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Oslo, Norway City Guide

by Stephanie

Oslo City Guide
Today’s Oslo, Norway City Guide comes to us from Frankie Elmquist, an American architect and interior designer living in Oslo with her small family and two giant Norwegian Forest Cats. Originally hailing from Portland ME and Brooklyn, Frankie is an intrepid traveler and seeker of design, art and culture and is happy to call Oslo a new home. Today she shares with us the some of the many charms and wonders of this Norwegian city. Thanks for such a wonderful guide, Frankie! —Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…


Velkommen til Oslo- Scandinavia’s diamond in the rough! Tucked in at the top of the Oslofjord and surrounded by islands, forests, and mountains, you’ll find this emerging urban gem. Modern and traditional, cozy and tough, urban and rural, Oslo is a city of contrasts and in these contrasts Oslo expresses its unique identity. Stockholm has its candelabras and tiled stoves; Oslo has torches and open hearths, its tough Vikings roots ever present, making Oslo the feisty hard-core little sister of Scandinavia’s capitals.

And don’t forget your wallet – Oslo runs a close race with Tokyo each year as the most expensive city in the world. So plan accordingly – visiting this Nordic jewel is not cheap but it’s worth it. Ask anyone who has visited this city- with its tall beautiful people, big heart and stunning setting – they can’t wait to come back. So pull up a cozy sheepskin-draped chair, order a bowl of reker – Norwegian peel and eat cold-water shrimp and a micro-brew and don your sunglasses – you’ve come to the land of the midnight sun!

Oslo is loosely divided into three areas- the well-heeled residential neighborhoods to the vest- “west”, the industrial and artsy neighborhoods to the øst – “east”, oriented on either side of Sentrum – “the city center”. Each of these areas is made up of several smaller neighborhoods. Although Oslo looks large on the map, fifty percent of it is protected forest, so the city proper is fairly dense and easy to manage on foot, by bike, or with its excellent public transport system.

Be sure to check out this Google Map with all of the below listings!


Central Oslo stretches from the royal palace and surrounding park, the Slottsparken, to the Jernbanetorget (railway square) in front of the Oslo S central train station, and down to the harbor.

Nationalteatret and Stortinget (National Theatre to Parliament)

Stretching from Nationalteatret to Stortinget is Eidsvolls Plass, the national mall of Oslo. The mall is lined with majestic 19th c. buildings with restaurants, cafes, shops and hotels. The fountain in the center transforms into an ice rink in the winter.Primary streets: Karl Johans gate and Stortingsgata.

Nationaltheatret– Constructed at the turn of the century to showcase the work of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen is still one of Norway’s largest and best venues for classical and contemporary dramatic arts. Johanne Dybwadsplas 1

Theatercaféen– Across from the National Theatre is the lovely Viennese-style Theatercafeen, a pre- and post-theater institution for over 100 years. On the New York Times list of the top ten cafes in the world, it’s a perfect place to indulge in afternoon coffee, tea and cake. Coffee culture has long history in Norway and plays an important social role that continues today in these grand cafes and new craft-coffee venues throughout the city. Stortingsgaten 24/26

Norway Designs– Since 1957, this quirky shop has gathered comprehensive selections of high quality design from individual Scandinavian artists and design firms. The multi-level layout is a bit rambling and dated but if you are into design this place is worth exploring including their large section dedicated to paper including the work of the Norwegian design duo Darling ClementineStortingsgata 28

Narvesen- The largest periodical shop in Oslo, it is filled with Scandinavian and international magazines and newspapers. If you are a “design-mag” junkie like me, pick up copies of the Danish design magazine Rum, the Norwegian Nytt Rom, and Nord, a beautifully published Norwegian food magazine. Or try a pocket crimi– Norwegians love crime mysteries! The crime novels by Norwegian ex-footballer and singer turned writer Jo Nesbø are a local favorite. Stortingsgaten 24/26

Grand Hotel & Café– This Victorian grand -dame houses three venues of note- the historical Grand Café where turn of the century artists, writers and politicians would meet, the newly re-opened glass-covered palm court, Palmen, with hyper-stylish new interior design by Anemone Wille Våge and the roof-top bar, Etoile. Oslo has beautiful sun sets… when it sets! Karl Johans gate 31

Freia– When you’re ready for a bit of chocolate- and who isn’t?- pop into the flagship shop for the Norwegian chocolate manufacturer Freia, famous for their high-quality milk-chocolate. Karl Johans gate 31


Sentrum Downtown

Karls Johans gate continues east beyond the Stortinget and transitions to a pedestrian shopping area all the way to the Jernbanetorget. Primary Streets- Akersgata, Karls Johans Gate, Grensen and Torggata

GlasMaganiset– On the Stortorvet – “Large Square”, is the venerable department store GlasMaganiset with its Victorian mansard roofs and shop windows. The ground floor centers on the Christiania Butikk with an impressive selection Scandinavian glass, ceramic tableware and utensils. Look for: Hadeland GlassWik & WalsøeKosta BodaOrrefors and Holmegaard. Tucked away on the lower floor is Den Norwegian Husfliden, one the best places to find high-quality traditional and contemporary Norwegian handcrafts and knitwear. Stortorvet 9

Designer Kollektivet– Pop up to the 6th floor of GlasMaganiset to this long-term pop up shop for unique clothing and accessories by independent Norwegian designers with a strong focus on craftsmanship, aesthetics and ethics. Check out the controversial alternative brooch-work of Siri Berrefjord among other great workStortorvet 9, fl. 6

Designtorget– The Oslo outpost for this fun and functional Scandinavian design market from Sweden. Grensen 8

Bare Jazz– A record shop, café and music venue for jazz. Norwegians love jazz and this little courtyard haven off the street is a fun and laid-back place to experience it. Grensen 8

Youngstorget – With multiple music venues and cinemas “Young Square” is a popular area for going out in the evening.

