More Than Meets the Eye: Norway Enigmatic Frogner Park
At a robust 45 hectares, there is a vast amount of greenery to enjoy and explore for residents seeking respite and visitors looking for a new diversion alike. But this is a special place for more than just one reason. Yes, the allure of verdant fields and sheltering trees is an important draw. The history of the place is another fascinating aspect. On top of all that, there is incredible art to discover here.
Such a compelling and inspiring destination wasn’t exactly built overnight. The original owner of the land, way back in the 17th century, was the first to landscape the grounds into a baroque garden. Famed general Hans Jacob Scheel had built his marvellous manor house here and wanted to add beauty to surround his homestead. Over the decades and centuries, subsequent owners continued to transform the land. It wasn’t until the 1920s that Oslo purchased the parcel for public use. And then came Gustav Vigeland, whose touch made this a truly unique place. Let’s take a look at what makes Frogner Park so special.
Getting Away from It All
For as long as there have been large metropolises in the world, there has come along with them the need to preserve some spaces for retreat and reflection. Because large land-owning figures like General Scheel maintained such a spectacular undeveloped space, it was only natural Oslo chose the site as a place of respite. Here you will find portions of the old Nordmarka forest still standing. Proud old-growth trees loom as sentinels and companions for people taking strolls, walking their dogs or perhaps going on a run.
But there’s quite a bit more to uncover for those fond of all things sprouting from the ground. Frogner Park has the largest collection of roses in all of Norway. In fact, over 14,000 plants make their homes here, representing at least 150 different species. Need more picturesque features to make your day here enchanting? Then imagine coming upon the pond here, which evokes fairytale scenes in the mind’s eyes. Combine that with the charming bridge going over it and you might feel like you’re in an impressionist painting!
The Enigma of Vigeland
One of the most sought-after attractions within Frogner Park — and indeed the whole of Oslo and even Norway — is the Vigeland installation, often referred to as Vigeland Park. Gustav Vigeland was one of the country’s greatest sculptors, and from 1921 to his passing in 1943, he designed the incredible sculpture garden that bears his name. The story is even deeper than that. The City of Oslo got into a dispute with the master craftsman that ended in his home being demolished to make way for a new library. As a concession, he was afforded a new home in the Frogner neighbourhood, with the condition that every work he created from that point forward would go into the park.
Over two decades of creation later, we find a stunning and thought-provoking legacy. The installation features a multitude of human figures — dozens upon dozens — enacting the strange or mundane in Vigeland’s striking signature style. A large Angry Boy is caught in mid-tantrum. A woman with long strands of hair pulls at them as she is frozen in an exaggerated stride. People wrestling, carrying each other, running and more are depicted, each expressing powerful emotion or revelation. The centrepiece is known as The Monolith: an imposing tower comprised of 121 human figures striving for the heavens. You will not soon forget this place!
More to See
Beyond the majesty of the gardens and the sublime qualities of the Vigeland installation, there are a few other points of interest in Frogner Park. The Manor House is a remnant of the prior owners’ dwelling, now used as space for the Oslo City Museum. The Main Gate is another work of art on its own, wrought of copper and incorporating human figures. There is also a stadium on the grounds, an open-air pool, a café and more. In many ways, this place is the heart of Oslo. Don’t be surprised if you end up giving a piece of your own heart to Frogner Park after you’ve had the pleasure of seeing it for yourself!