Grünerløkka in Norway’s capital Oslo, known as ‘Løkka’ by the locals, was once just a solid working class residential area. Today it has been adopted by creatives and is Oslo’s trendiest region.
Reinventing a city is difficult. Not only has Oslo through a cash injection over the past few years got its futuristic architectural projects, such as the Opera House, Barcode and Fjord City, but the capital seems to enjoy a completely new invigorated lifestyle, offering everything from culture and nightlife to restaurants and shopping.
The Grünerløkka region of Oslo has from the late 20th century onwards, become one of the most fashionable areas of Oslo. It has it all, populated as it is with a dynamic mixture of old industrial buildings, vintage designer boutiques, bohemian cafés and bars, and not least cutting-edge exhibition spaces.
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Grïnerløkka for art
Café de Concert, originated by pianist virtuoso and comedian Axel Kolstad, was established in 2003. It has been on the move in Oslo for several years but have now found its home at Vulkan. Last Thursday night every month Kolstad invites music lovers to a free concert where he serves the audience champagne and hot dogs.
Cafe de Concert has now become his atelier, displaying art as well as being a small music venue, where he works and performs.
Cyan Studio opened in 1998 as an art collective for independent freelance photographers and on the last weekend of each month it is transformed into a gallery space, presenting new and thought-provoking exhibitions, encouraging a dialogue between artists and audiences.
In Møllergata 34 you can experience contemporary camera-based art in Fotogalleriet. The non-profit institution was established in 1977 by a trio of artists, Dag Alveng, Bjørn Høyum and Tom Sandberg. It became a foundation in 1979 supported among others by the Norwegian Association of Free Photographers.
The gallery holds an important position in the Norwegian art scene as the only non-commercial institution that fosters contemporary visual art with a particular focus on photography.
In its over 30 year history, the gallery has exhibited works by celebrated and renowned photographers from all over the world.
On the ground floor of a charming 1890s tenement building, Schæffersgate 5, you find Galleri Schæffersgate 5, just around the corner from several charming cafés and bars. There are two intimate rooms, the Vestibule and the Gallery, accommodating various two-dimensional visual art. The street name is in fact named after Henrik Ernst Schæffer, a Norwegian teacher who set up a grant in the 1800s to support young artists, so the location of the art gallery is indeed appropriate. The gallery, established in 2011, is run by owner, musician and avant-garde filmmaker Mark Steiner (originally from New York), and visual artists and curators Irene Christensen and Grete Marstein.
Grünerløkka Kunsthall is situated in a 10-piece studio collective, originally constructed in 2009 as a project space for internal use. Today it is a small but chic and minimalistic non-profit gallery, presenting exhibitions from both local and international artists, as well as being the home to several individual artist studios.
Kunstplass 5 is one of Grünerløkka’s newer contemporary art venues, established in 2012. It’s an artist-driven venue, which has presented numerous Norwegian and international artists with a variety of artistic expressions. Kunstplass 5 exhibits a number of genres, including painting, photography, installation and video art, but specifically focuses on art with political undertones that challenges and surprises while also hosting short-term events such as performance art and talks from artists. In its short history, the gallery has presented several thought-provoking exhibitions.
Focusing on promotion of innovative and experimental art and architecture, the non-profit organization ROM, came about in 2005, following the merging og two organizations established in the late 1980s. Today ROM hosts exhibitions, lectures, conferences and organizes public art installations and events.
Located in a former soda water factory near Oslo’s Akerselva River, ROM features an interior exhibition space and a courtyard for large-scale installations, attracting a diverse crowd from the vibrant local community.
S9 Gallery, established in 2009, is a family-owned gallery in central Geünerløkka on the corner of number nine Sverdrupsgate, thus S9. Some of the family members also live in the building. On 80 square meters, S9 Gallery offers art lovers an intimate environment in which to view a diverse body of work from artists working in a variety of genres and mediums that include photography, metal art, sculpture and glass-based art.
Tenthaus, launched in 2011 by Oslo-based artists Helen Eriksen, Ebba Moi and Stefan Schröder, is an artist-oriented project and exhibition arena with an international focus. The context of contemporary art practice is re-examined through a broader field of activity with exhibitions, workshops, artist’s talks and live performances. Tenhaus Oslo also presents a program of live performances, art workshops, and artist talks.