Fiskeriet– To one side of this reputable fish market is a little bar/resto with daily selections of fresh oysters and fish. Most locals agree they make the best fish and chips in Oslo. I have not tried their fish soup, a Norwegian cream-based specialty, yet but it looks enticingly good! Youngstorget 2

Hell’s Kitchen– Good martinis and pizza? Neither is easy to find in the same place in Oslo and neither is Hell’s Kitchen. Seek out this laid-back and friendly for some of the best pizza in Oslo. Look for the unmarked double wood doors on the corner just off the square. A local favorite it will be packed on the weekend. Møllergata 23

Illegal Burger– Most burgers in this part of the world are so overcooked that they should be illegal… BUT this colorful little burger joint makes the exception- Try it! You know you’ll like it. Møllergata 23

No. 19– After an illegal burger, sneak-over to the alley entrance of this cocktail bar for some serious mixology. The bar takes its name from the illustrious jail building across the street. Møllergata 23

Kvadraturen / Akershus Festning

Kvadraturen- This is oldest district of Oslo. Established in the early 1600’s when the town had to be relocated closer to the fortress following being leveled by a fire. Nearly all the old wood buildings were replaced in the 1800’s however the old street grid still exists and mercantile history still continues to define the area today. Here you’ll find great shopping along with the National Museums for Architecture and Contemporary Artwhich are housed in former bank buildings on Bankplassen. Rarely called out on maps but commonly referred to, the bordering streets are Akersgata, Karl Johan’s gate, and Strandsgata and the stock exchange building.

Cafe Grosch– Named for C.H. Grosch, one of Norway’s most important 19th c. architects. Grosch designed the neoclassical bank building that the café and National Museum of Architecture reside in. The original vaulted ceilings and tasteful modern Scandinavian design make this a popular place for lunch and coffee. Bankplassen 3

Statholdergaarden and Statholderens Mat & Vinkjeller – The historic 1640’s home of the Master of the Mint is now home to the upscale Michelin star Scandinavian restaurant Statholdergaarden. The well-preserved 17th and 18th c. rooms serve as dining rooms and it is loved by locals for special occasions. However, downstairs in the cozy vaulted wine cellar you’ll find their equally stellar modern bistro which serves smørbrød- “Scandinavian open-faced sandwich” for lunch and multi-course dinners. Rådhusgate 11

Samsøe & Samsøe– The Oslo flagship for Scandinavian-inspired alt fashion brand by Danish brothers Klaus and Preben Samsøe. Øvre Slottsgata 15B

Ting– (Things) is a Norwegian gift and homewares butikk “boutique” focused on Scandinavian designed products. Ting is super-fun and great place to find “scandi” gifts to bring home. Here you’ll find brands such as Ferm LivingMuuto, andFussAkersgata 18

Små Ting– “Small Things” down the street, is the same concept but for kids! It is so cute and fun. Look for the Norwegian children’s clothing line Ugly Children’s ClothingPrinsens gate 22

Røst– Is a great new additional to Scandinavian design shops from the Ting folks. Røst focuses on higher-end functional and decorative products, clothing and jewelry. Here you’ll find beautiful handmade tableware by Skaugum of Norway andNordic Spa bath products inspired by sauna-culture and nature. Prinsens gate 22

Steen & Strøm– This department store dates back to 1797. Among the international labels you’ll find several Scandinavian standouts such as the accessories brand BeckSøndergaard with its’ unique hand-drawn prints, soft leather totes and handmade designs in eelskin leather- for real. Nedre Slottsgate 8

Stockfleths– One of Oslo’s oldest quality coffee companies they serve good coffee, coffee drinks and tea. They also make authentic chai latte- the best I’ve had in Oslo! This location has two floors with a cozy lounge level and free wifi (not common here) for getting some work or studying done with a nice “cupp-a”. Prinsens gate 6

Pascal– Is a Konditori- a “pastry shop” run by well-known local pastry chef, Pascal Dupuy. With its classic turn-of the-century interior, it is a local favorite for morning pastry, lunch or afternoon coffee and cake. Many say Pascal makes the desserts and chocolates in Oslo. Tollbugata 11

Hotel Grims Grenka– One of Oslo’s first small design hotels. Centrally located just off Bankplassen, the hotel includes a sunny rooftop lounge and bar and the new raw-food concept restaurant Madu. Kongensgate 5

Posthallen– Housed in the 100 year old former central post office in Kvadraturen, you’ll find a group of excellent shops and the restaurant/café with the same name.

Posthallen Café/Restaurant– Off the inner courtyard is this inviting bar and restaurant which focuses on seasonal Nordic ingredients. The bar/café has outdoor seating in courtyard the warmer months. The restaurant occupies the beautiful main hall of the old post office. Posthallen also has an aquavit room with over 50 different Norwegian aquavits including their own. Prinsens gate 8, Posthallen

Freudian Kicks– Is an independent boutique with a super well-curated selection of international men’s and women’s fashion and accessories with a Scandinavian bent. Here you’ll find lines from Uniforms for the DedicatedFreudian Kicks own,Kaibosh Eyewear, and WoodWoodPrinsens gate 10B, Posthallen

TMichael & Norwegian Rain– Showroom for Norwegian designer of bespoke menswear T. Michael and includes his co-designed line of tailored Japanese-influenced rainwear- Norwegian Rain. Kirkegata 20, Posthallen

Norrgavell, Oslo – the Norwegian outpost of the Swedish furniture and home décor store. Prinsens gate 10C, Posthallen

Akershus Slott og Festning (Castle and Fortress)

The area around the castle is worth a exploring to get a sense of medieval and renaissance Christiania (Old Olso). The renaissance interiors of the castle and chapel are still in use today for government and royal-related events (take the audio tour- it is good). The ramparts offer beautiful views of the fjord.

People and Coffee– is a cheerful and sunny little café for a grabbing a bite to eat or a drink, which supports ethical practices and projects in developing coffee countries. Rådhusgata 21

Cafe Skansen– This is a favorite lunch spot outside on a sunny afternoon or inside on chilly winter day for classic Norwegian food with old world charm. Rådhusgata 32

Solsiden – On the docks just below the fortress, in an unassuming industrial warehouse, is one of the best fish restaurants in Oslo- Solsiden “the Sunny Side”. Their big garage doors invite in the sun, shimmering water and fresh air and create the perfect atmosphere for sampling the freshest fish and shellfish around. Try piled-high shellfish platter or mouth-watering turbot. Akershusstranda 13, Skur 34, open May – early September

Radhus and Radhusplassen (City Hall and Plaza)

Commanding the harbor is Oslo City Hall with its imposing bell and clock towers, a monument of the Norwegian functionalist-style modern architecture from the 1920-50s. For whom do the bells toll? Ranging from Bach to Metallica on the hour, there is a tune for everyone- it’s the social-democratic way! The klokkespillet program is always changing so keep an ear out. Recent favorites- Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side” and Adele. The waterfront plaza is always busy with events and festivals. This area is also home to the Nobel Peace Center and is the gateway to the fjord where you can catch tour boats and local ferries to the islands and the museums on Bygdøy the peninsula across the harbor.

Fenaknoken: Curious about traditional Norwegian food culture? You’ll find it hanging from the ceiling in this old-world delicatessen best described by the Nordic Nibbler blog as “part food shop, part museum”. NB: Not for the meat-adverse.Tordenskioldsgate 12.

Tegnerforbundet– The Norwegian center for drawing and illustration. Rådhusgata 17

Soft Galleri– Shows work by contemporary Norwegian textile artists. Rådhusgata 20

Format Galleri– Shows contemporary Norwegian craft work. Rådhusgata 24


Aker Brygge/Tjuvholmen/Vika

Aker Brygge – Once the shipyards of Akers Mekaniske Verksted, Aker Brygge is now a pedestrian zone along the harbor with contemporary architecture and reclaimed brick warehouses full of shops, restaurants/cafes and marinas. The quay is a popular place to enjoy the harbor, promenade, hang out, and people-watch.

Olivia– Norwegian’s love pizza! Who knew? Olivia’s Italian-style, thin crust, brick-oven pizza is so so popular they have two restaurants in this neighborhood- one on the quay in Aker Brygge, to take the afternoon sun, and one on the back canal in Tjuvholmen, for basking in the evening sun. AB: Stranden 3 / TJVH: Bryggegangen 4

Onda– Set out on the Tingvalla pier, the views of the fjord from Onda can’t be beat. Their large outdoor seating area makes it a popular place for lunch and after-work crowds. Stranden 30

Tjuvholmen– The newest addition to the harbor redevelopment, Tjuvholmen “Thief Islet” earned its name when thieves were said to have overrun the docks during the 1800’s. Still woven through with canals, bridges, and docks it is now ultra-modern development and uptown gallery district with buildings by some of Norway’s top architects and is capped at the end by the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art designed by Renzo Piano and the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park.

Art Galleries– Want to see more after the Astrup Fearnley? Tjuvholmen has a number of galleries. Some of the standouts are Galleri RiisPeder LundStolper + Friends, and Galleri Brandstrup.

Tjuvholmen Beach and Swim Platform– While the pebble beach may not be as inviting, the swim platform at the end of Tjuvholmen Allésure is! I have not taken the plunge yet but I have watched many happy swimmers jump off the dock and it looks super fun- so bring your suit and take a dip in the fjord! Tjuvholmen Allé

Paradis– Time for iskrem- “ice cream”? Paradis is the place. This classic “italiensk” gelateria makes its high-quality gelato and sorbets in-house and is the best in Oslo. They also pull a great Neapolitan espresso. Try the jordbær – “Norwegian strawberry” or hasselnøtter- “hazelnut” made from nuts imported from Piedmont, Italy. If the line is out the door, pop around the corner to their pink gelato-cart by the bridge. Lille Stranden 4

Bergshaven Bakeri– A new outpost for the 100 year old bakery from Grimstad has a fresh and inviting interior and artisanal approach. You’ll find tasty pastry, traditional breads, and sandwiches with suggested Nøgne Ø microbrew pairings.Tjuvholmen Allé 15

The Thief Hotel– Oslo’s newest and best lifestyle hotel. Hyper-curated, think local-minded, and beautifully designed. Stay here or stop in for a drink on the roof in the summer or fire-side in the lounge in the winter or dinner at Fru K. Or just pop in to pick up a copy of Oslo Escape Routes– a map of four themed walking routes through the city- design, architecture, art and alternative culture. The map was created in collaboration with The Theif and the DogA – the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture – and is free to the public. Landgangen 1

