The capital of Norway is already competing with Stockholm and Copenhagen for the title of the most interesting city in the Nordics. Mondo picked the most essential spots in Oslo: affordable eateries and new cultural and architectural attractions, such as the largest art museum in the Nordics.
Architectural and cultural gems
A LOT HAS BEEN HAPPENING in Oslo regarding culture and interesting architecture, as two new gigantic museums have been opened in the city within a year. In the fall of 2021, Munch, a museum dedicated to the art of Edvard Munch, was opened in the Bjørvika district by the sea. At the beginning of the summer of 2022, after a long wait, the stunning National Museum was opened at a central spot next to Oslo City Hall and Nobel Peace Center. It contains the collections of the former Oslo Museum of Contemporary Art, Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts and Design and National Gallery.
The minute you set foot in the National Museum, you can see that a lot of effort has been put in it. The museum, designed by German architecture studio Kleihues + Schuwer, looks amazing, and not the least because of the lofty ceiling height in the lobby and the hand-numbered Norwegian slate tiles covering both the interior and exterior walls. In other words, the visitor is in awe of the place already before seeing a single object or work of art.
“The new National Museum in Oslo showcases art and design, among others. The minute you set foot in the building, you can see that a lot of effort has been put in it.”
Of those, there is no shortage in the National Museum, whose collection consists of over 400,000 items. The number of exhibition spaces in the stunning building is more than double compared to the previous museums. This art museum, which is the largest in the Nordic countries, showcases both modern and centuries-old culture in an interesting way.
The museum’s permanent exhibition alone has about 6,500 objects on display in 87 rooms. The exhibition on the ground floor displaying Norwegian and Nordic arts and crafts and design is arranged in chronological order.
n the rooms showcasing centuries old objects, the walls are dark red, lighting is dim and background music contributes to creating the perfect atmosphere. However, when you get to the objects from the 1920s, the environment also becomes brighter. Among the various pieces of design, an election booth and electricity poles also prove to be interesting.
Some of the rooms have a theme, like the development of printing, Norwegian glass goblets from the 18th century or outfits worn by the Queen of Norway. The exhibitions on the next floor, on the other hand, have numerous pieces of modern art on display, by artists such as Picasso.
The real gem of the museum is, however, the Light Hall, a glass-walled space of over 20,000 square meters on the top floor, used for temporary exhibitions. After testing, a combination of marble and safety glass was chosen for the windows, which create unique lighting conditions suitable for the works of art. In addition to the exhibition areas, the museum has a café, shop, library and a roof terrace with a view of Akershus Fortress on the shore of Oslo Fjord.
3+1 other architectural attractions worth visiting
- Other must-visit destinations in Oslo include the Bjørvika district on the shore of Oslo Fjord. It houses the magnificent Opera House with a roof on which you can climb to admire the view, including the new Deichman library
- The latest addition in the area is the Munch museum. Although its appearance has given rise to a heated debate among the locals, the exhibitions are really good and the museum is definitely worth a visit. Moreover, the view from the 12th floor of the Munch museum’s restaurant is amazing, and the temporary theme exhibitions also showcase works by other artists besides Munch.
- Oslo City Hall, opened in 1950, represents more traditional architecture and hosts impressive frescoes.
- It is also worth taking a walk in Sagene, which the TimeOut magazine included in its list of the world’s coolest neighborhoods. Sagene is perfect for a leisurely stroll and admiring the old wooden and red-brick houses. Good spots for taking a break include the waterfall by the Aker River flowing through the district, surrounded by cafés and Sagene Bryggeri, the local brewery.
“Norwegians simply love their cod,” says Marte Fjeld Høllen, who works at the Fiskeriet fish restaurant, and laughs. “We serve dried cod, salted cod, fresh cod and klippfisk, which is cod that is both salted and dried. The list of different cod dishes is endless,” he continues.
The Youngstorget square in the center of Oslo used to be the home of an open-air food market. Now new restaurants and bars keep popping up in the area. There are also restaurants and bars along the nearby streets of Torggata and Møllergata.
Fiskeriet, which is located by the square, is famous for its excellent cod dishes. Fiskeriet serves fish with, for example, olives and tomato sauce, which complement the soft taste of cod perfectly.
The restaurant is best known for its dish of fish and chips, which has also been called the best in the city. By Oslo’s standards, the dishes are fairly cheap, a little over 20 euros.
In addition to cod, Fiskeriet serves oysters caught in Oslo Fjord. In the fjord, oysters breed in large numbers and threaten local mussel populations. Luckily, the invasive species is delicious and the population can be reduced by eating. With the delicacy, Fiskeriet offers a wide selection of white wines, and oysters are even used as garnish on the Kimchi Bloody Mary cocktail. Fiskeriet also has its own beer.
“Fiskeriet, which is located by the square, is famous for its excellent cod dishes.”
The restaurant has been at the same spot since 2010, but the property has a much longer history with fish, dating back to 1933. Before Fiskeriet, the place housed the famous shop of fishmonger Erling Moe, and the shop was located on the spot from the 1930s to 2009. Fiskeriet acquired space for the restaurant from the neighboring watch shop.
Fiskeriet sells 20–30 different types of fish every day, but many come to the place to buy especially cod and salmon. In addition to fish, the best-selling products include the restaurant’s home-made fish patties. Besides fish, Fiskeriet sells various home-made herring products as well as other delicacies, such as fish broth.
The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner, and you can also stop by for some wine and oysters, for example.
5 other great food finds
- Sofies Mat og Vinhus in the district of St. Hanshaugen offers delicious traditional Norwegian food and – like a true neighborhood restaurant – Spanish-style tapas, among other things. It’s also worth trying the “Norwegian dish of the day”, which changes daily. The meal, which usually costs about 20 euros, is worth every cent. The offered options include a fish dish of the day, reindeer, Lobscouse (i.e., a stew made of meat and potatoes) and traditional potato dumplings, which are available on Thursdays.
- A food court called VIA Village, which was opened in the neighborhood of Vika in the fall of 2021, offers more modern flavors. The stalls offer seafood, Argentinian empanadas and a variety of street food, for example.
- If you want a really affordable meal, head to the legendary hotdog kiosk Syverkiosken, which is the last of its kind in Oslo. It serves praised hot dogs, also prepared the traditional way in lompe, a Norwegian potato flatbread. Depending on preferences, the hot dog is topped with mashed potatoes or mushrooms, for example.
- Next to the Syverkiosken, there is Tranen, about a hundred-year-old bakery which is now serving pastries, brunch and sandwiches.
- In the evenings, Tranen makes way for a pizzeria called Lofthus Samvirkelag. The restaurants of the popular Villa Paradiso chain are also known to serve tasty and reasonably-priced pizza.
Text: Maija Astikainen Photos: Maija Astikainen and Iwan Baan
This story was originally published in Mondo magazine's issue 10/22.