The Palace Square
The Palace Square is Norway’s main parade ground, and and important meeting place for the King and the people.
Throughout the years, Norwegians have gathered at the Palace Square to mark important events in the life of the nation and the Royal Family, in times of joy as well as sorrow.
The Palace Square was built as a ceremonial square, and is perhaps the country’s most important space of this kind. This is where the King receives foreign heads of state during state visits, where new Norwegian governments are presented, and where His Majesty regularly inspects the King’s Guard.
Where the Royal Family and the people meet
The square is also a key meeting place for the members of the Royal Family and the Norwegian people. The best illustration of this is the Constitution Day children’s parade in Oslo. Each year on 17 May, the parade makes it way up Karl Johans gate to pass in front of the Royal Palace – where members of the Royal Family wave from the balcony. The tradition was introduced by King Haakon, who greeted the children’s parade here for the first time in 1906.
The Palace Square has also been the site where people gather on joyous occasions, such as Royal weddings. Thousands came to celebrate with the Royal Family during the wedding of Their Majesties The King and Queen in 1968, the wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Crown Prince and Crown Princess in 2001, and on the King’s 70th birthday in 2007.
In sorrow as well as joy
Following the terror attacks of 22 July 2011, people brought flowers to the Palace Square. The first time this happened spontaneously was in connection with the death of King Olav V on 17 January 1991. The square was transformed into a sea of flowers and candles – lit by all those who wished to express their sympathy and mourn together over the passing of a beloved King.
The atmosphere was far happier on 7 June 1945, when the Royal Family returned from their exile during World War II. Enormous crowds filled the streets and followed the Royal Family as they made their way from the harbour and up to the Palace Square.
On 17 January 2016, the 25th anniversary of the ascension to the Norwegian throne of King Harald and Queen Sonja was celebrated here with winter activities for young and old alike. The event was part of the Government’s anniversary gift to the King and Queen, with a major contribution from the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports.
It was a national day of celebration that brought together the Royal Family and the many well-wishers who came for the event. It is estimated that between 30 000 and 50 000 people visited the Palace Square that day.
“Happy birthday to you”
Also in 2012, the Palace Square was the scene of the celebration when we marked the 75th birthdays of King Harald and Queen Sonja. Some 3 000 pre-school children were invited here to enjoy sweet buns and juice, and they sang a resounding version of “Happy birthday to you” for the King and Queen.
The Palace Square extends in front of the façade of the Royal Palace, but on the southeast corner of the square lies another, much smaller, building. This is the guardhouse for His Majesty The King’s Guard. Constructed in 1845, it is one of Norway’s first buildings in the Swiss chalet style. The same architect, Hans D. F. Linstow, designed both the Palace and the guardhouse. He studied the Swiss chalet style during a trip to Germany. He believed that the style was closely related to Norwegian building tradition, and when he came home to Norway, he designed several buildings in this style.
The guardhouse has served the same function since it was completed. It was originally intended as a temporary solution for the King’s Guard, but today it is protected as a cultural monument.