Oslo’s Grand Hotel has housed countless Nobel Peace Prize winners, dignitaries and entertainers over the years, but fewer are likely to be checking in this winter. Parts of the legendary hostelry have been closed and its entrance blocked off since Christmas, as the historic building undergoes major renovation.
The hotel, owned by Norwegian real estate investor Christian Ringnes, is going through what its managers call a full renewal. The entire reception and lobby area, the hotel’s restaurants and banquet halls, its rooms and suites are all being renovated.
Landmark areas such as the atrium lounge known as Palmen, and the ornate banquet rooms known as Rokokkosalen and Speilen will be shined up, but hotel officials promise the hotel’s soul will remain intact.
“We will really be taking care of Oslo’s Grand Hotel,” director Fredrikke Næss told newspaper Aftenposten recently. “We will strengthen what’s best, add elements to make the Grand lighter and airier, and it will be more open between the rooms and the reception area.”
The Grand Hotel dates from 1874 and is perhaps best known for not only housing all Nobel Peace Prize winners but also hosting the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet. The hotel is also the site of other major events such as the lavish dinner following the annual address by the head of Norway’s central bank, which attracts the country’s business and political elite, and its Constitution Day traditions and decorations on the 17th of May.
The popular rooftop bar called Etoile will also be renovated, while all of the hotel’s 292 rooms will be modernized and remodeled. Stairways and hallways will also be redone, but Næss vows they’ll all remain “recognizable” when the six-month project is completed in June.
Questions remain about the fate of the hotel’s venerable Grand Café, the historic haunt of Norwegian artists and authors, not least playwright Henrik Ibsen. He ate lunch nearly every day at the Grand Café, during the last 10 years of his life.
The ground-floor Grand Café, adorned with famed murals of Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Christian Krogh and other Oslo luminaries of their time, closed last year, after 141 years of continuous operation. Asked what would move in to the corner location with views across the street to the Parliament (Stortinget), Næss told Aftenposten “We don’t know yet.”
The hotel remains open during the renovations, but guests are warned of the work going on from January to June, and getting “special offers” in compensation. That means room rates were starting at NOK 1,590 (USD 182) this week instead of the nearly NOK 1,800-and-up usually charged.