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Oslo History

Whether as Oslo, Christiana or Kristiania, the regularly renamed Norwegian capital has had a compelling past. The oldest of the Scandinavian capitals, it was founded in 1050 by King Harald Hardråda (Hard Ruler), who was killed in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge near York.

In the years following Harald’s demise, Christian kings such as Olav Kyrre turned Oslo into Norway’s spiritual centre as well as its military one and sparked a boom in church building. But Oslo’s success waned by the 13th century as Norway was reduced to a province of Denmark, ruled from Copenhagen.

Worse was to come as numerous fires gutted the wooden buildings of the city centre. It wasn’t until 1624 that a stone rebuild was ordered by King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway. But there was a price to pay – they had to rename the city Christiana in honour of the Danish king.

Oslo would remain Christiana for the next 300 years. It wasn’t until 1925 (20 years after Norway finally became independent) that the city’s Norwegian moniker was finally restored.

Despite political trials, the growing city became a major financial, military and administrative centre, with the Hanseatic League setting up shop in the city in the 15th century. The subsequent development of shipping, industry and forestry helped to cement the dominant role that Oslo still enjoys in the nation's economy today.

In more recent years, Oslo has undergone further expansion due to a boost in the city's financial standing from the wealth created by the discovery of vast oil reserves in the North Sea during the 1960s.

This has prompted a modern architectural face-lift, which is reflected in the development of the bustling docks and the lively retail and leisure sector around Aker Brygge - a transformed former warehouse area along the quay.

Did you know?
• Oslo has sent a huge Christmas tree to Britain each year since 1947 as a thank you for its support during WWII.
• Oslo is home to the Nobel Peace Prize which is presented every December at Oslo City Hall.
• Two of Edvard Munch's paintings, The Scream and Madonna, were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo on 22 August 2004. The thieves left a note that read: "thanks for the poor security."

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City Highlight: Oslo, Norway

Lush and green Oslo flaunts a plethora of fun outdoor activities, and a visit to this scenic Scandinavian city promises a taste of its rich Viking heritage too

Featured Hotels

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First Hotel Millennium

Despite the 1930s facade (and the name), the First Hotel Millennium opened in 1988 and is located a few minutes' walk from the city centre. Its 114 rooms are finished in minimal Scandinavian style with wooden floors. The on-site restaurant does a decent breakfast buffet too.

Thon Hotel Astoria

Centrally located and a short walk from Oslo’s main shopping street and central station the Thon Hotel Astoria is convenient for budget-minded travellers who want to explore Oslo’s tourist attractions. Rooms are comfortable – if small – and the excellent breakfast is highly recommended.

First Hotel Grims Grenka

One of the most charming of Oslo’s stays, the Grims Grenka might be a chain hotel but it has the feel of a boutique establishment. Each of the 65 rooms are spacious and come with a stash of organic tea. The Madu restaurant and the rooftop Q Lounge are both worth checking out too.

Saga Hotel

Built in the 1890s, the intimate Saga Hotel sits a stone's throw from the Royal Palace but is far less grand than its setting would suggest. Instead, its rooms are romantic and remarkably short on Scandinavian minimalism, while staff are friendly and ever-ready to field questions and source decent restaurants.

The Thief

Despite the name, The Thief is a well-priced hotel with direct access to the Oslofjord that certainly won't relieve you of all your money. Housed in a modern glass and steel building, the rooms have great views and simple modern décor. There's a gourmet restaurant on site too.

Hotel Continental

The Continental is an Oslo institution that has been run by the same family for four generations and is more than a century old. Situated in the heart of Oslo next to the National Theatre the hotel is known both for outstanding service and restaurants as well as its links with the Oslo arts scene.