For many people who visit Norway, Oslo is their introduction to this beautiful country. The era of budget transatlantic flights has put it on the stopover map for North Americans traveling to and from Europe (or vice versa), so it’s become easy to add a quick trip to your itinerary. Though I live in Norway now, even my first time in Norway five years ago was a quick weekend trip to Oslo. This city guide is written with such quick trips in mind—you have three days in the city, say, and you also happen to be a knitter (or a crocheter, a weaver, a spinner, a general textile practitioner . . . you get the idea!). Oslo may not be situated in the dramatic scenery of Norway’s western fjord country, but this city still has an incredible amount to offer.
Because Oslo is in Norway, your activities are likely to be seasonal and weather dependent. I’ve done my best to include both indoor things suitable for cold, rainy, or snowy days as well as outdoor activities that will help you soak up Oslo’s incredible storybook sunny days.
Norway has a proportionally high number of knitters, and consequently a proportionally high number of yarn stores—you’ll even find them in the shopping malls. It would be impossible to feature all of Oslo’s yarn stores here, but here are a few of my favorites:
Pickles is a unique little shop located in the Grünerløkka area. You won’t find the big Norwegian brands here, because Pickles’ own line of yarns graces the shelves. There’s lots of wool of course, in everything from fingering weight to super-duper chunky, but you’ll also find alpaca, mohair, angora, silk, and cotton. Grünerløkka Garn is just across the neighborhood from Pickles, with a wider selection. Here you’ll find yarns from Dale, one of Norway’s most recognizable yarny names (you may know them as “Dale of Norway,” pronounced something like “DAHL-uh,” not like the English word). They also carry Norway’s Du Store Alpakka, Denmark’s organic BC Garn, and one of my personal favorites, the plant-dyed yarns of Lofoten Wool, whose wool is sourced in Lofoten in northern Norway. Both Pickles and Grünerløkka Garn are situated in the Grünerløkka neighborhood, very easy to get to by public transit (tram lines 11, 12, and 13).
For a more typical Norwegian yarn store experience, I recommend Tjorven Garn, just across the street from the Majorstuen T-bane station (T-bane is Oslo’s metro/underground system). They carry several of the major Norwegian yarn producers, such as Rauma, Sandnes, and Du Store Alpakka, as well as other brands like Lang and Kauni (known for their “Effektgarn,” which features beautiful slow color changes). You’ll also find patterns from these yarn companies here.
Husfliden is the retail branch of Norges Husflidslag (the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association), and Oslo’s store is their largest. Located on the lower level of the historic Glasmagasinet department store in the city center, you’ll find shelves upon shelves of yarn as well as pattern books and booklets (both modern and vintage) and buttons. You’ll also find a wide selection of handmade products from Norway and other Scandinavian countries, and you’ll have a chance to examine some bunads—the Norwegian regional folk costumes worn for special occasions—up close, as Husfliden is where Norwegians go when it’s time to get fitted and place an order.
Featuring both an indoor part as well as an open-air museum, it’d be easy to spend more than a day here. The indoor part of the museum features both permanent and temporary exhibitions on things like folk costumes, folk art, and knitting history (to name just a few), while the outdoor open-air section of the museum is like Norway in miniature.
Over the past 100 years, actual historical buildings have been moved from their original locations all over Norway to the museum’s location at Bygdøy, which is incidentally also one of my favorite areas of Oslo.
The Arbeidermuseet, or Labour Museum, gives you a glimpse into the life of factory workers in Oslo during the Industrial Revolution—I think we knitters can be very interested in the history of everyday lives.
And the Kunstindustrimuseum, or the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design, is unfortunately closed at its current location in order to prepare for relocation to the new National Museum, currently under construction. (These are tapestries from their collection.) It’s scheduled to reopen in 2020, so keep it in mind for future visits.
I know coffee isn’t everyone’s cup of t . . . well, you know what I mean. But I would be remiss to write about Oslo and not mention Nordic coffee culture, which is a pretty fantastic experience (especially if you like light roasts). Tim Wendelboe has become an incredibly well-known name in coffee culture abroad, for the quality of his company’s beans as well as how his baristas brew them (he’s a former World Barista Championships winner himself). His company’s direct relationship with the farmers who grow their beans is the cherry on top. A trip to his Grünerløkka café is like a High Coffee Experience.
For a more casual spot that still serves excellent coffee, head to Fuglen, and admire the gorgeous mid-century design of the interior while you’re there.
Fuglen is open late and also serves delicious cocktails.
Many tourists have heard of Frogner Park, which contains Vigelands Park, before coming to Oslo, and I’m happy to say that this is one of those cases where you’ve heard about it because it really is worth visiting.
Located on the western side of town, Frogner Park is expansive, with tree-lined paths, large swaths of grass on which it’s perfect to picnic, and a little river winding through it. The piece of the park that is Vigelands Park is the area featuring Vigeland’s famous statues. And if it’s a particularly hot day and you fancy going for a swim, taking line 5 of the T-bane to its end will take you to Sognsvann, where you can go for a dip or simply walk the trails around the lake.
Or perhaps a ferry ride to one of the islands in the Oslofjord is more your speed?
Foot ferries carry passengers from city pier 4 to the small islands located in the inner fjord, where you might take a walk, go for a swim, or have lunch at a little café.
Other Points of Interest
One of my favorite things in the city center is Oslo’s city hall building (“Rådhuset” in Norwegian), located right down on the harbor.
While from the exterior it can seem like a weird boxy building, it’s full of interesting details that aren’t apparent at first glance. A guided tour of the interior is also absolutely worth it and free during the summer months when the tour is offered regularly—there are some incredible rooms in this building that are unlike anything you’ll see elsewhere.
Plus, the main atrium is where the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony takes place each year.
Also in the city center is my favorite bookstore in Norway, Tronsmo.
Norway has many bookstore chains that can be found all over the country, but independent bookstores of this nature are rare. I could spend hours browsing the shelves in this place (and I do!) because the curated selection is so fantastic. The airy interior, featuring high ceilings and skylights, is an added bonus.