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Moresby Meanders Observations From an Ongoing Journey

"This is not Scandinavia" - 16 Things to do in Oslo and How I Came to Relate to a Sidewalk Poet

NORWAY | Friday, 16 May 2014 | Views [703]

Some eight years ago walking home through the inner city suburb of Macdonald Town, Sydney, I stopped to read a few words etched in the cement.


“This is not Scandinavia”.

The fact that someone had chosen preserve these precise words puzzled me. “No shit”, I thought to myself. This was a given. But then it bugged me. What was so special about Scandinavia that someone would be compelled to draw such attention to the fact that they, and indeed everyone reading this semipermanent memo to the Australian public, were not in Scandinavia?

Today, married to a wonderful Norwegian woman, and having spent two and a half of my best years living in Oslo, this little etching means a whole lot more to me. Now I look back and imagine this frustrated poet, hot Australian sun overhead, knelt before the wet cement, stick in hand, longing for alpine forests, snow capped mountains, midnight suns, and dramatic fjords of the north. Now I feel this person’s pain.

Having moved away from Oslo almost two years ago, a recent trip back has stirred up a whole lot of nostalgia for me, so I thought I would share a few of my favourite places and things to do in my favourite city in the world.

So, here are four things for each of the four seasons that I miss about Oslo.




Oslo Botaniske Hage:

The Botanic Garden in Oslo is a great place to visit at any time of year, but with the sun returning, the ice melting, and life springing back in to this beautiful city; this is a great place to start.


Tom Waits Løpet:

The Tom Waits Run is an annual pub-crawl that draws thousands of people each year. Participants congregate at the medieval ruins in Old Oslo early on the first Saturday of each May to make their way through each of the years designated pubs demanding beer and Tom Waits to be played on the stereo.  While this tradition developed alongside a real sporting event named after Norwegian marathon runner Grete Waitz, those who ran this literal piss-take alongside the real sporting event did so with such enthusiasm as to spawn a cult following and their own official event that has outlived the original marathon.


This is the final resting place for many of the greats in Norwegian history including Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. The peaceful atmosphere and historic headstones are enough to keep one occupied for hours.

 17th of May:

Norwegian National day is celebrated on the 17th of May. Clad in national dress, thousands of Norwegians take to the streets. Flags are waved, pølse og lompe (sausages in potato bread) are eaten, and the king speaks and waves for an incredibly long time from his balcony. It is a time to catch up with family and friends and appreciate being Norwegian. This is the day Oslo is at its best.




Oslo Fjord:

With almost continuous daylight at the peak of summer Oslo turns in to vibrant paradise and sleep becomes optional as the desire to fit as much as you can it to one day grows. One of the best places to enjoy summer is on the Oslo Fjord. Whether taking in the view from Akershus Festning, hopping on the ferry to visit the many Islands, or swimming off the beaches on Bygdøy peninsula, the fjord is definitely the place to be.

Getting out in Grünnerløkka:

With the sun in full swing the streets are full in the trendy suburb of Grünnerløkka. Outdoor seating in the many cafes and restaurants becomes prime real estate. Sofienberg Park is a hot spot throughout the summer for young people with picnickers and sunbathers leaving few patches of grass untouched. Get in early for the all day park hangout, there is music games and partying at all hours because the sun just doesn’t go down. The Birkelunden second hand market every Sunday is also a draw card.

The bars:

Summer is time to socialise. A lot of time is spent partying. If bars are your thing here are the best ones during the summer:

Dattera til Hagen

The large colourful beer garden in this well liked watering hole is a winner. Chilled out café style service is offered from breakfast through lunch, turning to a bar vibe for the evening with great tapas. Regular events including club nights and stand up comedy make this one of the most popular and versatile night spots in Oslo.

Oslo Mekaniske Verksted

Stylish interior design and a spacious backyard make this a favourite. No food on offer, but patrons are welcome to bring in a bite to eat. Top spot to enjoy an afternoon beer.


This entertainment space and artist cooperative is hard to beat. Sitting by the Aker River in the east of Oslo, the large music hall hosts the Frank Znort Quartet every Sunday night for a free concert. If there is anywhere you should be on a Sunday night it is here. The band consists of 18 regular musicians, playing a range of instruments including keys, guitars and brass, making for a big band sound that leaves the crowd begging for more week after week. Be prepared to dance and sing along with an always enthusiastic crowd.


This makeshift restaurant/bar pops up in May for the summer months and closes in September. Discretely positioned out on the far end of the wharf behind the opera house, Sukkerbiten is a sweet spot that offer cool drinks and good eats right on the fjord. Fresh air and outdoor beats make this a local favourite.


There is more live music during the Summer in Oslo than you can poke a stick at. Festivals include Øya Festival, Norwegian Wood, and Oslo Jazz Festival and more, plus stacks of other free shows in bars and public spaces.

Sitting on Ankerbrua:

Anker Bridge running over the Aker River links Grünneløkka and the central city. On the right day it is surreal in its perfection. Just sit on the bridge and appreciate where you are.




In the forest:

Autumn is a great time to get back to nature. Walking in the forest, picking mushrooms and grabbing the last of the summer berries is a great way to kick things off. With its many pockets of forest and leafy disposition there are few cities that put on an autumn display like Oslo.


Get back on the fjord; it is time to catch some Cod!



This torch walk celebrates the autumn equinox. Driven by community groups, the annual wander along the Aker River has a warm atmosphere on a usually chilly night. Hear music, watch performances and check out some local art. A great night out.

The long sunsets:

By the time it comes to Autumn you are glad to get some proper nights sleep in and the long sunsets coupled with the autumn colours are a great way to bring in the cooler months.



Vigelands Mausoleum:

As Oslo freezes over for the winter, escape from the cold into Emanuel Vigelands Mausoleum. Dim lighting and echoing acoustics lend a sense of drama to this hauntingly beautiful piece of art.

Winter sports:

Even in the capital city every winter sports you can imagine is available. Just grab your board or skis and get on your local train or bus to Oslo Vinterpark Tryvann. With 18 slopes and just half an hour from the city centre, a cheeky few runs each day of the winter is a real option. For those who like it a little more laid back, grab your skates and head to Karl Johan Gate, the main street of Oslo where the pond adjacent to the National Theatre is converted to a free public skating rink.  

Back to the Pub:

With temperatures dipping down to around minus twenty-five degrees, nobody wants to be outside, but if you must, just make sure you are running between these bars surrounding Yungstorget in the city centre.


This great rock bar offers warmth and respite from the cold outdoors, with regular bands, a fifties style diner, and a good crowd.

Fisk og Vilt

Got to dance? Duck across the road to Fisk og Vilt. Packed after eleven, get down to house DJ’s in the backyard of this small but rocking club. This place gets loose.


Want something a little more refined? Head around the corner to Internasjonalen. With a wide range of whiskies and bar tenders who know their booze, take a chilled drink in comfortable surrounds.


Found that energy again? Head across the square and up to Tilt. This bar is jammed with old school arcade games, pinball machines and shuffleboard tables. Hours of entertainment.


With a mixture of classic, cult, art house, and old favourites Cinemateket is a film buffs wet dream. Cheap tickets and a comfortable cinema make this the perfect escape from the winter blues.

Tags: norway, oslo, this is not scandinavia

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