Founded in 1040, Oslo has existed from the end of the Viking Age and has been the capital of Norway since 1300. Even though several periods of conflict occasionally reduced the town’s importance, the real tragedy came in 1624 when it was destroyed by fire. Yet soon, it was rebuilt, a little farther to the west, and called Christiania. During the union between Norway and Sweden, 1814-1905, Christiania functioned as the united capital of both nations and was called Kristiania. It incorporated many of the surrounding villages and towns creating a new much larger capital which was renamed Oslo after one of the villages. Today, Oslo boasts the leading Norwegian cultural institutions, including: the National Theater, Oslo Concert Hall, Oslo Opera House, Munch Museum, Norwegian Folk Museum, Viking Museum, Fram Museum, and Nobel Peace Center among many others.
One of the most popular sites in Olso is Frogner Park, where Gustav Vigeland created over 200 stylized statues. The central monolith, carved from a single column of solid granite 57 feet high, consists of 121 figures and is surrounded by 36 major groupings, all dealing with the various periods in the cycle of life—birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, and death. The Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo’s Bygdoy Peninsula celebrates the history and traditions of the Norwegian people. The museum’s collections focus on the time period from 1500 until present time, and in-door exhibits feature Norwegian folk costumes, folk art, church art and Sami culture. The open-air museum contains over 160 historic buildings which recreate the distinct areas of Norway in different time periods: farms, traditional villages, as well as city apartments. Its celebrated centerpiece is the Gol Stave Church from around year 1200. The Fram Museum honors the Norwegian polar exploration and in particular the polar ship Fram. This unique wooden ship voyaged to the polar regions three times, and its journeys included the Artic Ocean, the artic region of Canada, and to Antarctica. The ship holds the record for sailing the farthest and furthest south of any other ship.