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Getaway: Oslo city guide

Those in the know are heading to this eco-minded Scandi destination, named 2019’s European Green Capital

Street in Oslo Norway
Heiki Høyer-Andreassen / EyeEm

Sitting atop the fresh blue waters of Oslofjord surrounded by the peaks of pine forests, Oslo is a city in sync with its natural wonders. One of the fastest growing cities in Europe, sustainability has been a guiding principle of its expansion – with energy efficient neighbourhoods, car-free streets and restaurants dedicated to sustainable offerings in abundance.

With its Green Capital title – awarded by the European Commission – comes a timely programme of thought-provoking events, from bumblebee tours at the Botanical Garden to eco exhibitions that consider the city’s future. Spend a wellness-boosting weekend among waterfront galleries, design stores to rival its cousin Denmark’s and a recently buoyed architectural scene. Choose your travelling time carefully – midsummer sees up to 16 hours of daylight, with just six in winter.

Norway’s largest hotel, Clarion Hotel The Hub, boasts an urban rooftop garden, where it grows greens for its local produce-championing restaurant Norda (from £190 a night; nordicchoicehotels.com). For a stay inspired by the glamour of ocean travel, there’s Hotel Amerikalinjen, located in the former Art Deco home of the Norwegian-America cruise line. The building was designed in 1919 by architects Andreas Bjercke and Georg Eliassen, and the new hotel nods to its heritage, with Norwegian Hadeland Glassworks, which designed glassware for cruise ships in the 1950s, supplying the bar (from £170 per night; amerikalinjen.com). For a more traditional stopover, The Grand Oslo, whose Nobel suite plays host to the winner of the eponymous prize each year, is the last word in luxury, with a powder pink lobby and Murano glass chandelier (from £163 per night; grand.no).

Amerikalinjen hotel room Oslo
Amerikalinjen Hotel / Francisco Nogueira

Fuglen (known locally as ‘The Bird’, thanks to its logo) has been expertly making coffee using beans from local roasteries since 1963. Its wooden interior sports a bevy of mid-century Norwegian accessories and furniture, which are also for sale (fuglen.no). For baked goods, it has to be Handwerk. The bakery uses only organic, natural ingredients (even its own yeast) to create delicious breads including Puffen, Kamelåså, Durum and sweet sourdough (handwerk.no). If you’re stopping for lunch, the plant-based bowls at Nordic Foodprint offer a near-zero carbon footprint, thanks to organic ingredients sourced from small local farms (nordicfoodprint.com).

Fuglen coffee shop Oslo
Fuglen Oslo

From vegetables gathered at Losæter’s urban allotments to seafood caught fresh from Norway’s venerable waters, it’s easy to eat like the locals. In fact, if you dine at slick eatery Maaemo – ancient Norse for ‘Mother Earth’– you’ll find Losæter’s rose petals on the artful plates of the city’s only three Michelin-starred restaurants. On the set menu, delicacies such as scallops with fermented celeriac or well-smoked reindeer broth are given a contemporary edge (maaemo.no). For fine dining with a twist, Rest uses food waste to concoct imaginative dishes such as cod with crisped bread, Jerusalem artichokes and fried leek roots (restaurantrest.com). And, for an evening tipple, sit among exposed copper piping at vintage-inspired bar Himkok, the recent winner of the World’s Best Sustainable Bar award, thanks to its links with local farms and the on-site distillery (himkok.no).

With the city’s Green Capital title comes a programme of eco exhibitions. Visit ‘Be Prepared’, a thought-provoking exhibition on weather and climate change housed at the museum beneath the world’s oldest ski jump, Holmenkollbakken (skiforeningen.no/holmenkollen). Get your bearings atop another of the city’s heights – the sloped roof of the Snøhetta-designed Opera House, which offers panoramic views of the Oslo fjord (operaen.no). From there, head to Astrup Fearnley Museet. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it exhibits works by the likes of Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon (afmuseet.no). For your green fix, explore Frogner Park and its 212 Gustav Vigeland sculptures, highlighted this year by an exhibition celebrating 150 years since the artist’s birth. You can find more of his work indoors at the Vigeland Museum (vigeland.museum.no).

Inside Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House

Oslo is a fantastic place to track down sustainable secondhand buys. Scandinavian design is championed at lighting and mid-century furniture specialists Futura Classics, but you’ll also find pieces from further afield (futuraclassics.no). Continue your hunt at Utopia Retro Modern, whose quirky showroom is full of hand-picked homeware, art and collector-baiting rarities (utopiaretromodern.com). Flying the flag for contemporary Nordic design is cool curated store Kollekted By. Its concrete-clad home in the lively Grünerløkka district is as minimalist as the furniture, ceramics and skincare on offer (kollektedby.no).

Kollekted By furniture shop Oslo
Kollekted By / Inger Marie Grini

Before making a break for the surrounding countryside, discover the Vøyenfallene waterfall that sits, surprisingly, right at the city’s centre. Head just beyond Oslo’s boundaries and you’ll find the forest-fringed Sognsvann lake. It’s frozen over in winter but busy with hikers and picnickers during summer. An hour’s drive north west is Kistefos Museum, an eccentric fusion of sculpture park, art gallery and industrial mill. Its latest attraction is Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’ hotly anticipated indoor gallery space/bridge, which twists impressively across the river (kistefos.museum.no).

This article first appeared in the September 2019 issue of ELLE Decoration

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