Story by Melanie Votaw
Photos by Melanie Votaw and courtesy of Grand Hotel
Karl Johans Gate 31
0159 Oslo, Norway
One of the main advantages of visiting cold Oslo, Norway, in winter (on the way to the even colder Tromso in the arctic circle) is that you get to visit the Christmas markets and see all the festive decorations. When I arrived at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, I was greeted by two nutcrackers at the doorway and a Christmas tree and gingerbread replica of the building in the lobby.
The name of this hotel is apt. The building dates from 1874 and is indeed “grand” in white and black. Not only did the king and queen of Norway hold events there, but when the Rococo banquet hall was opened in 1894, renowned Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen was in attendance. The playwright was apparently quite the character and a fixture in the area, visiting the hotel’s café regularly. He even had his own armchair there that was “reserved for Mr. Ibsen.” In 1912, a banquet was held in the Rococo hall for Roald Amundsen upon his return from his South Pole expedition. Today, the hall has a crystal chandelier and green walls with a lacy motif.
To make my visit in early December even more festive, the hotel was right across the street from an adorable Christmas market. Located on Karl Johans Gate, the main thoroughfare in the city, the hotel couldn’t be more centrally located. You can see the Royal Palace from the door, so it’s well within walking distance, as are lots of shopping, the harbor, National Museum of Art, Akershus Fortress, Norwegian Opera, and Parliament. It’s also near the Nationaltheatret train station, which has a train to take you to and from the airport.
Grand Hotel is a lovely property, but there is one downside that’s uncommon in five-star hotels. There are just a few steps up from the check-in desk to the elevators. There were no bellmen in the lobby, but I understand they will see that your luggage is brought up to your room. I opted to get mine up the stairs on my own, and the check-in clerks quickly offered to help me. So this is a minor issue. Otherwise, everything I experienced there was top-notch. I’m not surprised it was the 2022 winner of the World Travel Awards’ Leading Hotel and Leading Business Hotel in Norway.
I stayed in a junior suite that included an unusually large living area with a couch, coffee table, desk, Nespresso machine, and tea kettle. Some of these suites include a French balcony. Of course, it also had a safe, minibar, and iron/ironing board, and the bed was very cozy after coming in from the cold. My bathroom had twin sinks, a tub, and a shower. The suite also provided a view of Karl Johans Gate, so I could see the Christmas market and activity down below.
There are numerous special suites in the hotel, but many of the rooms that aren’t suites also have space for a desk and separate sofa. With more than 50 suites and 275+ rooms, you can’t go wrong with whatever you book there.
I especially appreciated the hotel’s lobby décor, which is a mixture of modern and classic. The Othilia Lobby Bar is fitted with green and purple velvet chairs, marble columns, and glass. The purple and green theme is repeated in some of the other common areas. There’s a rooftop bar as well, which I’m sure is particularly fun in summer.
The Palmen Restaurant, which offers afternoon tea on the weekends, has a set dinner menu available, as well as a la carte offerings for lunch or dinner. I recommend the butter braised savoy cabbage, caviar veloute, potato espuma, and herb salad for dinner with the white chocolate mousse, cloudberry cream, honey ice cream, and chervil jelly for dessert.
Grand Hotel has a bridal suite, a spa, a gym, and meeting rooms. Of course, there’s a concierge and parking if you decide to drive. The property has also been awarded sustainability awards, so it’s paying attention to environmental issues while also providing luxury.
When I return to Oslo, I hope to stay at the Grand Hotel again – but maybe next time in spring or summer.
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