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This article is about the capital of Norway. For other meanings of Oslo, see the disambiguation page
Oslo kommune
County Oslo NO-03
Landscape Viken
Municipality NO-0301
Administrative centre Oslo
Mayor (2004) Per Ditlev-Simonsen (H)
Official language form Neutral
 - Total
 - Land
 - Percentage
Ranked 224
454 km²
426 km²
0.14 %
 - Total (2005)
 - Percentage
 - Change (10 years)
 - Density
Ranked 1
11.40 %
9.2 %
Coordinates 59°56′ N 10°45′ E

Data from Statistics Norway

Oslo is the capital city of Norway, and has a population of 533,050 (July 2005). The conurbation extends into the surrounding county of Akershus, with a total population of 1,090,012. The urban municipality (bykommune) of Oslo and county (fylke) is the same entity. Of Oslo's total area, 115 km² is built-up and 7 km² is agricultural. The open areas within the built-up zone amounts to 22 km².


Physical environment

Oslo occupies an arc of land at the northern end of the Oslofjord. The fjord, which is nearly bisected by the Nesodden peninsula opposite Oslo, lies to the south; in all other directions Oslo is surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits, the largest being Malmøya (0.56 km²), and scores more around the Oslofjord. Oslo has 343 lakes, the largest being Maridalsvannet (3.91 km²). This is also a main source of drinking water for large parts of the western part of Oslo, mainly Vestre Aker and Nordre Aker. The highest point is Kirkeberget, at 629 m. Although the city's population is small compared to most European capitals, it occupies an unusually large land area. Its boundaries encompass many parks and open areas, giving it an airy and often very green appearance.

View of Oslo looking south from Holmenkollen, directly facing Nesodden
View of Oslo looking south from Holmenkollen, directly facing Nesodden


According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded around 1048 by king Harald Hardråde. Recent archaeological research has uncovered Christian burials from before 1000, evidence of a preceding urban settlement. This called for the celebration of Oslo's millennium in 2000. The origin of the name is still somewhat unclear. While "-lo" almost certainly means "lee" or "harbour", "os" may have several connotations, including one of the norse pantheons, a river mouth or a hillside. It has been regarded as the capital city since the reign of Håkon V (1299-1319), who was the first king to reside permanently in the city. He also started the construction of the Akershus Fortress. A century later Norway was the weaker part in a personal union with Denmark, and Oslo's role was reduced to that of provincial administrative centre, with the kings residing in Copenhagen. The fact that the University of Oslo was founded as late as 1811 had an adverse effect on the development of the nation.

When I was young, the capital of Norway was not called Oslo. It was called Christiania. But somewhere along the line, the Norwegians decided to do away with that pretty name and call it Oslo instead. -- Roald Dahl, Boy.
View from the Akershus Fortress towards the fjord.
View from the Akershus Fortress towards the fjord.

Oslo was destroyed by fire in 1624, and was rebuilt at a new site across the bay, near Akershus Fortress, by king Christian IV of Norway and given the name Christiania (later, 1878-1924, Kristiania). The original name of Oslo was restored in 1925. But long before this, Christiania had started to regain its stature as a centre of commerce and culture in Norway. In 1814 Christiania once more became a real capital when the union with Denmark was dissolved. Many landmarks were built in the 19th century, including the Royal Palace (1825-1848), Stortinget (the Parliament) (1861-1866), the University, the National Theatre and the Stock Exchange. Among the world-famous artists who lived here during this period were Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid Undset (the latter two won the Nobel Prize for literature). In 1850, Oslo also overtook Bergen to became the most populous city in the country.

Oslo's centrality in the political, cultural and economical life of Norway continues to be a source of considerable controversy and friction. Numerous attempts at decentralization has not appreciably changed this during the last century. While continuing to be the main cause of the depopulation of the Norwegian countryside, the growth of a modern urban landscape has met with both popular and political resistance. Spesifically, the construction of highrises in the city centre have been met with skepticism.

View from Ekeberg toward Grefsen
View from Ekeberg toward Grefsen

A marked reluctance to encourage the growth of the city for fear of causing further depletion of the traditional farming and fishing communities has led to several successive bursts of construction both in infrastructure and building mass, as the authorities kept waiting in vain for the stream of people to diminish. Neoclassical city apartments built in the 1850s to 1900s dotted with remnants of "Christian Quart"'s renaissance grid dominate the architecture around the city centre, except where slums were demolished in the 1960's to construct modernist concrete and glass lowrises, now generally regarded as embarrassing eyesores. Indeed, as the old buildings prove very expensive to maintain properly, the city as a whole is not usually considered beautiful, even by most of its own residents.

