The history of Norway's capital is an interesting story. But did you know that Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and even Copenhagen have all laid claim to the title over the years?
What is the capital of Norway?
Oslo is the capital city of Norway, but it never used to be that way. The Oslo of today is a rapidly changing city with a smart new waterfront and a population growth causing it to become one of Europe's fastest growing capitals. It is now an important centre of energy, media and finance, and known throughout the world as the home of the Nobel Peace Prize.
But just twenty years ago, Oslo had a poor reputation throughout the rest of the country as a soulless city with little character of its own. Tourists flew to Oslo and jumped straight in their rental cars or on the train to the fjords.
Delve back even further into the history books and you'll soon discover that for hundreds of years, Oslo wasn't even the country's capital.
Olaf Tryggvason founded Nidaros, the city today known as Trondheim, in 997. His seat of Government was a strategic choice largely thanks to how the Nidelven river twists around before joining the fjord. This feature, which still exists today, created an area that was easy to defend against land attacks.
Nidaros remained the capital of Norway from 997 to 1217 bar some short periods where Sarpsborg and Kungahälla (now part of Sweden) were considered the seat of Government. The city remains important today, and Nidaros Cathedral continues to hold coronations.
Bergen gradually took over the role as capital throughout the early years of the 13th-century. Bergenhus fortress was built at the entrance to the harbour, and still stands today. When King Haakon V (1299-1319) came to power, he began to move the functions of the capital city to Oslo.
Despite this, Bergen began to thrive. In the 14th-century, North German merchants founded a trading post of the Hanseatic League at Bryggen, which thrived throughout the late Middle Ages and left a lasting impression on the city.
Oslo reached its heights in the reign of Haakon V, who was the first King to live in the city, which helped to give it capital status. He started the construction of Akershus Fortress, and concluded a peace that in general was the end of a period of Dano-Norwegian wars. Oslo served as the nation's capital for more than two centuries, until the era of the Denmark-Norway union.
Following the dissolution of the Kalmar Union, Denmark and Norway formed a personal union that would eventually lead to the integrated state Denmark–Norway. Copenhagen therefore served as the capital of what is now Norway for almost three centuries, from 1537 to 1814.
During the years of rule from Copenhagen, the largely wooden city of Oslo suffered greatly from fires. In 1624, Christian IV of Denmark decided to build a new city near Akershus Castle and relocated everyone to what he called Christiania.
The capital returns to Oslo
When the union with Denmark ended in 1814, Christiania became the capital of an independent Norway, albeit one in a personal union with Sweden. Many important buildings including the Royal Palace, the University, the Christiania Theatre and the Bank of Norway were built in the years that followed. In 1877, the city adopted the spelling Kristiania, before returning its name to Oslo in 1924.