An Outside the Box Afternoon in Oslo
Norway was my 45th country and what a stunning one it is! I visited Oslo, Stavanger, and Flam on my trip to get a bit of city and nature. My stop in Oslo was first and I knew it would be the only day wandering through a city, so I wanted to make the most of it.
Guidebooks for Oslo will list the several museums and landmarks in the city, but if you’re looking to spend the day away from the crowds and see a more local, cool side of Oslo, here is my guide for an outside-the-box afternoon.
- Lace up your Nikes! Like every city, it’s best to explore on foot. It’s the only way you’re going to really see a place and be able to stumble on things. (I walked 10 miles!)
- Dress in Layers & Bring An Umbrella. The day started chilly and grey, then it sprinkled, then it got sunny but cold, and then all the clouds parted and it was suddenly HOT. This is typical for a day in Norway, so dress accordingly and bring something for the rain in case it showers.
Begin at the famous Karls Johans Gate. This is the main drag of Oslo, running from the famous Cathedral to the Royal Palace. It’s full of chain shops and restaurants, a la T.G.I.Fridays. So take a look if you must, but then get off it ASAP.
Turn off at Akersgata, and head all the way East on a lovely, forty-minute walk to the boho neighborhood of Grunerlokka. Full of graffitied walls, independent shops, and cool bars and restaurants, this is the hipster hangout of Oslo. It's residential and local, so you won’t see a lot of tourists hanging around.
Travel Tip: I was needing some serious caffeine, and always love finding a local coffee shop. I spotted a funky-dressed young couple with a baby strapped to them leaving their apartment and decided to see where they led me. More often than not this works out great! Follow a cool-looking local and they will lead you to the gold. Sure enough, a few turns and we arrived at a local coffee shop and bakery called Grünerløkka Bakeri.
Along with great coffee and cafe au laits that were works of art, they had a nice assortment of Norwegian sandwiches and piles of homemade breads.
A go-to place for any avid traveler is Chillout Travel Centre. Stacked with everything you might need, from backpacks to books to waterproof playing cards. They also have a cute cafe inside with homemade cinnamon buns, so the whole shop smells of warm, baking cinnamon in the morning. Reason enough to visit! The bearded, tatooed barista even had a stack a free “by the locals” map with some unusual shops and sights.
After spending time wandering through Grunerlokka, head back toward the center of town, and you’ll pass the famous Mathallen Oslo, a massive indoor food market with various stalls selling creative, cheap eats of every type. It's well-worth a wander and a great place to pick up a casual lunch or snack.
I had my wanna-be Scandinavian heart set on getting some of Norway’s famous, fresh seafood, and what better place than a fish market?
Fiskeriet is a tiny shop selling fish so fresh it actually stinks inside! Don’t let that turn you away; you can eat outside in the sunshine overlooking the square. The small, limited menu focuses on Norwegian specialties. If you’re not yet brave enough to try a plate of herring or fishcakes, go for a cast-iron skillet of freshly fried fish & chips, sprinkled with corse sea salt and served with homemade tarter sauce. Be warned, it's so delicious you will never be able to eat fish & chips again! This is a big portion, so it’s perfect to share with a travel buddy so you have room for other foodie finds later.
Continue walking west back toward the KJG, and you’ll find yourself in a rather touristy area of town, but there are some authentic Norwegian shops scattered among the main stream, so get a little lost here as you continue walking North toward the Vigelandsparken. This famous sculpture garden, the lifework of Gustav Vigeland, is full of tourists; it's also full of locals sunbathing, picnicking, and chilling out - and it's a must see. Massive, human sculptures scattered all over the park make this a unique place in the world, and offer a lot of fun photo ops. This is also the perfect place for a mid-day rest if you need it.
A ten-minute-walk south from the garden on Frognerveien you’ll find your last stop, a little cobblestone alley leading to a back garden and tiny Nordic restaurant called Kolonihagen. This hidden gem is only for the locals; they don’t even have an English menu! Sit in the cozy inside or lush outside and the friendly waitress will explain the selection of fresh, seasonal items, reasonably priced, and beautifully presented. The side of homemade, seedy bread and butter with the meal was perhaps the best part, and the perfect treat to end an outside-the-box afternoon in Oslo.
The rest of the day is yours to discover! Bon appetite and bon wandering!