I’ve had so many request for an Oslo city guide, so here goes! As most of you know, I was born and raised here, but moved away when I was around 20 years old. I’ve now been living back in the city since April, and it’s crazy how much it’s changed (and continuously changing) since then. Compared to the more metropolitan cities of Copenhagen and Stockholm, Oslo has always been the smaller little sister, always lagging a bit behind. But that’s definitely not the case any more, with the food, music, culture, shopping and arts scene just booming. It’s like it’s a totally new city, and I’m re-discovering it all over again for the very first time. When that said, other than all the development and building work which is happening all over the town, the core of Oslo’s heart and general relaxed, easy-going and happy living, has fortunately, stayed the same. Here are all my personal faves, ENJOY!
The Thief is the hotel to stay at in Oslo, especially if you’re looking for something contemporary and modern, and ultra luxurious. Located right on the waterfront on Tjuvholmen, this new area is incredibly innovative and bustling, and very central to get around. If you’re looking for something more traditional, the Grand Hotel is probably Norway’s most famous and eldest hotel. Located right in the centre of the city, this iconic and classical landmark, is also the annual host of the Nobel Price. Expect traditional opulence, in the heart of the city. Hotel Gabelshus is one of the most idyllic looking hotels in the city, with the entire building covered in wisteria. It’s a real gem, with historical interior and artwork, inspired by the culture and history of Oslo, located in the heart of Oslo’s most upmarket and quiet area. If you fancy staying in an apartment instead, then Frogner House Apartments might be a good choice for you, with a modern, minimalistic and cosy style, in all different sizes. They also offer additional services such as breakfast and additional cleaning, so you still can get the feeling of being in a hotel. If you’re travelling on a budget, then you always have Airbnb. Some of my personal favourite areas that I would suggest to stay, would be Frogner or Briskeby (a beautiful, residential hub), Majorstuen (a central location on the westside), St.Hanshaugen and Bislett (two vibrant areas on the north side) or Grünerløkka (the hippest part of town).
EAT & DRINK
Where to start? There are just so many great places in Oslo right now – the food and drink scene is just exploding, which is super exciting for the city, so brace yourselves, this a very long list.
Fancy starting the day light and healthy, swing by Lett, The Juicery or Happy Foods, for seriously good Acai bowls, juices and healthy superfood salads. Want to go all raw (and try some insanely delicious raw snacks and cakes), head to Oslo Raw (which super Instagram worthy too). If Italian style food is your thing in the morning, Villa Paradiso and Cafe Vespa & Humla will do the trick. Want everything with a side of everything? Grilleriet offers a lavish homestyle breakfast buffet, complete with a barista ready to make the morning brew of your choice, and ordering only one breakfast dish at Gunnars Generasjonsbar, is almost impossible. For an actual homemade breakfast, buy groceries at delicacy grocer Gutta på Haugen and top it off with baked goods from sourdough bread extraordinaire Ille Brød.
Craving coffee (and perhaps something sweet to go with it?). Norwegians are the 2nd biggest coffee drinkers in the world after all, so they definitely know their stuff. Head to W.B. Samson for the best creamy latte’s in town – as well as the BEST traditional Norwegian ‘skolebrød’ and cinnamon buns (try to grab them when they’re fresh out of the oven, heavenly). Kaffebrenneriet and Åpent Bakeri also do excellent coffee and pastries, and is a definite must visit if you’re walking by. If you’re more of a coffee connoisseur, pop by Supreme Roastworks, a micro roastery and 2015 World Brewers Cup Champion. For high-quality coffee in wood & bare-brick surroundings, multi-award winning Tim Wendelboe is your guy (try the Cappuccino Al Freddo). The 1960’s furnished Fuglen is also a must-visit, a cooler than cool coffee bar concept that has branched out to Tokyo.
Time for lunch? You can’t visit Oslo without going to Frognerseteren, a traditional restaurant and café from 1891. With panoramic views of Oslo and the Oslo Fjord at the top of Holmenkollen, serving traditional Norwegian food (their apple cake is a must), enjoy the view and soak in the fresh air. Ekebergrestauranten is another place with a great view across Oslo and the fjords (located on the other side of town). Theatercaféen is probably one of Oslo’s most famous restaurants, and a real institution in the city, located right opposite the National Theatre. The building’s from the 19th century, and it still retains all its original and signature Art Nouveau style; you can really feel the history when you walk in the doors. Charming, great food and full of ambiance. Looking for something more rustic? Head downtown for another classic spot in Oslo, Bacchus Spiseri & Vinhus. If it’s sunny, grab a seat in in the courtyard, and it all feels a bit like you’re in Paris. Another great place for al fresco dining in a garden oasis (and some serious people watching) is Park 29 and Fyr, both located minutes away from each-other and just a stones throw away from the palace gardens.
