Oslo Insider's Guide 2023

By Ivy Thompson: I have just returned from a long overdue visit to Oslo in Norway, the city where I grew up. Oslo has gone through continuous and monumental change in the past 20 years; becoming less the "younger sibling"-capital of the former Scandinavian union of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, while rapidly transforming into a charming mix of classical apartment-buildings, villas, parks and shiny, contemporary architecture by the fjord.

The inner-city area on the edge of the Oslofjord is heaving with activity, life, culture and innovation: The Sorenga-precinct behind the famous Oslo Opera House is complete, the new yet iconic Barcode-buildings are gleaming and the grand Deichman Library and spectacular Munch Museum both open their doors in 2020. Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge continue to dazzle with indulgent food, shopping, art and people watching.

While parts of central part of Oslo may look busy with cranes and construction-works, there are many amazing, and sometimes hidden, gems for you to enjoy if you know where to find them.

Explore this modern capital nestled amongst forested green hills with cutting-edge architecture right on the water's edge, and find your own favourite spot to feel the pulse of Oslo:

Vippa/ Akershus Medieval Fort

Take a stroll from the Oslo Town Hall down along the pier below the medieval Akershus Fort, and find yourself down by the new street-food-with-a-conscience hub 'Vippa'. Named after the original name of the pier itself, Vippetangen, the converted fishing-warehouse is now the thriving home of nine uniquely different street-food stalls complete with a bar, barista, outdoor seating and a sustainable ethos. Vippa-matmarked-VISITOSLO/Didrick Stenersen

Image: Visit Oslo, Didrick Stenersen

In their own words:
"Vippa is a social and business model to facilitate and integrate immigrants and young aspiring food entrepreneurs into the social fabric of Norwegian culture. Vippa, strategically located in the Port of Oslo, is the host of multiple food stands offering sustainable and diverse food to Oslo's increasingly bustling foodscape. Vippa's vision is to bring together cultures through cuisines.[...] We see food as a way to stimulate dialogue amongst citizens and best agricultural practises as a best way to feed them. We feel obliged, by today's social and cultural unrest, to create a space - a common platform where these best practises could serve as links between cultures, languages and cuisines in the act of moving forward."

Enjoy a delicious lunch with a side of microbrewed local beer and treat yourself to an organic soft-serve ice-cream for dessert before walking the slow way back through the historic Akershus Fort above the fjord.
Address: Akershusstranda 25, Oslo

HIMKOK/ Torggata Botaniske

Who doesn't love to stumble upon the secret bars that hip locals frequent? If you consider yourself a world-class cocktail connoisseur and love exciting combinations of flavour, you cannot go past these two gems in inner-city Oslo near Youngstorvet (Youngs Square). Both bars pride themselves on local, seasonal flavours and beautiful presentation. Make sure you visit for a Nordic nightcap after dinner, there are many lovely restaurants to choose from in the area.

Don't let the unassuming front-door fool you; an exciting micro-distillery experience awaits at the cool and spacious HIMKOK. The bar distills their own vodka, gin and Scandinavian favourite aquavit and use them in bases of drinks so outstanding it's rated as one of the world's best bars.
Address: Storgata 27, Oslo

The nearby Torggata Botaniske is easier to find and smells fresh and flowery thanks to the vines and plants covering both walls, windows and the ceiling. The small but interesting cocktail-list concentrates on botanical ingredients; think drinks with fresh basil and salted seaweed powder, spicy chipotle, ginger, lemon myrtle, rhubarb or crisp Norwegian apples.
Address: Torggata 17B, Oslo

Tim Wendelboe Espresso Bar/ Mathallen/ Nedre Foss Gaard

Catch the eastbound 11 or 12 trams from the city and get off at the Olaf Ryes Plass-stop to
wander through the eclectic, young Grunerlokka in Oslo's inner East. This old working-class suburb is now full of interesting restaurants, boutiques, bars and cafes. If the smell of freshly ground coffee-beans gets you going; make sure to stop by world-renowned and awarded Tim Wendelboe Espresso Bar. The tiny coffee-roastery treats brown brew as a fine art and the results are magnificent. Their Iced Latte served in a martini-glass tastes perfect on warm summer-days in the city and still is the best coffee I've had to date.
Address: Grünersgate 1, on the corner of Fossveien in Grünerløkka, Oslo.

Peckish? Take the short stroll from Tim Wendelboe down the grassy river-bank towards Mathallen. A trip to Mathallen ('The Food Hall') down by the River Akerselva offers upmarket produce from a good selection of international as well as local cuisines and products. Shop anything from artisan Belgian chocolate, French macaroons, deep-fried Hungarian bread and Italian house-made gelati to local Norwegian cheeses, baked goods and cured meats for a relaxing picnic on a nearby park-bench.
Address: Mathallen, Vulkan 5, Oslo

Thirsty? Join the locals' love for a cold, refreshing 'utepils' (translates to 'beer outside') or glass of sparkling prosecco, and cross the footbridge from Mathallen back across the river to Nedre Foss Gaard, a beautifully restored old farmhouse dating back to the 1200s. On the 2nd floor you will find Nedre Foss Brewery with no less than 30 kinds of beer on tap. Indulge in Norwegian seafood in the stylish, downstairs dining-room. Nedre Foss Gaard offers beautifully presented brunch (weekends only), lunch and dinner with carefully selected seasonal ingredients. The inviting outdoor tables under umbrellas and trees are lovely for a late summer dinner by the river.
Address: Nordre gate 2, Oslo

All our Oslo tours are listed here.

Image credits: VISITOSLO/Didrick Stenersen.