Who on earth would fly to Norway in the middle of November just because the ticket costs 6 Euro? You’ll see who, when you read the post. No, I won’t keep you waiting: I would. And I did. Finding the ticket for 6 Euro, I got it right away, naively assuming such an Oslo visit would be budget-friendly. I was wrong. Oslo is not as expensive as told. It’s more expensive than what’s been said! Why wouldn’t you read about my Oslo visit yourself, or in other words, the despair of a butt-freezing cold, which made me pay 159 Krone for a soup, and constantly “explore” cafes and bars, due to my professional deformation in a city where even Pegasus doesn’t fly?
Ryanair —that requires another blog entry—flies to Rygge, which is kind of in the outskirts of Oslo, compared to the other airport of the city. A bus takes you from there to the Oslo Central Station in an hour for 170 Krone. Of course, I didn’t have an idea about exchange rates. When I arrived in central Oslo, it was four o’clock in the afternoon. But it was as black as pitch, seeming like a midnight. After leaving my luggage and belongings in my dear Colombian friend Miguel’s dorm, and as everything was quite expensive, we accepted the invitation for a dinner in the dormitory full with Erasmus students. This is the daily order: Instead of going out, students meet indoors (either at home or in dormitories) for dinner. Alcohol is too pricy in bars, which explains the trend of house parties in a bring-your-own-drinks style.
But, I didn’t mind seeing some bits from the city. Miguel took me to his favorite bar in the city centre: Jaeger (Grensen 9, Oslo). It was a Wednesday night, towards 12 pm. There were still stands inside. Normally, I was told, the stands are removed for everyone to dance (see the photo below, it’s not mine). I don’t know if we were early or if the bar doesn’t necessarily rock the night on Wednesdays. DJ played good and we ordered a couple of drinks on the comfortable chairs of Jaeger. Red wine was 89 Krone, and it was more expensive than beer. It was my first night, a very cold night (0 centigrade), so we left the place after our drinks for me to have a proper rest.
Miguel went to the school on weekdays, and I had three full days in Oslo: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. For those three days, and with a map in my hand, I toured the museums alone; did shopping; went to concerts; I froze my buttons off; got wet under the rain; never caught a glimpse of the sun; and prepared recommendations to those who plan to visit Oslo. I categorized my recommendations under shopping; eating & drinking; bars and nights out; my favorite neighborhood; notes on Oslo; and culture & arts. I hope you enjoy it, and benefit from this blog post if you happen to visit Oslo.
Oslo residents are rich. This is my first observation. The currency is Krone. Let alone Turkish lira, it slams even Euro and Dollar. One Euro equals 7.34 Norwegian Krone. I calculated everything by dividing the figures into seven, to find the Euro equivalent. And I multiplied it with 2,3. Then I got confused and felt lazy, so I stopped shopping hastily. I think it was a smart move. One Lira is 3,18 Krone: At least I have the brains to use.
Norwegians might be rich; but money doesn’t solve everything. It’s arctic here, making their butt cheeks freeze together! The coat industry is at its peak. Buy some undergarments here. There are lots of options. It was below 0 centigrade in mid November, snow was everywhere. Immense grey shades spread through the city that lacks a sunbeam, and it’s overcast. Thank God that Oslo is very good at hot chocolate. They also have a weird ice cream brand. I thought it is absurd to proudly offer ice cream in such a cold. As you see, the brand is not quite good at marketing it. How can an ad like this even exist?
Let me tell you about alcoholic beverages: a wound in the hearts of many Norwegians. The prices are sky-high. It’s even difficult to afford the vodka made in neighboring Sweden. 419 Krone equals 140 Turkish Lira. Imagine that! Come on! We’re just buying a simple bottle of vodka, not undersigning mortgage. Absolute rip-off!
Norway is a rich country, citizens can easily afford it. But that’s not issue. Markets don’t sell alcoholic beverages. It is only available in Vinmonopolet stores, a chain that has branches in every district, with quite stiff opening-closing hours.
