Hotel Continental, with its 30 hotel rooms and its restaurant Theatercaféen, opened on 22 December, 1900.
In 1949 Theatercaféen was rebuilt and redecorated in a style that represented a total break with its distinctive original look. Ellen Brochmann, the third-generation owner who assumed command of Hotel Continental in 1953, was not at all pleased with this state of affairs. Her dream was to reverse the modernisation process. In 1971 her dream of restoring Theatercaféen to its original glory finally became a reality, with very good assistance from architect Hans Gabriel Finne.
Parts of the interior were still kept, and with help from lots of photographs it was possible to bring Theatercaféen back to it's original style. They also got inspiration by visiting Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Some special points of interest can be mentioned: The floor is made of 100 000 tiny pieces of linoleum. Building glass screens in front of the windows was an idea that originated in Copenhagen. The china used in the restaurant was designed by the architect, Finne, and manufactured by Figgjo Fajanse. The wall clock on the musicians' balcony is from London.
On 13 April 1971, after a month of closed doors, meticulous planning and hard work, Theatercaféen could open its doors to its “new” look of the past, which it has maintained until today.
Joseph Heller wrote an enthusiastic essay about Theatercaféen in 1984, which was published in The Sophisticated Manner, the New York Times's travel guide. Theatercaféen has been on the New York Times list of the 10 most famous cafés in the world ever since.
In 1924 the founder of the café, Caroline Boman Hansen, hit upon the idea of hanging portraits there. She bought 30 portraits from artist Henrik Lund, who had drawn his friends from the café. The first portrait-hanging ceremony took place after the café was closed one evening, with only a few people present. This was the largest group of pictures to be hung at any one time, but the most unpretentious of all the ceremonies. There are now 80 portraits on the walls of Theatercaféen, and each portrait-hanging ceremony is a major event. The pictures portray writers, authors, actors, musicians, composers and other prominent figures from Norway's cultural sphere. What all of the 80 people in the portraits have in common is that they are, or have been, regular guests at Theatercaféen. Loyalty towards the Continental is, namely, a prerequisite for having one's portrait hang on these venerable walls.
Henrik Lund, Gösta Hammarlund, Pedro and Ulf Aas drew most of the portraits. But there are also portraits by Finn Graff, Nils Aas, Per Palle Storm, Arne Raknes, Knut Hermod Knudsen, Kristoffer Sinding Larsen, Jukon Gjelseth og Odd Nerdrum.