Since opening its doors in 1874, Grand Hotel Oslo has hosted royalty, rock stars and Nobel Peace Prize laureates and is arguably the Norwegian capital’s most glamorous hotel, nestled between all the best shops and museums. Having undergone a major renovation a couple of years ago, the individually designed rooms and sumptuous suites are a blend of modern and classic décor, while its stylish bars and restaurants are the perfect setting for a special occasion or romantic date.
As I step into the Bohème suite, bathed in light and with fabulous views of the city centre, I am struck by its beautiful, feminine décor – plush pink and purple velvet, gilded mirrors and chandeliers. It’s so pretty I can’t resist sending a couple of “check out my hotel room” picture messages before heading up to the spa for a massage.
Artesia Spa Grand Hotel has seven treatment rooms, a swimming pool, steam bath and sauna and offers a range of body therapies and beauty treatments. I opt for a deep tissue massage which works wonders on my aching muscles and helps me sleep well, and return both mornings of my stay for an invigorating swim in the pool before breakfast.
Aside from the spa, my spacious en-suite bathroom, with both a shower and roll-top bath, is the ideal space to engage in a bit of self-care. I just wish they’d provided some bath salts or oils – I had to pour the contents of all the little bottles of shower gel into the bath to make my evening soak suitably bubbly.
At Palmen, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant adorned with a spectacular glass cupola and Venetian chandelier, they certainly know how to cater for pescatarians. I sample delicious butter-fried scallops followed by the signature dish, lobster thermidor served with Bollinger rosé hollandaise, potato confit, broccolini, trout roe and lemon oil.
Across the lobby is the less formal Grand Café, where the 19th century playwright Henrik Ibsen made a daily pit stop for his schnapps. Here I opt for a salad with Norwegian cheese and pistachio vinaigrette, before tucking into some very tasty moules marinière.
Come cocktail hour, there’s a choice between the stylish Othilia lobby bar, illuminated by Tracey Emin’s neon light version of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and the rooftop bar, Eight, with sweeping views of many of Oslo’s most famous landmarks, including the Royal Palace. Both are ideal for people watching.
Who goes there
The Nobel Peace Prize laureates, for a start – there’s a Nobel suite where everyone from the Dalai Lama to Barack Obama has stayed. Other VIPs have included Richard Gere, The Rolling Stones, Boy George, Yoko Ono and countless royals. A whole wall in the Palmen restaurant is adorned by famous guests’ signed portraits.
Out & about
Located on a main shopping street, Karl Johan’s gate, Grand Hotel is within five minutes walking distance of high-end boutiques and department stores such as Eger Karl Johan, Paleet, Steen & Strøm and Glas Magasinet. It’s also a stone’s throw from various museums and the harbour. I highly recommend indulging in a couple of hour’s fjord sightseeing, taking in the beauty and tranquillity of the Oslo archipelago, and afterwards popping into the Nobel Peace Centre or the Opera House, both by the waterfront.
The best thing
The customer service. The hotel’s motto is “Everyone deserves to feel grand”, and that’s exactly how the staff, as well as the gorgeous setting, make you feel. The place oozes heritage and everyone from the doorman to the waiters clearly takes immense pride in their job.
The worst thing
You may have heard that Oslo isn’t cheap, and I can confirm that the rumours are true – never mind dining at Grand Hotel, even a smoothie and small snack from a kiosk in town will set you back almost £20. But if you’re feeling flush, a minibreak in the Norwegian capital is money well spent.