MUSEUM GUIDE: Norway’s capital is packed with museums, and they’re often popping up in the news. We’re following that news, and focus every week this spring on a specific museum worthy of a visit.
THIS WEEK: The Botanical Gardens at Norway’s Natural History Museum are bursting forth in May and June, and hundreds gathered recently for a spring fling of sorts.
The gardens are open all year round, but spring and early summer are special, as they come alive with carefully tended plants and flowers from all over the world.
Even though it was a bit early, the Botanical Museum officially launched the spring and summer season with an open-air concert on the museum steps earlier this month. The Guldberg Academic Choir, comprised of men in formal wear and directed by Sigurd Engesnes, sang classic Scandinavian songs for a half-hour to put folks in a spring mood.
It was part of the City of Oslo’s recent “Tourist in Your Own Town” campaign, which encouraged local residents to get out and visit local museums and attractions just as they would if they were visiting in another city. Sometimes there’s a tendency to overlook what’s in your own hometown.
For foreigners living in Oslo, the Natural History Museum compound makes for a classic “Day Out.” Easily reached on the T-bane (metro) to Tøyen, signs point the way to what once were the grounds of the stately Tøyen Hovedgård (manor house and farm) with its historic mansion. It was all turned over to the University of Oslo and is now the site of the Botanical, Zoological and Geological museums.
The Botanical Museum also includes two large greenhouses, recently refurbished and housing such rare sights in Oslo as palm trees and large desert cactus. It’s especially inviting during the winter months, as a brief break from the snow and ice outside.
But now, at this time of year, it’s the gardens themselves that are a main attraction. Free guided tours are offered every Sunday at noon and 2pm in May, June, July and August.
There’s also an area called Oldemors hage (Great-grandmother’s garden) which is perched on a slight hilltop and offers good views over the city towards Holmenkollen. It’s billed as “a living archive for the horticultural heritage of Norway,” and features traditional plants and flowers that have grown in Norway for years, for example primroses taken from a garden in Ullensaker in Akershus, mint plants from Sjåk in the mountains and delphinum from Lesja in Oppland County. There’s even a “sensory garden” aimed at persons with dementia who may recognize garden fragrances from their childhoods.
The museums at Tøyen are also home now to the famous fossil Ida, on display since last summer in the Zoological Museum. It also features changing exhibits including one recently on Darwin.
The Natural History Museum – Botanical Gardens
www.nationalmuseum.no (external link)
Gardens open: Weekends and holidays from 10am to 9pm through September, until 5pm in the fall and winter. The greenhouses and museum buildings, Tuesday-Sunday, 11am to 4pm.
Admission: Free to the gardens, NOK 50 for adults to the museum buildings and greenhouses, NOK 25 for children.
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