Of course, I have not mapped down their genes; but contrary to the common assumption, Norwegians are not tall like the Netherlanders. I generally came across short individuals. (I had heard about the beauty of Norwegian women. This was a disappointment, as well)
The city is filled with funnily small cars. I didn’t see a point. The city doesn’t seem to suffer the lack of parking lots or traffic jams. Maybe it’s thanks to such cars.
As people enjoying welfare, Norwegians unfortunately don’t mind carbon footprints: I saw biking people more in Helsinki even under colder and rainy weather conditions. As in every European city, Oslo provides bike stations, which are free of charge until a certain limit. However, there’s not a handful of biking lanes or bikers.
Buses and trams are the most common way of transportation. The tram is called Trikk Tram. It’s like a toy, funny. I didn’t use the metro at all. I have no ideas about ticket fees, either. Because I didn’t get any: No one controlled me
It’s very similar to German. Norwegian is a Germanic language. It sounds like Swedish and Danish. Verbs, words etc. share the same origin with German, so I more or less understood what was written around. But intonation is quite accentuated and melodic. I likened it more to Japanese. Or those, who I heard, were talking about the Hattori Hanzo sword. Japanese swords might be a popular subject in the country. Who knows?
Shopping spots are sprinkled throughout the city centre, on the shopping street called Karl Johans Gate, which is situated between Nationaltheatret and Sentralstatsjon.
Life is not only hectic on Karl Johans Gate: there are lots of stores and cafes on the back streets and parallel paths that open up the avenue. Shopping in Oslo is not a smart idea. If you’re only a tourist, H&M, Mango or Zara should not even cross your mind. Otherwise, you’d just end up paying more for the staples you could buy for less in any other European branches.
But you could get stuff that will without a doubt keep you warm in Scandinavian stores, because you cannot find sports shoes or coats with fur lining in Turkey.
All the shopping malls and streets are amassed with Bik Bok, Gina Tricot, Cubus and Bianco. You should definitely see what they offer. I gave a heed to Seda Bora’s advice on twitter, and did myself a favor by purchasing a pair of flex jeans called “never denim” in bik bok. You should too. Flex jeans are like tights; very comfortable and make you look quite in shape. They’re made in Turkey. But I have no idea where you could find them in Turkey. They’re so comfortable that I regret not having bought all the colors. Thank you Seda.
Of the Scandinavian stores, my favorite is Monki. It has only one branch in Oslo, at: Karl Johans Gate 15. For me, it’s the most beautiful store in the world. You should definitely visit. Both the decoration and the products are amazing. Prices are higher than the average; but I love wearing their products. It’s really worth it. You could also bump into quite moderately-priced stuff at discount. Genuine leather bags for 60 Krone and raincoats for 100 Krone.
If you don’t want to freeze to death, while hopping from store to store, you could go to Oslo City Shopping Mall in Sentralstasjon. Not need to mention it: It’s an ordinary shopping mall that offers everything from eating & drinking to shopping. It’s not particularly great or elegant. It’s just warm and there are lots of stores. It’s crowded and open till 10 pm.
Grünerløkka appeals to everyone: those interested in walking or a nice breakfast, daytime shoppers, café explorers, dinner enthusiasts and bar & concert fans. It’s a zestful neighborhood. If I lived in Oslo, I would probably hang around here all the time, even rent a place here. Not surprisingly, the district is a culture & arts magnet for the youth.
For a full day in Grünerløkka, I’d recommend you for breakfast cutely-decorated Cocoa with delicious hot chocolate (Toftes Gate 48).
Meaning good bread, Godt Brød (Thorvald Meyers gate 49) is another option that will cheer you up with sandwiches and pastries while having breakfast or an afternoon tea. Have a warm tea at Tea Lounge (Thorvald Meyers gate), and buy fragrant tea products in opposite Les Palais des Thes (Olaf Ryes plass 3). Other than these, Kafebrenneriet, Wayne’s Coffee and Deli de Luca have branches in Grünerløkka.
