Oslo is the demographic, economic and political centre of Norway. The history of the city can be traced back over 1, 000 years. Oslo was founded in 1048, by the king Harald Hardråde. The city became capital of Norway around 1300, but lost its privileges during the Danish-Norwegian union from 1348 to 1814. In 1624, a fire devastated old Oslo, and the city was moved some kilometres west to gain protection from the fortress at Akershus. The city was renamed Christiania, after the danish king Christian IV, a name that remained until it was officially renamed on January 1st 1925 to Oslo.
Oslo, with its approximately 453 square kilometers, is one of the largest capitals in the world by area. Granted, most of this is forest, making Oslo a city in close contact with the nature surrounding it.
Oslo is situated in an amphitheater-like setting, with the city centre in the bottom close to the Oslo fjord, and residential areas stretching uphill from there in all directions. Behind the residential areas, the forested area of Marka (Nordmarka, Østmarka, Lillomarka) extends, with flora and fauna that is quite extraordinary for a city of this size. Moose are commonplace (easily spotted in winter), and the whole of the capital is part of Norway's wolf reserve (even if they rarely come here). Polarbears are NOT common in the city centre, even some might think so, due to old stories about Norway.
Although well into the northern latitudes, Oslo's climate is fairly temperate thanks to warm air being wafted across the Atlantic from the Gulf Stream. Summer weather in Oslo is mild and pleasant, with frequent hot spells, and plenty of long sunny days. In winter temperatures hover just above or below freezing. Snow is most often plentiful in the forested areas and also often in the city in winter, making it a great winter sports venue. Rainfall is spread across the year, the rainiest month being August.
The Oslo region is the country's premier business centre and has a diverse and dynamic economy with one of the highest regional GDPs in Europe. Figures published by the regional development agency for Oslo show that GDP per capita in the region was €44, 190 ($51, 950) (excluding oil and gas) in 2000, compared to an EU average of approximately €20, 000 ($23, 512). According to a report produced by the city's Chief Commissioner's Department and the Department of Finances and Development, the service sector dominates employment in Oslo. In 2001, Public and Business services accounted for more than 59 percent of jobs. Other major employment areas within the service sector include trade, hotels and catering, banking and insurance.