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Destination: a stay in Oslo during winter; incredibly romantic and not what you would expect

Oslo in winter. Allow me to attempt to wild-guess the image that befits your expectations, and do feel free to correct my musings if one could even say it like that. Picture this: a realm of cold, where snowflakes pirouette gracefully, ice glistens, darkness descends, grim conrete buildings and life seems to hibernate. Wrong! And permit me to unveil the veracity of these assumptions. Indeed, in the heart of winter, flanking the festive season, daylight comes limited in Oslo.


Oslo skyline

Concerning temperature, yes, it can plummet, but this isn't the icy expanse of Russia. January averages around -4 degrees celcius, occasionally colder, sometimes milder. Snowfall graces the city, albeit sparingly, for Oslo finds itself sheltered, shielded from Atlantic whimsies pestering the western parts of the country.


It is, in essence, not as daunting as it sounds. In this exposition, my endeavor is to ardently underscore why Oslo is a splendid haven for winter get-aways, in this case focussing especially on a romantic weekend for two. The article might seem rather long, but if one realises it serves as a one-stop-shop, you then come to the realization that I am, all of a sudden, saving you a considerable amount of time. Let us set off!


Sleep


Commencing with your residence, let me introduce a locale that paradoxically defies its nomenclature for the season – Hotel Sommerro, or 'Summerpeace'. Should your weekend inclinations lean towards the proposition of a heartfelt proposal of some sort, then this is the place to do so. Words, alas, fall short in encapsulating the opulence and lushness that this establishment bestows upon its patrons. A personal favorite within its confines is the resplendent bar (Ekspedisjons Hallen), an artifact resembling the roaring '20s, where an ambiance of elegance unfolds without veering into the obscene. The art deco interiors transport you to a different era, amplified by the live jazz, an auditory treat that propels you into a cocoon where time seems hard to get out of. Imagining an evening spent there, with your beloved, leisurely allowing ice cubes to waltz in your frigid amaretto sour, Hotel Sommerro, I posit, transcends into a splendid tableau for any romantic narrative; faithful or unfai...no stop it!


Next stop! Venture an hour from Oslo, and you'll discover Wonderinn, a retreat that beckons with stark contrast to Hotel Sommerro. A rustic abode nestled by a river in the countryside, The 'Lush' cabin offers an exclusive escapade featuring a glass cube solely yours, a jacuzzi stationed by the river, and a complimentary hour of sauna indulgence. Here, amidst the winter landscape's arresting beauty, you and your companion are offered an uninterrupted rendezvous, a canvas painted with the hues of romance.


For the third night, let me guide you skyward, facilitated by a metro journey to Holmenkollen. In Oslo, of all places, the metro unveils an ascent to a historical and breathtaking locale. Beyond the Olympic ski jump stands a world-class hotel, seemingly transplanted from a winter sports haven. Secure the tower suite (or Tårn suite) for an experience that defies its proximity to the bustling city center. As you recline in the bath, gazing over the Oslo Fjord where the sun has just bidden 'adieu', Holmenkollen Hotel unfolds as a fusion of tradition adorned with a luxurious, modern veneer. This, indeed, promises to be a night in Oslo that remains etched in your memories. What a panorama!


Dinner


Now, to the culinary realm. Oslo's gastronomic panorama transcends mere sustenance; it is a city of world class when it comes to gastronomy. First, we're off to Geita, where the intimacy of a small Michelin-starred establishment converges with culinary sophistication. Fear not the Michelin star; it merely attests to their mastery, not a plunge into a theatrical 'Menu'-esque drama. In case you haven't seen that movie, please do so. Ralph Fiennes playes a marvellous role as headchef in this parody on modern fine dining and the people being attracted to it. By the way, I've written about Geita before, so please feel free to take in my enthusiasm. If you fancy a more laid-back approach, as opposed to a 7-course extravaganza, then consider Nektar Vinbar (that is if you have an affinity for wine). Here, they serve the most exceptional wines from the tiniest, unique wine nooks of Europe. Many natural wines, unfiltered as such, yet you'll also find your familiar Burgundy here. Additionally, they boast an excellent menu featuring smaller bites, akin to tapas if you will. This makes your evening considerably less formal. It's a delightful tasting experience in an immensely relaxed setting, with both smaller and heartier dishes on offer. You'll depart entirely content. The ambiance is snug, a crucial factor in this season. Furthermore, it's nestled in one of Oslo's most picturesque neighbourhoods, for Damstredet is a must-visit while you're in Oslo.


Not much of a connoisseur but still crave the very best comfort food in town? Then head to Smalhans. What they do here is exceptional, a feat accomplished by only a handful of chefs. They elevate relatively ordinary comfort food to something sublime. As for what that 'something sublime' precisely entails, I'll leave that to your imagination. However, the quality and price here are truly top-notch. A prime steak, a splendid catch of the day — it all sounds straightforward, but at Smalhans, they manage to turn it into something extraordinary. And all of this is delivered with a sort of homely warmth. It's casual here; jokes are welcome, and nothing has to follow the rulebook. If you prefer starting with dessert, go ahead. But truly, the ingredients they use and how they use them make the reasonably modest price for a menu more than worthwhile.


Embark on a culinary adventure housed in a former adult store transformed into a gastronomic haven (they kept the name: Hot Shop). No lube, but steaming seafood making it a sensual gastronomic experience. No really, utterly de-li-cious! Truly world-class, shifting the epicenter of exquisite dining in town a tad northeast. Anyway, a fusion of classic and groundbreaking Scandinavian dishes. This is genuinely thrilling and a dinner you'll never forget. Moreover, a thoroughly laid-back atmosphere, which I personally find particularly delightful.