When you opt for shopping, go to the small branch of Bik Bok and explore a few nice local boutiques. I loved Trøye & (Thorvald Meyers gate 54) that offers nice t-shirts with Norwegian inscriptions. Tgr (Sofienberggata) almost sells everything for less.
One should not evade Granit (Thorvald Meyers gate 55). I’d definitely decorate my house from Granit if I lived here. You must know Muji, which offers stationery, furniture, clothing, and kitchenware from famously minimalist Japan. Granit has a similar style. House decoration, candles, lamps, office products, notebooks and pencils please the eye. All of them are beautiful. The interior design is quite elegant as well. It even features a café on the side.
I was in Grünerløkka till the evening. Many elegant restaurants await you for dinner here. With its moderate prices and delicious burritos, Mucho Mas (Thorvald Meyes gate 36) is among the mostly recommended addresses. Fru Hagen (Thorvald Meyers gate 40) and Ryes (Thorvald Meyers gate 59) are alternatives for a few drinks and watching around. Both are visited by locals who fancy some conversation accompanied by beers. Housed in an old cinema building, Parkteatret (Olaf Ryes plass 11), with a concert hall for 500 people, hosts interesting pop, rock, and indie concerts. Have a look at their schedule: http://www.parkteatret.no
Nearby Nationalthetret, on the entrance of Paleet AVM, United Bakeries (Karl Johans gt.37-43) will be an indelible breakfast experience, with its façade looking up to the street. Here is basically a bakery that sells ready-made sandwiches, freshly-squeezed orange juices and coffees. The decoration is exquisite. Try not to lose your mind over the freshly-prepared sandwiches and juices.
My favorite here is brie and bacon sandwich. A must-have experience in Oslo will be chocolate covered rolls called sjokoladeboller. It exceedingly goes well with coffee. Dried raisin version is delicious. It’s simply named “rosinboller”.
Apart from the one inside the airport, central Oslo does not have a Starbucks branch. Norwegian coffee chains easily replace Starbucks. They’re a lot better. My favorite is Kafebrenneriet. Coffees and hot chocolates are killers. Don’t also miss the gratifying carrot cakes here, dipped in white crème with blueberries sprinkled on top.
Another renowned chain, Wayne’s Coffee, would not be a competitor of Brenneriet’s decoration and coffees in my opinion. It’s more ordinary, similar to Starbucks or Nero. But it offers Internet access, which Brenneriet does not.
Norwegian salmon is known to be very good, so I wanted to try some. But it wasn’t served at Solsiden —everyone recommended me to have some fish there—, or at miscellaneous fish restaurants in Aker Byrgge (whale was more common). Oslo, with costly eating & drinking destinations, offers sushi for a lot more suitable prices, compared to the rest of the world. Thus, I decided to go to a sushi place. I’d recommend Tammy Sushi in Aker Byrgge, where I had mouthwatering sushi for a reasonable price.
One afternoon, I popped in Fiskeriett (Youngstorget 2), where the fish displayed and the crew preparing it hypnotized me. It’s an elegant place, which functions as a market for fishery shopping, and as a bar to have appetizers.
The menu offers 3-4 types of fish, fish & chips and fish soup (fiskesuppe). Prices were not quite charming. But, the place looked special. So, I ordered a bowl of fish soup. Even the butter-dipped garlic bread was unbelievable. And I guess, 159 Krone, the price for the soup, is considered expensive even by Norwegians. Everyone picked fish & chips with reasonable prices. It looked quite delicious as well. Next time, I’ll definitely try it out.
My Danish friend Steffen (don’t forget to check out his cool blog: http://digitalglobalization.com) took me to my favorite place in Oslo: the Japanese bar Izakaya (St. Olavs plass 7) which blends dozens of Japanese appetizers with an original atmosphere for reasonable prices. Two clocks behind the bar, time-zoned for Tokyo and Oslo, Japanese cartoons on the walls and illumination are superb. After having a light dinner, you can relish some Edamame or Yakitori accompanied by your ginger cocktail or beer.
