10 insider tips for experiencing Oslo
Tired of tourist traps, bland chain restaurants and bars that all look the same? If you’re wondering where to go for a unique experience in Oslo you’ll love our guide – with only the best hand-picked insider tips, you can be sure to experience the city like a local!
The lower part of far-reaching Torggata used to be little more than a grey, rather boring pedestrian-only street – but not anymore. After a remarkable facelift the street is now teeming with cyclists, eateries and pubs. If you’re looking to enjoy a cold beer in a cosy atmosphere, then Crowbar – or “Kråka” as it’s known to the locals – is the place to go. With its range of wooden tables in varying sizes arranged over two dark, rustic floors, “Kråka” is frequented by people from all walks of life – from beer-guzzling students to couples on Tinder dates and colleagues meeting for an after-work drink (or three). Perhaps you’ll even manage to find the secret room? It’s almost always empty, but our top tip? Avoid wearing stiletto heels if you want to find it!
2. Torggata Botaniske
If exclusive, high-quality drinks are more your thing, check out the Torggata Botaniske cocktail bar. The atmospheric premises are filled with large, green plants hanging among the chandeliers, and the stylish interior is infused with the smell of fresh herbs.
3. Smia Galleri
The most memorable places are often found a little off the beaten path, and Smia Galleri on Vålerenga is no exception. Behind its wrought iron gates, this yellow stone building from 1878 houses a truly welcoming restaurant. It’s a particularly good place to visit in winter, as you can watch the evening darken and the snow fall outside the huge windows while enjoying a hearty meal to the crackling of the fire.
Another memorable eatery is Klosteret, located in an old cellar vault in Fredensborgveien. At the bottom of the stairs you’ll find a rustic, candlelit space with brick walls and a great atmosphere. The wine list is extensive, and the dishes are based on the best ingredients offered by each season.
Situated between east and west is the district of St. Hanshaugen, with its abundance of great places to hang out. Among the best is Smalhans – a fantastic place for lunch, a drink at the bar, or a relaxed Norwegian-inspired meal created using the best ingredients. All wines served at Smalhans are organic, biodynamic or natural wines.
It’s impossible to visit all the great places on Youngstorget in just one evening, but some of the highlights are definitely worth a look – like Himkok. Its unassuming entrance in a blue wall down a side street from the square is easily missed, so you need to know where to find it. Covering an area of over 700 square metres, and with its own distillery and an exceptional selection of drinks, this hidden gem is the only Norwegian bar to have made it onto a list of the world’s top 50.
Not least, Youngstorget is also where you’ll find the new Kulturhuset cultural centre, which offers three floors of fun! Here you’ll find a coffee bar, library and shuffleboard tables – or perhaps you’d rather enjoy a beer, see a concert or hit the dancefloor? At Kulturhuset the choice is yours, from morning to night.
You can enjoy a glass of wine almost anywhere in the city, but the quality and atmosphere on offer vary greatly. If you’re a wine aficionado looking for a place with a great atmosphere – where the staff will appreciate your questions about grape varieties and vintage – steer clear of the chain restaurants and pay Astral in Lilleborg a visit. Many of the wines on their 300-strong list are served using the Coravin method, which means that you can try more expensive and exclusive wines than would otherwise be available by the glass. This is an absolute must for wine lovers – and for food lovers the food is just as fantastic.
9. Grefsenkollen restaurant
High above the city you’ll find the Grefsenkollen restaurant – offering Oslo’s finest views. During the day you can enjoy freshly baked goods and a cup of coffee, or sit outside with a slice of pizza and take in the views of the glittering fjord below. The highlight, though, is a three or five course evening meal, served in the magnificent old timber building. Here, you’ll dine surrounded by dark wood, candlelight and the comforting crackling of the fire. Try to get a window table, so you can enjoy the dark evening sky and the twinkling lights of the city as an added bonus.
Havnepromenaden (the harbour promenade) stretches all the way from just east of Sørenga to Frognerkilen in the west, and makes it possible to walk along the seafront for the entire distance. There’s a range of places worth stopping off at along the way, and one of the best is Naustet, part of the SALT nomadic art project. This small, mobile cultural centre is a real boathouse, constructed from materials found along the shore. Experience 1960s interiors, listen to songs on the record player and warm yourself by the log burner. And best of all? There’s a sauna with its very own bar! Book the sauna in advance and enjoy a unique, hot experience with a view of the Oslo Opera House.
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