Walking Tour: In the Footsteps of Ibsen & Munch
Finish: National Gallery.
Time: 2 hours.
Best Times: Any day when it's not raining.
Worst Times: Rush hours (weekdays 7-9am and 5-7pm).
The tour begins at Stortingsgaten 15, just off Karl Johans Gate near the Students' Grove in Oslo's center, site of the:
Study your map in front of the Henrik Ibsen statue at the theater, where many of his plays were first performed and are still presented. The Norwegian Nationaltheatret (tel. 81-50-08-11), inaugurated in 1899, is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Facing the statue of Ibsen, continue up Stortingsgaten toward the Royal Palace (Slottet). Cut left at the next intersection and walk along Ruselokkveien. On the right, the Vika Shopping Terraces, an unattractive row of modern storefronts tacked onto an elegant 1880 Victorian terrace, used to be among Oslo's grandest apartments. During World War II it was the Nazi headquarters.
Continue along this complex to the end, turning right onto Dronnings Mauds Gate, which quickly becomes Lokkeveien. At the first building on the right, you come to:
2. Ibsen's private apartment
Look for the blue plaque marking the building. The playwright lived here from 1891 to 1895. When his wife complained that she didn't like the address, even though it was one of Oslo's most elegant, they moved. Ibsen wrote two plays while living here.
Turn right onto Arbinsgate and walk to the end of the street until you reach Drammensveien. At Arbinsgate 1 is the:
3. Ibsen Museum
In the first building on the left, at the corner of Arbinsgate and Drammensveien, you'll see an Omega store, but look for the blue plaque on the building. Ibsen lived here from 1895 until his death in 1906. He often sat in the window, with a light casting a glow over his white hair. People lined up in the street below to look at him. The great Italian actress Eleanora Duse came here to bid him a final adieu, but he was too ill to see her. She stood outside in the snow and blew him kisses.
The king of Norway used to give Ibsen a key to enter the private gardens surrounding the Royal Palace. Everybody has that privilege today.
Turn right on Drammensveien and continue back to the Nationaltheatret. Take Karl Johans Gate, on the left side of the theater, and walk east. On your left at Karl Johans Gate 47, you'll pass the:
4. University of Oslo
Aula, the Great Hall of the university, is decorated with murals by Edvard Munch. The hall is open to the public only from June 20 to August 20, daily from 10am to 3pm. For information, call tel. 22-85-95-55.
Twice a day Ibsen followed this route to the Grand Café. Admirers often threw rose petals in his path, but he pretended not to see. He was called "the Sphinx" because he wouldn't talk to anybody.
Take a Break -- The Grand Café, Karl Johans Gate 31 (tel. 23-21-20-00), was the center of social life for the literati and the artistic elite, including Munch. Today a favorite with many visitors, but also with hundreds of Oslovians who appreciate tradition, it is the most famous cafe in all of Scandinavia. On the far wall of the cafe, you can see Per Krogh's famous mural, painted in 1928. Ibsen, with a top hat and gray beard, is at the far left, and Munch -- called the handsomest man in Norway -- is seated at the second window from the right, at the far right of the window. The poet and playwright Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson can be spotted on the street outside (second window from the left, wearing a top hat), because he wouldn't deign to come into the cafe. You can order food and drink, a big meal, or a snack here.
Returning to the street, note the Norwegian Parliament building (Stortinget) on your right. Proceed left and turn left onto Lille Grensen. Cross the major boulevard, Grensen, and walk straight to:
This street was used for Ibsen's funeral procession. Services were conducted at the Holy Trinity Church on June 1, 1906.
Veer left to see the:
6. Birthplace of Ibsen's son
On your left, at the corner of Teatergata and Akersgata, is the site of the famous Strømberg Theater, which burned down in 1835. It was also a residence, and Ibsen's son was born here in 1859.
Also on Akersgata is:
7. Trefoldighetskirken (Holy Trinity Church)
This church was the site of Ibsen's funeral.