Another hit place (again Steffen took me to) is Fuglen (Universitetsgata 2 (Pilestredet), although it’s not a competitor to İzakaya. Fuglen, meaning bird in Norwegian, is a daytime retro furniture store and café, and nighttime bar with superb cocktails. And it was selected the best bar in 2010. You should have a look.
Yes, Jaeger, which disappointed me at my first night, turns into an eclectic place at the weekends. Located in my favorite district Grünerløkka, Fru Hagen and Ryes are the bars you should definitely stop by. Nivou (Møllergata 12) is an option for dance that has a varied Friday line-up starting from Norwegian DJ and producer Lindstrøm, followed by Norwegian electro-duo Røyksopp. The fee was 150 Krone for Royksopp. Let me warn you that Norwegians reminded me of Şanzelize Café in Istanbul. While dancing with the majority of man around you, you’d be grateful to Sensation. However, local DJ’s are Norwegian: Røyksopp and Lindstrøm. Can you believe that we danced in front of Torbjørn and Svein? And I’m still complaining, being unfair! God will curse me.
Don’t even consider taking a taxi after the club. It’s more practical to fly back to Turkey on the first plane. Bars close at 3 o’clock in the morning. Night buses take almost everywhere at 3:15 or 3:30. You can spend the time in-between eating something at 7/11s, which you’ll find open 24/7 almost on every corner. Prices are not bad, either.
A walking distance to the city centre, this marine-type seafront district is still under construction. I guess Aker Brygge will be more charming in summer, with its small shopping mall, a multitude of fish restaurants, cafes, bars, and beautiful modern art museums. Colossal and techno-buildings under construction are mostly office and housing projects. You need to come here as well, to have fjord tour on boat.
Astrup Fearnley Museet in Aker Brygge, Tjuvholmen, is the best modern art museum that I have recently visited in Europe. Designed by Renza Piano, whose name is well-known thanks to his sustainable buildings and green architecture, the museum consists of timber and glass buildings under one roof, in a way suitable for Norwegian climate and energy needs.
For 100 Krone, you can experience the exhibitions in the two buildings; and connect to the Internet free of charge, with the wireless passport provided on the ticket. Yes, you need the Internet. Swapping the QR codes of the pieces in your smart phone, you need to access necessary audio files on the Internet (either in English or in Norwegian). In some audios, the work is described by its artist. That’s a fantastic application.
The most acclaimed pieces by modern artists, including Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Andreas Gursky, Charles Ray, Tom Sachs and Richard Prince, are displayed here. I’d recommend you to spare at least half a day for the museum, not skipping the café for a break between the two buildings. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any days left to spend at Munch Müzesi, which I heard was quite successful, with its exhibition of Norwegian painters and the Scream, the most expensive painting of the world. (check out https://www.artsy.net/artist/edvard-munch for more info on Munch)
Operahauset (Kirsten Flagstads Plass 1), the opera house of Oslo Municipality, was designed by Norwegian architect Tarald Lundevall. It was the winner of the Culture category in the 2008 World Architecture Festival. Since 2007, it’s an icon of the city. I don’t know how it could be in summer; but the Opera House of Oslo, a city framed by a whitish grey sky and ocean in winter, is hard to notice with its façade of white marbles and partly glass architecture.
The interior is different, though. The illumination and the interior surfaces, covered in oak, bring warmth to spaces in contrast to the coolness of the white exterior. With the quite tall windows, the foyer, ornamented with the pieces of many artists, looks like an extension to the marble “garden” that opens up the sea, rather than an indoor area. This marble “garden” surrounds the Opera House, from which it’s separated by a glass door, turning into a roof serving as a terrace. To have a look at this interesting architecture and panoramic view of the city, you should definitely visit the Opera House. You can even attend an event, checking out the website of Norway Opera and Ballet House.
Like in many coastal European cities, Oslo was surrounded by an ancient wall in medieval times. During a coastal stroll from the Opera House to Aker Byrgge, the Akeshus Castle will emerge on your way. Just spare half an hour, and visit the castle fee of charge to be fascinated by a near bird’s eye view of the city.