If you’re downtown and don’t mind walking a bit, then head to Sørenga, Oslo’s the new neighbourhood which was formerly an old container dock. You’re right on the fjord with views across some of Oslo’s main landmarks, so head right to the end for the best view, and grab a table at Coyo, a great Mexican restaurant. Don’t fancy going all the way downtown for Mexican, then Taco República do great grub too. If you’re sticking more to the centre of town, make sure you pop by the famous Christiana Torv (a square dating back to the 16th century), which although slightly touristic (being right beside a lot of Oslo’s main tourist attractions), is so charming and a definite must-see (if only to look at the buildings!). Lots of lovely café’s and restaurants to grab some food or drinks at, such as Café Skansen, Brasserie Hansken or Kafé Celsius.
You can’t go to Oslo without popping by at least one of their food halls. There’s been a few ones popping up recently, but the original, Mathallen, should definitely be on your list, if only to catch up on current Norwegian and international food trends. It’s located in the popular Vulkan area, which also has lots of great restaurants and cafés to pop into. Vippa is another food hall (located on the edge of Vippetangen, right by the Oslo Fjord), where you can sit both inside and outside. Torggata Bad is Oslo’s latest food hall, and one of my personal favourites. Great for lunch, dinner or drinks. So much atmosphere and great good.
Need that afternoon pick me up after all that walking? Look no further than French cakery Pascal or mouthwatering donuts from My Ugly Baby. For the best waffles in town, pop by Haralds Vaffel (be sure to try the one with Nutella or blue cheese & bacon). For a more special occasion, book a table at Palmen restaurant (located inside the Grand Hotel), for coffee and cake.
Come evening, if you’re still hungry (!), and fancy some Asian food, then Oslo has so many great spots. You’ll find the best ramen at Koie, an informal and relaxed restaurant (my favourite dish is their classic Miso Ramen). Sapporo Ramenbar is another great spot. Izakaya might not look like much from the outside, but they do amazing Japanese tapas (and great drinks too!). Alex Sushi serve the best sushi in town (grab a seat in the bar, and order one of their tasting menus), and if money is no object and you’re all about the view, Hanami is located right on the water front, and is really something else. Sawan will throw your taste buds in every direction, and if you have trouble deciding after all of this, then head to Dinner. A restaurant specialising in Sichuan & Cantonese dishes and dim sum.
For more traditional spots with breathtaking views, then book a table at Solsiden (which is literally right on the fjord) – amazing seafood and atmosphere. In the summer, venture out to Bygdøy (a forested peninsula known for its maritime history), and go to Lille Herbern, the most idyllic summer spot situated on it’s own little island, and get your seafood fix. Still craving something fishy, then Fjord has some of the freshest choice in the city.
If Italian is your vibe, you’re in luck, as Norwegian’s love it too (and do it so well). Pizza de Mimmo do the best authentic pizzas in town, located in a low lit cellar – very romantic. For something more casual, W. B Samson serve some seriously good ones too. Vineria Ventidue (located minutes away from my apartment) is one of my personal faves. Their pasta portions aren’t the biggest (which is how traditional Italian’s do it), but the authentic Italian flavours are incredible. Grab a table outside if the weather permits and enjoy the Amazing atmosphere. Trattoria Popolare, on the east side of town, is another long-term favourite of mine, with mouthwatering Italian dishes.
Another personal fave, is Nedre Foss Gård. Not only is it located in the prettiest traditional wooden house (dated back from the 18th century), this restaurant and old brewery, also has the most incredible interior (a marble and brass dream). The food is just as good as the decor, and a very special spot to visit. Delicatessen do Oslo’s best tapas and Le Benjamin do great French food. Kolonialen and Katla are both on the more experimental side, and I have had some seriously memorable dishes here. For a Michelin-starred restaurant (Oslo have a few), then restaurant Galt on the westside, is pretty special. Last but not least, Happolati serves Nordic food with an Asian twist, and is nothing less than a sensational food experience.
