Our ‘my city’ series puts a new perspective on some of our favourite places, as we catch up with creative residents, asking them to divulge their best kept secrets. From their favourite galleries, to their go-to coffee spot, there are plenty of hints and tips on how to stay like a local.
We’re heading to Oslo, where we catch up with journalist and photographer, Brand Barstein.
Where do you go for the best coffee in Oslo?
Tim Wendelboe, obviously. Or that would be my answer if I was a coffee drinker, but alas I’m a tea person in one of the most coffee-heavy cities in Europe. People do come from all over the world for Wendelboe’s coffee though, and the sparse café is a nice little pit stop, if you don’t mind the company of coffee nerds.
Oslo’s pretty proud about their coffee culture, and although Starbucks made their entry a couple of years ago, people will probably look at you like you’re an idiot if you carry that green logo around. You’re better off with something from the excellent local chain Kaffebrenneriet.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done in Oslo, and why?
I once sprained my foot attempting to climb in the window of legendary, defunct bar Spasibar during a pub crawl. The crawl was held on the other side of the city though. No idea how I got there.
What’s your preferred way to travel through your city, and why?
During summer: On bicycle. The city is a bit hilly, and the local council are just getting around to implementing more bicycle lanes, but compared to other European cities traffic isn’t that bad. Mind the tram tracks though.
During winter: The tram. Because cycling on ice is just really dumb.
If a friend’s visiting, which is your go-to restaurant to show them a decent Oslo dinner?
If I was loaded I’d go for Maaemo or Ylajali, but on a more realistic budget Smalhans and Café Tekehtopa are both places I keep coming back to. Alex Sushi do a mean Japanese, and since Oslo’s going through a burger phase I pop by Grisen or Døgnvill for a spot of beef. But even here a burger and beer will set you back £30.
Can you reveal your best kept Oslo secret?
The restaurant/club Hva Skjer in Torshov is pretty new and usually a lot of fun. And, even though it’s been there for eons, tiny Bar Robinet in central Oslo is a local favourite.
When you travel, is there anything you take that you can’t live without?
My phone, headphones, a book and my own shower gel. Really picky about that last one – I’d go anywhere as long as I had my Nivea.
Where’s your favourite place to experience Oslo’s art scene?
The annual Autumn exhibition at Kunstneres Hus is a firm tradition, and the Astrup Fearnley Museum is an interesting addition to Oslo’s Munch-dominated art scene. Oslo is definitely a music city more than an art city though.
Tell us something only living in Oslo would allow you to know?
Every outdoorsy Osloite has a fave cross-country ski route. And, like in most cities, the main street (Karl Johan) is best avoided. Most pubs and bars worth going to on a night out are located around the Youngstorget and Grünerløkka neighbourhoods.
In Oslo, what’s the most popular neighbourhood to live in at the moment?
Tøyen for the hipsters, Torshov for the nearly-established.
Describe your perfect day in Oslo…
It would be winter, I’d start the day by watching some winter sports and read the papers, then head out for a ski trip in the nearby woods, come back for some hot reindeer stew, grab a few beers in Torshov or Grünerløkka, go to a gig at Rockefeller then dance at Parkteatret or Blå, fall asleep with my lovely girlfriend. And repeat.
If you didn’t live in Oslo, what other city would you live in and why?
Gotham city. I have a friend there who’s gone a bit bonkers (he thinks he’s a bat).
Where do you go when you need to get away from it all?
To Portugal, or to the bathroom (depending on my schedule). There are plenty of places to run away to around Oslo as well. During the summer, it’s popular to camp out in the woods enclosing the city (“Marka”), plus there are islands in the Oslo Fjord easily accessible by ferries.
When you leave Oslo, what do you look forward to most about coming back?
My flat, the nature and eating salty meat in lompe (a traditional Norwegian bread).
Cover photograph: Jan-Erik Eriksen