Oslo’s still-new Opera House has emerged as the capital’s top tourist attraction. It now out-ranks the Frogner Park and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump by a wide margin, and drew nearly four times the number of visitors who went to see the Viking ships on Bygdøy.
New figures released by state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) and local tourism bureau Visit Oslo showed that the Opera House and its popular roof attracted 1.7 million visitors in 2010. That compares to nearly a million visitors viewing the Vigeland sculptures at the Frogner Park and at Holmenkollen.
Visit Oslo divides the top attractions into those with no charge and those charging admission. The Opera House, the Frogner Park and Holmenkollen were the top three attraction with no admission charge (although it costs to go to the top of Holmenkollen and visit its adjacent Ski Museum).
The top tourist attractions with an admission fee were the Viking Ships and the National Gallery, with around 450,000 visitors each last year, followed by the Fram Museum and the Kon-Tiki Museum with around 200,000 each.
An estimated 5 million people have visited the Opera House since it opened in the spring of 2008. Automated traffic counters on the marble bridge leading into the Opera plaza keep track of how many have crossed.
“The visitor numbers exceed all expectations,” Cathrine Pia Lund of Den Norske Opera og Ballett told newspaper Aften. “Even though ambitions were high at the opening, we never could have foreseen the stream of visitors we now experience.” The number of visitors in the first quarter of this year was 32,000 higher than in the same quarter last year.
City hotels doing well, rural hotels struggling
All told, 3.3 million people visited Oslo in 2010 including 2 million Norwegians from other parts of Norway. The most foreign tourists came from Sweden, followed by Germany, the US and Great Britain.
Local hotels have reported an increase in overnight stays, with Thon Hotels saying that bookings are up 30 percent over last year. Other major chains including Radisson and Choice have also reported solid increases, some of it tied to the Nordic Skiing World Championships earlier this year.
The cities seem to be attracting more tourists than rural areas all over the country. While hotels in cities like Oslo, Bergen, Lillehammer and Ålesund are enjoying strong occupancy rates, many mountain hotels are struggling and more have had to close, like the Spåtind High Mountain Hotel in Nordre Land. Small, specialized hotels with charm outside large chains are doing well, like the Grand Hotel Terminus in Bergen and the Hotel Brosundet in Ålesund, built in an old maritime building on the waterfront.
“People want something special,” Terje Devold of travel firm 62′ Nord told Aftenposten. “That’s what we experience in the private market.”
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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