Now for drinks! Aku-Aku Tiki Bar serve the best rum drinks in town. Want to test your Viking aptitude? Fuglen and Himkok are the go-to places for local aquavit and home brewed liquor, whereas Bettola is your safe, but awesome bet for cocktails. For atmospheric satisfaction, make sure to visit botanical-themed Torggata Botaniske and bar & bicycle shop Cafe Rouleur. Catch Oslo from above with a cocktail in hand at the rooftop terraces of Bar Vulkan or The Thief. Bike shop and cafe by day/bar by night, Oslovelo, and the backyard at Justisen, are your chill late-night hangouts. At Angst Bar, you can enjoy a relaxed, but dance-friendly atmosphere with current DJs. If you’re into dancing the night away, The Villa is the place for you. Other cool DJ venues to check out are Jaeger and Blå. Champagneria or BA3 on the westside of town, are some of the two more up market spots. Tekehtopa is a super charming bar (grab a table outside on their terrace located on St. Olav’s square). Bar Babylon and Heim Gastropub are some other great options, and of course Kunsterens Hus & Litteraturhuset, are two of the classic’s in the city.
Oslo isn’t the biggest city, but there’s lots to see and do! The general vibe is very relaxed and casual, so go with the flow and see what takes your fancy below – be it fjord hopping, al fresco saunas or just taking it easy, strolling through the many amazing parks and neighbourhoods.
Walk up the roof of Oslo Opera House by the Oslo fjord and snap some shots. For a steeper challenge, walk up the stairway of Holmenkollen ski jump for a panoramic view of the city. For a full (work-out and) view of the city, plan a trip up to Grefsenkollen. Other extraordinary view points of the city, is Frognerseteren and Ekerberg parken (all accessible via a tram if you’re feeling lazy!). You can’t go to Oslo, without going the Vigeland Sculpture Park (located within Frognerparken). Grab a coffee and take a little wonder. Swing by Damstredet & Telthusbakken for insta-friendly, traditional Norwegian wooden houses, before heading down to Sørenga sjøbad (fjord pool), if you’re feeling brave enough! Another option is Tjuvholmen sjøbad, and equally scenic spot. If you’re craving a bit more of a retreat spa experience, then head out to The Well (they have their own bus running from the city), for the ultimate relaxation on the fjord. For the ultimate nordic experience, book a sauna on the fjord at SALT – and while you’re here, make sure you take a stroll around The SALT Village – a nomadic project, with a collection of art, music, food and architecture, overlooking the Opera House.
The Botanisk hage is a beautiful green spot in the city, and Norway’s oldest botanical garden. If you’re sticking to more central parts of the city, then make sure you pop up to the Royal Palace and enjoy the stunning palace gardens. If you continue walking downtown from the palace, you will walk straight on Karl Johan, the main street in Oslo (filled with all the shops). The further down you get, the less pretty, so stick to the top and middle part. If you head to the right, then start wandering over to Akershus Festning, a remarkable fortress in the middle of the city, overlooking the fjords, and originally built in the olden day to protect and provide a royal residence for Oslo. It also used to be the city’s military base, and today it’s a museum open to the public. After this, you’re only minutes away from Aker Brygge, Oslo’s marina and ferry hub, as well as an iconic city strip filled with restaurants, bars and shopping. Walk all the way down, and you’ll get to the area of Tjuvholmen, one of Oslo’s newest boroughs, with intriguing architectural diversity and unique outdoor areas, including the Astrup Fearnley Museum flanked by a sculpture park.
If you’re into house watching and seriously stunning traditional architecture, head to the westside of town (my neck of the woods) and into the area of Frogner & Briskeby, grab a coffee and just take a stroll. It’s one of my favourite things to do. If you happen to be in the area on the Saturday, make sure you nip by Vestkanttorget Antique Market, for great antiques and second hand clothing. Make sure you pop by the area of Grünerløkka too, often dubbed as “Oslo’s coolest neighbourhood” over on the east side, and definitely the hippest spot in town.
Last but not least, if you fancy being a bit more adventurous, why not take a ferry and go island hopping between the islands in the inner Oslo Fjord? Jump on one of the many ferries from Aker Brygge marina (by just using a regular public transportation ticket), and easily hop on and off any of the ferries going between Aker brygge, Hovedøya, Lindøya, Nakholmen, Bleikøya, Gressholmen and Langøyene. Each island is worth exploring, and if you’re going in the summer, then grab your swimsuit, picnic basket and enjoy the peace a quiet, just minutes away from the capital. Don’t fancy going on a boat? Head out to Bygdøy, a peninsula on the west side of the city, either by foot, bicycle or bus. As well as hosting some of Oslo’s most popular museums (such as Norsk Folkemuseum and Kon-Tiki museum – both great to visit), this magical and green area is just minutes away from the city, also has some great beach spots, such as Huk and Paradisbukta – ideal for when the city gets hot in the summer time. It’s also a great place to visit during the winter, a beautiful escape from the main city centre.
