Norway has this thing where the countryside is so beautiful that you almost want to get out of its cities as soon as possible. Except that Norwegian cities are also pretty stunning. So what do you when your plane landed, that backpack is ready for serious action and you still want to sip some coffee in the coolest part (Grünerlokka!) of Oslo? Well, you squeeze in as much off the beaten track awesomeness – and you do it quick. So here’s what you should do in Oslo next time you get there. P.S. I love you Norway. ♥

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11am: The Botanical Gardens

Start your day up north in the Botanical Gardens. Trust me, you won’t tire of the colours, the cactuses (isn’t that one of the weirdest words out there!?), the wide green spaces and the views down onto the city. A staggering 5,000 plants are spread across greenhouses, pink flowerbeds, a fragrance garden with 90 different, err, plants aka fragrances, and the Victoria house which features the beautiful Victoria water lily. If you fancy popping into a museum, I’d recommend the Natural History Museum. As ever so often, strolling around without a map will drastically increase the number of times you’ll shout: “Oh my God! This is bloody ridiculous! Have you seen these colours!?”

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1pm: Lunch at The Nighthawk Diner

Hungry yet from all dat fresh air? Well, you better be. There are bloody excellent burgers to be had at the Nighthawk. The American restaurant is a 15-minute walk away from the Botanical Gardens. That’s another thing about Oslo, while there are a lot of different neighbourhoods and wide spaces, a lot of the cool stuff is centered in the North and easily accessible by foot. Anyway, back to burgers, or pancakes. Get the Nighthawk Combo burger along with a homemade lemonade and… Take a stroll through the rest of the neighbourhood Grünerlokka, because that’s about as cool as it gets. Think Notting Hill meets Shoreditch (just a lot cleaner than both). You’ll pass vinyl shops, vintage furniture stores, cafes whose tips cup says “Help us finance our Tinder dates” and a whole bunch of cute boutiques for yummy mummies. You guessed it: Don’t come with an empty purse…

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3pm: Strolls and coffees 

Speaking of Tinder… Oslo and coffee: it’s a match! Oslo’s streets are virtually plastered in coffee shops, and while there are a little too many chains for my taste, but there are plenty of indie baristas who certainly know what they’re doing. Liebling (below) is a supposedly German cafe with delicious coffee and a small pop-up store where you can get your hands on very quirky (and beautifully useless!) souvenirs. Other cafes that will help keep your caffeine intake on a “healthy” level are Fuglen (a favourite), Tim Wendelboe and Stockfleths.

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As you’re walking south towards the city center, check out this place: The arts centre Khio is part of the National Academy of Arts and certainly has that hippie warehouse feel to it. Inspiration, nerdy students and sharp architecture galore! Then get on one of the many leafy paths towards the canal and head towards the flea market…

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5pm: A stroll through Blå

Ok, so this place blew my mind. I hadn’t heard of this market/club/food heaven and literally discovered it by accident. And now it’s my new fave hangout. Until I made the first few careful steps over the bridge that leads to BlÃ¥, I had only ever known the fairly snobbish side of Oslo and, don’t get me wrong, love it. But the market and street art vibes are so different, you could spend hours going through jewellery or leather bags – or pick out some artisan food from the market. Well, now that I write it, it even Oslo’s most alternative place is probably pretty, err, “classy”.

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7pm: Seaside dinner

Finished hipstering around? Well, get yourself on one of the many buses that go back to the city centre and head to the harbor. The legendary Opera House is well worth a visit, even if you’re not an architecture geek you’ll enjoy the straight lines and reflections. Then head on towards the Akershus Fortress (looks close on the map, but you can’t actually walk there) and find a place to dip your feet in the water. Though usually quite busy, it’s well possible to track down a quiet spot for dinner near the water. You can either find a restaurant close to the stunning, stunning, stunning Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art or have a picnic on the shore and stare at the waves before heading out of the city…

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What are you favourite places in and out of Oslo?

All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt