

The Sørenga peninsula is part of the harbour area and falls within the larger Bjørvika development area. This is a new and central neighbourhood complete with parks and a pier that floats on the Oslo Fjord. Designed to make full use of the fjord, Norway’s first outdoor seawater swimming facility will be incorporated into the Sørenga promenade.

Mathallen – a centre for Norwegian food culture

At the once industry-heavy bank of the river Akerselva, one of Oslo’s most interesting new city development projects, called Vulkan, has come to life. Mathallen’s attraction is that community and culture come together under the common association of food.

Mathallen has a distinctive European market-hall feel with restaurants, cafes, greengrocers, pubs, bakers and fishmongers. Producers of Norwegian homegrown meats, cheeses, seafood and many more delicious foods and drinks are here to tempt your taste buds with the mouth-watering food choices Norway has to offer.

From Mathallen you can cross the bridge over the Akerselva river and visit Smelteverket, a gastropub with Scandinavia’s longest bar and 20 large windows facing the river. Smelteverket’s soulful fusion-sharing menu offers a fascinating variety of tapas-styled food. The ever-changing beer menu is always packed with great craft beers from around the world.

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park

Situated near the Ekebergrestauranten, the Ekeberg Sculpture Park is your opportunity to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet, whilst taking in some culture or savouring a good meal.

The park offers a total of 63 forested acres dotted with sculptures by internationally renowned artists, and lies on a small hill just to the south-east of Oslo city centre.


More art and culture in Oslo

Oslo has a lot to offer, so start exploring these listings to find even more things to do.
​Get in-depth travel information on Oslo’s official website.

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