The grand, nineteenth-century mansions bordering the southern perimeter of the Slottsparken once housed Oslo’s social elite. It was here, in a fourth-floor apartment at Arbins gate 1, on the corner of what is now Henrik Ibsens gate, that Norway’s most celebrated playwright, Henrik Ibsen, spent the last ten years of his life, strolling down to the Grand every day to hold court. Admirers did their best to hobnob with the great man as he took his daily walk, but Ibsen was unenthusiastic about being a tourist attraction in his own lifetime and mostly ignored all comers – no one could ever accuse him of being overly sociable. Ibsen’s old apartment is now incorporated within the Ibsenmuseet (Ibsen Museum), which begins with a well-considered introduction to Ibsen and his plays, exploring, over two small floors, the themes that underpinned his work and his uneasy relationship with his home country. Beyond, Ibsen’s apartment has been restored to its appearance in 1895, including many of the original furnishings, but it can only be visited on a guided tour (hourly; no extra charge). Both Ibsen and his wife died here: Ibsen breathed his last as he lay paralysed in bed, but his wife, unwilling to expire in an undignified pose, dressed herself to die sitting upright in a chair in the library. Ibsen was argumentative to the end – famously, his final words were “To the contrary” in reply to his poor old maid, who had tried to cheer him up by suggesting he was looking better.
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