Hanami– Oslo’s newest Japanese-fusion restaurant ranging from sashimi to izakaya to robata served tapas-style. The enthusiastic staff is ready to assist if you need help to choose from all the tasty dishes. Try some cloche-smoked sashimi and any of their great cocktails. Kanalen 1


The House of Oslo– Just above Aker Brygge is a collection interior design focused shops under one roof. Anchored by the high-end Danish department store Illums Bolighus, House of Oslo is a “mall” but the lack of tack makes it not feel like one. Ruseløkkveien 26

Alex Sushi– Said to be one of the best sushi restaurants in the world outside of Tokyo, Alex Sushi has a steadfast following of believers, including myself. Skip the recently opened extension in Tjuvholmen and head here to the original. Cort Adelers Gate 2

Slottsparken (Royal Palace Park)

The beautiful Slottsparken surrounding the royal palace are perfect for enjoying a walk, book or picnic. It is open to the public year round even though it’s technically it is the royal families backyard. Surrounding the park are many of Oslo’s cultural institutions.

Litteratur Huset– Anchoring the north corner you’ll find the House of Literature with its multiple venues for lectures, readings and debates. The well-stocked multi-lingual bookshop, café, bar, and sunny front steps are always busy make it a great place to check out Oslo’s literati and smart singles. Wergelandsveien 29

Kunsternes Hus– Since 1930 the Artists’ House, an artist-run government supported gallery, has been one of Oslo’s leading venues for Norwegian and international contemporary art. Check out their One Night Only Gallery, which presents a new show every Monday night. The building is cool too! And is one of the best examples of neo-classical to functionalist cross-overs that were characteristic of the time. Their bookshop is an extension of Torpedo one of the few still-independent book shops which focus on contemporary and visual arts.

Foajéen– The Foyer Café at the Kunsternes Hus serves daily specials from organic produce from the Ramme estate, Edvard Munch’s home from 1910 to 1944, and beverages including brewed in-house beer by the artist-run Dronebrygg, run out of the basement. Wergelandsveien 17

Åpent Bakeri – One of the best craft bakeries in Oslo. They bake delicious high-quality Norske and French brød (bread) from live starters with long rise times. Try their beautifully hand-twisted skillingsboller – a traditional Norwegian type of cinnamon bun. Their fresh-made sandwiches and salads are great for a picnic in the park. Parkveien 27

FROGNER / Uranienborg / Majorstuen – Oslo’s West End

To the west of the Slottsparken and below the Frognerparken are the lovely well-heeled residential neighborhoods of Oslo. Home to many embassies and regal turn of the century buildings and homes, the main streets are lined with smart boutiques and cafes. This is old Oslo at its best. Wonder through on your way to or from the Vigeland Museum and Sculpture Park.

Frogner Primary Streets- Frognerveien, Skoveien & Briskebyveien

Granit– On the circle is fun and affordable Swedish home wares shop Granit. Their simple styling and industrial aesthetic make it impossible to not go in. There is a 2nd shop in Grünerløkka. Bygdøy Allé 1 / GRLK: Thorvald Meyers gate 63

MA Vintage– Side by side boutique with designer second-hand and vintage clothing and accessories. Briskebyveien 28

Vestkanttorvet– Love the thrill of a find? Source your own vintage at the “Briskeby Loppemarked” a popular antiques and bric-a-brac flea market every Saturday, March to December. Corner of Professor Dahls gate and Neubergsgata

Catherine Hammel– The boutique for modern and streamlined knit-wear collections of the Norwegian fashion designer. Riddervoldsgate 12, Enter on Skovveien

Bruuns Bazaar– Next to Catherine Hammel, is another Scandinavian standout for men’s and women’s clothing by Danish brothers, Teis and Bjørn Bruuns, from Copenhagen. Riddervoldsgate 12

BIT– A high-quality chain café serving made-to-order sandwiches and salads, good coffee and pastry too. Great for a quick-bite. Sommerrogata 17, on the circle

Fresko– Need a juice or raw veggie fix? Try Fresko for fresh-pressed juice and organic salads. Frognerveien 8

Kolinihagen, Frogner– Can’t swing Maaemo? Few can. Then seek out Kolinihagen to try ny-nordisk cusine. Fresh, seasonal and organic, choose from 4 to 7-course tasting menus for lunsj og middag – lunch and dinner. Frognerveien 33

Flâneur– One of the best gourmet delicatessens and food shops in Oslo. They have an excellent selection of Norwegian and international cheese, fish, meats and prepared foods to take-away. They also have a small coffee bar. Niels Juelsgate 51.

Sebastien-Bruno– This French-style chocolatier adds to the Parisian-feel of this area.  They specialize in single-origin chocolate and exotic truffles. Their bright-colored macarons complete the look and make this a perfect stop for a grown-up version of Lørdagsgodt – “Saturday goodies” – a Norwegian tradition all children here grow up with. Skovveien 6a, enter on Frognerveien

Majorstuen/Uranienborg Primary Streets- Hegdehaugsveien, Bogstadveien & Uranienborgveien

Moods of Norway– Welcome to the wonderfully sartorial and satirical world of clothing designers Simen Staalnacke, Peder Børresen and Stefan Dahlkvist! Moods of Norway revels in all things Norwegian and turning traditional-geek to chic. They have several boutiques in Oslo. This is the flagship and largest. Hegdehaugsveien 34

