Our family visited the beautiful city of Oslo, Norway while on a summer Baltic cruise, however, we had only a few hours in port and needed to make the most of a short stay. We opted to use the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus for transportation in an attempt to move around the city and between attractions as efficiently as possible. I had read a great deal about the Vigeland Sculpture Park and we decided that seeing it as well as the Nobel Peace Center would be our priorities for the day so as soon as we had disembarked we caught the HOHO and headed to Vigeland.
The Vigeland Sculpture Park is located within the public Frogner Park which is a popular recreational area for the people of Oslo. Vigeland Park is the world's largest sculpture park devoted to a single artist and is also one of Oslo's most popular tourist attractions with over 1 million visitors a year. There is also a museum dedicated to the works of Vigeland located a few minutes south of the park, however, we didn't have time to visit it.
The park is the life's work of the sculptor Gustav Vigeland and contains more than 200 sculptures made from bronze, granite and cast iron. The park is the result of a unique contractual arrangement between Vigeland and the city of Oslo, whereby the city promised to provide him with a studio, a residence and a future museum and in exchange Vigeland donated all of his existing and future works to the city. The contract was finalized in 1921 and most of the work on the 80 acre park was completed between 1939 and 1949.
Vigeland was also responsible for the design and architectural layout of the park which is described as an axis running from the Main Gate to the Monolith and consisting of five main parts - the Main Gate, the Bridge, the Fountain, the Monolith Plateau and the Wheel of Life. The sculptures depict humans and their relationships and the central theme of all of Vigeland's work is the cycle of life.
The Main Gate
As we arrived at the park , we entered through the wrought iron Main Gate which marks the beginning of the axis leading to the Wheel of Life. We failed to even pause to admire the craftsmanship of the gate as we could see all of the park laid out before us and knew how limited our time was. Instead we hurried to join the throngs of visitors heading toward the Bridge.
The 100m long and 15m wide bridge is lined with lanterns and sculptures of people set atop granite parapets. The sculptures include men, women and children in various stages of life and relationships. This area seemed to be the most popular with the kids visiting the park as they all seemed to be stopping to imitate each pose and have photos taken. One of our favourite statues along the bridge was the one that we dubbed Bad Hair Day - Katie refused to strike a pose for me though.
The statue known as Sinnataggen (Angry Boy) is a crowd favourite and was popular with our family as well. I'm sure the popularity stems from the fact that every parent is familiar with the emotional outburst that Vigeland captured so effectively in this statue.
After crossing the bridge we came to the monumental fountain that dominates the central part of the axis. The perimeter of the fountain has 20 tree groups which are essentially human forms as trunks crowned by tree tops. Circling the fountain one notices that the figures represent the human life cycle from cradle to grave. The sculpture shows that the cycle has no beginning and no end as death is followed by new life.
At the end of the axis, visitors reach the highest part of the park and the Monolith Plateau where there are 36 groups of granite figures also representing the cycle of life. Stairs lead to the Monolith which is a column carved from a single piece of granite and depicts intertwining bodies ascending toward the heavens. To the west of the Monolith is the Wheel of Life which is a symbol of eternity represented as bodies of men, women and children holding on to each other in a large circle.
Vigeland Park, within the setting of the larger Frogner Park, is a very family-friendly spot primarily because it is outdoors so there's no need to worry about the kids making too much noise. There is also a playground and space to run around and it looked to be a scenic place to have a picnic lunch as well.
The work is breathtaking and, if we had not been on a tight schedule, we easily could have spent the better part of the day in this park admiring the brilliant work of Vigeland. One of my deepest regrets in all of our years of traveling is that we were so rushed on our visit to Oslo. I wish that we would have had more time to contemplate and discuss Vigeland's work. My younger daughter, in particular, loves to visit art galleries and talk about what she likes about various works and what she thinks they mean which leads to some very interesting discussions. As it was, we had only about 45 minutes before we had to get back on the HOHO to head downtown if we were going to have any hope of seeing anything else. We have been planning a return trip ever since and the Vigeland Park definitely tops our list of things we want to do when our family returns to Oslo.
What You Need to Know
- Entrance to the park is free and it is open year-round, 24 hours a day
- There is an entrance fee for the Museum part of the year, however, it is free from October 1st through March 31st. The museum is closed Mondays and some holidays.
- The park is located at Majorstua/Frogner, Oslo West - the Main Entrance is from Kirkeveien
- The park is accessible by bus, tram or car
- There is limited paid parking near the Main Entrance
- There is a Visitor's Centre inside the Main Gate which has a cafe and a souvenir shop
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