Norways capital is perfect for people with mixed feelings about big cities. Its metropolitan side hosts world-class art museums, galleries and post-modern architectural icons such as the Opera House. But its got pastoral charm too, and is fringed by lakes, pastures and fields, with a crystal-clear fjord you can swim in (alongside the cruise ships).
The hotel: For those after luxury with the works (design, service, food, views and spa), the five-star waterfront hotel The Thief is the obvious choice. The owner is Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen, who drives a biofuel-powered Ferrari and has made art the USP of his property. Andy Warhols Ladies and Gentleman hangs in the restaurant, and an Anthony Gormley sculpture guards the entrance. Another highlight is location. The hotel is nestled in a tranquil spot between canals, a design museum, and the Oslo Fjord. The 116 rooms are light and quiet, mostly walled with windows and balconies overlooking water. Dont miss breakfast, a spread that includes home-ground hazelnut paste, caviar and reindeer salami.
A room at The Thief hotel, Oslo
Who goes? People in the oil business, artists on the international party circuit, and a somewhat motley crew of tourists, though mostly of the well-dressed variety. Expect plenty of Americans and Germans at cocktail hour.
The food: Fru-K is The Thiefs seafood restaurant, and the best restaurant in town. Seasonal Scandinavian fare is given the royal treatment. Think Swedish flat oysters, salt-baked local beetroot, turbot with lemon curd, and sole with seaweed. When Fru-K is shut for the summer, one must make do with the Roof Foodbar, a terrace with panoramic views over the fjord, harbour and Oslos sprawling Medieval fort. Because the sun sets slowly and late here, its the ideal place to spend a long summer evening.
The culture: You can cram most must-see sights into a single weekend in Oslo. Top of the list is the Viking Ships museum, accessible by ferry or bus. Its three preserved wooden ships from the 9th century are staggering. Gargantuan and aggressive in appearance, these boats were used as burial sites after relatively short tenures in service. The cache of objects found in and around the ships includes carved chariots, ladies shoes, horse bridles and tools.
Nearby is the acclaimed Fram museum charting Nordic Polar explorations. Across town, the Munch Museum exhibits hundreds of works by the painter. For his most famous work, Scream, youll need to make a detour to the excellent National Museum of Art. Its home to a world-class collection of 18th and 19th century Norwegian landscape art, as well as a collection of gorgeous modernist works.