Oslo’s hidden attractions from eco-friendly saunas to Instagrammable eateries

What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in Oslo? Take a sauna, perhaps? It was top of our Scandi travel to-do list, so we headed straight to KOK Oslo (don’t worry, it means cook!). The floating sauna on Oslo Fjord allows up to 10 guests and we were greeted by the sauna master who gleefully cranked up the heat. Kitted out in prescription goggles (a sauna is no place for contact lenses),

The experience of jumping into the cold waters after quite literally kok-ing was both invigorating and surprisingly joyful.

If you would really rather not take the plunge, you can enjoy the water in a more sedate fashion on board an electric catamaran cruise with Legacy Of The Fjords. Not only is it an elegant way of seeing the city’s waterfront and exploring the islands and inlets further along the fjord, it’s eco-friendly, too.

Out and about

Oslo is awash with museums and also features the impressive award-winning Deichman Library. Take in the art at Munchmuseet, which is devoted to the work of Edvard Munch but also offers fantastic views of the city and beyond from the top floor. On the day we visited, Tracey Emin’s spectacular nine-metre high bronze sculpture The Mother was being installed on the pier outside the museum. Check out the newly opened National Museum, home to the original version of Munch’s painting The Scream.

Filling more than 80 rooms, the collection is vast and full of variety. Nearby is the Nobel Peace Center, which features exhibitions inspired by the work of the prize winners along with information about the history of the annual prize.

If you can, make time for a day trip to Kistefos museum and sculpture park. There are almost 50 outdoor sculptures there including the delightfully dotty Shine Of Life by Yayoi Kusama and The Twist, a huge structure spanning 60 metres across the Randselva river and featuring a light-filled exhibition space inside. Fans of the impossibly handsome Norwegian musical trio A-ha will be thrilled to find a sculpture by the band’s keyboard player Magne Furuholmen. Sadly Mags himself was nowhere to be found on the day we visited.


Eat and drink

As an expensive city, Oslo doesn’t count as a budget break but if you’re looking for a luxury destination that’s quirky and cool, it certainly fits the bill.

There are all manner of top restaurants scattered around the city – Xef Oslo is a Spanish restaurant featured in the 2022 Michelin Nordic Guide and produces dishes so exquisitely delicate that they look like an Instagram in uencer’s idea of culinary heaven. Meanwhile, dinner at Festningen restaurant in the Akershus Fortress is slightly more rustic but equally elegant – in a uniquely Norwegian way it manages to be sophisticated without an ounce of pretentiousness.

Or if breathtaking views are more your style, the Bistro Tolvte on the 12th oor of the Munchmuseet is an absolute delight.

The dazzling views of the waterfront are matched by the delicious dishes served in a stylish yet informal setting.

Where to stay

The Thief in Tjuvholmen is a funky boutique hotel which, despite looking very slick and glossy, has a very warm and welcoming vibe.

Boasting its own spa and a chic roof bar, it also gets the basics right including its splendid breakfast. There’s so much variety but for the Homer Simpsons among us, who wouldn’t be impressed with four different types of sausages, roast potatoes and chocolate chip muffins for breakfast? Prices start at £280 per night based on two people sharing a double room.

Tjuvholmen is a newly developed area of Oslo on a peninsula close to many of the museums – think London’s Canary Wharf but much prettier. But if art deco is more your vibe, the Sommerro hotel has just opened and is a decadent, 1930s-inspired venue, located in the former headquarters of Oslo Lysverker, the city’s electrical company. Prices start at £215 per night based on two people sharing a double room.

SAS Airlines flies from London and Manchester direct to Oslo. See ysas.com. For details about all the museums, restaurants and hotels mentioned and the Oslo Pass official city card, see visitoslo.com.

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