Pur Norske– The name says it all, the “Pure Norwegian” design shop focuses solely on Norwegian contemporary design. Voted one of the top design shops in the world by The Monocle, it’s a must. Keep an eye out for work by emerging designers Daniel Rybakken and Andreas Engesvikand lighting by Northern Lighting.Industrigata 36

Marimekko– The concept shop for the always fun Finnish design company. Hegdehaugsveien 29

Tonica Vintage Corner– A former apartment-turned-shop Tonica is fun place to hunt for vintage. You never know what you might find hanging in the kitchen or bathroom. Schönings Gate 14

Utopia Retro Modern– Looking to see iconic Scandinavian vintage in the flesh (and maybe take a little home)? Look no further, Utopia specializes in Scandinavian and Italian mid-century modern furniture, accessories and jewelry. Owner Fabio Carlesi knows his stuff! Kirkeveien 72

MOCCA Kaffebar and Mikro-Brenneri– Coffee bar by the JAVA folks. Coffee is hand-brewed to order, your method of choice (see the blackboard). Not sure which method to go with? Just ask- the staff is super-friendly and knowledgeable. Once you have determined your method, visit Kaffa mikro-brenneri- the “microroastery” next door for the beans and tools to try it at home. I’m an aeropress girl myself. Niels Juels Gate 70, corner of Briskebyveien

United Bakeri– Related to Apent Bakeri there are several of these high-quality bakery/cafes throughout the city where you can get bread, pastry and delicious sandwiches. Valkyriegata 9-11


Bislett / St HansHaugen / Hammersborg

To the northeast of Eidsvolls Plass and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the neighborhoods begin to slope up the back hills toward the lovely St Hanshaugen Park. Head to the top of “the mound” to take in the views or wind your way toward Oslo’s east side down Telthusbakken or Damstredet, where charming colorful wood houses and gardens from the 18th and 19th century are still in use.

Tronsmo– One of the few indie bookshops left in Oslo, Tronsmo has a great selection of alternative literature and huge selection of international comics in cellar. Allen Ginsberg called it “the best bookstore in the world” and Neil Gaiman said it is without a doubt “one of the coolest”. See for yourself! Kristian Augusts gate 19

Fulgen– Coffee, cocktails and Scandinavian vintage furniture and collectibles- Yes please! I was skeptical about Norwegian cocktail culture given the stringent liquor restrictions and high prices BUT Fuglen not only changed my mind- they blew it away! Try the “Spicy Hombre” with its smoky umami and smooth habenero-heat or the peppery aromatic spruce in a “Greenwoods”- described by a fellow cocktail enthusiast as “six-kinds of deep”. Whether it’s coffee or cocktails these birds are taking craft to high-art. And the fabulous decor is for sale! Universitetsgaten 2, entrance on Pilestredet

Eske– A small quirky-good design boutique with new and vintage home décor. It’s a favorite of many local designers. Sofiesgate 16

Izakaya– The Japanese and Scandinavians share many sensibilities including small-plate eating. Like all classic izakaya, this one is tucked away in a cellar, through a gate, and barely marked door. Delicious Japanese tidbits and good selection of sake (for Oslo) this hidden den gets tight on the weekends. Head there on a weeknight like a local and try Norwegian brewed Nøgne Ø sake– it’s pretty darn good. St. Olavs gate 7

Java– 2000 World barista champ Robert Thoresen and his first kaffebar Java introduced hand-brewed craft-coffee to Oslo in 1997. Although the competition has increased, Java continues to hold their own as one of the best “on the Hill” and in Oslo. Ullevaalsveien 47

Gutta på Haugen– The “Boys on the Hill” run a specialty food shop with fantastic seasonal produce and Italian-style meat and cheese counter. They also make gourmet sandwiches to take away and offer select ingredients for a daily featured recipe. If you have a sweet-tooth, try the dark chocolate flødeboller- “snow balls” from SummerbirdUllevålsveien 45

Smalhans– A german-derived term for frugal or narrow hands, Smalhans has evolved the concept to mean good-quality handmade food at a great value. This relaxed neighborhood restaurant focuses on fresh organic ingredients, wine and great microbrews served family-style. Waldemar Thranesgate 10

LOKK– A funky little urban suppebistro– “soup bistro” Lokk offers a small seasonal menu of comfort food and some of the beste soup in Oslo. Their well-paired menu of wine by the glass and beers is worth noting. Although they are open late on the weekends the kitchen closes at kl. 22 when they transition to a bar. Torggata 18b, Enter on Badstugata

Crow Bryggeri– One of the newer microbreweries on the scene. They offer 20+ beers on tap, many their own. Not sure which to start with? Try a “6-pack” to sample six brews of choice with some handmade potato chips. Torggata is “kabab way” and Crow contributes with their own gastro-babs. Torggata 32

Pjoltergeist– Fun and funky little Korean-fusion and pjolter- a type of Norwegian highball made with whisky or aquavit, bar/restaurant. Rosteds Gate 15b

The Akerselva / Vulkan / Grünerløkka – Oslo’s East Side

The east side is where artists, designers and students live, work, and play. Their influence and creativity has contributed greatly to reviving this former industrial area into a fun and vibrant community. Once lined with mills and factories,Akerselva- the “Aker River” has been reclaimed and the area around it re-developed with an eye for the past and strong push toward the future. Enjoy a walk along the river bank park with its rushing waterfalls and through Vulkan on the west bank then up to Grünerløkka on the east bank- “Oslo’s Williamsburg”, where the movement took hold.


