I was fortunate to call Oslo home for 2.5 years; a city that appreciates an active lifestyle, beautiful design, and laissez-faire attitudes. It’s incredibly modern while being deeply steeped in history and culture. 36 hours is certainly not enough to fully encapsulate that Scandinavian magic. But here’s my best try to help you get a taste.
Roam – Vigelandsparken (Sculpture Park)
This is the largest sculpture park in the world designed by a single man, Gustav Vigeland. Every sculpture, every step, every trail were specifically designed by the artist. This place is pure magic: walking the gardens in spring, or the tree linings in fall, or my favorite, basking in the sun with a good book and a good friend in summer. This park is majestic while unpretentious, fun while relaxed, purposeful yet effortless. Vigeland’s exploration of the human form and the cycle of life depicted through sculpture is absolutely breathtaking. Each time I visit, I find new nuances in his work. It is bronze and stone cold, yet speaks loudly to our humanity. If you go nowhere else in Oslo, go here.
Roam – Tjuvholmen & Aker Brygge
To indulge in a moment of quintessential Scandinavian design and architecture, head over to Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen. Aker Brygge used to be a shipyard and was repurposed for posh living, while Tjuvholmen is an artificial island which was built as an extension. The adjacent neighborhoods are right on the Fjord. Here you’ll find modern and chic restaurants and cafes, and the affluent people of Oslo who frequent them. Find a spot in the sun and enjoy a glass of champagne with your oysters. Or head over to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, where you’ll find the best in grunge and street art, creating an interesting juxtaposition with the clean architectural lines of the whole neighborhood.
Move – Sognsvannet & Frognerseteren
No trip to Norway is complete without indulging in some nature and breaking a sweat with some physical activity. From Nationaltheatret (National Theatre) Station, take the T-Bane (subway) out to Sognsvann; a myriad of trails surround this beautiful lake. In the summer, it’s the perfect spot for trail runners or hikers. Pack swim shorts and a picnic, or take a long hike from this spot to Frognesenteren through the forest. (You can catch the T-Bane back to town from there.) If you visit in winter, bring your cross-country skis, as the trails are well kept.
View – Museums
I would highly recommend checking out the main museums: Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, the National Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Museum – Architecture. They are all fairly small and can be visited in one day if you plan your time right. Just go to the first one and you can get a ticket for admission to all four of them.
There are also the Munch Museum and the Ibsen Museum, which are really interesting if you are familiar with these artists. I should note though, that Munch’s most famous pieces are actually held at the National Gallery.
Shop – Moods of Norway
A cocktail glass and a tractor never could achieve symbiosis like they do at Moods of Norway. A few dirty martinis, a couple appletinis, and a debauchery of cosmopolitans inundate the senses with wild colors and patterns for the daring fashionista. Inspired in nature, but without the hippy undertones, Moods isn’t for the hesitant; here you’ll find floral suits, bright fuchsia lining, exaggerated prints, and a tractor detail which sets this brand apart.
Eat – Expensive but worth it
Oslo isn’t consistently on the list of Most Expensive Cities in the World due to a glitch in the measurement system. But good food is worth good money, and Oslo definitely knows how to serve it up. First of all, Oslo is home to 3-star Michelin restaurant Maaemo, which will delight you in an extraordinary sensory experience. This is for the real foodies out there who appreciate the craft of carefully curated tasting menus with beautifully designed presentations as one would expect from Scandinavia. If you’re less fuzzy about your food but still want a quality meal, here are some of my favorite spots: Dinner – Asian fusion, mainly Chinese; Hanami – sushi and Japanese (fun fact, the Olsen twins have been spotted dining here!); Bølgen og Moi Tjuvholmen – Norwegian with a gourmet style; Lofoten Aker Brygge – Norwegian seafood. Ruffino Italian – one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the world, with authentic cuisine and a fabulous wine list.
Drink – Caffeine
We all need a bit of caffeine when on the run, especially if we’re trying to stay active and beat the jetlag slug. Literaturhuset offers a very nice atmosphere near the Palace Gardens, while Stockfleths on Prinsens Gate is, in my opinion, the best coffee in the city.
Drink – Elixirs
For a nice place to just have a few drinks, check out Ett Glass (plenty of tables to sit down and talk), or Palace Grill (very relaxed to grab a beer with mates). If you’re a beer person, try Nøgne Ø. It’s available at most local bars and offers a fantastic craft brew with great body and complexity.
For a fun night out at a nicer lounge/dance club, you could hit BAR Vulkan. It doesn’t have a big dance floor, but that doesn’t keep people from getting down. Vulkan is a bit pretentious, but still quite fun. There’s also Rasputin which is by far the most exclusive, posh and pretentious club in the city. For a quintessential Norwegian crowd, you should check out Den Gamle Major in Majorstuen. They also have a dance floor and some great beers on tap. Dr. Jekyll’s Pub is in a similar style but has a big focus on their Scotches. For a more relaxed evening, Champagneria in Vika is a really posh but relaxed wine bar.
Sergio Velasquez-Terjesen (HBS ’19) is a hodophile, epicure, logophile, and chemical engineer. He indulges in learning about cultures and people through gastronomy, visual arts, and language. His favorite things include sunny autumn days, long distance running, Champagne, and artisanal chocolate. When he’s not off seeking new adventures, he can be found roaming the city with his husband Trond and his poodle Oliver.