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Like its sister cities, Copenhagen and Stockholm, Oslo—tucked in a fold of the Scandinavian peninsula, away from the pounding of the North and the Baltic seas—is a city of islands. In Oslo’s case, 40 of them, in fact. The Norse enjoyed a 300-year alliance with the Danes, so there’s much shared history and royalty, and a certain Danish tinge to Norwegian. Like the Danes during World War II, the Norwegians gave the Germans very lively resistance. Each year, in thanks for the British military’s support to their saboteurs, the deeply forested Norwegians send a 100-year-old native spruce to London for British use as a Christmas tree. That’s graciousness of the sort that you will encounter in Norway’s capital.
Here are the best hotels in Olso:
Founded by some clever aficionados of luxury in 2013, and owned by Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen’s Nordic Hotels, The Thief is a splashy addition to Oslo’s, and Scandinavia’s, high-end lodgings. Its 119 rooms and fantastic spa are on tiny Tjuvholmen island, which, according to the legend, was the lair of choice for Oslo’s robbers and prostitutes back in the 18th century. The hotel’s rakish Mack-the-Knife air does bring a certain latter-day frisson. (Which is arguably why edgier celebrities have booked in here by the long ton, heavy on the music and fashion world: Dave Navarro, Elie Goulding, the Olsen twins, Helena Christensen, and, yes, watch out—if he’s in-country when you are, you could be in danger of an encounter with Justin Bieber. Check Oslo’s concert listings closely before booking.
Family-owned-and-run for four generations, the Hotel Continental is one of Oslo’s superb luxury properties. With 151 rooms and suites, four restaurants and its beautiful corner Theater Cafe, the Continental has attained the goal that elegant hotels strive for, namely, to become a social anchor in the town while also maintaining renown among global travelers. The Continental’s location tells you a lot: It lies on the southern flank of the Slottparken, the Royal Castle’s park, between the Royal Castle and the Stortinget, or national parliament. Not a shabby neighborhood.
The Steens are a bedrock Oslo business family who have bought and renovated a mid-19th century villa in the embassy district just north of the Royal Castle, once lived in by well-known writer and women’s rights advocate Camilla Collett. On the street bordering the northern side of the Royal Park, at No.29 Parkveien, or Park Way, “Camilla’s House” is staggeringly charming, with just seven bedrooms, a restaurant in a separate house and outbuildings. Formerly occupied by Camilla’s sons, the rooms are highly individual. The Steens undertook the renovations with consultation from Oslo’s landmarks authority and have the stated purpose of making the guests feel as if they are “residing in a private home rather than a hotel.” In Camilla’s House, the 1840s were just yesterday.
Oslo is nothing if not a seagoing town, so it’s apt that there’s a hotel in the stately 1913 headquarters building of one of Oslo’s greatest old cruise ship companies, the America Lines, whose boats carried kings and farmers alike as they plied the route to New York and the promised land. The America Lines Hotel (in Norwegian, pronounced with the soft “j,” as amerika-LIGH-nen) is a luxurious boutique hotel right in the center of things, hard by the Opera and Gamle Oslo, or Old Oslo. The Amerikalinjen boasts a cafe, a brasserie, a courtyard dining spot and a bar named Pier 42, for the historic arrivals pier on New York’s Hudson river, midtown on Manhattan’s West Side.
Opened in 1874 as a luxury hotel, the Grand Hotel is Oslo’s ship of state among luxury properties. With 283 rooms, including 54 suites, you’ll be rubbing elbows with the bigger oil and shipping tycoons who regularly tread Oslo’s business and diplomatic parquet. As with New York’s Algonquin, the Grand’s lobby bar is a famous meeting place. Its Palmen restaurant is for longer tête-à-têtes, and its Artesia spa is the spot to unwind after you’ve closed the big North Sea deal. The Grand lies on the north side of the parliament, so if there are any government committees you need approval from, they’re just around the corner.
The Rosencrantz is part of the countrywide Thon chain, and it’s one of those light, fast, center-city hotels that are a pleasure in which to live because they let you get on with your business without getting in the way. With a kitted-out fitness center and its Michelin Guide-listed Restaurant Paleo—simply a reference to an age, not a flag for strict adherence to the diet—the Rosencrantz has a generous way of supporting your stay. Just a few steps away from the Norsk Theater, north of the parliament in the Royal Castle park, the Rosencrantz also serves as an excellent gateway to the dozens of restaurants and bars in the central neighborhood.
The Bristol, opened in 1920, is yet another four-star owned by Norway’s craggiest and most celebrated billionaire Olav Thon, who, at 92, still sports his tight scarlet watch cap and reports to work for 10-hour days. Which is another way of saying, the staff at the Bristol will take excellent care of you because they’re on their toes. The stately Bristol has 251 rooms, ten suites and three restaurants. A solid hit among business and pleasure travelers, the hotel is located on the north side of that corner of the Royal Castle Park that juts out to the parliament building.