This area along the river has been a place of industry since the Middle Ages. The former silver mines nearby date back to the Viking King Harald Hardrada “The Tough”, who founded Oslo in 1050. The name for the area Vulkan comes from Volcanus, the Roman god of fire and metal-smithery, and is meant to evoke this industrial history. East bank of Aker Selva from Sannerbrua (Sanner Bridge) to the Ankerbrua (Anker Bridge)

The Standard- One of the best art galleries on the east-side, The Standard is bringing contemporary Norwegian artists on to the international playing field.  Waldemar Thranes gate 86C

Blå – An independent live music venue and gallery. Stop in during the day to enjoy a coffee or a beer and game of chess overlooking the river. By night go for the music. Oslo has a great jazz scene and “Blue” is a “jazz club” but you can see it all here- jazz, hip-hop, reggae, swing. If it’s alt it’s on! Brenneriveien 9

DogA – The Norsk Design og Arkitektursenter is located in a renovated old transformer station and is a partnership for exhibition, exploration and discourse on all facets of design, architecture and urban design. You can also pick up the Oslo Escape Routes map here. Hausmanns gate 16

Dansen Hus– Opened in 2004 this has becoming a favorite venue for seeing all varieties of dance. With two stages there is always something of interest on. Møllerveien 2

Mathallen– Oslo’s new European-style food hall is packed with vendors and food bars. For pølse- “Norwegian sausages”, try the “Butchers Plate” of grilled pølse, potato salad and coleslaw from Anni’s Pølsemakeri. The confit de canard sandwich from Ma Poule is melt in your mouth good with a glass of French red. Vulkan Fisk serves a great fish & chips and has an excellent sushi counter. øltorget– “Beer Portal” pairs Norske beer and cuisine. Cheese course? Head toMelkerampa and sample Norwegian cheese. Still have room for coffee and dessert? Hello Good Pie‘s mini lemon meringue pies are heavenly and Solberg & Hansen are hand-brewing great coffee and tea. Maridalsveien 17

PS:Hotel– A boutique hotel with a social mission. The PS is training hotel to assist people in developing much needed skills for the growing hospitality industry. With a fun and funky laid-back vibe- they make it fun! Maridalsveien 13 C

Scandic Vulkan– Modern, stylish and energy-smart hotel. Maridalsveien 13 A


Centered around two squares- Olaf Ryes plass and Birkelunden, Grünerløkka is filled with funky little shops, galleries, cafes and pubs. Make sure to explore the side streets and the flea market in Birkelunden on Sundays from kl.12-19. Primary Streets- Thorvald Meyers gate and Markveien

Office of Contemporary Art, Verksted– The Norwegian OCA’s public gallery space for discourse on art, culture, aesthetics and philosophy.  They hold regular lectures, workshops, and exhibitions on current arts-related issues. Nedre gate 7

Grünerløkka Kunsthall– A non-profit art space for showing art and collaborative artist use. They also host artist-studios. Fossveien 19

Futura Classics– This shop offers a great mix of new, classic and vintage furniture, lighting and decorative arts. Olaf Ryes plass 1

Brudd– An artist collaborative runs this gallery/shop of collectible ceramics, glass and jewelry by local artists. Check out the glass work of up and coming glass artist Kjersti Johannssen and porcelain artist Sara SkotteMarkveien 42 A

Kollekted By– A new curated design shop run by Norwegian stylists Kråkvik & D’Orazio known for their keen minimalist eye. Open Fridays and Saturdays only. Rathkes gate 4

Frøken Dianas Salonge– Step into the magical vintage world on “Miss Diana’s Salon”, named after the notorious red hair burlesque dancer and her “after-hours salon” from one of Ibsen’s plays. Whether it’s fabulous 50’s vintage frocks, a perfect vanity hand mirror or a hatbox for your flat actor/owners Elise and Ellen Marie will help you get your Mad Men on! Markveien 33

Fretex Unika– This shop extension of the Salvation Army tries their hand at creating a hand-picked butikk for vintage and 2nd-hand and quite successfully! A good find is still a find and Unika makes it easier- reduce, reuse, and recycle!Markveien 51

Acne Archive– An outlet shop for be-loved Stockholm label Acne StudiosMarkveien 60, Entrance at Søndre Gate

Dapper– A menswear, bicycle and barber shop. Need a shave while you have your Pashley city bike tuned? Why not! The boys at Dapper will have you back in the saddle in no time. No time for a shave? Then just stop in for their nice selection of menswear and products. Nordre gate 13

Pickles– Do you like to knit? The Norwegians do! With a yummy selection of wool and angora yarn from small producers who focus on ethical practices, this shop is always packed with young and old picking up more yarn and oppskrifter-“recipes” as patterns are called in Norwegian. For patterns in English head downtown to Den Norwegian Husfliden in the Glas Maginset. Markveien 56C

Tim Wendelbo– Tim’s small kaffebar and micro-roastery is a destination for craft-coffee enthusiasts. One of top baristas and roasters in the world, Tim has been perfecting the light-roast Nordic-method which has earned him a world-wide following. The kaffebar brews to order with either Aeropress or hand-poured filter. Want to learn more about what all the fuss is about? Try a TW tasting flight. Grüners gate 1

Supreme Roastworks– The newest addition to the Oslo coffee scene, Magnus and Joar and SRW have it going on! Try one of their “elemental” espresso blends: Earth, Fire and Air. Thorvald Meyers gate 18A

Parkteatret– A former cinema turned music venue and cafe/bar. A favorite local meeting place for a laid-back afternoon coffee or beer with friends and maybe some jazz. Great drinks, great people, great place. Wednesday is movie-nite! Stop in and see what’s on. Olaf Ryes plass 11

