Norway’s capital city, Oslo, is both a chic, modern marvel and a place with more than a thousand years of history. Located on the country’s southern coast at the head of the Oslofjord, the city is a breeze to get around on foot or via the excellent public transportation system. New architectural wonders sprout up seamlessly next to historic castles. Sculptures along the waterfront entice you to linger outdoors while museums like the Nobel Peace Center beckon you inside.
Adhere to this agenda and you’ll see as much as possible over two days in the Nordic playground.
Check into the city’s hottest hotel, The Thief, which sits in the cool Tjuvholmen (which translates to “thief’s island” or “thieves’ home”) neighborhood. The former red-light district has transformed in recent years, so besides the edgy hotel, which is packed with world-class art, you’ll find yourself near the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park and plenty of hip shops, restaurants and bars.
The hotel’s extensive art collection, some of which is owned outright and some borrowed from the museum next door, includes pieces by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Norway artists such as Charlotte Thiis-Evensen. Make sure to tear your gaze away from the walls once in a while, as you may see someone like Rihanna checking in here.
After inspecting the colorful pieces in your room, stroll along Stranden, a wide boardwalk along the scenic waterfront. As the weather warms, stop by one of the patios for a drink before taking in more art at Astrup Fearnley, a spectacularly futuristic-looking attraction (free for Thief guests) that dazzles even more from the inside. Matthew Barney’s innovative sculptures (showing through May 15) and the multi-layered “The World is Made of Stories” (July 31) temporarily join a museum that prides itself on highlighting international artisans while also spotlighting as many local talents as possible.
Once you’ve finished perusing the halls, return to the hotel for dinner at Fru K, the restaurant that offers a seasonal five- or seven-course menu. Chef Johan Laursen delights in playing with Norwegian and Scandinavian traditions, spinning them on their heads to create an entirely new dining experience. He’s matched by sommelier Claire Mariottini, who has worked with a series of top-notch restaurants (Sydney’s Est). Finish with a nightcap in the fashionable Thief Lounge.
A gorgeous buffet breakfast is included with your stay, so after fortifying yourself with freshly made fruit smoothies, Norwegian salmon and local cheeses and breads, you’ll want to go out to explore. We recommend picking up an Oslo Pass, which gives you admission to more than 30 museums and attractions, not to mention free travel on public transportation and special offers to restaurants and shops. You can purchase a 24-, 48- or 72-hour card, whichever makes the most sense for the duration of your trip.
Detour quickly to the Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park to check out the pieces by the water. If it’s a fine day, head up The Sneak Peak, a 295-foot glass tower, for some unforgettable views. Afterward, make sure to visit the Nobel Peace Center, where you can take a guided tour or just browse on your own through the exhibits. Don’t miss the Nobel Field, a garden of 1,000 fiber-optic lights, where all of the Peace Prize laureates are presented on digital screens.
Switch gears and hop on a tram to the Grünerløkka neighborhood. This section has a bohemian vibe and is a much-less-touristy section of town. Browse through Mathallen Oslo, an indoor market packed with local specialty shops and restaurants, until something catches your eye.
Once you finish perusing and snacking there, check out the Popsenteret museum, an entertaining shrine to Norwegian pop music of the past 100 years. (See, it looks like you aren’t the only one still obsessing over A-ha after all!) Enjoy interactive exhibits (a recording studio where you can record and mix tracks) and take part in a photo shoot where you dress up and pose for your own album cover, which will be emailed to you.
If you’d rather rewind to Norway’s much more distant history, take a ferry from downtown to The Viking Ship Museum, where you can see the most preserved vessels in the world, some dating back as far as A.D. 820. Your journey here will also lead you to a fantastic collection of burial artifacts found with the ships.
For dinner, try Tjuvholmen Sjømagasin, an establishment resting just steps from your hotel room. The upscale restaurant on the water’s edge offers fresh seafood in a beautiful space. Start with the salted trout with beetroot and an oyster emulsion, then move on to lobster done a multitude of ways or try the grilled Norwegian king crab you selected from a tank. An exquisite wine list and pinpoint service make for an ideal close to the Oslo weekend.