Walking Tour: Ibsen & Munch's Oslo
The two great figures of Norwegian art and letters, Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Munch, were both Oslo residents in the late 19th century. The city tha t inspired some of the world's most insightful plays and some its most chilling, disturbing paintings is still very much present.
- Start Ibsen Museet
- End Munchmuseet
- Length 6km; three hours
Take a Break
Grab a coffee at Hendrix Ibsen, a cafe–record store, a typically Norwegian irreverent homage to Ibsen (as well as Jimi Hendrix, obviously).
Not just a museum but Henrik Ibsen and his wife Suzannah's home from 1895 to 1906. Restored with period decor, Ibsen's study looks just as he left it.
Ibsen's route from his home, the Ibsen Museet, to the Grand Café is marked out in pithy Ibsen quotes embedded in the footpaths.
Ibsen's An Enemy of the People was one of the inaugural plays performed when the Henrik Bull–designed theatre opened in 1899. The theatre is considered the home of Ibsen, with all of his works having been produced here. With its Norwegian-language performances the theatre played a key part in shaping Norwegian identity during the early years of independence.
Every day for nine years, Ibsen walked from his home to the Grand Café for lunch and an evening drink, punctually at his special table in the cafe or Palm Garden between 1.20pm and 2pm, then from 6pm to 7.30pm. You can still order his favourite tipple, a pjolter (whisky and soda).
Karl Johan gate
Ibsen walked it and ate each day at its grand institution, and Munch painted it. Evening on Karl Johan gate depicts the upper reaches of the street in a characteristically dark and dread-ridden way, with skeletal locals and an ominous glow.
Var Frelsers cemetary
Between Akersbakken, Akersveien and Ullevalsveien you'll find the final resting place of both Munch and Ibsen. Ibsen's obelisk is engraved with a hammer, while Munch's is topped with a rather austere bust of the artist. For Harry Hole fans, an apartment overlooking the cemetery (Ullevalsveien 15) is the site of a murder in The Devil’s Star.
While Ibsen's Oslo stint came late in his life, Munch spent much of his childhood in this once working class neighbourhood. You can't visit any of his apartments but look for Fossveien 7, the home where his sister Sofie died and which inspired the painting Death in the Sick Room, while he later painted The Sick Child at Schous plass 1.
Munch's The Scream was inspired by a vision of the Oslofjord at Ekebergparken, and you can both take in the view (BYO angst) and re-create the painting itself via the frame used by Marina Abramovic in her 2013 homage to Oslo's most famous artist.
Finish with a visit to Munch's own museum, where you can see a staggering collection of his works, with the collection consisting of more than half of the artist's paintings and at least one copy of all his prints, mostly donated by Munch himself.
Walking Tour: All Along the Waterfront
Once a heavily industrialised port area, Oslo's waterfront has been totally transformed over the last 20 years and is still in the process of rapid change. It makes for a heady mix of the new and the historic and the industrial and the natural.
- Start Ekebergparken
- End Astrup Fearney Museet
- Length 4.5km; 2.5 hours
Take a Break
For some of the best city views this side of Holmenkollen, begin your walk at Ekebergparken. You'll also stroll past one of Norway's best contemporary-art collections, spying a Dan Graham or a Damien Hirst in between forests and fields.
New Bjørvika Views
Heading down towards the city, the fascinating Bjørvika lies before you, the former port in the throes of a massive overhaul. Past the cranes and building works lies the towers of Barcode, where the controversial project began, while along Sørengkaia is a new residential neighbourhood and swimming zone.
Oslo Opera House
Oslo's most iconic building needs little introduction. A walk on the luminous marble roof for stunning 360-degree views of the city and Oslofjord is an absolute must, as is a poke around its soaring wooden interiors.
On a sunny day this stretch of road makes for a nice waterfront stroll (on a cold or wet one it can, admittedly, be a little bleak), with the fortress looming above and some evocative remnants of the old port still dotted along this strip.
Oslo passenger ferries all dock here and there's little to remind you that this was once a fishing port, except for this charming seafood restaurant, where you can eat this morning's catch straight from the boats, and which is named for the bay on which it stands.
Astrup Fearnley Museet
The city's most-visited stretch of waterfront has a bustling boardwalk full of restaurants and ice-cream stands, bars and boats. Its mix-and-match contemporary architecture gives way to the serene sails of Renzo Piano's Astrup Fearnley Museet as you reach its island tip at Tjuvholmen.