21 August 2014

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City Focus - Oslo


With stunning surrounding scenery, fresh air and excellent infrastructure, the capital of Norway has plenty to offer event organisers. Astrid Mannion takes a look around

There’s a lot more to Oslo than Viking traditions and a picturesque fjord. The oldest of the Scandinavian capitals is nicknamed the City of Light, and has inspired artists such as painter Edvard Munch, playwright Henrik Ibsen and composer Edvard Grieg. It may be best known as a cold Nordic city, but is actually a great year-round destination with high temperatures in the summer.

Once a ship-building centre, this wealthy city now makes its money from the oil industry and various IT concerns. A walk around the clean and spacious streets will lead you to all manner of quirky museums and galleries, and there is a huge devotion to public art, including 192 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland in the city’s impressive Sculpture Park. Hip cafés and bars abound and the restaurant scene has been enlivened by recent immigration from Asia and the
Middle East.

It takes just over two hours to fly to Oslo from the UK and since Moss Airport Rygge, 37 miles to the south, opened in February 2008, travellers now have three airports to choose between. The main international airport, Gardermoen, lies 31 miles to the north, while budget airlines fly to Torp Sandefjord, 68 miles to the south-west.

In spring and summer, it’s hard to beat cold beers and tasty seafood on one of the alfresco terraces that line the buzzing Aker Brygge. This old wharf is the capital’s meeting place and is packed with restaurants, bars and exclusive shops. If there’s time, a cruise on the Oslo fjord also comes highly recommended – you can choose anything from a short, one-hour trip to a sunset cruise rounded off by a traditional prawn buffet. 

Event organisers also have a wide range of conference and party spaces to choose from, whether they’re after an intimate, timber-built hotel on the edge of the fjord or an ultra-modern venue bang in the city centre. The Economist Intelligence Unit, which compares the cost of living in urban centres across the globe, may just have named Oslo the word’s most expensive city for the second year running, but it’s not as big a money-drainer as you might think. Accommodation is particularly good value for money and the capital’s first-class hotels are among the cheapest in Europe.

The Grand Hotel (tel: 00 47 23 21 20 00), is the annual venue for the Nobel Peace Prize presentation. Situated on the capital’s main street, Karl Johans Gate, it features 290 luxurious rooms, conference and banqueting space for up to 400 delegates, and six restaurants and bars.

For something more traditional, Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica (tel: 00 47 22 92 20 00) is a must-see. Perched 350m above the city and with views of the fjord, the hotel was built more than a century ago and has characteristic dragon-style architecture. With 222 bedrooms, it also houses some of Norway’s most extensive conference facilities, offering 30 function rooms that range in capacity from two to 500 people. The hotel’s spacious grounds also make stunning backdrops for summer parties.

Oslo’s hottest new hotel is Grims Grenka (tel: 00 47 23 10 72 00), which opened in March. Situated in a historical part of town near Akershus Castle and the fortress, this five-star, luxury property features 30 individually designed bedrooms just minutes away from the Aker Brygge harbour. It has chic meeting spaces with capacity for up to 500 people.

This year’s most eagerly anticipated launch, however, is Oslo Opera House (tel: 00 47 22 95 40 00), set to open as we go to press. Situated in the capital’s harbour area, the sleek, minimalist building comprises a wide range of function rooms for events. The 1,356-capacity main hall will have impressive acoustics and a breathtaking chandelier, weighing in at eight and a half tonnes.

Other notable venues with event spaces include the Nobel Peace Center (tel: 00 47 48 30 10 00). Its permanent and temporary exhibitions provide an interesting backdrop for conferences, lectures, launches and concerts. Then there is Oslo Military Society (tel: 00 47 22 42 12 12), a beautiful building in neo-romantic style that is great for receptions, meetings and conferences for up to 200 people.

Oslo’s restaurants vary from budget eateries (yes, it is possible to eat cheaply here) to Michelin-starred restaurants, and foodies will love the local produce on offer: game, elk, reindeer and, of course, lots of beautifully prepared fish and seafood.

For truly stunning surrounds, throw a party at Bølgen & Moi, Høvikodden (tel: 00 47 67 52 10 20). This funky brasserie is situated in a modern art gallery and is surrounded by a large outside space with sculptures, a beach and beautiful views of the fjord. The 200-cover eatery has several event spaces, while the gallery’s six exhibition halls and 100-seater auditorium can all be hired for events for up to 1,000 people.

Other top-end restaurants include the Frognerseteren Restaurant (tel: 00 47 22 92 40 40) on the Holmenkollen hills where you can tuck into excellent traditional food. It has several event spaces and can hold up to 150 guests. Or try hip Restaurant Eik (tel: 00 47 22 36 07 10), which has two private dining rooms for 18 and 80 people.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Spring 2008.

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