Norway’s capital dazzled ITCM with its mountains and fjordOslo’s quality services for MICE groups was obvious immediately on arrival. The world’s fastest, quietest Airport Express Train takes 20 minutes to get you downtown and can provide large groups with an extra service and with onboard presentation screens, corporate branding and free wi-fi.
We then had a very short walk to the Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania as the start to our inspection of the venues and attractions that Oslo has to offer. It has 532 rooms in eight categories, all in the process of complete refurbishment. There are 21 conference rooms, the largest for 450 delegates. An award winning buffet breakfast is served in the main restaurant, which can also be the venue for a banquet for 400.
The Atmosphere Bar and Terrace is the place for relaxed networking over coffee or evening cocktails, with the option of sitting on the terrace in favourable weather.
Check-in was rapid and we were soon ready to visit a luxury waterfront property, The Thief Hotel. There, at the Thief Foodbar, which boasts an open kitchen, we enjoyed a signature Thief burger for lunch. Its FRU K Restaurant offers a completely different dining experience with art, creativity and the culture of cuisine at its heart. Regional ingredients play a pivotal role in the 3-, 5- and 7- course menus on offer.
Located between the Astrup Fearnley Museum, the canals on Tjuvholmen and the Oslofjord, the majority of the 118 rooms at The Thief have stunning views. It is a member of Design Hotels and the decor and furnishings feature art from Norwegian and international designers. The hotel's own Art Curator has selected works for every room from the hotel’s collection. Each room boasts designer bath robes, Geneva sound systems with docking station, 42-inch plasma TV, exclusive down duvets, a Nespresso machine and spacious safe with for re-charging a laptop.
The Thief has a total of five meeting rooms. The largest, Fjord, can hold 50 people and has a 40-seat roof terrace with fantastic views over the city and the fjord. Larger gatherings can be held with the Astrup Fearnley Museum, Cafe de Concert, Sjømagasinet and other nearby venues.
We next experienced an Oslo meeting room for ourselves. At the Hotel Continental we met with many other Oslo hotels and venues. Each gave a 3-minute presentation and we then mingled and networked with them all. The Norway Convention Bureau explained that it works with up to 23 partners from the whole of Norway. They include Scandinavia Airlines, Nordic Choice Hotels, Scandic Hotels, the Norway Exhibition Centre and Oslo Congress Centre. Visit Oslo, the first point of contact to help event organisers choose partners, explained the Norwegian Krone, presently about 10 NOK to the pound, saying that the average rate for a hotel room last year in 2013 in Oslo was around 89 GBP. Radisson Blu, the only international hotel group in Oslo, was represented by three of its properties: Radisson Blu Plaza, Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel Oslo and Radisson Blu Nydalen.
Local group Thon Hotels have 64 properties, with 21 in the Oslo region, of which six are conference hotels. Thon is currently building a 3,500sqm conference facility at Oslo Airport, to open in January 2015. Oslo has an array of properties that deserve more recognition in the outside world.
First Hotel Grims Grenka, a boutique hotel with 65 rooms, can cater for up to 60 delegates. It is well known in Oslo for its Q lounge roof terrace, which in the summer caters for 150 guests. The hotel places a strong focus on Nordic food, on wine and micro-brewed beer. The main restaurant Madu serves 5-course, beer-paired menus, as well as the option to have a beer sommelier to help with tastings.
The Lysebu, resembling a royal palace from a Norwegian folk tale is situated near Holmenkollen and owned by The Danish-Norwegian Co-operation Fund, it boasts 85 guestrooms and 20 meeting rooms able to host 102 delegates. Vokenåsen is well away from the noise of the city, yet very close, being only 7.5 miles from the centre. It offers 11 meeting rooms with a maximum capacity of up to 180 people, a total of 85 guestrooms and 30 acres of natural gardens as well as free WLAN.
