Oslo is the capital and the most populous city in Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 reduced its influence. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, the city was moved closer to Akershus Fortress during the reign of Christian IV of Denmark and renamed Christiania in his honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. Following a spelling reform, it was known as Kristiania from 1877 to 1925, at which time its original Norwegian name was restored.
Oslo is the economic and governmental centre of Norway. The city is also a hub of Norwegian trade, banking, industry and shipping. It is an important centre for maritime industries and maritime trade in Europe. The city is home to many companies within the maritime sector, some of which are among the world's largest shipping companies, shipbrokers and maritime insurance brokers. Oslo is a pilot city of the Council of Europe and the European Commission intercultural cities programme.
Oslo is considered a global city and ranked "Beta World City" in studies carried out by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network in 2008. It was ranked number one in terms of quality of life among European large cities in the European Cities of the Future 2012 report by fDi magazine. A survey conducted by ECA International in 2011 placed Oslo as the second most expensive city in the world for living expenses after Tokyo. In 2013 Oslo tied with the Australian city of Melbourne as the fourth most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)'s Worldwide Cost of Living study.
As of January 1, 2016, the municipality of Oslo has a population of 658,390, while the population of the city's urban area was 942,084. The metropolitan area had an estimated population of 1.71 million. The population was during the early 2000 increasing at record rates, making it the fastest growing major city in Europe at the time. This growth stems for the most part from international immigration and related high birth rates, but also from intra-national migration. The immigrant population in the city is growing somewhat faster than the Norwegian population, and in the city proper this is now more than 25% of the total.
Oslo occupies an arc of land at the northernmost end of the Oslofjord. The fjord, which is nearly bisected by the Nesodden peninsula opposite Oslo, lies to the south; in all other directions Oslo is surrounded by green hills and mountains. There are 40 islands within the city limits, the largest being Malmøya (0.56 km2 or 0.22 sq mi), and scores more around the Oslofjord. Oslo has 343 lakes, the largest being Maridalsvannet (3.91 km2 or 1.51 sq mi). This is also a main source of drinking water for large parts of Oslo.
Although Eastern Norway has a number of rivers, none of these flow into the ocean at Oslo. Instead Oslo has two smaller rivers: Akerselva (draining Maridalsvannet, which flows into the fjord in Bjørvika), and Alna. The waterfalls in Akerselva gave power to some of the first modern industry of Norway in the 1840s. Later in the century, the river became the symbol of the stable and consistent economic and social divide of the city into an East End and a West End; the labourers' neighbourhoods lie on both sides of the river, and the divide in reality follows Uelands street a bit further west. River Alna flows through Groruddalen, Oslo's major suburb and industrial area. The highest point is Kirkeberget, at 629 metres (2,064 ft). Although the city's population is small compared to most European capitals, it occupies an unusually large land area, of which two-thirds are protected areas of forests, hills and lakes. Its boundaries encompass many parks and open areas, giving it an airy and green appearance.
Oslo is the capital of Norway, and as such is the seat of Norway's national government. Most government offices, including that of the Prime Minister, are gathered at Regjeringskvartalet, a cluster of buildings close to the national Parliament, the Storting.
Constituting both a municipality and a county of Norway, the city of Oslo is represented in the Storting by nineteen members of parliament. The Labour Party and the Conservative Party have six each, the Progress Party and the Liberals have two each ; the Socialist Left Party, the Christian Democrats and the Green Party have one each.
The combined municipality and county of Oslo has had a parliamentary system of government since 1986. The supreme authority of the city is the City Council (Bystyret), which currently has 59 seats. Representatives are popularly elected every four years. The City Council has five standing committees, each having its own areas of responsibility. The largest parties in the City Council after the 2015-elections are the Labour Party and the Conservatives, with 20 and 19 representatives respectively.
Oslo has a large and varied number of cultural attractions, which include several buildings containing artwork from Edvard Munch and various other international artists but also several Norwegian artists. Several world-famous writers have either lived or been born in Oslo. Examples are Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen. The government has recently invested large amounts of money in cultural installations, facilities, buildings and festivals in the City of Oslo. Bygdøy, outside the city centre is the centre for history and the Norwegian Vikings' history. The area contains a large number of parks and seasites and many museums. Examples are the Fram Museum, Vikingskiphuset and the Kon-Tiki Museum. Oslo hosts the annual Oslo Freedom Forum, a conference described by The Economist as "on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum." Oslo is also known for giving out the Nobel Peace Prize every year.
The newspapers Aftenposten, Dagbladet, Verdens Gang, Dagens Næringsliv, Finansavisen, Dagsavisen, Morgenbladet, Vårt Land, Nationen and Klassekampen are published in Oslo. The main office of the national broadcasting company NRK is located at Marienlyst in Oslo, near Majorstuen, and NRK also has regional services via both radio and television. TVNorge (TVNorway) is also located in Oslo, while TV 2 (based in Bergen) and TV3 (based in London) operate branch offices in central Oslo. There is also a variety of specialty publications and smaller media companies. A number of magazines are produced in Oslo. The two dominant companies are Aller Media and Hjemmet Mortensen AB.