Why nobody is talking about Oslo but they should be
Oslo might not be on your ultimate must-visit city list for a European holiday, but it will be soon.
This is a city that is going through dramatic urban and cultural transformation. According to some locals, by 2020 it will be a very different city. Natural resources, namely oil, are one of the country’s major cash generators will one day run out and so many planning and construction initiatives are underway. A new national museum is being built – it will be the largest of its kind in the world – plus a city library which will revolutionise the current world of archiving. It continues to set trends in new Nordic and Scandinavian cuisine not only locally but by inspiring chefs and restaurateurs across Europe and the world.
New boutique hotels like The Thief are set along the waterfront precinct, a once abandoned former industrial park. Oslo continues to innovate and plan for its future and is a true feather in northern Europe’s cap.
This is where urban meets the outdoors.
Cutting-edge architecture and design plus (and one of the things that struck me most) an innovative and cutting edge food scene with a serious focus on seasonal local produce, amazing seafood given it boasts the largest ocean coastline in Scandinavia. Endless nature and outdoor offerings for travellers with mountains, forest, islands, fjord all accessible within 15-30 minutes of the city centre make Oslova destination of choice.
Speaking to locals, you still get a sense that the Norwegians feel slightly inferior to their cross Scandi neighbours Copenhagen and Stockholm who have longstanding reputations as foodie cities, but things are moving quickly here. New Nordic cuisine, new Nordic coffee and heading out to the mountains for mushroom picking or leaf foraging have not only become the norm in Oslo, but an integral way of life.
Here are my tips about where to stay, eat and what to do.
Get a Visit Oslo pass!
It gives you free entry into over 30 museums, attractions and outdoor swimming pools and serves as your transport card across the city. It also gives you discounts in some restaurants, free parking and you can take a free city tour.
The Visit Oslo card is available in three formats: 24 hours €37, 48 hours €54 and 72 hours €68 and is your ticket to ease and convenience while you’re exploring. VISIT
Nobel Peace Centre
Located along Oslo’s waterfront, the centre hosts permanent and changing exhibitions honouring the history and concept of one of the most famous and coveted prizes in the world – the Nobel Peace Prize. All the winners to date are presented in a digital and fiber optic light display and many other monumental moments in the prize’s history are told through a series of interactive installations. Open daily, 10am-6pm. Entry is 100KR (€11 / AUD$15) and kids under 16 are free. City Hall
Visit the main hall in the city hall building to see where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held on 10 December each year. Combine it on a day where you visit the museum and it just brings Nobel as a concept together quite nicely. The building is the most famous in the city and is adorned with early 20th century Norwegian art. Open daily, 9am-4pm, Entry is free. Vigeland Park
Gustav Vigeland is said to be Norway’s most loved sculptor and his imposing, beautiful and impressive sculptures can be seen in the Vigeland Park. Here you’ll find over 200 of his granite and bronze works, from entwined lovers to mother and child, in a lush green garden setting with lakes, small bridge crossovers and flower beds. It’s a great free thing to do in the city and a lovely time out from Oslo’s urban sounds and sights. Open daily until 4pm and entry is free.Walk around the new waterfront district
Oslo’s newest precinct has completely transformed what was once industrial wasteland. Aker Brygge Wharf and the upscale Tjuvholmen, which stretches into Oslo’s fjord, are lined with waterfront dining options, bars and gelato stands. There are shops, a small mall and some of the cities coolest and quirkiest buildings. It’s a must for fashion shoppers, foodies and urban architecture buffs. The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art is located here and the building itself is a fine example of modern Nordic design.EAT
Our opening night dinner (thanks to special friends of ours who live in Oslo) was the best introduction to Nordic and Scandinavian flavours you could have. Arakataka is an Oslo institution promoting the principles of seasonal Nordic cuisine. The food, the wine, the decor, the service – all impeccable. We feasted on four courses (plus matching wine for each one!): 1) Wild caught halibut, crab and horseradish; 2) Plaice fish, cauliflower and mussels; 3) Wild sheep, beets and browned cream; 4) Apples, rose and goat yoghurt. It blew me away. Our four course dinner with the matching wine option cost €100.Tjuvholmen Sjømagasin
Overlooking the water and facing the Astrup Fearnley Museum, you know the seafood is going to be good from the get-go. As you walk in to Tjuvholmen Sjømagasin, there’s a fresh seafood display from local salmon to oysters and live crustaceans swimming in water tanks. Class Nordic clean and crisp design, the two-course set lunch here (without wine) will set you back about €35. We dined on fresh mussels and the classic open shrimp sandwich plus ling fish with crisp kale and pumpkin purée. Festningen Restaurant
Located right by Oslo’s fortress, the water views of the city will be the first thing that impresses you, but then comes the venue and the food. Festningen Restaurant is all sleek lines and wine displays and an open kitchen. The food of course, is new Nordic. We had the wild mushroom and poached egg toast to start and the local hake with fennel, saffron and shellfish sauce. Approx €50 for set three course lunch with wine.STAY
The Thief Hotel
Talk about boutique and five stars! The Thief Hotel is as quirky and fun as it is just plain gorgeous. Our deluxe room on the 7th floor had a balcony with views out to the new harbour district of Tjuvholmen. Plush designer appointed rooms, delicious organic breakfast options, a rooftop bar and a state-of-the-art spa, render it perfect for your Oslo mini break or holiday. Rooms start at €370. Acknowledgements: Visit Oslo covered accommodation costs in Oslo and provided me with an Oslo Pass, but as always, all words and thoughts expressed are my own. Nobody tells me what to write.0