They say that the Scandinavians have things right. With minimal unemployment, second-to-none infrastructure and, yes, some of the best meatballs in the world, the people are happy, the weather is snowy and the cities are well worth visiting. Enter Oslo, the capital of Norway, sitting prettily on the southern coast of the country. Known for its green spaces, museums and the fact that you can walk from one end to the other in no time at all, it’s a little city that should be top of your bucket list – especially around winter. Here’s why.
Where to stay
As the city centre’s so small, you really want to stay on the central square, where the city erects a fun, seasonal and unpronounceable Spikersuppa skøytebane – or ice rink. And your options here are many, from the opulent Grand Hotel to the Hotel Continental. But neither will give you that distinctly Nordic flavour you’re looking for – an inimitable blend of culture and clean Scandi design. For that, you’d be best off heading to the Hotel Christiania Teater.
Centrally located in the city, and only a short walk from Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen, and the National Theater, the hotel was first built – as the name suggests – as a theatre in 1917. So now, in its centenary year, you can see traces of everything from German occupation to operatic history within its walls. Warmly decorated rooms range from small and affordable to big and plush, and you get free wifi, a coffeemaker and a sumptuous walk-in shower in your room to battle the winter cold.
Urban and chic, this is a truly modern boutique hotel that retains the charm of Nordic traditions, and its restaurant does – perhaps surprisingly – some of the best pizza in the city. Not to mention the stylish wine bar situated in the lobby, and the scrambled eggs featured in the free breakfast – some of the best around.
Where to eat
Oslo’s food scene is surprisingly active, with more and more restaurants cropping up across town featuring many different global cuisines. Instead of going for Malaysian or French, however, we’d suggest seeking out some more traditional fare.
Foodie, with its sharp interior, has great service and even better food – from rabbit hot dogs to Scandi scallops, and doesn’t break the bank for the quality – like many of the capital’s eateries. And, when you’ve finally exhausted the food from the markets – you can pick up a dynamite elk burger from the square off Youngs Gate – why not head to The Thief, where they do a brunch menu that includes rye bread and bacon, to plaice with lobster butter.
Where to drink
We’re not going to sugar coat it: drinks in Oslo are expensive. But, once you get over the initial shock of pint prices, there are some great little inns and taverns where you can enjoy a dark, strong ale and experience proper Scandi culture.
Most lay along Aker Brygge, the renovated seafront, and include Verity, Jarmann’s Gastropub and the reassuringly-named Beer Palace. But, wherever you end up drinking, make sure that you get your shuffleboard skills up to par – as most pubs in the capital will be hiding one or two tables somewhere.
What to do
Any city that has a dedicated Viking Ship Museum is alright by us. And that’s not all. The Norwegian Maritime Museum is also funner than it sounds, too. That’s right, two Scandi ship museums. But, if boats aren’t your thing, the Holmenkollbakken, a ski-jumping hill with panoramic views of the fjord, is always well worth a look. And, finally, if you’re at a loss at what to do in the evenings – that last a long, long time in Scandinavia – take a trip to the Oslo Opera House – now 10 years old and a marvel of modern architecture.