Grunerlokka Bryghus– Microbrewery/gastro-pub and neighborhood landmark. Get in the spirit with a Grünerløkka Hipster Ale. Thorvald Meyers gate 30

Schouskjelleren Bryghus– In the cellar of the old Schous Bryggeri you’ll find the super-cozy microbrewery. With vaulted brick ceilings and a massive fireplace it exudes old-world beer pub charm. Choose from over 50 house-brews such as their “Female of a Species”, a nice citrusy pale ale, or from the Danes- Evil Twins “Disco”. Trondheimsveien 2

Kolinihagen, Grunerlokka– Follow your nose through the courtyard to the sister-restaurant of Kolinhagen, Frogner. This cozy new location in an old stable and potters studio focuses on Norsk tapas- Norwegian-style “small plates”. Korsgata 25

Delicatessen– Best Spanish tapas restaurant in Oslo. Always busy but worth the wait. Simply delicious. They have two others restaurants as well- one in Majorstuen and a brand new one in Aker Brygge that I have heard are equally good.Sondregate 8

Trattoria Popolare– Off the immediate radar in the Schous Bryggeri building is a neighborhood favorite for hand-made pasta and authentic Italian food. Trondheimsveien 2



As the hip east bank becomes increasingly more popular and its real estate more and more desirable, the younger art galleries and artists are spreading out into the neighboring ethnically diverse and working class areas of Grønland.  To locate these galleries and other outliers check out the website Utstillingsguide for Oslo – U.F.O. to see what’s on and where. Primary Streets- BrugataGrønlands, Grønlandsleiret and Tøyenbekken

Kaffebrenneriet– Coffee bar and roastery for the Oslo-born gourmet coffee company in a 150 year old fire station. Beyond great lattes and cappuccinos they also offer artisanal fresh-pressed eplemost- apple cider that is locally made just for them and is thirst-quenching-good. Grønlandsleiret 32

Oslo Mekaniske Verksted– Located in an old welding workshop that it shares with the Dramatikkens Hus- “House for New Drama”, OMV’s chill industrial-vibe, great garden and big open fireplace makes it a cozy and relaxed local hangout for drinks or coffee. NB: They serve beverages only but you are welcome to bring in take-away. Tøyenbekken 34

Dattera til Hagen– With a DJ on deck most nights, this funky bohemian café transitions from a laid-back beer-garden by day to an upbeat and fun place to “get your groove on” at night. Grønlands 10

Olympen– This lovely old oak-lined beer hall is one of the city’s oldest restaurant/pubs. Serving- great beer and traditional Norwegian food at great prices, “Lompa” is a local favourite. Grønlandsleiret 15

Bjørvika – “The Opera Quarter”

On the site of the original settlement of old Christiania which burnt to the ground in 1624 “New Oslo” rises from the ashes with the stark and stunning new Oslo Opera House at its forefront. This is very much a neighborhood in transition. The ultra-modern high rise development “Bar Code” looms over archeological tents where 16th century artifacts and shipwrecks discovered during the construction are being carefully extracted to make way. The new Munch Museum will soon join its architectural ranks.

Torpedo Bookshop and Press– An independent non-profit bookshop and publisher dedicated to artists’ books, art theory and contemporary art critique. They also have an outpost at the Kunsterneshus near the Slottsparken. Check out one or both to support of printed matter! Trelastgata 3

Maaemo– Leading the “ny-nordisk” food movement is Maaemo. With two Michelin stars this restaurant has put Oslo on the map as a food-destination and is inspiring Norwegian food enthusiasts to embrace their landscape and food traditions and bring them into the next century. Schweigaards gate 15b, by Annette Thommessens plass, at the top of the bridge stairs

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet– Conceived as an iceberg by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, the opera house itself creates a landscape that is really fun to explore. With fantastic views of the fjord from many levels, it’s a favorite place to hang out, enjoy a picnic or an outdoor concert. Inside one can enjoy the light-filled glass foyer, take a guided tour, see a performance, or just come and have a bite to eat or drink at the small coffee and lunch bar or the adjacentBrasserie Sanguine which spills out on to the terrace toward the water- all are excellent. 43 Kirsten Flagstads plass

A little more to the East


In the hills just above Bjørvika you’ll find great views over the city and fjord. And great art in the long awaited and much anticipated new sculpture park to rival the Vigelandsparken to the west. It’s a quick trip on the trikk- “tram” and worth it.

Ekebergparken– The new sculpture park is open! With works by international artists such as James Turrell, Louise Bourgeois and Marina Abramović interspersed with classical bronzes by Rodin and Norway’s Per Ung, many of the works explore “ideas of the feminine”, creating an interesting contrast to the masculine sculptures of Vigeland to the west. Download the app and keep an eye out for rogue art such as the knit-tree mufflers to protest the tree removal. Bekkelaget, Tram 18 or 19 to Sjømannsskolen

Ekebergrestauranten– Set on the hilltop overlooking Oslo is a newly restored and revitalized modernist restaurant and café from the 1930’s. In the Norwegian functionalist-style its big windows and terraces make it great place to take in the views and sunsets. Kongsveien 15

Karlsborg Spiseforretning– In contrast, located just below the Ekebergrestauranten, is a small organic bakery and bistro in a restore 17th c. wood- frame villa. The walls of the lavatories are wallpapered in news articles about the sculpture parks’ controversial beginnings. Kongsveien 21, Tram 18 or 19 to Sjømannsskolen