Grünerløkka for food and drink
Young Osloites who are used to a more traditional Nordic lifestyle have whole heartedly embraced the change and simply love the diversity of cafés and restaurants in the region.
The food at Bass Oslo in the area’s main street Thorvald Meyersgate is pure and potent as its minimalistic interior. Cured duck with pickled fennel is the locals’ favorite. We enjoyed asparagus with cheese cream, brown butter, and hazelnuts.
Delicatessen is a neighborhood tapas restaurant well worth a visit. They don’t take reservations, but it is the perfect place to pout over some serrano ham and twelve-month manchego with a glass of cava. There’s an informal atmosphere in an intimate and cozy setting and they have served classic and modern tapas since 1999.
Oslo’s oldest winebar, Dr. Kneipp’s in Markveien, features maps of different wine producing countries on the wall and gives you an idea of the many smooth and delightful tipples this bar has on offer. Dr. Kneipp’s also has a decent menu and is absolutely worth a visit.
Restaurant Kontrast in Mathallen has a Michelin star and advance booking is necessary. Kontrast is a modern Scandinavian restaurant with a focus on using ingredients that are both local and at the peak of their season. The chefs at Kontrast are experimental, using the ingredients in unique ways.
At the intimate six-table bistro Ostebutikken let your waiter recommend a plate of the market’s latest offerings. Their homemade cassoulet is a find, although cheese is the name of the game.
Located on the banks of the Akerselva River, Vulkan was once a Norwegian industrial centre. After being somewhat left to ruin, a regeneration project has seen the urban area given a new lease of life. A real draw for many is Mathallen; a humungous indoor food market filled with thirty stalls. Many who work in the area head to Mathallen for lunch. You can get your hands on traditional Nordic food to Asian street cuisine.
Also in Thorvald Meyersgate, you’ll find Munchies serving one of Oslo’s best burgers with sweet potato fries. If you’re starving after a long night out, Munchies will do the trick.
Café/bar Oslovelo is a living proof of the outdoor loving Norwegians. The neighborhood’s perhaps coziest bar and coffee house doubles as a bike repair shop, and in winter the staff tunes your skis of necessary while you enjoy a drink in the winter months.
Territoriet in Markveien is the spot for both serious and aspiring oenophiles. There are no table reservations, so just pop in. The friendly, extremely knowledgeable staff will guide you through an encyclopedic wine list, make selections based on your preferences, and even teach you how to open the bottle properly.
The Basque-style Txotx has specialized in pintxos and shared plates, like salty bacalao or grilled oysters.
Villa Paradiso Grünerløkka is the place for sumptuous Italian pizzas.
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Grünerløkka for shopping
Looking for menswear? Then Dapper should be on your must-visit list. The combination of a menswear shop, a bike shop and a barber shop is a unique concept, and the prices are affordable too.
Ensemble is a painfully cool Scandinavian boutique established by the former stylist Marte Økelsrud, who has an excellent eye for showing Scandinavian brands alongside international favorites.
The antique shop Fransk Bazar was established by a French expat and has a unique mishmash of high-end trinkets, gadgets, and objects collected from all over Europe. The French/Norwegian couple is very helpful and has always new exciting merchandise like furniture, lamps and gadgets in store.
Stylish jewelry with a Scandinavian imprint, often inspired by Norwegian nature, is designed and made in Hasla’s studio in Valle, in the Setesdal Valley. The shop Hasla
in Grünerløkka displays the rich handcraft traditions, which Hasla has developed and maintained over many years. Hasla designs and makes timeless high quality jewelry based on a simple, stylish and Scandinavian design philosophy.
Vintage lovers will fall in love with the unmissable Velouria Vintage. Looking for treasures, just start digging. You may find brands like Prada, Chanel and Hermes; silk shirts, party dresses or just a pair of your favorite Levi’s.
Well, that was it. There are plenty more places to visit. We just wanted to give you a selection of what might remind you of for instance the Montmartre district in Paris.
Feature image (on top): Akerselva, Photo: Leif Harald Ruud
The Coolest Region in Norway’s Capital, compiled by Tor Kjolberg