Opened in 1874, the Grand describes itself as Norway’s “best-known” hotel, which it may well be as the annual host of the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize banquet. It was also a regular haunt of playwright Henrik Ibsen, who was known to dine in the hotel’s Grand Café every lunch and dinner. In 2014, the hotel began the first stages of a major renovation, refreshing the public spaces, restaurants, venues and rooms, though some of these updates are still on-going. It plans to complete the final revamp of its conference centre and a few remaining guest rooms this summer.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Drawing on its history and high society aesthetic, the renovation has been led by three creative companies, with each firm dedicated to a separate part of the hotel. The oval lobby is elegant, with gleaming floors, pale pink walls and a dramatic chandelier hanging above, which, during my stay, illuminated a foyer table filled with vases of fresh white lilies. Reception is to the left of the entrance, decorated with a feature wall of ornate light bulbs designed to look like door knobs, with their golden keys and tassels hanging underneath.
The Palmen restaurant is through an open entryway at the back of the lobby while the Othilia lobby bar is at the back of the reception area, dotted with plush, velour armchairs and sofas and a sleek marble bar. Guests can glimpse the inside of The Palmen from reception, where a spectacular blown glass chandelier hangs above cosy banquettes and colourful artwork on the walls.
I arrived at 2pm and was quickly checked in, before being shown up to my room on the seventh floor. Suites, meeting rooms and the hotel’s spa and gym are all on this floor, and I was pleased to learn that I’d been upgraded to the Tower Suite, a 60-sqm room housed within the hotel’s clock tower.
WHERE IS IT?
Despite Oslo being a compact and walkable city, the hotel is very well-located, a ten-minute stroll from Oslo Central Station at the end of the main Karl Johans Gate shopping street near Oslo University’s faculty of law and the National Theatre. It is also a ten-minute walk to the Oslofjord (the main bay area) and the city’s many waterfront restaurants and bars, and is within easy reach of the Nobel Peace Centre museum, the National Gallery and the Oslo Opera House.
The hotel has 274 rooms including 54 suites designed in a nod to the hotel’s history, with gilded mirrors, chandeliers, quirky artwork and soft furnishings in a palette of powder blue, lavender, pistachio greens and gold. Entry level superior rooms start from 22 sqm, while suites start at 36 sqm. Amenities include a work desk, a 40-inch TV, a kettle with coffee and tea, a safe and an iron/ironing board. Rooms with bathtubs are available upon request, while those with front-facing views can be booked for an additional charge.
The Tower Suite is set over three floors, with a four-poster bed, two bathrooms and a separate wardrobe area on the first floor, a lounge on the second floor and a dining table with three terraces on the top floor, overlooking Oslo’s parliament and the charming square in front. Connecting to the wifi was a little confusing at first – I was unable to connect to the router I had been directed to at reception, but after calling down I was given the details of another router, the signal of which appeared to be stronger in rooms housed within the old part of the hotel, such as the suite.
Otherwise, the room was gorgeous, with an extremely comfortable bed, palatial furnishings and luxury amenities, such as L’occitane toiletries and robes. I enjoyed having a coffee from the Nespresso machine each morning from the top floor balcony. A refurbishment is planned for the Tower Suite, which will see the slightly passé carpet replaced, among other updates.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Next to reception, the Othilia lobby bar is named after one of the hotel’s famous 19th century guests, offering cocktails and snacks to guests while they wait for dinner or lunch. Next door, the Palmen restaurant is an elegant spot for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner with a beautiful centrepiece of potted orchids, coffee coloured marble walls and brightly coloured paintings.
I had an excellent dinner there one evening which started with a Norwegian cheese plate with three varieties of cheese, served with cloudberry jam, crispy bread, capers and berries (£18). The jam was tangy and moorish, pairing well with the strong blue cheese and brittle crackers.
I followed this with a delicious slow-cooked beef tenderloin (£36) with glazed carrots, potato fondant and red wine sauce. The vegetables were lightly cooked and quite crunchy, while the beef was extremely tender and flavoursome.
Through a set of French doors next to reception, the Grand Café is where breakfast is served, though the kitchen is open all day long offering a range of Nordic and international dishes. It is a large, high-ceilinged room, painted deep red with Scandi furniture, potted ferns and large murals depicting the grand dames and monsieurs that would frequent the Grand Café in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
One lunch time, I tried the beef tartar with cured scallop and crispy sour dough topping to start, which was rich, filling, and a tasty introduction to the local cuisine.
For the main course, I tried an equally heavy dish of Swedish caviar, potato waffle and creamy dill – it’s safe to say I didn’t need to eat again that day.
On the eighth floor, the Eight rooftop bar is a sophisticated lounge decked out with snug cushioned beds, offering lovely views, finger food, local beer and a variety of reinvented classic cocktails. These include The Nor Way, which offers a twist on the traditional negroni made with Aquavit and Norwegian digestif Marka, and the Ginger Club – and update on the Clover Club made with raspberry liqueur and a raspberry spirit, both distilled in Norway.
On the hotel’s ground floor are a number of impressive event rooms, including the stunning Mirror Room, where the Nobel Peace Prize dinner is held each year. Next to this are three smaller “salons”, joined by a connecting corridor, containing artwork by the likes of the Queen of Norway and Andy Warhol.
Around the corner near the lifts, is The Library, which offers a cosy, dimly lit room for guests to do work in or hold informal meetings surrounded by Nobel Peace prize-themed memorabilia.
On the seventh floor is the Grand Hotel Conference Centre which has nine brightly lit meeting rooms (to be renovated this summer) offering audio visual equipment and views over the parliament building and Karl Johans Gate.
The Artesia spa and gym are on the same floor – a glossy space with oriental accents, a swimming pool, steam room and sauna – all illuminated by sultry dark blue and purple mood lighting. The spa’s treatment menu offers a range of facial and body treatments, while the gym is kitted out with the latest Technogym equipment and free weights (open 0630 – 2330).
A lovely hotel with beautifully designed renovations that retain the property’s classic aesthetic and unique history. Excellent location within the heart of Oslo and no longer than a ten-minute walk to the financial district and waterfront.
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in July started from £258 excluding tax for a Superior room.
Karl Johans gate 31, NO-0159 Oslo; tel +47 23 21 20 00; grand.no