The term; “Skandi”. It conjures up an immediate image. For me it is that of Vikings. 7 ft Men named Hansel with white eyelashes and blonde, blue eyed women that look like they’ve just stepped off a Nordic ice-covered runway and into a Cardigans music video.
Of Norwegian crab the size of carry on luggage and royal families that make Queen Letizia of Spain ask for tips on regality…. (Just kidding Letty, you’ll always be my favourite).
It is a landscape of glaciers, mirror-like lakes and ice hole swimmers and a cityscape of buildings from the 19th century with gothic windows and the “hygge” and warm glow of wooden-cabin filled Christmas Markets. All in all. It’s a pretty good mental picture whichever angle you’re looking from.
Recently I stayed at The Grand Hotel in Oslo.
… Don’t you just love it when the dream lives up in reality.
The hotel has been in situ so long that it has been an Oslo landmark ever since the city was called Kristiania (when it opened in 1884). Truth.
On arriving outside, the hotel looks like the fairytale glow palace in every Disney story. Like the building of regal dreams that invites you in from the cold. If this building had a scent… it would be winter cinnamon cookies and champagne.
Inside, it is just as palatial, BUT it’s is far more modern than I would have assumed. The collection of art ranges from impressionist to Neo-classic and contemporary.
Art plays a huge part of the Hotel’s history. It is one of the only hotels that allowed artists to pay with their artwork. (I have stayed at another in Honfleur that hosted Monet). True story; Edvard Munch was one of them, trading his Madonna painting for a dinner with a waiter at Grand Café. As sods law would have it, he sold it before Munch ever became famous.
In addition, Brit beaut Tracy Emin has an instillation here.
As anticipated, Oslo was cold. What I hadn’t quite been clear on is HOW cold. We are talking numb finger cold. We are talking can’t feel your face when trying to speak cold. We are talking -3C with a windchill that feels like actual dry ice on your skin.
But as soon as you step into the hotel, it feels instantly warm. The kind of warm that you get at Christmas with Mulled wine.
As the most famous hotel in Oslo, the hotel has hosted a billion (this is a totally exaggerated number) of dignitaries, celebrities, Royals and Nobel Prize winners… (Including the President of Finland while I was there… ). So, it is no suprise that the rooms are impeccably decorated, but more importantly… of varying styles.
I got SUPER lucky in that I had what I believe is the BEST room view in Oslo.
Absolutely central and high above the main square, my room had views of the town centre, the palace and… as fantastic luck would have it at the time… the Christmas markets. (Because I LOVE a Christmas market. If you don’t, you have bigger questions to ask yourself).
I really like the decor of the rooms. A baroque seating area will always win me over and giant gold frames holding a range of paintings and photos.
What do you need when it is cold enough to see your orange juice actually freeze infront of you? Well for some people, it’s a hot chocolate. For some it is a hipster coffee. For me, it is a sauna and spa.
The Palmen & Othilia
The main hotel bar is Othilia. Adjoining onto the Palmen restaurant, it is modern and actually the most busy bar we saw while in Oslo. (Their old fashioned was a hit).
I really love the design of this restaurant and in keeping with the hotels cross-genre-pollination, this works perfectly. (It used to be the stable forGrand’s founder, Julius Fritzner’s, horses until they opened the restaurant in 1913)
From the multi faceted Vanessa Marth Baird – “I am You are she /he /it is They are“ collection of paintings, to Cerith Wyn Evans – “Ca’ Rezzonico” – Chandelier. I really like the decor in here.
However, the one thing I really struggled to find (given that it is the most famous thing other than to come out of Norway), was Norwegian crab!
I am a girl who loves her seafood and so this was a big problem for me. While they didn’t have it in Palmen (crab season was beginning). I really respected that rather than try and convince me to have something else… they immediately recommended a seafood that serves crab as their signature as they want to make sure the “guests are always happy”.
They have a varied Norweigan and European menu that is constantly changing as a hit with local foodies.
The Grand Cafe
The grand cafe is the oldest (and most famous) restaurant in Oslo and first opened in 1874. Edvard Munch once offered to swap the painting ‘Sick Girl’ in return for 100 steak dinners.
Breakfast (as you might imagine from the name) is also a Grand affair.
The Wine Bar
For me, my hotel duration is usually made or broken by the “additionals”. The 24 hour room service. The fab rooftop bar that serves complimentary sundowner drinks. etc
This hotel has a really great underground wine bar. Like a dimly lit wine cellar in Bordeaux except its inside a hotel and functioning as a bar and is home to over 16.000 bottles and more than 1.500 wines from all around the world.
We couldn’t decide which we wanted and they have a selection that was so vast, they just poured 4 or 5 and gave us an on the spot tasting.
If you prefer your wine a little more alfresco from a height, then they also have Eight Rooftop Bar which is open all day for a little tipple.
In a country that is ever evolving and leading the Skandinavian trends, the city is now home to a few really trendy new hotels. Hotels with cocktail flare artists, published dairy-free baristas and in house hipster barbers.
… but if you are looking for some fairytale opulence with the best view of Oslo… I’ll see you there.
Grand Hotel – Karl Johans gate 31, 0159 Oslo, Norway