Mostly known for its scenic fjords and opulent properties, Norway is also often recognized to be one of the happiest places to live in. With their awesome social welfare benefits, breathtaking/ IG-able Scandinavian aesthetic, and the Hygge vibes all-around (re: Cozy feeling of contentment), it’s not hard to see why people go here for a fresh start. One of them happens to be Cassandra Niki (@cassniki), photographer/writer, who’s going to show us around Oslo. Read as she shared the unexpected place you can enjoy art, bad clothes and the surprising quirks of Norwegians!
Text and Photographs by Cassandra Niki
Firstly, tell us about yourself?
Hi, Cassandra Niki here—friends call me Cass. I’m a photographer-writer hybrid that recently left a tech job. I’m Indonesian-bred, raised in New Zealand, schooled in San Francisco, and now residing in Oslo.
How did you end up living in Oslo?
I moved here in 2017 to shack up with my boyfriend who is Norwegian. We had lived together in San Francisco for a couple years and decided to move out to greener pastures.
What are the quirks of the Norwegians?
Ha, the best I’ve witnessed (and participated in) so far is hanging out in a stupefyingly hot sauna for a while and jumping naked into the snow to cool down. It is exhilarating and highly addictive. Norwegians also tend to be naked as much as they can, which is a quirk itself.
What’s the weather like? When’s the best time to visit?
Oslo is a seasonal city. Winters are freezing, days are short, and temperatures could drop to -10ºC. But Norway is stunning in white snow and participating in winter activities is a huge part of the culture. While summers in Norway are pretty legendary; warm and longer days (the sun sets at 9-10 pm during peak of summer) and residents are out all day, drinking, swimming, roaming flea markets, and all the good outdoor stuff. Can’t really decide when is best, Oslo is fun year round depending on what you’re looking for.
Is the living cost really that expensive?
Yes — however workers are paid fairly with plenty of paid holidays, free education, and free healthcare. As a resident, it eventually becomes affordable with adjustments to your lifestyle choices. As a tourist, it can get pretty expensive, so you’d want to save up before visiting!
Tell us about the hidden gems of Oslo?
The best thing about Oslo is that notable works of art are showcased (but hidden) in parks and woods, so when you’re here, be sure to walk through as many parks as you can.
Ekebergparken is my favorite park and hidden gem; it is an 11-hectare forest that homes thirysomething sculptures by the masters like Dali, Rodin, and Renoir, nestled sporadically among its lush. Another Instagrammable hidden spot is Damstredet, a little cobblestone street with cute brick and wooden houses.
Where to eat? And what’s the best dish you’ve had there?
For something Norwegian, a table at Maemo is to die for (but expect Michelin star prices) or for something kinder to your wallet, Mathallen is also pretty great, a fairly new food hall with a ton of options to eat with views of Akerselva River (it’s also the spot to get Asian groceries). Tex Burger has the best burgers and sample some Norwegian pancakes or waffles at any breakfast spot. Definitely don’t miss Tim Wendelboe coffee, award-winning and truly the best.
Where to shop?
You would really have to visit HAY and Fransk Bazaar for cute home thingys. Walk around Grunerløkka neighborhood for local fashion, it’s filled with boutiques, thrift stores, and the basics like COS and Weekday.
What’s the thing you were most surprised to learn about Norway?
Norwegians are naturally homebodies and staying in is bigger and better than going out. This, make some people a little reserved than other cultures which could be great and annoying-free but also frustrating at times especially for someone as outspoken as I am. But don’t fret, it’s just a comfort-zone thing, after a while, you’ll find Norwegians to be one of the friendliest kinds of peeps.
Any neighboring town that’s also worth a visit?
Norwegians have a thing about cabins. So getting out of the city towards the mountains to hole up in and be among nature is what most people do. If you’re up for city hopping, six hours west by train would take us to Bergen, another stunning Norwegian city. Gothenburg is also nearby, about a three-hour drive, and it offers a quiet Swedish town vibe (it’s a big city though) and is also much cheaper than Oslo.
How does Oslo affect your style?
Oslonians are very fashionable but with the least effort possible. You’d want just basics and layer them up. I’ve taken upon layers and oversized coats since I’ve moved here. Snow appropriate shoes and even shoe spikes are important during the winter.
Tips for our readers who wish to visit Oslo or will reside there soon?
Bring comfy shoes to walk all over town and get the Oslo Pass for worry-free transportation, free attractions and discounts. Another good rule of thumb that Norwegians love to say: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes.”
How does living in Oslo change you?
I’ve learned to be better a cook, that’s for sure, and been eating more fish since there is an abundance here. I’ve also learned to slow down — as in, stop stressing over work and try to enjoy life more. People here are all about that slow life and it’s the best place to do so.
What’s the thing you miss about Oslo when you’re not in the city?
The parks. I just can’t get enough and always miss them when I’m traveling.
Some interesting trivia facts about Oslo?
More than half of the city is covered by forests and food items can get so expensive that some residents travel to Sweden just for groceries!
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