For eons the call of Norway has led ­visitors to glide along its coastal waters, enjoying the scenery of its magnificent fjords from the deck of a cruise ship. Oslo wasn't a particularly sought after city, but its recent makeover has changed that, and it enthused me into staying ­longer, and making discoveries that firmly endeared me to the city.
The ingeniously crafted Opera House, (rising like a shard of ice from Oslo Fjord) alone is worth a visit. Esplanades of white marble slope upwards from the bay to the roof, and you can walk on them, taking in the scenery.
Snohetta, the local architects designed it so that it symbolically connects Oslo to the sea. The slatted wooden interiors form a cozy backdrop for the national opera and ballet performances. It is the sort of place that lifts the spirits of people of all ages, so whether or not you hear an aria or watch a pirouette, bring young kids, and let them loose at the opera house.
While Oslo's many ­neighbourhoods such as Grunerlokka and Frogner are worth exploring, I was ­particularly drawn to the newly laid-out Thief Island, Tjuvholmen. The jail, ­prostitutes and deadbeats have been cleared to make way for a swish area with smart apartments and a lively waterfront where boats bob, seagulls dive bomb and ­people mill raucously on the long wooden walkway, the restaurants and cafes. The lively, festive air is palpable throughout the year, but ­especially in the summer. Sunset at the rooftop bar at The Thief boutique hotel is the sweet spot after strolling the promenade and paying respects to architect Renzo Piano's impressive edifice, at the Astrup Fearnley art museum.
One of Oslo's unique aspects is its proximity to pristine nature. It is the ever-present water and woods that give the city its other name, The Blue-Green city. A ­fifteen-minute ferry ride brings you to Hovedoya, the closest of the Oslo Fjord islands, where you can enjoy swimming or trekking before selecting a spot for a picnic.
The last stop on the Metro heading north releases you in the bosom of the forest, where you can ski in the ­winter and trek or bike in the summer. After stretching out your limbs, the ultimate treat is a stop at a traditional Norwegian chalet such as Frognerseteren to enjoy a glass of wine and nibble some brunost, the delicious brown, caramelized cheese.
The Thief- Boutique with exciting design elements, roof-top bar and a great restaurant in the hip Tjuvhilmen area.
Affordable style - Scandic Vulcan- basic, clean rooms near the Grunerlokka area.
Maaemo, with two Michelin stars, is the favourite of the culinary world.
Pascal, at Henrik Ibsen gate 36, is a popular lunch venue.
Flugen, at Universitets guta is a café by day and bar by night, the mid-century Scandinavian furniture is for sale.
Operahuset, the Opera and ballet venue is designed by local architects Snohetta. Even if you are not ­watching a performance, the building, with its ­extensive slopes and views is worth visiting.
Astrup Fearnley Museum exhibits permanent and changing installation of the contemporary art. Although the art was particularly dark, it is housed in an exciting new sloping glass and wood edifice by ­architect Renzo Piano at the tip of Tjuvholmen, a vibrant area on the harbor.
Mathallen, at Maridalsvein 17, packs over 30 produce stalls and eateries under the large span of an old brick-factory building. Try brunost, the local brown cheese. For a quick lunch, stop at Anni's Polsemakeri for salads and sausage, or for a leisurely stop, Von Porat offers a wider ­selection.