While most of the forests and lakes surrounding Oslo are in private hands, there is great public support for not developing it. Parts of Oslo suffer from congestion, yet it is the only European capital where people live with the wilderness literally in their back yard, or with access to a suburban train line that allows the city's many hikers to simply step off the train and start walking.

Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress

The city was once referred to as Tigerstaden (City of Tigers) by the author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson around 1870. This name has over the years achieved an almost official status, to the extent the 1000 year jubilee was celebrated by a row of tiger sculptures around the City Hall. A harsh picture of the city was drawn by Knut Hamsun in his novel Sult (Hunger) from 1890 (cinematized in 1966 by Henning Carlsen).

King Karl Johan
King Karl Johan
The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace
Vigeland Park
Vigeland Park

Some points of interest

Institutions of higher learning




There are daily ferry connections to:


Oslo Sentralstasjon is the main railway station in Oslo. From there, there are connections in the directions of: Trondheim, Bergen, Stavanger, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. In 2004 Norwegian trains was Europes third most punctual national train company. For the 4 first months in 2005 the punctuality is 92,9%. During winter in particular, weather conditions such as snow and blizzards may cause delays and cancellations on the routes crossing the central mountains.

Local public transport

Oslo City Bus
Oslo City Bus

All public transport within Oslo operate on the Oslo Sporveier common ticket system, allowing free transfers within a period of one hour if you buy a regular ticket. Tickets also transfer to the local and inter-city trains, which are operated by the state transportation company (NSB), but not if you intend to cross the city border. Oslo has the following public transportation systems: Bus, Tram (Oslotrikken), Metro (the T-bane), Ferries to Oslo islands and Train. Oslo's Tram- and Metro system is the largest in Europe compared to the number of inhabitants, and Oslo is the smallest city in the world with a full Metro system.


The city of Oslo constitutes a county of Norway. It is governed by a city government (Byråd) based on the principle of Parliamentarism. The government consists of 6 government members called commissioners (byråder, sing. byråd), and is appointed by the city council, which is the supreme authority of the city. The council consists of 59 popularly elected representatives.

Following the latest reform of January 1, 2004, the city is divided into 15 boroughs (bydel) that are to a considerable extent self governed. In addition, there is the main city centre and the rural/recreational areas (marka), not having an administration of their own.


The newspapers Aftenposten, Verdens Gang, Dagbladet, Dagsavisen, Vårt Land, Nationen and Klassekampen are published in Oslo. The main office of the national broadcasting company NRK is also located at Marienlyst in Oslo, near Majorstuen.


Oslo was the host city for the 1952 Winter Olympic Games. Except for the downhill skiing at Norefjell, all events took place within the city limits.

The Bislett stadion was used for speed skating events at the Olympics, but in recent years it has been better known for its annual Bislett Games track and field event. The whole Bislett Stadion has been re-built and was formally opened for the Bislett Games on July 29th 2005.

Two football teams from Oslo, Vålerenga I.F. Fotball and F.C. Lyn Oslo, play in the Norwegian premier league (2005).

Historical population

  • 1801: 9,500 inhabitants
  • 1825: 15,400
  • 1855: 31,700
  • 1875: 76,900
  • 1900: 227,700
  • 1925: 255,700
  • 1951: 434,365
  • 1960: 471,511
  • 1970: 487,363
  • 1980: 454,872
  • 1990: 458,364
  • 2000: 507,467
  • 2005: 529,407

http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/02/02/folkendrhist_en/tables/tab/0301.html http://www.ssb.no/folkendrkv_en/2004k4/hittil02-en.html


  • 1999: 763.957
  • 2005: 811.688

http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/02/01/10/beftett_en/ http://www.ssb.no/english/subjects/02/01/10/beftett_en/arkiv/art-2000-12-18-01-en.html

Sculptures in the Vigeland Park
Sculptures in the Vigeland Park

See also

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Boroughs of Oslo Oslo coat of arms

Alna | Bjerke | Frogner | Gamle Oslo | Grorud | Grünerløkka | (Marka) | Nordstrand | Nordre Aker | Sagene | (Sentrum) | St. Hanshaugen | Stovner | Søndre Nordstrand | Ullern | Vestre Aker | Østensjø

Counties of Norway Coat of arms of Norway
Akershus | Aust-Agder | Buskerud | Finnmark | Hedmark | Hordaland | Møre og Romsdal | Nordland | Nord-Trøndelag | Oppland | Oslo | Østfold | Rogaland | Sogn og Fjordane | Sør-Trøndelag | Telemark | Troms | Vest-Agder | Vestfold
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