See the newly refurbished Grand Hotel in Oslo
This is the Grand Hotel
- 274 rooms
- The hotel has two restaurants, Palmen and Grand Café
- There are two bars: Othilia, which is in the lobby, and Eight on the eighth floor
- The hotel also has several conference rooms, a gym, and a spa
Karl Johans gate 31, Oslo
The Grand Café in Oslo was the place to see Edvard Munch, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and Oda Krohg back in the 1880s. This is where they ate and drank, whether they had money or not. The Grand Café is in the corner of the Grand Hotel building on Karl Johans gate. The hotel was founded back in 1874 by Julius Christopher Fritzner and has always been the place to mark major events in the community. It has spent the past year being refurbished from top to toe.
“We’ve spent NKr160 million on it,” Fredrikke Næss, CEO of the Grand Hotel, tells Scandinavian Traveler. “We’ve also installed a lot of new artwork.”
As soon as you enter the lobby, you can see that a lot has changed. The wall next to the classic old Palmen restaurant has been opened up. A new bar has been added – and among the bottles is a new version of The Scream lit up in neon, which has been created by artist Tracey Emin. Palmen has retained its old marble, but the restaurant has been given a facelift with a sober new color scheme. Barcelona-based firm of architects GCA is behind the redesign of these public areas. The whole area is illuminated by an enormous chandelier.
“We wanted to bring the Grand into a new era, while still retaining our Bohemian heritage,” Næss says. “This is reflected in features such as the chandelier.”
The old furnishings sit nicely alongside all the new. The lamps of the Grand Café have moved upstairs to the Eight bar on the eighth floor. An old lacquered table has moved from the Chinese room to the library. At the same time, they were keen to ensure that the hotel remains a social place.
“You should be able to come in and have a cup of coffee or a cocktail, use the Wi-Fi, and enjoy the atmosphere,” Chief Commercial Officer Angelica Montéz de Oca tells Scandinavian Traveler.
Luxurious new rooms
Naturally, the rooms themselves have been given an extensive makeover.
“As part of our work on the rooms, we created focus groups containing guests, employees, and owners,” Næss says. “We asked them all sorts of questions, from what kind of throw pillows should be on the beds to the contents of the minibar. Then we created a test room and trialed it.”
Some rooms have been taken out to create space for several larger rooms. The bathrooms have been refurbished and beds made by Jensen have been installed. Eye Interior is behind the room furnishings.
“You should be able to feel that you’re staying at the Grand,” Næss says. “It has to be both luxurious and functional.”
It also has to be modern.
“A number of brands wanted to work with us,” Montéz says. “The porcelain’s Wedgwood and the employee uniforms are by Hugo Boss. Not only do the new uniforms look nice, it also feels very different for the staff to put on something by Hugo Boss. We think it’s great there are so many companies who want to be associated with the Grand.”
The Rococo hall and the other conference rooms have also been upgraded. One of the more impressive efforts is the new ceiling painting in the Rococo hall.
“There was a fire here that destroyed everything that was in the hall,” Næss says. “We’ve tried to recreate it.”
From chain to independent hotel
It’s not just the interiors that have changed. The business itself has also entered a new era. For many years the Grand Hotel was part of the Rica chain, which was later acquired by Scandic. Now the hotel is owned by investor Christian Ringnes’s company Eiendomsspar.
“It’s been a long journey with lots of things changed and replaced along the way, everything from the core functions to the service schedules,” Næss says.
The Fursetgruppen restaurant group has taken over the running of the Grand Café, which has also been refreshed.
“We’ve placed great importance on maintaining the historical traditions,” Marianne Nygård-Hansen, Head of Marketing and Communications at Fursetgruppen, tells Scandinavian Traveler. “We have two chefs, Alexsander Østli Berg, who is also the captain of the Norwegian culinary team, and Christofer Bengtsson. They focus on good flavors and seasonal ingredients. The old sandwich buffet has been replaced with a menu consisting of several side dishes, but also some classic mains. Inspiration comes mainly from the Nordic region, but also from other parts of the world.
The old booths, heavy curtains, and white tablecloths are also gone. The new interior is lighter and brighter. The old paintings by Per Krohg are still there of course.
“The new interior provides a better backdrop for the paintings,” Nygård-Hansen says. “We’ve also worked with art photography that forms a link between the past and the present. We wanted to create a Grand Café for our time.”
Now the guests are streaming in. The rooms are full and Palmen is packed when afternoon tea is served. People also just drop by to snap some photos in the bar on their cellphones. When it comes to the identities of the guests who are staying here, Næss’s lips are sealed.
“We are very discreet and we will never reveal who is staying or has stayed here.”
Text: Inga Ragnhild Holst
Published: August 16, 2017