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Passing the National Theater (2) we can see the statues of Ibsen and Bjørnson. Bjørnson wrote the lyrics for our national anthem. On the opposite side you can see the Parliament building,(3) housing 165 representatives from 19 districts. Parliamentary representatives are elected for a period of 4 years. The main street is called “Karl Johan”. It was named after the king who built the Royal Palace (4) on a hill at one end of the street. The palace was completed in 1858.
The coach for your guided tour of Oslo may be found in front of the town hall (1). Imagine that you enter the bus, sit down by the window and relax. As the bus starts, your guide starts to speak.The town hall was built in 1950 to commemorate the city’s 9th century. Attached to the west side of the left tower you can see the statue of the Viking king Harald Hardråde on horseback. He was killed at Stanford Bridge in 1066 attempting to conquer England.
We now pass the American embassy on your left. It was designed by the famous Finnish architect Saarinen. The Nobel Peace Institute (7) is on your right. Soon we will pass the statue (8) “Citizen of Calais” by the French sculptor August Rodin. The university library (9) is to the left, and here, when we turn into Bygdøy Allé, you can see the offices of Norsk Hydro (10) – Norway’s second largest company. Norsk Hydro produces fertilizers, magnesium, aluminum, car parts and oil.
Nobel Peace Prize
The university building (5) is where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony used to be held (from 1999 at the town hall). On our way to Vigeland Park we follow Drammensveien. To the right you can see the statue of Karl Johan made by Brynjulf Bergslien. It was he who discovered Gustav Vigeland and found sponsors for him. On the left side of the Royal Palace is the statue of Queen Maud, daughter of King Edward of Great Britain, married to King Haakon, elected king of Norway in 1905.
Grunerløkka is part of Oslo which was developed more so than any other region, as the living quarters for the new age industrial workers. From as earlier as 1870 onwards apartment buildings were being erected three stories high and from 1890 four stories high. The first building we notice is Foss School, built in 1899. It lies on a hill to the left of the pedestrian walkway. Next we reach Øvre Foss, Selduksdammen and Amot bru bridge. Amot bridge was moved here in 1958. It was originally built at Amot in Modum in 1852, and is the first cast chain bridge in Norway. There is an inscription on the right-hand pillar which reads “A hundred man I can hold, but brake under steady march“.
Cristiania Seilduksfabrikk, a fabric factory located below the waterfall is a significant building in Norwegian history. The factory was built in 1858 and the main building was long the largest building in the country next to the royal castle. People would come here to gaze at the immense building. Seilduken was a business which produced sails, canvas and fishing net thread but this all changed when the sailing ship era was over and consequently the business closed in the early 1960’s. At its peak during 1911/1912 the factory had 1100 workers. On the grounds of the Seilduks business there is a small building with old wooden beams, “ib bindingsverk”, where Akers Mekaniske Verksted, a large engineering company began in 1842. The business outgrew these premises and moved to the fjord area in 1854.
Above the seilduken buildings on the west side used to lie Haugen, later called Schultzehaugen, after Jens Schultz who bought the place in 1767. This man owned and ran, among many other things, a sawmill and a brick manufacturing business. Nowadays a religious organization named Kirke Bymisjon is located here. Those of you who admire old wooden houses should take a stroll up Telthusbakken. This street was an important road to the river from the west side of the city. In the area where Game Aker kirke (church) lies now, built at the beginning of the 1100’s, the farm gar Aker was situated. The Akerselva river and indeed the whole region derived its name from this farm. It was probably the oldest farm in Oslo at the time.
Between Øvre and Nedre Foss we enter a vast popular park area called Kuba. You may notice a large circular area on the ground. This marks the spot where one of the gas deposits owned by Oslo Gasworks once stood. A pedestrian bridge leads us over to the park on the eastern side of the Akerselva. A little further on and the river throws itself down some last waterfalls in Nedre Foss. Salmon returning from the Oslo fjord can swim no further than this point in the Akerselva because the waterfall here is too high. Thus the female salmon lay their eggs here and they will hatch later. The Oslo fisheries Administration catch salmon here each autumn and transport the salmon further upstream.
There has been a mill at Nedre Foss since the middle ages. Cister Cienser monks from the Hovedøya island cloister, ran a mill here as early as 1220. In those days they could row from Hovedøya all the way to the first waterfall. Following the reformation when the king took over the running of the church properties it was called the kings mill. King Kristian the fifth sold the property in 1672 to a mint master Friedrich Gruner, after whom the whole area was named. The mill was in the Gruner family for more than 200 years until 1911. Until the 1900’s Gruner house or Grunerhagen, at Nedre Foss was a widely known and dear place to the people of the area. Alas, today it is but a grassy hill and popular place for ball games. The garden was laid out in the 16/1700’s and was reputed to be one of the most beautifully designed gardens in all of Christiania which was the old name for Oslo.
At Maridalsveien 17, near the earliar Vulcan mechanical business, a new building is being constructed for concerts, exhibitions and theatre. There will also be a new athletic stadium. Once more we are at an important place in Oslo and the nations history namely the first bridge between east and west, Grunerbrua bridge. This bridge had the same name as the river and was called Aggers or Frysja bru bridge. It was the only bridge available until Vaterlands bridge was erected in 1654. To cross the bridge and come in to the city, the people had to pay a toll to Nedre Foss gard. Grunerbrua bridge was important to the defense of the city, and numerous historical events have occurred on or near the bridge. For instance fights on the bridge between old Norwegian tribes such as baglere and birkebeinere during the reign of King Sverre. During the seven year war (1563 – 70), the Swedes burned the bridge when they withdrew after unsuccessfully laying siege to Akershus Fortress.
Following Grunerbrua bridge our pathway leads us down by the riverside. The river executes a sharp turn west before again heading south and then east. Notice that the factory building on nedregate 5 was formed after the river. A number of manufacturing activities such as textiles have taken place in this building over the years. The building was completed in 1899 and has since been tastefully refurbished. After the pedestrian bridge from Nedregate to Østre Elvebakke, a park landscape gives a feeling of openness down towards Ankerbrua and Nybrua bridges. The first park was planned here by the Akerselva in 1917. The Ankerbrua bridge is a work of art in granite and is named after the lokka on the west side. At one time, the area belonged to the rich Anker family. The original wooden bridge from 1876 was replaced by the stone bridge in 1926. Dyre Vaa has decorated the bridge in 1937 with motifs from Norwegian folktales. At Nybrua bridge, Grunerlokka ends.