City slicker in Oslo
It's a great time to visit Norway's capital and enjoy long warm days and striking natural beauty. Nick Boulos offers a guide for new and returning visitors
Sunday 13 June 2010
Norwegians enjoy the great outdoors and they never stop thinking up creative new ways to tempt visitors and residents alike into embracing active, clean-living lifestyles.
The latest initiative is Sukkerbiten (sukkerbiten.no), billed as Oslo's new "summer island". Located in the city's famous fjord and opened to the public just last week, Sukkerbiten can be accessed via a footbridge from the Opera House and is roughly the size of a football pitch; indeed, it was once the training ground for the city's police team. Today, it's a serene escape for those craving a game of croquet on its neat lawns or some al fresco culture at one of the many concerts throughout the summer.
Now is, undoubtedly, a glorious time to visit the Norwegian capital, with warm temperatures and long sunny days. Just a stone's throw from the fjord and its archipelago of 40 forested islands – a playground for walkers and kayakers – are striking public spaces scattered across a compact city centre, including the rolling grounds of the stately 19th-century Royal Palace. Art buffs will love Vigeland Park, decorated with hundreds of Gustav Vigeland's abstract sculptures depicting human nature. Elsewhere, bars and chic boutiques bring a touch of modern life to the elegant neoclassical avenues.
The Nobel Peace Center (00 47 4830 1000; nobelpeacecenter.org) for a fascinating exploration of the award and its past winners.
The Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (00 47 2329 2870; doga.no) for a masterclass in contemporary Nordic art. Exhibits change every couple of months but the emphasis is usually on progressive Scandinavian trends, from graphic design to lighting.
A fjord cruise (00 47 2335 6890; boatsightseeing.com) through part of the 100km Oslo Fjord, departing from opposite the City Hall. Sample Norway's natural beauty without leaving the city limits but be sure to alight at the Bygdoy Peninsula for the impressive Viking Ship Museum.
The harbourside pier of Aker Brygge, overlooking the Oslo Fjord. This has become a popular meeting point for locals, who are often seen sitting by the boats eating ice cream and drinking on the outdoor terraces. The many restaurants here, including The Edge and the seafood specialist Sjomagasin and Lofoten, are among the city's best.
The National Gallery (00 47 2198 2000; nasjonalmuseet.no), which features pieces from the romantic period by several significant Norwegian artists, including Adolph Tidemand. Most head straight to room 24 to see Edvard Munch's The Scream – hardcore fans should also go across town to the museum dedicated to the artist (00 47 2349 3500 munch.museum.no).
Kolonihagen (00 47 9931 6810; kolonihagen.no) for a caffeine fix. Norwegians are among the biggest coffee drinkers in the world and Oslo has taken café culture to its heart. One favourite spot is this rustic coffee house in a small courtyard, which serves organic pastries and is renowned for its carrot cake.
Oslo Opera House (oslooperahouse.com). It's impossible to miss this futuristic structure in the middle of the city made from gleaming white marble. Walk up its steep ramp for views over Oslo, its hills and fjords.
Until the 1970s, Oslo's bourgeoisie barely gave this working-class neighbourhood a second thought. Today, Grunerlokka is described as Oslo's Notting Hill. Trendy eateries, independent fashion designers and vibrant bars line Thorwald Meyer Street and there's a thriving art scene, too. An influx of slick apartments housed in sympathetically resorted factories and breweries have made this one of the city's most desirable districts to live in.
Straight out of 1920s Paris, this romantic bar, modelled on Moulin Rouge, opened its thick red drapes last month. Everything was sourced from flea markets across Europe, from the prints of scantily clad French ladies to the crockery. Bar'Deaux also claims to be the only drinking hole outside Paris to have a bottle of rare Moulin Rogue cognac – the perfect tipple to enjoy by the roaring log fire.
Details: 00 47 9173 2554; Radhus gata 30.
This chic hotel is so new the paint is barely dry. The 96 minimalist rooms are a little small but don't skimp on luxurious touches. Each is equipped with iPod dock, flatscreen TV and extra thick comfy mattresses. Be sure to hire one of the hotel's electric bicycles – perfect for exploring the city's hilly suburbs. Doubles from £107 per night.
Details: 00 47 2201 6400; rica.no
The Nighthawk Diner
Serving high-quality locally reared beef in swish brown and yellow leather booths with Johnny Burnette playing on the jukebox, this popular diner is more gourmet dining 1950s style than greasy burger joint.
Details: 00 47 9662 7327; Seilduks gata 15.
Acclaimed local designer Zuzanna Gregorowicz has opened a new boutique in the heart of Frogrer, Oslo's fashion hub. Zuzanna's high-end jewellery – crystal earrings and pendants – embrace old-school glamour, while sunglasses, shoes and handbags can also be found on the quirkily decorated shelves.
Details: 00 47 2255 3140; zuzannag.com
Tobias Gustafsson, head chef at Sjomagasin restaurant
"For a fantastic shopping experience, head to House of Oslo. It specialises in interior furnishings and has the most amazing kitchen utensils, porcelain, and striking designer fixtures – something's bound to catch your eye. The pieces are very exclusive, very slick and very Scandinavian."
Details: 00 47 2323 8560; houseofoslo.no
How to get there
Nick Boulos flew from London Heathrow to Oslo with SAS (020-8990 7000; flysas.com), which offers return flights from £158. A double room at Hotel Folketeateret (00 47 2200 5700; clarionhotel .com) costs from £155 per night on a B&B basis.
Norwegian tourist board (020-7389 8800; visitnorway.com).
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