Oslo City Hall (Rådhuset) houses the city council and the administration of Oslo. The interiors of Oslo City Hall were decorated by famous Norwegian artists: Per Krohg, Axel Revold, Alf Rolfsen, Dagfin Werenskiold… It is also the place where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is presented every year on December 10.
Oslo’s Structure of the Century—an attraction that surprises
The Oslo City Hall is the city’s administrative body and the seat of the City Council. It is situated in Pipervika in central downtown Oslo. The area was completely renovated and rebuilt to make room for the new city hall back in the late 1920s. From the drawing board, it took thirty years for the plan to be realised, with a brief pause in construction on the outbreak of World War II. In 1950, the Oslo City Hall, designed in the Functionalism architectural style, was completed and officially inaugurated on 15 May 1950. At first glance, the city hall might disappoint. The building stands out from the rest of Oslo’s sleek, modern Scandinavian architecture, with its solid brown brick construction, heavy textiles, and blunt corners. Nevertheless, in 2005, “Rådhuset” was dubbed Oslo’s “Structure of the Century”.
At a closer look, City Hall is much more than just the brick-clad ensemble of cubes it exhibits from a distance. The building is a storybook of Norway’s history and culture, and these historic tales unfold along the art-packed corridors leading to the main entrance.
The main hall was decorated by two famous Norwegian artists: Henrik Sørensen and Alf Rolfsen. In one of the frescoes, the pillars of Norwegian identity are represented—fishing, forestry, and industry—flanked on either end by explorer Fridtjof Nansen and playwright Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, both of whom won Nobel prizes. The mural on the east side of the wall displays the history of the Nazi occupation.
On the second floor, guests will find hidden treasures like the “Munch room” and “Festgalleriet” (the Ceremonial Gallery), which is sumptuously decorated with tapestries and scenes from Norwegian history, including paintings of King Harald V and his Queen Sonja, King Olav V, and King Haakon VII.
The Story of St Hallvard, the patron saint of Oslo
The city hall also tells the tale of St. Hallvard, the patron of Oslo. According to legend, Hallvard was the son of a rich nobleman. One day, a pregnant starving woman stole food from the market, and when the merchants gave chase to execute her she ran to Hallvard for help. He carried her away in his boat, but the men followed and shot him with three arrows. When they got close enough to realise who they had killed, they panicked and hung a millstone around Hallvard’s neck, then threw him in the ocean. But the next day, he floated back up, despite the millstone still attached. Other miracles ensued, and soon Hallvard was canonised as the patron saint of Oslo in 1073.
Oslo’s patron is a frequent theme in the scene of the city. There’s a St. Hallvard craft brewery, ever since 1956 the Mayor of Oslo has awarded the St. Hallvard Medal for meritorious service, he is honoured in the city coat of arms, has his own sculpture on the sea side of the city hall, and is even displayed on all the manholes in Norway’s capital.
The Wooden Friezes of Oslo City Hall
There are 16 wooden friezes in the City Hall’s courtyard made by Dagfin Werenskiold (1892-1977), painter and sculptor. They show the motifs from Norse mythology: the life of gods and the stories of wisdom and love, war and hate, and magnificent visions of the future.
The Sculptures of Oslo City Hall
Pipervika, a neighborhood in the borough Sentrum in Oslo, where now Oslo City Hall is located. It was the area where prostitutes used to sell their services in the Victorian times. There were many of them there as it was very hard to find a job for a poor woman back then. This sculpture on the wall of Oslo City Hall shows a prostitute with her pimp on the left and a rich man (a client) on the right.
The Roof of The Eastern Tower of Oslo City Hall
The roof of the eastern tower has a 49-bell carillon which plays every hour. It has long been a traditional part of daily life in the Norwegian capital, chiming on the quarter-hour and even playing the occasional concert. A carillon concert is held in the east tower every Sunday during the summer. Those who wish to visit the carillon can meet up at the sign of summer guiding inside City Hall at 14:45 on Sundays. The largest bell weighs 4000 kg and carries the city of Oslo’s logo with the patron saint Hallvard and the motto of the city: “Unanimiter et constanter” (Latin: united and constant).
Visit Oslo City Hall
Book your guided tour (for up to 30 persons) via email or phone: [email protected] / +4723461200. There are free guided tours during the whole summer: at 10AM, noon and at 2 PM.
Free Admission: You can also come on your own (without a guide) to Oslo City Hall and experience the art and history from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entrance is free!
City Hall is located in the heart of Oslo and is easily accessible by foot and public transportation.
Bus stop: Rådhuset, takes you directly to City Hall.
Tram stop: Aker Brygge, with only a 5-minute walk to City Hall.
Metro stop: Nationalteatret, with a 5-minute walk.
If you wish to learn more about Oslo, book a professional guide at Oslo Guidebureau. Phone: +4722422818.