A little farther along Akersgata is St. Olav's Church. Turn on the right side of this imposing house of worship onto Akersveien and go to:
This small square -- one of the most charming in Oslo -- doesn't appear on most maps. Norway's greatest poet, Henrik Wergeland, lived in the pink house on the square from 1839 to 1841.
Take a right at the square and head down:
The antique wooden houses along this typical old Oslo street are mainly occupied by artists.
Damstredet winds downhill to Fredensborgveien. Here, a left turn and a short walk will take you to Maridalsveien, a busy but dull thoroughfare. As you walk north along this street, on the west side look for a large unmarked gateway with wide stone steps inside. Climb to the top, follow a little pathway, and go past gardens and flower beds. Pass a set of brick apartment buildings on the left, and proceed to:
Along this little street, you'll see a whole row of early Oslo wooden houses. Look right in the far distance at the green building where Munch used to live.
Telthusbakken leads to Akersveien. On your left you can see the:
11. Gamle Aker Kirke (Old Aker Church)
Enter at Akersbakken, where Akersveien and Akersbakken intersect. Built in 1100, this is the oldest stone parish church in Scandinavia that's still in use. It stands on a green hill surrounded by an old graveyard and a stone wall.
A short block from the church along Akersbakken (veer left outside the front of the church and go around a corner), you'll come to the north entrance of the city's expansive burial ground:
12. Vår Frelsers Gravlund (Our Savior's Cemetery)
In a section designated the "Ground of Honor" are the graves of famous Norwegians, including Munch, Ibsen, and Bjørnson.
Signs don't point the way, but it's easy to see a tall obelisk. This is the:
13. Tomb of Ibsen
His wife, Susanna, whom he called "the cat," is buried to the playwright's left. She died in 1914. The hammer on the obelisk symbolizes his work The Miner, indicating how he "dug deep" into the soul of Norway.
To the right of Ibsen's tomb is the:
14. Tomb of Bjørnson
The literary figure Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) once raised money to send Ibsen to Italy. Before the birth of their children, Ibsen and Bjørnson agreed that one would have a son and the other a daughter, and that they would marry each other. Miraculously, Ibsen had a son, Bjørnson a daughter, and they did just that. Bjørnson wrote the national anthem, and his tomb is draped in a stone representation of a Norwegian flag.
To the far right of Bjørnson's tomb is the:
15. Tomb of Edvard Munch
Scandinavia's greatest painter has an unadorned tomb. If you're visiting on a snowy day, it will be buried because the marker lies close to the ground. Munch died during the darkest days of the Nazi occupation. His sister turned down a request from the German command to give Munch a state funeral, feeling that it would be inappropriate.
On the west side of the cemetery, you'll come to Ullevålsveien. Turn left on this busy street and head south toward the center of Oslo. You'll soon see St. Olav's Church, this time on your left. Stay on the right (west) side of the street. At St. Olavs Gate 1, where Ullevålsveien intersects with St. Olavs Gate, is the:
16. Kunstindustrimuseet (Museum of Applied Art)
Even if you don't have time to visit the museum, you may want to go inside to the Café Solliløkken.
After visiting the museum, continue along St. Olavs Gate to:
Look to the immediate right at no. 30. A wall plaque on the decaying building commemorates the fact that Munch lived here from 1868 to 1875. In this building he painted, among other masterpieces, The Sick Child. He moved here when he was 5, and many of his "memory paintings" were of the interior. When demolition teams started to raze the building in the early 1990s, a counterculture group of activists known as "The Blitz Group" illegally took over the premises to prevent its destruction. On its brick-wall side, his masterpiece The Scream was re-created in spray paint. The protesters are still in control of the city-owned building, and they are viewed as squatters on very valuable land. It's suspected that if a more conservative government comes into power, officials will toss out the case, throw out the activists, and demolish the building. For the moment, however, they remain in control.
At Pilestredet, turn left. One block later, turn right onto Universitesgata, heading south toward Karl Johans Gate. You'll pass a number of architecturally interesting buildings and will eventually arrive at Universitesgata 13, the:
18. National Gallery
The state museum has a large collection of Norwegian as well as foreign art. Two rooms are devoted to masterpieces by Munch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.