Although quite expensive, Oslo has some great gems and boutiques, and of course, it’s one of the main cities for Scandinavian design. As well as a lot of contemporary and high-end shopping, Oslo is also very big on recycling, hence the many amazing second hand and charity shops dotted around the city.
The best department stores in the city are Høyer, EGER, Paleet, Glasmagasinet, Steen og Strøm, Tatler and Ferner Jacobsen. YME Universe, which is located within Paleet, is the best sneaker store in town, with brands such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance and Wood Wood – head up one floor, and you’ll find a carefully curated selection of high end clothing to choose from. Over on the east side, Ensemble and Babel is your go-to for labels such as A.P.C, Rodebjer, Veja, Tôteme, Isabel Marant, Faithfull The Brand. If you’re shopping with your man, then Dapper is the store to go to.
For Scandinavian fashion, some of my favourites are FWSS, Holzweiler, Ganni, ACNE and byTiMO – many of which are located on Prinsens Gate, one of the best shopping street in town for contemporary brands. For affordable interior and homewear, then Granit and Søstrene Grene are two of my favourites – and let’s not forget about HAY of course, always a must-visit. Don’t forget to check out the vintage scene over on the east side of Grünerløkka. For one-of-a-kind vintage items, head to Velouria Vintage, Frøken Dianas Salonger and Ny York vintage & 2nd hand. You might have to do a bit of digging, but you’re sure to find treasures from Prada, Chanel, and Hermes, silk shirts from the 1960s, glittery party dresses from the 1980s, vintage Levi’s, and one-off leather boots and accessories. Fransk Bazar, opened by a French expat, is another great antique shop, with a unique mishmash of high-end trinkets, gadgets, and objets collected from all over Europe. Fretex and UFF, two of the main clothing charities, have outlets dotted all over town, and these are something else (not like many regular charity shops). Some of them are even highly curated and styled, so expect to find some great bits in here! My personal favourites stores, are Fretex Universitetsgata, Fretex Majorstua or Fretex Grünerløkka, as well as UFF Vintage Heaven.
For more exclusive shopping, visit shopping street Nedre Slottsgate for high-end brands like Gucci, Hermès and Louis Vuitton – but if you’re looking for high street, then head to either Bogstadveien or (busy) Karl Johan for everything from H&M, Monki to Zara. Not forgetting the kids, Sprell is a great concept store for the little ones!
Once you arrive to Oslo, don’t even think about getting a taxi (it will cost you a fortune). Everyone tends to just get the airport express train, called Flytoget, which will get you into the city centre in just 20 minutes. Or you can jump on a cheaper alternative, which is called Vy train, it’s only a few minutes slower, but half the price. This one can however get very crowded at times, so the Flytoget is a more comfortable experience if you’re travelling at peak times. If you’re confused by which train to get, just head straight towards the signs for the trains when you exit, and there’s always 2-3 people standing by the train desk, who can help you with which train and platform to go to (although, it’s usually very easy to find out, with a huge board of times and destinations, within the main ticket office area).
Once you arrive to Oslo city center, you can either walk, jump in a cab (which is quite expensive), the underground or one of the many trams which are located around the city. It’s a very easy system and generally pain-free to get around on public transport. Make sure you download RuterReise for your city mapper guide, which will map your entire journey from A-B – as well as RuterBillett, which is where you can buy your tickets (this is the only way you can buy tickets for bus, trams and the underground). In terms of Uber in Oslo, they only operate Uber Lux, which is just as expensive as cabs, so unless money is no object, I suggest public transport (or just strolling) for getting around.
As Oslo is quite a small city, it’s generally very easy to walk a lot of it, and you’ll be able to see a lot of the capital just by foot over the course of a couple of days. But if you want to see more of Oslo, it’s also super easy to hire a city bike or connecting to one of the hundreds of electric scooters dotted around town.
This section won’t be very long, as Oslo is a really family friendly city! Every single train and platform has a ramp for the pram, and although it’s sometimes a bit of a squeeze with a very large pram, you can fit it onto the tram too. Oslo has lots of lovely parks for the kids to run around in (Frogner Parken has a great play area for babies and older kids). During the weekends, the majority of the kindergarten’s outside areas are open to the public to use, so lots of spots to keep the kids entertained. Oslo if full of young and older families, and as it’s such an easy city to walk around in, it’s a great city to go to.