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September 10, 2023

Grand Hotel Oslo: The Historic Grande Dame with Stories to Tell

From Edvard Munch to Henrick Ibsen, these walls have been home to the making of history.

By Svetlana Nartey

Tourists from all over the world associate the Grand Hotel Oslo with the Nobel Peace Prize Award, as it has proudly hosted the winner since it first was handed out in 1901. Yet, the history of the hotel extends far beyond this annual event, encompassing the lives of renowned figures of the Bohemian era all the way through to contemporary idols. From artists like Edvard Munch, the playwright Henrick Ibsen and Norway’s most famous band A-ha, these walls have been home to the making of history.

Originally founded in 1874 by the pastry chef Julius Fritzne and designed by the architect Johan Nordan, the Grand Hotel Oslo was inaugurated with creative spirit and taste. With further decorations embedded by the famous painter Per Krogh (whose statue sits only a stone’s throw away from the hotel’s entrance), the hotel’s history has further been preserved by his detailed artwork that immortalizes the historical figures who have frequented it.

In 2021, it was named Norway’s leading hotel and leading business hotel for the fifth and seventh consecutive years respectively. While the latter proves unsurprising,  provided its many meeting rooms – 14 to be exact – what is surprising is how one can even focus on work when surrounded by such historical splendor.

[See also: Inside Sommerro, The New Star of Oslo’s Hotel Scene]

Grand Hotel Oslo lobby
The lobby / ©Grand Hotel Oslo

Stay 

The sprawling Grand Hotel comprises 283 rooms, including 54 elegant suites that each radiate a unique personality. From the Mikado Suite – whose mulberry walls intertwine with a floral headboard and gold-framed artworks to grant the space a freshly vibrant feel – to The Boheme Suite with French balconies that overlook the bustle of Karl Johans Street, each one boasts a combination of pastel color with the rich dark and golds of old-money decor. 

Other suites, such as the Ibsen Suite and Nobel Suite, draw on the sophistication of the iconic figures that have stayed in them. Arguably the best suite of the lot is the three-story Tower Suite. Situated in a little steeple that almost seems detached from the main body of the hotel as it stoops over Oslo, the Tower Suite is an awe both internally and externally.

[See also: The Top 100 Suites in the World]

hotel suite
The Nobel Suite has hosted the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize / Grand Hotel Oslo
living room
The Bohem Suite / ©Grand Hotel Oslo
living room
The Tower Suite / ©Grand Hotel Oslo

With natural light flooding through its arched windows, the pastel pink and clean white interior of the suite seems aglow, granting it a celestial charm, yet equally eye-catching, the iconic patina color of its copper roof can be admired from the hotel’s rooftop bar, Eight.  

Dine  

Upon entering the Grand Hotel, one is immediately welcomed by deep blue chairs that comprise the Othilia lobby bar. Named after Othilia Lasson Engelhart, who was married to the famous painter Christian Krogh, the bar radiates the same free-spiritedness as its namesake.

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Engelhart represented the era of bohemian women who broke taboos (one of which was frequenting the Grand Café despite women being banned in the 1800s). Illuminated by a linear figure strung from neon light, the bar emulates a warm ease that can be enjoyed while sipping on a sweetened cocktail or one of the rich spirits that line the lit-up shelves behind the counter. 

Drinks at Othilia are a perfect precursor to dining at the hotel’s restaurant, Palmen. Palmen welcomes diners to sample classic Nordic cuisine, pairing simple flavors to create dishes that gently escort you through the profiles of savory and sweet. The burrata paired with a spongy potato bread reflects the versatile manner in which bread is employed throughout Nordic cuisine. Followed by a seared Iberico steak or pan-fried turbot in creamy risotto, diners can explore the scope of sea and land before ending on an elegant petit four or umami cheese platter. 

Dining room
The Palmen Restaurant / ©Grand Hotel Oslo

A private dining table also adjoins the Palmen restaurant, encircled by a wall of fame that reveals the astonishing number of celebrities that have stayed at the Grand Hotel. There are signed photographs from both existing and previous US presidents; famous singers such as Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson and The Rolling Stones; and world leaders and peacemakers from all over the world have visited the Grand Hotel in Oslo, leaving behind nostalgic messages that express the pleasure of their stay.  

Should you choose to skip the wine pairings provided at dinner or seek a boozier end to your night, Eight  – the rooftop bar at the Grand Hotel Oslo – awaits those who venture to the hotel’s highest floor. Featuring a floral wall through which fairy lights are elegantly strung, the bar possesses a feminine intimacy that can be indulged in while peering over Oslo’s skyline.

[See also: The Most Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2023]

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Skilled mixologists serve tasty cocktails, a large selection of beer and an extensive wine list that can be sampled while sitting draped in a warm blanket under the evening sun, or the ember glow of an electric heater.

In light of its strong association with the Nobel Peace Prize, an eponymous cocktail is also on offer, consisting of a tasty combination of Remy Martin VSOP cognac, Amontillado sherry, plum stones and Bollinger champagne topped with a Morello cherry.

Othilia Lobby Bar
The Othilia lobby bar / ©Grand Hotel Oslo

Of course, the most famous of the hotel’s dining offers is the Grand Café, where breakfast is served each morning. Once the center of the city’s bohemian heart, the Grand Café was frequented by many famous artists and writers who nurtured friendships and resolved feuds over the café’s tabletops. Legend has it that one could tell the time by spotting Henrick Ibsen’s appearance as he would always have a designated table reserved for him with the note “Reserved Dr. Ibsen” between 13.20 to 14.00 and 18.00 to 19.30. 

Another famous face that frequented the café is that of Edvard Munch, who despite his contemporary acclaim was not as renowned during his lifetime, and often tried to pay for his meals at Grand Café through his art. Madonna is probably the most famous painting that was ever in the possession of a waiter at Grand Café, but unfortunately for the waiter, he sold the painting before Munch ever became famous.

As you sit and enjoy a buffet breakfast spread at the Grand Café, the essence of these notable figures and the life they once led lingers through a large wall painting by Per Krohg. The painting, made in 1928, illustrates the interior and the atmosphere at Grand Café and some of its famous regulars. Krohg worked on the painting for years, continually adding to its population of celebrated figures.

Relax 

On the seventh floor of the Grand Hotel, you’ll find the Artesia Spa. The award-winning spa offers a myriad of treatments at a discounted rate for hotel guests. It has seven exclusive treatment rooms, a heated swimming pool, steam bath and sauna room,, and highly skilled specialists able to provide treatments such as skin laundry, laser and massage therapy. 

Neighboring the Artesia Spa is the fitness center that is open to guests of the Grand Hotel 24 hours a day. Overlooking Oslo’s rooftops, the gym provides a serene space to work out, utilizing top-class equipment from Technogym. Personal trainer Alessandro Curto is also on hand, should you want to book a session. 

Tower Suite avaialble from approx $1,500 per night. Contact: booking@grand.no; +47 23 21 20 00, grand.no

[See also: A Weekend in Copenhagen, The World’s Happiest City]

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