Hipster Oslo: exploring Norway’s up-and-coming capital
When it comes to Europe’s coolest neighbourhoods, there are a few candidates that spring to mind: Hoxton and Shoreditch in London, Nørrebro in Copenhagen, Sødermalm in Stockholm, Kreuzberg in Berlin.
The change is palpable, and while there’s still a way to go, there’s no doubt that Oslo is a city whose hipster credentials are growing fast.
A guide to Grünerløkka
If vintage isn’t your thing, there are plenty of temples to the modern side of Scandi design: check out Ensemble for high-class womenswear and Dapper, a painfully hip menswear boutique that also incorporates a barber’s and bike shop. Another address that’s popular with Grünerløkka bike buffs is OsloVelo, a cafe where you can get your bike repairs done while you sit down for brunch and barista-brewed coffee.
Eating out in Norway is never cheap, but it’s still possible to find an affordable meal, even in groovy Grünerløkka. Every hipster neighbourhood worth its salt needs its own boutique burger joint, and in ‘Løkka it’s Nighthawk Diner. Named after the iconic Edward Hopper painting, it’s a studiously authentic take on a classic American burger bar, complete with booth seats, juke boxes and ‘50s décor. Munchies is another good bar-crawl burger haunt, with six classics to choose from, plus a burger of the month. Tapas is also a good way to eat on the cheap in Grünerløkka – Delicatessen offers a delicious selection of classic dishes, while Txotx specialises in Basque-style pintxos.
Further up the price ladder, Markveien Mat & Vinhus is a stalwart for Norwegian comfort food, with hearty dishes like lamb shank, clipfish and meatballs served with hand-picked wines by the glass. Le Benjamin offers French bistro dishes like cassoulet and fondue, while Villa Paradiso serves fine wood-fired Italian pizzas. SüdØst Asian Crossover serves a spicy blend of Asian-inspired dishes like crispy wonton, sushi rolls and ‘crazy duck’ pancakes. Pila is another address to watch: it’s a modern Norwegian diner that blends creative flavours with locally sourced ingredients, serving dishes such as sautéed reindeer stew and lamb with roasted root veg, all with a surprising twist.
Drinking & Nightlife
For live music, Blå is one of Oslo’s best venues, while the legendary Parkteatret occupies a special place in the hearts of music fans – it’s long been the place to play for emerging young bands and indie acts from across Norway and further afield. If you feel inspired to take to the stage, head down to Syng for their regular karaoke nights.
Other areas to watch
On the western edge of Grünerløkka, along the banks of the Akerselva River, this winding street was once a centre of heavy industry, but it’s been reinvented thanks to an ambitious urban regeneration project that’s turned the run-down buildings and old factories into eco-friendly apartments, offices, design studios and boutique hotels.
It’s also home to the city’s fantastic new food hall, Mathallen – a cavernous space filled with more than thirty food stalls, selling everything from Norwegian cheeses to Asian street snacks. Nearby is über-quirky Hendrix Ibsen, a coffee shop which also doubles as a record store and craft beer bar.
For dinner and drinks, there’s the cosy Smelteverket pub, housed in a former metalworks overlooking the river, or Bar Social Eating, a concept restaurant which specialises in meals to share.
Vulkan is also home to one of Oslo’s premier addresses for New Nordic cuisine, Restaurant Kontrast – a veritable temple to experimental flavours and outlandish presentation, complete with the requisite foams, ices, jellies and foraged ingredients. Its creative, boundary-bending cuisine has won it a shiny Michelin star – proof that Vulkan’s renaissance still has room to run.
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