- Clarion Hotel Clarion Hotel
- Mini Bottle Gallery Mini Bottle Gallery
- Grand Hotel Grand Hotel
- Holmenkollen Ski Jump Holmenkollen Ski Jump
- Holmenkollen Park Hotel Holmenkollen Park Hotel
- Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel
We dined that evening in the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel, the largest in Oslo with 676 rooms. Its 30 function rooms are located on the hotel’s top 3 floors and measure over 18,000sqm. The main ballroom is able to host up to 1,000 people. There is indoor access to the adjacent Oslo Spektrum, where there is a grand arena to stage large events. We ate at the 34, one of the hotel’s five f&b outlets and the highest restaurant in the city, affording great views. Its menu highlights the region’s most flavourful local ingredients, therefore changing season by season. We were served fish and meat dishes, followed by a sumptuous dessert of cherry sorbet and coffee caramel mousse topped with cream.
The next morning was devoted to a team-building activity that also made us very familiar with the city. Divided into three teams, each named after the legendary Norwegian explorers Amundsen, Nansen and Heyerdahl, we were briefed by the Green Hat People on how to use the Oslo Passes and tablets which gave us information on city locations to be reached and how many points each was worth. The screens were also primed to pop up with various other tasks along the way.
We had to have pictures of us all reaching the locations, so passers-by had to be roped in as photographers, including guards at the Royal Palace. We engaged in Gangnam Style dancing and also posed in the manner of the band Kiss.
Quotes from participants of the Oslo visit: ‘The word of the weekend is WOW!’
‘Oslo is the city of many possibilities.’
‘I keep thinking which venue was my favourite but to be totally honest they were all so different it’s difficult to choose!’
‘Oslo delivered beyond my expectations and I have already presented my findings to the whole company.’
‘Great food and brilliant company, so definitely a trip to remember.’ Our final objective was the Lofoten Fiskerestaurant located at the old shipyard at Aker Brygge. This was lengthened a few years ago with an artificial Island, Tjuvholmen, and is a new district of Oslo sporting several galleries. It is part of the larger project of Fjordbyen Oslo an urban development of the city and coastline.
The restaurant specialises in delicacies of the sea and serves up the freshest sea food possible, it has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that can open to bring the outside in. We were served fish soup, catch of the day, along with assorted shellfish, baked hake and a very refreshing berry crumble with vanilla cream for dessert.
We were then able to walk through an old part of Oslo, Kvadraturen to Gamle Logen, the old Freemasons Lodge built in 1836. Decorated in late Empire-style, the main hall is famous for its acoustics. Over the years it has staged performances from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker. The main hall can cater for up to 400, with a further 5 rooms available, able to host from 30 up to 140 people.
We again took advantage of Oslo’s small size and went on foot to the Mini Bottle Gallery. This houses over 53,000 miniature bottles, where 12,500 are on display in over 50 unique installations spanning three floors. From bottles with slightly different printed labels, to bottles of famous stars and cartoon characters, there's even an entire installation for Oslo. The gallery can take up to 350 people, the Cocktail Bar has bottles of cocktails and there is an original red English telephone box stacked full of bottles. Both the Liqueur Room and Banqueting Hall are equipped with av equipment and able to host up to 90 people. It's one of Oslo's most unique venues.
Later we were joined by Reidun Løvstuen from Ski & Guide Holmenkollen, who was to be our tour guide in the mountains, with a visit to the world's most modern ski jump at Holmenkollen.
After a bus transfer, we walked to a lavvu, a circular tent like a tepee, where we tasted a traditional snack of berries and smoked meat rolled in bread. In the middle of the lavvu, which can hold 60 people, a roaring fire maintained a good heat when we sat around on animal skins. Ski & Guide Holmenkollen can arrange a longlist of activities from Nordic walking, boatbuilding, duathlons, log throwing, shooting as well as biking over the hillsides. Cross-country ski-ing is also on offer for all levels of ability.
There is a ski-jump simulator to give an idea of what it feels like and also a zipline from the top to the bottom of the jump which operates during the summer months. It is also possible to abseil down from the tower with 57 metres of free fall. The Ski Museum and Jump Tower can be rented for events.
Standing at the top of the ski jump definitely gives you a real feel for what the ski jumpers must be feeling before they decide to let go and fly off down the hill. Its not for those who have a fear of heights, but the views from the top are stunning.
