Oslo (English pronunciation: /ˈɒzloʊ/, oz-loh,Norwegian pronunciation: [²uʃlu] ( listen) or, rarer [²uslu] or [1uʃlu]) is the capital of and most populous city in Norway. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, the city was moved closer to Akershus Castle during the reign of King Christian IV and renamed Christiania in his honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. Following a spelling reform, it was known as Kristiania from 1877 to 1925, when its original Norwegian name was restored.
Oslo is the economic and governmental centre of Norway. The city is also a hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. It is an important centre for maritime industries and maritime trade in Europe. The city is home to many companies within the maritime sector, some of which are among the world’s largest shipping companies, shipbrokers and maritime insurance brokers. Oslo is a pilot city of the Council of Europe and the European Commission intercultural cities programme.
Oslo is considered a global city and ranked «Beta World City» in studies performed by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network in 2008. It was ranked number one in terms of quality of life among European large cities in the European Cities of the Future 2012 report by fDi Magazine. For several years, Oslo has been listed as one of the most expensive cities in the world along with such other global cities as Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen, Paris, and Tokyo. In 2009, however, Oslo regained its status as the world’s most expensive city. A survey conducted by ECA International in 2011 placed Oslo 2nd after Tokyo.
As of 2010 the metropolitan area of Oslo has a population of 1,442,318, of whom 912,046 live in the contiguous conurbation. The population currently increases at record rates, making it the fastest growing city in Europe. This growth stems for the most part from immigration and high birth rates among immigrants, but also from intra-national migration. The Norwegian population in the city is not decreasing in absolute numbers, but in relative terms the percentage of native Norwegians of the total population in the city proper is decreasing due to a growing immigrant population and thus a growing total population. The immigrant share of the population in the city proper now counts more than 25% of the city’s total.
Slottet is the home of the Royal Family.
Oslo Timeline (major events)
CA. 1000 AD First traces of buildings. The St. Clement’s Church is built.
CA. 1050 AD Oslo marked as a city. Mariakirken is built.
1152/53 AD The Cathedral school is established
1299 AD Oslo becomes the capital of Norway
CA. 1300 Construction of Akershus Fortress starts.
1350 AD Around 3/4 of the population dies under the Black Death.
1352 AD St. Hallvard’s Cathedral and the other Sogne Churches are burned to the ground in a major fire
1624 AD Another major fire, the city is rebuilt and renamed Christiania by Christian 4.
1686 AD Fire ruins 1/4 of the city.
1697 AD Domkirken is finished and opened
1716 AD The city and the fortress conquered by Karl 12.
1813 The University is opened.
1825 The foundations of Slottet are finished.
1836 The National Gallery is finished.
1837 Christiania Theatre is opened. Christiania and Aker get a Mayor and kommunestyre.
1854 Oslo gets its first railway, which leads to Eidsvoll.
1866 Stortinget is completed.
1878 City expanded. Frogner, Majorstuen, Torshov, Kampen and Vålerengen are populated and rebuilt. 113000 citizens.
1892 The first Holmenkollbakken is finished.
1894 The city gets its first electrical track.
1899 Nationaltheateret is finished.
1925 City renamed as Oslo.
1927 The Monolith is raised.
1928 Oslo first Metro line, Majorstuen-Besserud is opened.
1950 Oslo City Hall opened.
1963 The Munch Museum is opened.
1980 Metro line under the city, Oslo Central Station and Nationaltheatret Station opened.
1997 Population over 500 000.
1998 Rikshospitalet opened. New railway line to Gardermoen.
2000 The city celebrates thousand-years jubilee.
2008 Oslo Opera House is opened.
2011 Several buildings in the Regjeringskvartalet are heavily damaged during a terrorist attack, resulting in 8 deaths. 69 people are massacred on the nearby Utøya island.
According to the Norse sagas, Oslo was founded around 1049 by King Harald Hardråde. Recent archaeological research has uncovered Christian burials which can be dated to prior to AD 1000, evidence of a preceding urban settlement. This called for the celebration of Oslo’s millennium in 2000.
It has been regarded as the capital city since the reign of King Haakon V (1299–1319), the first king to reside permanently in the city. He also started the construction of the Akershus Castle. 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 monarchs 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.
Oslo was destroyed several times by fire, and after the fourteenth calamity, in 1624, King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway ordered it rebuilt at a new site across the bay, near Akershus Castle and given the name Christiania. Long before this, Christiania had started to establish its stature as a centre of commerce and culture in Norway. The part of the city built starting in 1624 is now often called Kvadraturen because of its orthogonal layout. The last plague outbreak ravaged Oslo in 1654. 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, Nationaltheatret and the Stock Exchange. Among the world-famous artists who lived here during this period were Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun (the latter was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature). In 1850, Christiania also overtook Bergen and became the most populous city in the country. In 1877 the city was renamed Kristiania. The original name of Oslo was restored in 1925.
A map of the urban areas of Oslo in 2005. The grey area in the middle indicates Oslo’s city centre.
Under the reign of King Olav Kyrre, Oslo became a cultural centre for Eastern Norway. St. Hallvard became the city’s patron saint and is depicted on the city’s seal.
In 1174, Hovedøya Abbey (Hovedøya kloster) was built. The churches and abbeys became major owners of large tracts of land, which proved important for the city’s economic development, especially before the Black Death.
During the Middle Ages, Oslo reached its heights in the reign of King Haakon V. He started the building of Akershus Castle and was also the first king to reside permanently in the city, which helped to make Oslo the capital of Norway.
In the end of the 12th century, Hanseatic traders from Rostock moved into the city and gained major influence in the city. The Black Death came to Norway in 1349 and, like other cities in Europe, the city suffered greatly. The churches’ earnings from their land also dropped so much that the Hanseatic traders dominated the city’s foreign trade in the 15th century.
Over the years, fire destroyed major parts of the city many times, as many of the city’s buildings were built entirely of wood. After the last fire in 1624, which lasted for three days, King Christian IV decided that the old city should not be rebuilt again. His men built a network of roads in Akershagen near Akershus Castle. He demanded that all citizens should move their shops and workplaces to the newly built city of Christiania.
The transformation of the city went slowly for the first hundred years. Outside the city, near Vaterland and Grønland near Old Town, Oslo, a new, unmanaged part of the city grew up with citizens of low status.
In the 18th century, after the Great Northern War, the city’s economy boomed with shipbuilding and trade. The strong economy transformed Christiania into a trading port.
In the 19th century, several state institutions were established and the city’s role as a capital intensified. Christiania expanded its industry from 1840, most importantly around Akerselva. The expansion prompted the authorities to construct several important buildings, most of which remain as tourist attractions. There was a brief building boom from 1880, with many new houses, but the boom collapsed in 1889.
Auctioning off of children was prohibited by law (Fattigloven) in 1900, as a result of court cases related to children having died/been killed.
The kommune developed new areas such as Ullevål Hageby (1918–1926) and Torshov (1917–1925). City Hall was constructed in the former slum area of Vika, from 1931–1950. The municipality of Aker was incorporated into Oslo in 1948, and suburbs were developed, such as Lambertseter (from 1951). Aker Brygge was constructed on the site of the former shipyard Akers Mekaniske Verksted, from 1982–1998.
On 22 July 2011, Oslo was hit by a bomb blast that ripped through the city central government district, also damaging Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s office while he was absent and the nearby Ministry of Petroleum. The terrorist blast killed at least eight people prior to a shooting spree on the island of Utøya on lake Tyrifjorden, which killed 69 youths participating in a Norwegian Labour Party youth camp. The culprit is Anders Behring Breivik.