Industrial port and capital of Norway; population (2007 est) 548,600. The main industries are shipbuilding, textiles, electrical equipment, engineering, machine tools, timber, and food processing. The first recorded settlement was made in the 11th century by Harald III Hardrada, but after a fire in 1624, it was entirely replanned by the Danish king Christian IV and renamed Christiania from 1624 to 1924. Following Norway's separation from Denmark (1814) and then Sweden (1905), the city reverted in 1925 to its original Norwegian name of Oslo.
The city is situated among pine woods and hills that rise like an amphitheatre. The port is built on the Aker River, at the head of Oslo Fjord (100 km/62 mi long), which is kept open in winter by icebreakers. The city contains a Viking museum; the 13th-century Akershus Castle, a fort and palace overlooking the harbour and fjord; Oslo Cathedral, in the main market square, a fine example of 17th-century church architecture; and the National Gallery, which includes many paintings by Edvard Munch.
Economy Timber was the city's main industry, but now the economy is much more varied, with a very considerable manufacture of both consumer and capital goods. Oslo is Norway's biggest port both in volume of trade and also as port of registration for merchant shipping. The sheltered harbour has 11 km/7 mi of quays with depths up to 11 m/36 ft.
Transport There are two main railway stations with a good train service to southern Norway, into Sweden, and to the European continent via Denmark. Electric trains connect the city with the suburbs; good road, rail, and air links have made Oslo the centre of an extensive tourist traffic. The civil airport is Fornebu, 7 km/4 mi from the city centre.
Architectural features The city is mostly a mixture of 19th- and 20th-century buildings. Many of Oslo's principal buildings are concentrated in or near the main street, Karl Johan, which is overlooked at one end by the Royal Palace (completed in 1848). In Karl Johan are the National Theatre (closely associated with Henrik Ibsen), the older part of Oslo University (completed in 1854), and the Storting (Parliament). Close by and overlooking the fjord is the impressive town hall (opened in 1951 at the time of Oslo's 900th anniversary celebrations). Broadcasting House is a fine 20th-century building.
Culture Oslo is noted for its municipal patronage of the arts. The town hall is richly decorated with large murals by Norway's leading contemporary artists, and there is also much sculpture, including a series of colourful wooden reliefs from Norse mythology. In Frogner Park is a unique collection of statues comprising 150 groups by the Norwegian sculptor, Gustaf Vigeland. The Vigeland studio and museum is close to the park. Oslo has many museums, particularly in the district of Bygdoy. The Viking Museum there contains three original Viking ships and many other Viking relics. The buildings containing the Kon Tiki raft and the polar ship Fram, used by Fridtjof Nansen on his 1893 polar expedition, are nearby, as are the Technical Museum and Maritime Museum. The Open-Air Folk Museum has a collection of 150 old wooden buildings assembled from many regions of Norway, and with original furnishings.
Sport and leisure Oslo offers many opportunities for sport and open-air activity, especially skiing. Large tracts of forest land in the surrounding hills are accessible by electric train from the underground station in the city centre, and tens of thousands of Oslo's inhabitants ski there. Holmenkollen is the site of an annual international ski festival which includes world championships in cross-country skiing and ski jumping. There are facilities for bathing in Oslo Fjord. Oslo is well provided with theatres and cinemas, and plays host to an annual summer concert.
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