If we ever planned a trip to Oslo, we’d definitely put a warm coat and an adequate camera to capture the beauty of Northern Lights on my packing list. Little did we know, this capital city of Norway has a lot much to be explored aside from its captivating Aurora Borealis.
Through the eyes of Jena, Oslo offers a different path of journey. Along with her husband and daughter, Jena captures the other side of Oslo – the landmarks, the culture, and the creative part of the city.
Please tell us about you and where you live
Hello, my name is Jena Sapyera Qadar, and you can just call me Jena. I loved reading Emil i Lönneberga by Astrid Lindgren while growing up and the idea of living in a Scandinavian small farm stuck. A scholarship from the Norwegian government to attend the 2-year Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Oslo (UiO) in 2007 was THE great nudge in achieving that dream. Right away after graduating I joined a small startup, which runs multilingual websites promoting international degrees. Now we’re growing into one of the best educational marketing providers worldwide and I am proud to be part of the journey. It’s been 8 years since I arrived at Gardemoen and although I don’t own a farm, I am thriving and I live happily with my hubs and our daughter. Despite officially being more expensive compared to other capitals in the world, Oslo is fantastic and is one of the best cities to live in. It offers a perfect combination between city life while still remaining connected to nature.
Five things you love about your neighbourhood
- Grünerløkka (osloenser called it the løkka) used to be a working class industrial district and now is considered the most fashionable area in Oslo, after many artists, musicians and designers moved in and established cool and alternative places to hang out, eat, shop and watch performances. I love living in the area with great access to cafés, restaurants, bars, breweries, concert venues, libraries, tattoo parlours and all kinds of design, vintage and second-hand shops. You’ll find everything here at the løkka – it’s a very happy ‘hood!
- Thorvald Meyer, who was known as one of the city’s benefactors and patron of artists, used to own most of Grünerløkka. Thorvald Meyersgate, the street where we live, is now considered to be one of the most important streets in Oslo. Edvard Munch used to live on this street, among many local artists. Today we can see public and street art blossoming in the area. You will find new urban art almost every day.
- Grünerløkka also has pocket-size parks such as Sofienbergparken, Olav Ryes plass, Birkelunden, Schous plass as well as other public areas for kids to play, not to mention we have the wonderful Oslo Botanical Garden in our backyard!
- We have quick and 24/7 accesses to public transportation, and many places are in walking distance.
- The river! Akerselva divides Oslo into two parts (East and West) and Grünerløkka lies next to it in the middle of the city. Much of the river is surrounded by many parks (Akerselva miljøpark) and you will never get bored walking next to it.
When is the best time to visit Oslo?
Coming from a tropical country, I thought summer was always the best of all seasons. But these days I can’t pick, because each has its own beauty! If skiing, snowboarding, sledging, or making a snowman is your thing, winter is perfect. We can also travel north and see the spectacular northern lights (aurora borealis). But it’s über slippery and you need to survive a really cold climate (be prepared for minus 20). Spring and fall in Oslo are really beautiful with the changing colours of the trees and flowers. They can be cold as well but at least the view will solve that problem. Summer is surprisingly quite warm here (26°C of average high or 30°C if you’re lucky), with occasional rainy days. We appreciate a sunny day like there’s no tomorrow so you can see people lying around on the grass whenever the sun’s out. The beaches (both normal and nude) are usually packed. It’s a great time to do island hopping with the public ferries as well as camping on one of Oslo’s islands.
What are your family’s favorite activities around the city?
Going to the city parks and walking by the river are two musts. We’re walking animals! Riding the bicycle around the city is next. In between we stop by places and take lots of pictures. Another activity that we like to do during summer is swimming at one of the beaches or some spots along Akerselva. Recently hubs and I have also been revisiting our love for camping and successfully introducing the concept to our toddler.
Best place to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner
With only about 650.000 inhabitants I feel like Oslo has soooo many places to eat and there’s always somewhere new to eat. I don’t really do breakfasts mostly coffee in the morning, but when I have to, there are a few places in mind: Grünerløkka Bakeri og Kaffehus, Godt Brød, The Nighthawk Diner at Thorvald Meyersgate, Åpent Bakeri at Maridalsveien and Kaffebreneriet at Markveien. These options are suitable for coffee worshippers too.
Most of the weekdays my colleagues and I like to go somewhere close to the office (which is located in the center for IT and telecom area called Fornebu) for lunch, such as Maschmanns Matmarked at Skøyen, Strand Restaurant at Stabekk, TinTin Sushi at Lysaker and Joe & the Juice chain at Fornebu Senter. Other great options are Mathallen (with stalls such as Hello Good Pie and Obento Box) in Grünerløkka, Illegal Burger at Møllergata, Munchies at Thorvald Meyersgate, Dattera til Hagen in Grønland, and Delicatessen tapas bar (they have several locations now but my favourite is still the one at Søndregate). Back when I was in college Det Grønne Kjøkken in Tøyen was a good option too.
For dinner, there are many options from fine to just casual dining such as Hitchhiker at Mathallen (street food style), Arakataka at Mariboesgate, Fauna at Solligata, Nam Kang at Torggata, Dinner at Stortingsgata, Schiller’s Tapas in Frogner, Hanami in Tjuvholmen and Bølgen & Moi in Briskeby and the places for lunch mentioned before are also good for the evenings. Recently I am also obsessed with Lucky Bird at Mathallen area, which so far, offers the best deep fried chicken menu in town.
Recommended coffee shop, local bookstore, and thrift market in Oslo
Most of the places that I love to go to are fortunately in the løkka and its vicinity. The most notable coffee shops are Fuglen at Universitetsgate, Tekehtopa at St. Olavsplass, Kolonihagen at Korsgate, Tim Wendelboe (we used to live above them!) and Parkteatret at Grünersgate, Liebling at Fossgate, Engebret Café at Bankplassen, Pascal at Henrik Ibsengate and oh I really can go on forever!
Recommended local bookstores are Tronsmo, Outland (these two are my favourites), Ark Thorvald Meyersgate, Spøk og Spenning at Helgesensgate, Tanum Karl Johansgate, Norlis Antikvariat at Universitetsgata, and Damms Antikvariat in Frogner.
Last but not least are the thrift stores of Oslo! In Grünerløkka, we have Fretex Unika, Retrolykke kaffebar, Robot,Maritabutikken, Frøken Dianas Salonger, Birkelunden Marked, Fransk Bazaar, Velouria Vintage and Manillusion. Others are in Sentrum area such as Uff Underground and Råkk & Rålls. Flea markets, or løppemarked, are mostly organised by local schools to raise funds from April to September every year. They usually take place at school buildings every weekend. In addition to being inexpensive and diverse, this is the place where you can practice your haggling skill in Oslo. For specific schedules and organisers I usually check this website http://www.loppemarked.info.
Thank you Jena for sharing your story with us. We are delighted to know more about Oslo and its hidden gems. Please send our warm hugs to the cute Kinasih! :)
Compiled by Puti Audia