Maia Birtles's Oslo
A world’s worth of recommended spots from our global community
words –maia birtles
location – oslo, norway
At boom saloon, we’re incredibly privileged to collaborate with a community of hundreds of talented creatives all around the world, stretching from Ecuador to Egypt, China to Canada, Austria to Angola. Our strong relations have afforded us a wealth of insider insights into the best places to visit, eat and stay, all around the world. Now, we want to share this information with you as we work with our community to map the world and share their best recommendations of how to enjoy destinations both near and far. Our version of a city guide, delivered interactively and in real time – curated for all to enjoy and presented as a savable Google Map for our members to save and bookmark a wealth of future adventures.
Formerly named Christiania, Oslo is perhaps the only city in Norway where you can get a sense of the so-called ‘big city life.’ Nestled at the top of the famed fjord, and surrounded by forest to the North, East and West, the allure of Oslo lies in its ability to offer all the perks of city life alongside a close connection to nature. The city is dotted with parks and green spaces, and through the heart of it runs the Akerselva river. Here you can find yourself in the depths of a fairytale forest at noon, and by early evening be enjoying a drink in a crowded bar; follow the recommendations below to ensure you place yourself amongst the best of each.
01_The Ekeberg Park
To visit a sculpture park with a scandalous history, the Ekeberg park is the place to go. Officially inaugurated as a sculpture park in 2013, it immediately sparked controversy due to provocative sculptures displayed on land which had previously been dedicated to the natural environment. Despite the furore, which has died down in later years, the Ekeberg park is certainly worth a visit. Set on a hill, the park is scattered with sculptures by various artists. Despite the decries of many citizens, nature and culture blend harmoniously. The park is sprawling and you can joyfully lose your way amongst smaller and wider footpaths in between the forest and clearings, all while enjoying art created by both international and Norwegian artists including Nikki de Saint Phalle and Damian Hirst.
02_The Vigeland museum
For all things macabre and mysterious, visit the museum of artist Emanuel Vigeland. I say museum, but it is really a mausoleum, which Vigeland constructed for himself before his death. The mausoleum is reminiscent of a large tomb, dimly lit and covered with frescoes depicting birth, death and eroticism. The acoustics are such that even a light exhale of air can create a rippling, echoing effect in the room. Due to such enchanting auditory details, candlelit concerts are frequently held here. To top it all off, Vigeland’s ashes are placed above a small door, so that one must bow beneath him in order to enter. The museum is open every Sunday and it is highly recommended to book tickets in advance.
03_Cappelens Forslag bookstore
Cappelens Forslag is an independent bookstore with a homely and eccentric vibe. They sell an excellent selection of books: second hand, new and antique, in both English and Norwegian. Here you may find literary rarities not accessible in more mainstream and chain bookstores. The owner, Andreas Cappelen, engages in enthusiastic dialogue with his customers, and is never short of great recommendations. From the street the shop can sometimes be a little hard to locate, so resort to your Google maps and use your eyes, because booklovers – you don’t want to miss this one!
04_Dattera til Hagen bar and nightclub
A favourite among many locals and situated in Grønland, a vibrant and multicultural part of Oslo, Dattera til Hagen is a two storey bar, cafe and nightclub. In the summertime, locals enjoy a drink or some food in the backyard, where a cheerful pizza truck, bright colours and strings of colourful light bulbs create a festive atmosphere. Here you can relax with food and drinks after a long day of strolling round the city, join a quiz night or dance your way into the night accompanied by live music or DJs – varying between electronica, reggae, disco, funk, pop, folk, jazz and soul.
05_The Munch museum
Resituated in 2021, the new Munch museum provoked strong backlash when it opened due to what many call its ugly exterior – resulting in the architecture society crowning it as the ugliest building of 2021. But, it’s what’s inside that counts, right? If you take the time to enter the thirteen storey building, you are in for a delightful surprise. Here you can see a wide variety of the work of Edvard Munch, arguably Norway’s most famous painter. Anyone intrigued by vampires, sexuality, love, darkness and nature will be enthralled. In addition to the permanent Munch exhibition, the museum also hosts temporary exhibitions by a broad spectrum of guest artists.
06_Nature and hikes
Depending on your exact start and end point, you can get from the city to hiking trails within anything from fifteen minutes to just under an hour. With so many options, it might be hard to know where to start. Sognsvann lake is a good choice if you want a quick and easy exit from the bustle of the city. From the central station you can reach Sognsvann on the nr. 5 Overground within 20 minutes. At the side closest to the station, there is ample green space to lay down a towel and relax. A footpath takes you around the lake, and for those wanting to venture further, there are several hiking trails leading off into the woods from the lake. If you want a hike with a view, follow the trail towards Vettakollen. For further adventures, download the free app Ut.no for a map of nearby hiking trails.
07_A trip to the sauna
In Oslo saunas have become trendy again, and according to many locals it is the way to either start or finish off your day. There are several options to choose from. At Oslo Badstuforening, a ticket for 195 Norwegian Krone gives you access to a collective, unisex sauna for 90 minutes. If you want to chat with locals, but fear that you won’t be able to approach the rumoured cold and socially reclusive Norwegians,, a trip to the sauna is just the thing to break the ice. Many of Oslo’s saunas are situated in the central harbour, giving you a majestic view of the architecturally pleasing Opera House, the similarly impressive Deichman library and the fiord.
08_Kruttverket café, bar and cultural centre
Oslo Badstuforening recently opened an additional sauna at Kruttverket, a cultural centre/ café/ bar perched on the banks of the Alna river – Oslo’s longest river. It is the perfect place to further unwind after your steamy sauna session. Kruttverket sits in a renovated factory building; downstairs you’ll find the café, which turns into a bar in the evening. The old, preserved brick walls give the space a warm and rustic vibe, along with ample plants, a piano and a general artistic vibe. Kruttverket hosts various cultural events such as indie movie nights, markets and more.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Akerselva river, in the charming district of Sagene, you can find the equally charming Sagene Lunsjbar. The exterior, a yellow painted wooden house, will catch your eye from the street. The staff of this charming eatery are welcoming and down to earth, and so is the food. Their dishes are made with local ingredients and include, amongst other things, their signature and highly recommended burgers [both meat and vegetarian] and fish soup. They serve lunch as well as dinner and provide an ever popular spot for drinks, best enjoyed outside in the backyard in the Summer months.
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