I’ve never been very good at early morning starts. But I was up with the lark (or rather the seagulls) in excited anticipation of our morning arrival into Oslo. We’d taken the overnight ferry from Copenhagen as part of a four week road trip to visit my brother, who moved to the Norwegian capital a couple of years ago. As the early morning sun began to fill our cabin, I peered out of the window and caught sight of some of Norway’s traditional brightly-painted houses, nestled like tiny dolls’ houses along the fjord archipelago. Before long, we were showered and dressed and up on deck, cameras in hand, ready to capture our first glimpse of the city rising up into the mountains through the morning mist.
Minimalist design store, Kollekted By offer Scandinavian-designed lighting, furniture, skincare and more, all curated by design and interior stylist duo Kråkvik&D’Orazio. The highlight for me was how beautifully, and seemingly effortlessly, the objects are presented within the space in little vignettes that could be found in someone’s home. Among the many things I found to covet were a solid brass incense holder and a leaded glass mounted wall vase. But I’m afraid to say that it was all a little beyond my budget!
For people who prefer to own things with a past (and a lot of Oslo dwellers do!), Fransk Bazar is where secondhand industrial chic meets charming bric-a-brac. Run by Norwegian and French couple, Nina and Didier, this diminutive space is a cornucopia of unique furniture, costume jewellery and vintage prints. I spied a lovely rattan-seated bentwood bistro chair for 1000 NK (around £90) that would have been coming home with me had there been room in the car.
The Norwegian’s take their coffee very seriously (as do I). The black coffee served at Fuglen is from a choice of four different roasteries in the Oslo area, is selected seasonally and offered brewed in a variety of methods. Located in downtown Oslo, set slightly apart from the main streets, Fuglen have served coffee since 1963. But although the interior of the original shop has been kept intact, in its most recent incarnation, Fuglen’s highly stylised design pays homage to the 1950s and 60s – the golden age of Nordic design. And everything at Fuglen is for sale: from the chair you’re sitting on, the lamps and original prints on the walls, to the table you put your cup down on. Students from the nearby university and young businesspeople keep it busy during the day, while in the evening it comes alive as a cocktail bar dominated by a younger crowd.
Vigeland Sculpture Park
Eating out in Oslo is phenomenally expensive, so most days we packed sandwiches. But there are plenty of public spaces to sit and eat while taking in the view, and none is more inspiring than Vigeland Sculpture Park. Set in the grounds of Frogner Park, it’s the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. It is one of Oslo’s most visited tourist sites, but is really is a sight to behold and therefore a must-see. Over two hundred of Gustav Vigeland’s bronze and granite sculptures exploring the human form – and human relationships (some are quite comical, others profound and touching) line the park’s boulevard. But make sure to arrive early to avoid the inevitable crowds – they’ll ruin what could be some of your best photographs.
When we did choose dine out, we were picky about where we went. Vippa is a laid-back street food court in an old sugar warehouse on the edge of the harbour, and does the city’s best street food. Newly opened, it serves dishes from all corners of the world, with a focus on organic food – and most of the food stalls also have vegetarian or vegan options. It’s a great place to grab a snack or a light lunch and a beer. We ate some delicious Thai prawn dumplings and noodle-filled veggie spring rolls. During summer, it was the perfect place for outdoor dining in the sun – but expect it to be packed on the outdoor terrace, where there’s a great view of the fjord. The giant outdoor mural makes it super easy to spot from the water, and the tall orange towers of the waterfront promenade help guide you there.
If it’s a bohemian vibe you’re looking for, head for vibrant and arty neighbourhood Grünerløkka in the east end. It’s edgy and unique, and known for its street art, cool bars, relaxed cafes and independent boutiques selling design objects and secondhand furniture and jewellery. This is where we came upon Skaperverket, on Markveien, Grünerløkka’s main street; a charming shop showcasing the work of local independent designers, makers and artists who make up the Oslo-based design collective of the same name. I came here twice to fully take in the array of handmade children’s clothes, art prints, ceramics, jewellery and more. The wooden cutwork necklaces made by Tjasa Mavric and Oyoy Living Design’s neat little ceramics particularly caught my eye.
You can’t buy wine in the supermarkets in Oslo, you have to go to specialist wine shops, so at the end of an afternoon mooching around the streets of Grünerløkka one day, we stopped for a cheeky glass of Riesling at ultra-cool wine bar, Territoriet next door to Skaperverket. There was certainly no shortage of wine on offer here. Territoriet pride themselves on offering over 400 different varieties – and most are available by the glass. But this is Oslo, so it doesn’t come cheap. We sat at the window and sipped slowly, while idly watching the locals peruse the secondhand market over the road. We then took some photographs of the oh-so cool interior and then fled to save our bank balances!
With kids in tow, we were mindful of keeping them contented and occupied, and with a rainy afternoon on our hands, we headed to the National museum of science and technology. Otherwise known as the Teknisk Museum, it is a paradise not only for curious kids. With over a hundred interactive installations, musical machines and instruments, and a vast transport exhibition, we were all kept happy and busy until teatime.
When the weather is less soggy, one of the pleasures of strolling around the streets of Oslo is chancing upon one of the enormous murals that decorate parts of the city, often filling entire walls with colour. The surrounding area by alternative music venue Blå is one of the highlights of Oslo’s street art offering. Every wall is covered, many by some top artists including M-City. Nip through Ingens gate and onto Brenneriveien for a full street of some amazing, Insta-worthy work.
One lazy, late morning, we popped into Oslo Raw on Adamstuen Torg for a coffee, but on spying the delicious-looking, pretty cakes, we decided to indulge in a few treats. As the name would suggest, Oslo Raw specialise in raw, organic and vegan food. It all sounds very worthy and healthy (and it is!) but it’s also extremely yummy. The space is small and intimate, with a relaxed vibe. The decor is airy, bright and modern, with beautiful pressed flower artworks on the walls. I was more than happy to stay a while, and I was feeling peckish, so ordered the brunch plate of kale and avocado layered on top of a crunchy pumpkin seed cracker, with chia pudding, and two little squares of cake on the side: one zingy passion fruit, the other, raw choco nut brownie. The children shared a choco-peanut cake with creamy hot chocolate on the side. Rest assured, whatever you order it will be served up looking as pretty as a picture and well worthy of your Instagram grid.
Oslo Opera House
The Oslo Opera House is the centrepiece of the fast developing waterfront. Walk on the roof – a sleek patchwork carpet of marble – and you’ll get wonderful views of the city and the mountains beyond. The building’s architect, Snøhetta apparently drew inspiration from icy glaciers and when I stood at the top and looked down over a sea of shiny white marble, I got a definite feeling that it’s somehow part of the surrounding nature. Inside, the perforated luminous wall panel that hides the supports for the ceiling – designed by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson – is equally dazzling. It’s almost as photogenic inside as out.
Words: Claire Holland / Photography: Charlie Bibby – www.paperthinmoon.com