A Local’s Guide to Oslo, Norway: Dumplings, Art and Floating Saunas | Oslo holidays


Norway is known for its hearty stews and seafood, but Oslo also has an emerging culinary scene. For something traditional, try it raspeball (potato dumplings) with salted meat in Kafistova, right next to the Rosencrantz Gate, which has been around since 1901.

Smalhans in the St Hanshaugen district offers home cooking inspired by cuisines from around the world. The daily special is always a good bet, or go for a six-course meal krøsus a menu designed for sharing. Near the Opera House is Vippa, a lively street restaurant with stalls from all over the world, including Syria, Poland and Morocco. My favorite is Fra Dypet’s fish and chips, with chunky peas.

Food from all over the world is available at Vippa.


In our huge new National Museum, which opened on 11 June, you can see works by national and international superstars (including The Scream by Edvard Munch in a dedicated Munch Hall) and lesser-known pioneers. The collection’s 6,500 works include art, architecture and design from antiquity to the present day. The icing on the cake is the majestic Light Hall with changing exhibitions. The opening show, I Call It Art, is a snapshot of the contemporary art scene in Norway today.

Nearby is the Astrup Fearnley Museum with one of the most extensive collections of contemporary art in Europe. Other Oslo gallery spaces worth checking out are OSL Contemporary, Galleri Riis, Gerhardsen Gerner and Standard (Oslo). Another landmark worth visiting is the Opera House. Go to a show or just take a walk on the roof and enjoy the view. While you’re in the area, try one of Oslo’s floating saunas on the harbor opposite.

Edvard Munch's room in the new National Museum.
Edvard Munch’s room in the new National Museum. Photo: Geir Olsen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images

With all this plus the new Munch Museum, the new Deichman Library and the Vigeland and Ekeberg sculpture parks, Norway is aiming to become a global destination for art and culture.


Oslo’s former industrial area, Grünerløkka, is a charming, thriving area on the east side of the Akerselva River. It has a bohemian vibe with great bars, flea markets and designer boutiques. I love thrift and vintage shops like Robot, Velouria Vintage, Fretex Arkivet Grunerlokka and Ny York Vintage. There are many parks in the area, such as Sofienbergparken, Birkelunden and Grünerhagen, and a walk along the river is a pleasant way to get to the city center. This is where I lived as a youngster and I always visit Bar Boca for drinks or Mucho Mas for a killer quesadilla.

Floating sauna
The floating saunas in Oslo

Green space

At this time of year, the botanical garden is in perfect early summer bloom. There is a small village cafe on the grounds, and large wicker sculptures by British artist Tom Hare are scattered around the park. Another option is to take the tram and see the city from up high in Ekebergparken. The park has stunning views and displays impressive sculptures by more than 40 international and Norwegian artists. My personal favorite is Skyspace by James Turrell.

Night life

Start the night in a classic cocktail bar in the city center: try Andre Til Høyre or Himkok, the first bar in Oslo to make the list of the 50 best bars in the world in 2020. For the final nail in the coffin, head to Papa Borracho, which specializes in mezcal; the bar staff also have superb cocktail skills.


Coch Pensjonat (doubles from around £63), just behind the royal palace and the Kunstnernes Hus art gallery, has been running for three generations; offers budget accommodation in pleasant surroundings.

Another good place to stay is the modern Scandic Hotel Vulkan (doubles from £115) at the foot of Grünerløkka, with the Mathallen restaurant as its nearest neighbour.

It’s Rolf Ingve Ugen Director of collections management in Oslo National Museum, the largest art museum in the Nordic countries

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