What to do and where to stay in Oslo

What to do and where to stay in Oslo: Cathy Strongman experiences all the energy and culture of this year’s European green capital
Oslo’s Sørenga Seawater Pool.Øivind Haug


As the airport express glides into Oslo Central Station, it is met by a capital in boom. ‘Oil money’, as the locals refer to it, is revitalising this old Viking stronghold into a dynamic, green city. Epitomising this transformation is the Amerikalinjen, the new luxurious 122-room hotel housed in the former headquarters of the Norwegian America Line, which once shipped Norwegian emigrants across the Atlantic. Built in 1919, the protected building sits a skip away from Central Station and is close to the famed iceberg-inspired Oslo Opera House, which kick-started the city’s regeneration a decade ago.

One of the hotel’s 122 rooms.Øivind Haug

The hotel’s past is constantly present as you enter through the huge carved doors, worn smooth by a century of palms, or descend the austere granite fossil-specked stairs. Lush plants in the central courtyard, which received a glass ceiling during the recent renovation by local firm Kritt Architects, stand out against the original burnt orange tiles. It is a lovely space to take a pause or, at weekends, join locals at brunch catered by the hotel’s Atlas Café. Look up and white origami bird lights perch above diners – just one of the whimsical touches by designers Puroplan that transform this once foreboding building into a welcoming space.

The Amerikalinjen’s original carved entrance doors.Øivind Haug

At the hotel’s Pier 42 bar, named after New York’s first port of entry for immigrants, you can taste cocktail recipes previously mixed on board the ocean liners. Friday night offers live jazz at Gustav, the speakeasy-inspired basement club, while the rooms feature reproduction Norwegian mid-century furniture and lamps by the company responsible for the ships’ original glassware. Yet this is no museum. Contemporary artwork by the likes of Shepard Fairey fill the walls, Ted Talks play from the gym machines, and the rooms have snazzy lighting and music systems – while the staff sport outfits by the Oslo-based fashion brand Holzweiler. Superior rooms from around £190.


Head east to Grünerløkka, working-class district turned hipsterville, for independent boutiques such as Luck, Scandi design stores like Futura Classics and coffee made by the World Barista champion Tim Wendelboe.

Food and Drink

Oslo is this year’s European Green Capital and, despite the paradoxical nature of Norway’s oil wealth, is a city itching to be sustainable. At the vanguard of this movement is Rest, which in Norwegian means ‘what is left’. Opened this year by Jimmy Øien, the restaurant takes food that would otherwise be discarded and turns it into a fine-dining menu. Food waste is a hard sell, but here each dish is so inventive that ‘waste’ becomes ‘discovered treasure’.

Rest realises the potential of ingredients that would otherwise go to waste.Øivind Haug

Locally caught oysters deemed too big for market, cod belly tossed out by hotel kitchens and whey from cheese produced in nearby Drammen are some of the ingredients transformed into technically brilliant and often amusing dishes. Its wine pairings are full of surprises, too. Book ahead as the restaurant is small; the set menu is about £135 a head, with wine pairing around an extra £105.

Salvaged-wood tables and recycled glassware underscore Rest’s philosophy of reuse.Øivind Haug

For locally sourced, organic vegetarian food, visit Kumi, a minimalist café in Gamlebyen; also try Himkok, a local favourite with experimental house liquors and Norwegian-themed cocktails.

Kumi’s pared-back interior.Øivind Haug

Don't miss

The distinctive architecture of the Munch Museum.Øivind Haug

Go for a walk along the 9km harbour promenade, which starts at the Sørenga Seawater Pool carved from Oslo Fjord. Check out the aluminium-clad Munch Museum, home to The Scream; the Oslo Opera House (operaen.no), with panoramic views from its roof; the part-medieval, part-Renaissance Akershus Fortress; and Oslo’s new National Museum, which opens behind the Nobel Peace Center in 2020.

The vast glass sail of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art graces the waterfrontØivind Haug

One of the most distinctive attractions of the waterfront is SALT, a bohemian event space that combines music, food and art along with the Árdna sauna for up to 80 people. For viking aficionados, the three carved burial ships at the Viking Ship Museum will take your breath away. Also not to be missed is the Vigeland Sculpture Park, which is filled with more than 200 works by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943).

The city’s Vigeland Sculpture Park has over 200 works.Øivind Haug

Ways and means

Cathy Strongman was a guest of Visit Oslo. SAS has several flights daily from London to Oslo, from £60 one way; and Norwegian flights cost from £42 one way.

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