Unusual and exciting, Oslo has an icy cold appearance and climate but is perhaps the warmest and friendliest city I have visited. In recent years Norway’s capital has grown in popularity and importance, with the ‘barcode’ business district developing at speed and the hotel and restaurant scene becoming more trendy and diverse than ever before. It may be more expensive than its Scandi counterparts but it has just as much, if not more, to explore and discover.
The Thief – Less than a year old, the Thief hotel is without doubt the most enticing hotel in Oslo. Located on the water’s edge in the cultural hub of Tjuvholmen, this coveted hotel is the home for every celebrity visiting the city. With an enviable art collection and an alliance with neighbouring gallery, Astrup Fearnley, the accommodation looks as seductive as it feels. Hotels don’t come much cooler than this.
Sverre Saetre – This sophisticated gallery of pretty patisseries was opened by Norwegian pastry chef, Sverre Saetre who previously trained at the Michelin starred restaurant in Oslo, Bagatelle. The cabinets hold immaculate delights: macarons, cakes and the signature ‘dry cakes’ (puff pastry with red peppers and parmesan).
Pascal – This French inspired café is chic and charming, the perfect place to stop for a warming bowl of soup at lunchtime, or a much needed caffeine kick. The black and white tiled floors are reminiscent of a French brasserie, whilst the high ‘Michigan’ bar stools offer an American style juxtaposition.
Nighthawk Diner – For those needing an American food fix, Nighthawk diner is the place to go. Relax in the comfy red leather booths and order a Nighthawk combo-burger and pistachio milkshake. The ideal indulgence for a cold winter’s evening in Oslo.
Ekeberg Restaurant – Known best for its advantageous positioning on the top of the south eastern hills in Oslo this restaurant is architecturally sublime with the best views in town. It was a great setting for our New Year’s Eve meal, we sipped wine and admired the skyline as fireworks flashed above the city.
Tim Wendelboe – Norway has a particularly strong affinity with coffee and the cafes in Oslo represent this well. Tim Wendelboe is unmissable for caffeine addicts visiting the capital. The slick micro roaster / espresso bar offers carefully sourced, rare blends of beans.
Blå – Every Sunday evening crowds cram into the lively and raucous jazz music venue, Blå. It is a place for locals to share a few beers with friends whilst enjoying an eclectic live soundtrack, we certainly felt like the only tourists in the place! The house band plays every Sunday, their music is infectious and impossible not to dance to.
Fuglen – Coffee by day, cocktails by night, this vintage institution is a must visit. Barely changed since 1963 you can buy nearly every retro article on display, or just sit and enjoy your surroundings.
Astrup Fearnley – This impressive new modern art gallery was conveniently close to our luxury accommodation at The Thief. Indeed the hotel is one of the museum’s main sponsors, and as a guest you are given free access to the exhibitions. Amongst the prolific works are the ostentatious Jeff Koons sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles and Damien Hirst’s gory animals and bufferflies. We also enjoyed the temporary, more cheerful Brasilia show.
Munch museum – Edvard Munch is a Norwegian national treasure, and this museum is a homage to the great artist. A precariously icy walk to the museum was rewarded with a subtle and imaginative exhibition of Munch’s works on paper. An essential for any Oslo itinerary.
Holmenkollen ski jump – This terrifying structure is appreciated for its staggering feat of architecture and its more practical uses. Built in 1892 it is regularly used for international events, but for the rest of the year is a fine sight to see, and also houses the world’s oldest ski museum.
Oslo Vinterpark – Oslo is totally unique as the only capital city to boast skiing so close to the busy town life. The slopes are easily reached by metro (just 20 minutes from the city centre) so lucky locals can enjoy a few hours of snow sports after a day at work. I skied for the very first time here. After a lesson with the brilliant instructor, Jonathan, I even managed a green run at the end of the session. It was a very special addition to our trip and an amazing asset to the city of Oslo.
Walk on the Opera House – Oslo Operahuset is perhaps the most impressive piece of architecture in Norway’s capital city. Sitting precariously on the water’s edge, this bold jagged glass and marble structure is admired for its glacier-like appearance and beautifully designed oak-lined auditorium. If you can’t afford the ticket prices, take a stroll on the sloped roof of the building and admire the views.
Vigeland Sculpture Park – Pick up breakfast at the super cool café, United Bakeries, then walk it off at the famous Sculpture Park. The park is filled with 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron, made by just one artist, the lifework of Gustav Vigeland. Mesmerising and refreshing, it is a free activity that anyone and everyone would enjoy.
Freudian Kicks – A beautifully curated selection of designers from around the world. I noticed cool brands like APC, Carven, Surface to Air and Wood Wood. Taking advantage of the post-Christmas sale, I bought a lovely warm roll neck jumper from Nordic brand, Wall Winter Spring Summer.
Moods of Norway – Started by childhood friends in 2003 this casual Norwegian clothes store has been a hit, expanding across the city, and further afield to Los Angeles and New York. The shop is filled with brightly coloured garments and accessories.
Hunting Lodge Store – This dinky design store has a quirky selection of products, prints, art books and edgy streetwear. Many of the shop fittings are one-off designs and the attractive layout encourages browsing.
Norway Designs – Those who are addicted to Scandi design like me will enjoy the plethora of treats in the big Norway Designs shop in the centre of town. Here you will find everything you desire from stationery to homeware, jewellery to accessories.
Many thanks to Oslo Tourist board for their help with this trip. More information here.