Why Oslo — Home To Some Of The World’s Best Bars & Restaurants — Needs To Be On Your “Must” List

Oslo
Port of Oslo city in Norway at night

Photo Credit: Nattee Chalermtiragool/Shutterstock.com

When the majority of Americans think “Oslo” there are a few things that come to mind: Vikings, perhaps? The Nobel Peace Center, perhaps the Northern Lights (even though, in truth, you can’t see them from Norway’s capital city). But what you might not realize is that this beautiful Scandinavian locale is home to some of the best bars and restaurants in the world, as well as some seriously Insta-worthy photo opportunities. Here is what you need to know for the ultimate getaway to Oslo.

WHERE TO STAY

Amerikalinjen
Amerikalinjen

Photo Credit: Francisco Nogueira

Amerikalinjen is not only one of the most convenient places to stay for travelers, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s literally located across the street from Oslo Central Station in Jernbanetorget Square, a stone’s throw away from most of the city’s most recognizable attractions in the up-and-coming Bjørvika neighborhood: the Oslo Opera House, the Royal Palace, the Munch Museum, the Viking Museum, and the various saunas that dot the waterfront. Most importantly, Amerikalinjen, the former headquarters for the Norwegian America Line, is a hotel that fully bridges the gap between Norway and America, showcasing how important the ties that bind both countries together are.

Amerikalinjen
Amerikalinjen library

Photo Credit: Francisco Nogueira

The intimate, 122-room property is layered with equal doses of subtle nostalgic references and forward-thinking design, and is defined not only by its slick rooms, but a standout offering of buzzy restaurants and bars. It’s a beautiful space, defined by high ceilings and commanding paned windows, which either look out onto Jernbanetorget Square, the fjords, or an internal courtyard. Its suites — the Norwegian America Line’s former boardrooms — boast original ornate ceilings; vintage collections of framed maps, photographs, and old dining menus from the ships – uncovered during the building process; original mid-century classic furnishings, like Veng, an armchair designed by Torbjørn Bekken in 1960, Briger Dahl’s Birdie table lamp (1952), and pendant lamps by age-old Norwegian glassblowing company, Hadeland, who also provided the ship’s original glassware; and smoked-glass mirrored walls behind each bed. Everything is bound together by a strong local tie that includes a uniform collection called In Motion by Oslo-based fashion brand, Holzweiler; lighting fixtures and special-occasion champagne glasses – reproductions of the ships’ originals – by glassblowing company, Hadeland; revived Norwegian mid-century furniture and lighting classics from companies Eikund and Northern; and bathroom amenities from local cosmetics brand Sprekenhus. An impressive art collection, curated by Sune Nordgren, takes its cues from America, with works by American figurative painter Alex Katz, former street artist Shepard Fairey, and “Towers”, an 11-foot tall sculpture by British artist Julian Opie which refers to the modernity of America.

Amerikalinjen
Atlas

Photo Credit: Francisco Nogueira

The public spaces are great, too. Atlas, with its own curb-side entrance, is an all-day brasserie that serves an eclectic blend of European dishes that have influenced New York’s culinary scene, such as Oysters Rockefeller or steak tartare, and one heck of a breakfast buffet with international and local items alike (think: Norwegian waffles topped with a savory twist like fresh avocado, herbs, pickled onions and eggs). There is an open-air courtyard that, thanks to the addition of a glass ceiling, has been transformed into Haven, a light, plant-filled indoor space, is the aptly named Haven, and Gustav, an intimate basement club inspired by New York’s jazz scene and the city’s famous speakeasy bars named after the Norwegian America Line’s founding father, Gustav Severin Henriksen.

Amerikalinjen
Haven

Photo Credit: Francisco Nogueira

But the hotel’s secret weapon is Pier 42, which, with its low-slung velvet furnishings, parquet flooring, concealed lighting, larger-than-life poster of Barack Obama, and inventive cocktail menu, just won the two most prestigious awards at this year’s Bartenders Choice Awards: Best Cocktail Bar Norway and for Adrian Michalcik as Best Bartender Norway as well as Best bar of the year, best bar team of the year, and best cocktail program of the year 2022 by the Norse Bar Awards. Michalcik’s cocktails are inventive as hell, and given that the theme of the bar is a Norway-meets-America connection, he nails it. The beautiful menu showcases parallels between New York and Oslo in the OG spirit of the Norwegian America Line with drinks in honor of iconic landmarks like the Oslo Opera House and the Statue of Liberty (a gorgeous libation made of Absolut Elyx, green apple, elderflower, gentian, pear, and fresh lemon served in a Lady Liberty head glass); nature — Manhattan-henge and the Northern Lights, the latter of which is served on a brightly blinking nest meant to resemble said lights; museums; sports; neighborhoods; and fashion designers (Norwegian designer Holzweiler and American-born Calvin Klein, who gets his props via Naked Grouse, strawberry, butterscotch, fresh lemon, butter ghee, clarified milk, and Perrier Jouet brut).

