by Emily Millett
Oslo is officially one of the most expensive cities in the world. And although it is intriguingly enticing in all of its icily organized and spotless Nordic beauty, when a cup of coffee can set you back around $20, you'll want to make sure you're getting the full bang for your buck. Just 10 minutes from downtown Oslo, the up-and-coming district of Grünerløkka offers an interesting alternative to the wallet hungry city center. Once a working class industrial area, Grünerløkka has been taken over by artists, musicians and designers who—with their boutiques, cafes and eclectic bars—have managed to weave their creatively colourful thread into the previously gray industrial tapestry of the area.
When trying to find a venue becomes an adventure in its own right, the off-the-beaten-track nature and suggestive exclusivity can make getting there all the more rewarding. Turn right off Møllerveien at the graffiti-covered building, then turn left down the narrow alley with the chandelier hanging in between the wrought iron railings. At the small curved bridge—partially hidden by the leafy green overhang of willow trees growing by the canal banks—you will find Blå, quite possibly the coolest bar and music venue in the capital. All local music worth listening to in Oslo starts here, and the venue also plays host to a vintage flea market on Sundays.
With an epicurean renown that tends more towards the weird than the wonderful, Oslo's local restaurant scene is not its strongest selling point. However the team at Food Story on Thorvald Meyers gate are working hard to make regional cuisine more popular with a new focus on fresh, organic local produce. The little eatery is popular and getting a table can be tricky without a reservation, but the menu merits the wait with uniquely creative dishes blending seasonal flavors from across Norway. And for the gastronomically adventurous, the restaurant has an organic boutique where some of the menu's ingredients can be bought for recreation at home.
Exemplifying the Scandinavian penchant for collaboration, Skaperverket is a charming little boutique run by a collective of artists and designers who share the space to sell their products. Skaperverket means "creation" in Norwegian, and the name certainly suits the store's ethos as an outpost for creative folk to gather, pool their talents and offer the discerning shopper one-off items of clothing, jewelry, ceramics and art. The shop is located on Markveien 60 and can usually be spotted from a distance thanks to the brightly colored string of flags above the entrance and an amalgamation of eclectic items on display outside. For more traditional Norwegian arts and crafts produced in unique and contemporary styles, visit Conzept an equally engaging design shop with a print and sculpture gallery in the area.
Imagine Norway in the time of the vikings: A dim, candle-lit vaulted hall where mead was swigged from goblets, resting on long rustic wooden tables, all the while a massive fire roars away in the corner. Now replace the bearded barbarians with bearded Norwegian trend-setters, and the fermented honey water with in-house brewed beers and you've got the atmospheric setting of the Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri brew-pub. Located underground in the cellar of the old Schous Brewery on Trondheimsveien, this microbrewery serves up half a dozen deliciously thirst-quenching lagers, ales, bitters and stouts with creative names like the Female of the Species, the Hoppy Shadow or the notoriously popular Oslo Special Bitter.
Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (DogA)
Housed in the red brick and glass buildings of a converted transformer station in Hausmanns gate on the outskirts of Grünerløkka, DogA is worth visiting for its aesthetic appeal as a unique architectural space in its own right. The immensely high-ceilinged hall and open, well-lit atrium play host to innovative design and architecture related events, exhibitions and initiatives all of which aim to hold up the institution's aim to highlight the importance of design and architecture in today's urban environment. The center also houses a comprehensive design shop and a cafe worthy of a long lunch.
Photos by Emily Millett