A little more to the West

Emanuel Vigeland Museum and Mausoleum– Such a seriously cool and special place it can’t be left out. Originally built as a museum for his painting and sculpture in the 1920’s the artist later decided to make it also his mausoleum. The fully frescoed vaulted chamber chronicling the cycle of life is just awe-inspiring. Emanuel was the equally-talented and somewhat darker brother of sculptor Gustav Vigeland of Vigelandsparken fame. Only open on Sundays. Take metro line-1 to Slemdal, Grimelundsveien 8


To really understand Oslo’s unique setting you have to experience how easy and accessible it is to get out in nature. With the fjord to the south and the Oslomarka- “Oslo Forest” surrounding the city, Oslo has the best of both worlds- a cosmopolitan city seated in unspoiled natural beauty.  Enjoying nature is part of the national psyche and Norwegians are extreme outdoor enthusiasts. After work and on the weekends you’ll see them flooding out to the islands and up in to forests. So pack your hiking boots or running sneakers and join us!

Explore the Fjord

From Vippetangen you can catch a ferry to the islands of Hovedøya , Gressholmen or Langøyene(ruter.no for schedules) for swimming, nature walks, picnicking and camping. From the Radhusplassen there are regular ferries out to the beaches on the Bygdøy peninsula. The little island and café of Lille Herbern off Bygdoy is a fun and relaxing escape.

Explore the Forest

The beautiful lake of Sognsvann is easy to reach on metro line 3 for swimming, nature walks and picnicking. Frognerseteren on metro line 1 is a good starting point for hikes with dozens of well-marked hiking paths and the promise of hot chocolate or a cold beer at the end at the Frognerseteren cafe is always good motivation.  Pick up a trail maps at the Norwegian Trekking Association  (Den Norske Turistforening, DNT) on Storgata downtown, as well as at many local book and sporting goods stores or look for downloadable hikes. For the more adventurous outings – visitnorway.com/hiking or Norwegian Trekking Association

As we say in Norway: “Ha det bra” – Have it good!


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  • Wow, that was great!! I am also living as an expat in Oslo with my husband and my two children since two years. A lot of those places are familiar to me, but a few of them are new to me!! Thanks for that!!
    Klem (that’s means hug)

  • My husband and I went on a Scandinavian tour about a year ago and our first stop was Oslo. We braced for the expense, but wow, was it expensive!

    We loved the Munch Museum, City Hall and (especially) the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History on the Bygdøy peninsula–sort of like a Colonial Williamsburg or Old Sturbridge Village in MA. The folk museum offered a great sense of the way the country’s culture is so tied to the agriculture. I recapped our impressions of these Oslo spots here: http://meetmeinphiladelphia.blogspot.com/2012/09/traveling-to-oslo.html

  • Another great travel feature, ya’ll! I’ve been curious to learn more about Norway, since listening to the podcast episode you aired with Paul Lowe (Sweet Paul).

    Thanks, for making my research a little easier, by compiling these hot-spots!


  • I visited Oslo for the first time this fall. Deeply beautiful, raw and open. However, I was a little shocked by the commercialism, particularly in Sentrum. It felt like the same 5 stores repeated every block or 2 (Bik Bok, H&M etc.). If I had more time, I would have loved to explore more of the neighbourhoods outside of the core.

  • Tusen takk! I’m planning a trip with my mom to see her cousins and this is so helpful, like good advice from a trusted friend.

  • I moved to Oslo from the USA 3 months ago, and am in Stockfleths right now utilizing the free wifi you mentioned! I’ll definitely be checking out many of these restaurants and shops as the fast-approaching Norwegian winter forces me indoors!

  • I visited Oslo this past Christmas, and needless to say, this article has brought back some wonderful memories and inspired me to start saving for the next visit!

  • Wow! That was great. I’ve been doing some research for a possible trip, and your post covered it all! Really reads well. Thanks!

  • It is so surreal seeing someone from a different country write about the city I have been living in for 5 years. Being a Norwegian, Oslo has always just been the “big city”. Great list! Will save this one, and share it with friends that are going to visit :)

  • I’m a Norwegian living in the US, and this was a great little “visit” back home! It’s also fun to be introduced to a few places I didn’t know about, but will be sure to include on my next trip home. :)

  • I want to see Norway (Oslo) with my heart i love to see this place because its my dream country but i don’t have resources or money to visit this beautiful country
    My dreams cant true
    Love u Norway in miss u very much with my heart and remember one day come when i see u with my open eyes

    Waseem Qureshi

  • Love this list — but the link to the Google map doesn’t appear to be working. Would love to have that if possible.

  • Wow … So many Input. But I miss some hotel Tipps apart from The mass Tourism. Could someone recommend a small, Individual and centrally located hotel?

  • Great extensive guide to Oslo! It’s a great resource for any who visit Oslo. I would like to add that the bakery “Baker Hansen” has many great bakeries in Norway, and is the top choice for many local citizens. See this page for all their local bakeries: http://bakerhansen.no/

  • What a fantastic guide, thank you so much for this comprehensive guide. I’m visiting Oslo for the first time this summer and this was immensely helpful!

  • Hello there!

    Thank you for compiling such a wonderful guide! My sister and I went on a 7 country trip in 10 days and used both this Oslo and Copenhagen guide! We were able to do over half of the places in both guides and had such a wonderful time. I can’t wait to use your other city guides in other countries! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • Amazingly thorough and reliable guide. My husband and I are exploring Oslo right now for a week and have had such great luck using this guide exclusively! Thank you!