Adrian Michalcik
Oslo’s best bartender, Adrian Michalcik of Pier 42

Photo Credit: Laura Schreffler

Jernbanetorget 2, 0154 Oslo

WHERE TO WINE AND DINE

Himkok

Himkok
Himkok

Photo Credit: Laura Schreffler

Cocktail enthusiasts worldwide are more than familiar with Himkok (another name for “moonshine”) which has previously held a spot on the prestigious Worlds 50 Best Bars list. Since opening in 2015, the multi-level space (which is indeed quite difficult to get into unless you’re in the know), the bar, which is co-owned and run by general manager Yunus Yildiz, bases its large-format cocktails around Norwegian flavors, like cloudberries, seaweed, birch and even a caramelized milk cheese known as ‘brunost’. Himkok is, at its heart, a speakeasy, and one that produces high-volume cocktails, cider, tapas, and its own in-house distillery that creates aquavit, gin, and vodka. While you won’t notice any big ticket brands, that doesn’t mean Himkok doesn’t have them — it just means they aren’t a priority. All alcohol — much of which is top shelf — is poured into the venue’s own glass bottles, which are imprinted with gorgeous imprinted snakes that would make all Slytherins proud.

Storgata 27, 0184 Oslo

Himkok
Himkok

Photo Credit: Laura Schreffler

Maaemo

The hottest ticket in town is Maaemo, Oslo’s three Michelin star dining option. The wait list here is a two month minimum, with seating opening on the first of each month only.  Maaemo, which means “Mother Earth” offers exactly that, focusing on local Nordic cuisine and only organic, biodynamic, or wild produce in a dramatic, high-ceiling dining room. It’s unmissable, if you can get in.

Dronning Eufemias gate 23, 0194 Oslo

Svanen

Svanen
Svanen

Photo Credit: Laura Schreffler

Svanen, a darling, utterly creative bar in Karl Johans gate, opened its neoclassical doors in 1896, and today, is listed as a cultural heritage site. Much of its cocktail menu resembles an apothecary’s shopping list, and with good reason, given that it once was an apothecary; the former counter now serves as a bar, while its cabinets are lined with jars and its paneled ceiling highlights the Greek gods of medicine.  This World’s 50 Best Discovery, though a vintage gem in its locale, is purely modern. As conceived by owner Yunus Yildiz, this is one of the first bars in Norway to incorporate AI into its menu (you’ll have to check out the swan in question to know what I mean), with some fantastic cocktails including the Fitness Margarita — Don Julio Blanco tequila, roasted yellow pepper, celery cordial, and lime — and the gorgeous Watermelon Highball —Torres 10 brandy, jasmine tea cordial, riesling, and watermelon, milk-washed. Its private downstairs lounge, D.G.AE, will open later this year, as will Yildiz’s other new spot, cocktail and oyster bar Tjeld, a joint venture with Svanen bartender Aleksandrs Sadovskis.

Svanen
The fitness margarita at Svanen

Photo Credit: Laura Schreffler

Karl Johans gate 13, 0154 Oslo

Konrast

Kontrast is a modern Scandinavian restaurant that focus on using ingredients that are both local and at the peak of their season, with a focus on organic, ethically-sourced, seasonal, and local ingredients from within Norway. Its name stems from how its chefs combine different colors, tastes, and objects, creating harmony — or a “contrast” — between different elements.

Maridalsveien 15a, 0175 Oslo

Champagneria

If you like bubbles, Champagneria, with its selection of (duh) champagnes, as well as other sparkling wines, great tapas, outdoor seating, and upstairs terrace, is a great place to toast your trip. The menu is divided into sections with some rare and incredible champagnes on offer, including a 1956 Veuve Clicquot brut.

Frognerveien 2, 0257 Oslo

The Good Knight

The Good Knight
The Good Knight

Photo Credit: Hedde

Anyone into Queen’s Gambit needs to make a reservation at The Good Knight, Oslo’s first chess bar, where aficionados can geek out over tournaments on the big screen, drop-in courses, seminars, live analysis and tips from grandmasters — all with a drink in hand, of course.

Badstugata 9, 0183 Oslo

Hanami

Japanese fusion food with views of the Oslo harbor at sunset? Yes please! The menu at Hanami is a combination of Japanese robatayaki, Izakayaa, and sushi with sakes and sake-infused cocktails dotting the menu.
Kanalen 1, 0252 Oslo

Schlägergården

Head to this off-the-beaten path stunner, located in a remote farmhouse, for fresh, local produce — some of which has been grown or foraged by the owners themselves. That Schlägergården is Michelin starred will come as no surprise post-meal.

Lilleakerveien 30, 0283 Oslo

WHAT TO DO

Oslo
A floating sauna

Photo Credit: Didrick Stenersen

The beauty of Oslo is that you truly don’t have to do anything at all. It’s such a naturally beautiful city that you could wander for hours happily, popping into boutiques and sitting down at darling cafes (weather pending — this place gets cold, and dark very, very early come winter). In addition to the aforementioned museums, dipping your toe into the waterfront sauna culture (there’s a great public one right by the Opera House), having a wander into Frogner Park, which is rife with installations by 20th-century sculptor Gustav Vigeland, or hitting one, two, or all of our restaurant/bar picks. No regrets, right?