Cocktails


Within the artistry of libations and cocktails, I have to point enthusiasts towards establishments like Bettola (meaning tavern). Within an Italian-inspired setting, charm intertwines with meticulous craftsmanship, presenting impeccable drinks. Upon entrance, the tiles feel Italian, the bar looks Italian made, the gents behind the counter have a (southern) charm and the noise is as Italian as it gets in cities such as Napels. But that's all fine. The drinks are great, and the setting embracing. And come one, the nicest sportscars ever were made in Italy...in the 70s. Amerika Linjen is not for ordinary mortals. At least, that's how I felt when I stepped inside for the first time. It exudes grandeur; the waitstaff spent three years at the academy to guide you through the beverage menu. Speaking of which, the cocktail list is the most exceptional in Oslo. Each cocktail tells a story in terms of taste, aroma, and appearance, interwoven into the entire atmosphere of emigration towards the land of unlimited posibilities. Over the past centuries, quite a few Norwegians ventured to America, a fact now boasted by Americans on Reddit claiming 12% Scandinavian ancestry. Consequently, embarking on quests to explore their roots to determine if they have any legitimate claims on anything (a lost sense of identity mostly). You can indeed lay claim to one of the fantastic cocktails at Amerika Linjen, if only for the captivating narrative accompanying each drink when it's served.


Concealed beneath the flooring of yet another splendid restaurant, a topic I have regrettably yet to commit my thoughts to paper, lies the discreet enclave of Krongods. This diminutive cocktail haven, a closely guarded secret, manages to elude the casual observer entirely. Ideally suited for a romantic rendezvous, one can indulge in the sophisticated allure of a classic cocktail, cradled in the palm. The ambiance is intimate, the space modest, and the patron is afforded the undivided attention of the adept barman, should such desire arise. Here, there is no cacophony nor clamor; only the pleasure of a refined libation in an atmosphere of ease and amiability. Let not the presence of two bright pink flamingos in the window dissuade you. This is not such a place. If you find yourself pondering how Norway amassed such wealth, I would recommend tuning in to the excellent series "Lykkeland." For the bewilderingly attractive twenty-somethings who populate Kastellet on Saturday evenings seem blissfully unaware. Louis Vuitton bags are carelessly flung into corners, funded by daddy or whoever that man might be that goes to his office and sometimes shoes up. Well, I might be embellishing a tad (or massively actually), but it must be acknowledged that Kastellet exudes an air of expensive looking sophistication. Stepping in for the first time, I discerned it immediately in the furnishings (speaking as a former interior designer). Abounding in design classics, it could very well pass for a James Bond-esque loft nestled somewhere in a European metropolis. Yet, they concoct remarkably fine cocktails, and the ambiance carries a hint of allure. Have a drink or two for the ambiance, and then make your discreet exit!


Activities


If you happen to visit Oslo in early December, you might find the city, or its immediate environs, adorned with a plethora of bustling Christmas markets. Christmas, in and of itself, can be a tad kitsch, but here in Norway, they truly elevate it. Everywhere you turn, there are fire pits, hay bales, warm hot chocolate, and the dulcet tones of festive music. I dare say the Christmas market in Bærums Verk is genuinely romantic, but venture to Drøbak, and you'll be overwhelmed by the incredibly cozy atmosphere Norway exudes in winter. The latter, in particular, is well worth an afternoon's exploration. Certainly, Oslo boasts a plethora of incredibly fine museums. As a fervent admirer of modern art, I find ample satisfaction in my visits, with Henie Onstad ranking among my favourites. However, to maintain a romantic ambiance, I suggest you venture to the open-air museum at Bygdøy. Beyond transforming it into a winter wonderland adorned with twinkling lights, fire pits, and other convivial elements, the experience of leisurely strolling in an unpretentious manner adds a particular charm to the visit.


If you're in the mood for some physical activity, that's certainly an option too. Depending on your prowess on skis or a snowboard, feel free to allocate a day to conquer the halfpipe or the slopes at Oslo Winterpark. The facilities are excellent, catering to both the seasoned and the unseasoned winter sports enthusiast. However, if all of that seems a bit too much of a hassle, you might want to consider tobogganing. Rent a small sled, and then you can traverse an incredibly enjoyable course (PARCOUR, PARCOUR!) together. Truly delightful for a twosome experience. Laughter guaranteed!


I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to one of the public saunas, a pivotal aspect of Norwegian and Scandinavian culture that one ought not to overlook. I've previously penned an article detailing the experience, which you can peruse for a comprehensive understanding of the proceedings and etiquette. Adjacent to the city lies a veritable enclave of saunas. SALT is the most accessible, though KOK and PUST are equally exceptional. Alternatively, you could consider renting a floating sauna with a skipper to navigate you across the Oslo Fjord for a few hours. Yet, in keeping with Norwegian tradition, it's imperative to immerse yourself in the frigid waters. No, seriously, after repeating this cycle a few times – 15 minutes in the hot sauna, a bracing dip, and back into the sauna – you'll attain a kind of 'natural state of high.' Truly, post this ritual, you'll find yourself thoroughly relaxed and brimming with renewed energy. I partake in this monthly with a group of friends, though truth be told, it should ideally be a weekly pursuit.


If I haven't managed to convince you of the sheer splendor of Oslo in winter, then I'm at a loss. No, in all seriousness, don't be deterred by the temperature or weather conditions. The coziness that accompanies winter here is unparalleled in Europe, or the world for that matter. If you require more tips, do get in touch. I typically respond within an hour. You can send me a message on Instagram or opt for the charm of an old-fashioned email. Equally delightful, whichever you choose.

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