The Rica Holmenkollen Park Hotel served us dinner that evening. Dating from 1894, it was designed by architect Balthazar Lange in the then popular 'dragon style' for use as a sanatorium. Four new wings were added for the Nordic World Ski Championships in 1982 and a further new wing for the 2011 championships. In 1991 a modern conference centre was added.
The hotel has 336 rooms and 38 conference spaces. The Saga hall can host 750 delegates, whilst two auditoria seat 120 delegates each. The 1,000sqm Vallhall Exhibition Hall divides into smaller sections and has an entrance for heavy exhibits.
The De Fem Stuer Restaurant served international cuisine with a distinct Norwegian character. Ducks heart and foie gras were our starters, grilled turbot and lamb the main course and pear ice cream and Rome cake dessert. Comfortable shoes were essential next morning. Marit Utaker from Oslo Guide Bureau was our leader. The Bureau can offer 25 languages. We aimed for the Opera House and passed a 4.5 metre long bronze Tiger statue. It was explained that Oslo was once nicknamed ‘Tiger City’ by an author who saw it as ‘cold and dangerous’.
The Opera House is indeed designed to resemble an iceberg emerging from the water. A striking, contemporary building, its exterior is covered in white Italian marble and granite. It is possible to walk from ground level to the roof to enjoy panoramic views of Oslo.
We were able to visit the Fram Museum, home to the world’s strongest wooden ship. The museum covers everything you need ever know about the Norwegian polar expeditions. On June 24th 1893 the Fram set out for its first expedition with Fridtjof Nansen on board., In 1898 Otto Sverdrup was aboard and in1910 Roald Amundsen went aboard and reached the South Pole on 14th December 1911. The museum is built around the ship and The Fram itself can cater for dinners on deck and in the main forward living quarters.
Alongside is the Kon Tiki museum, also available for events. It tells the story of Thor Heyerdahl's many voyages, the most famous being the crossing of the Pacific to Easter Island on the raft, Kon-Tiki. This year is the 100th Anniversary of his birth.
It was definitely an afternoon of culture. Our next visit was the Vigeland Installation. This is a collection of 212 bronze and granite sculptures in the 80-acre Frogner Park, all produced by one artist, Gustav Vigeland, between 1920 and 1942. They are all relevant to the theme of ‘The Human Condition’.
We then moved on to Karl Johan Street, Oslo’s main thoroughfare, to visit the Grand, the doyen of the Oslo hotels. Opened in 1874, it is a medley of traditional and modern styling. There are 292 rooms, including 54 suites and a ladies floor, where 13 rooms are uniquely styled with a feminine touch.
The Grand Hotel is the venue for the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet and can offer groups their own Nobel Dinner in the Mirror Room, which accommodates 356 guests. Organisers can choose from Nobel menus dating back to 2003. The hotel’s 7th floor Conference Centre consists of nine function rooms, the largest for up to 300.
The Grand Café provided a buffet lunch with a wide variety of dishes on offer, including local meats such as elk and reindeer, which were both very tasty.
A leisurely walk of 15 minutes brought us to the Oslo Congress Centre. This has 2,500 to 3,000sqm of open space and more than 20 rooms for everything from small meetings to major conferences. It holds about 1,000 events a year, from 10 to 1,400 seated delegates.
However, the largest venue in Norway is the Norway Trade Fairs in the nearby community of Lillestrom, about 10minutes from Oslo and from the airport. The Norway Trade Fairs comprises six halls, ranging from total floor areas of 1,650sqm in Hall D2 up to 10,687sqm in Hall D1. It has a team of 80 specialists dedicated to creating inspirational events.
The onsite hotel for Norway Trade Fairs is the Thon Hotel Arena, with 335 newly renovated rooms and suites. The hotel itself can cater for up to 1,000 guests for a reception in the Norgessalen and for small, intimate meetings in the Oppland room. In conjunction with Norway Trade Fairs, up to 6,000 guests can be hosted for a banquet.
For more information on Oslo contact:
Norway Convention Bureau
To View more pictures from the trip please visit our Oslo Facebook album