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Destination: street art and the best pizza in Oslo; and plenty more reasons to spend a day in Tøyen

The name 'Tøyen' finds its roots in Old Norse, connoting 'manure' or 'natural meadow,' a nod to the farm bearing the same name. Some remnants of this farm still endure and likely constitute Oslo's oldest preserved wooden structures, now nestled in what we presently know as the botanical gardens. Present-day Tøyen is an assorted tapestry of edifices spanning nearly every decade of the prior century.

This district, interwoven with industrial heritage and typical late 19th-century apartment complexes, exhibits the most varied aesthetic, mirroring its diverse demographic. Tøyen plays host to a diverse array of residents – students, seniors, creatives, immigrants, drunks, and even the less salubrious characters, courtesy of a substantial prison. Despite outward appearances, it exudes an uncommonly agreeable ambiance, and I would be delighted to guide you through some of my cherished spots worth exploring (having resided in Tøyen for about a year).

Embark on your Tøyen day with a sojourn to Håndbakt (Hand-Baked). They graciously open their doors as early as 8:00 AM, presenting delectable breakfast and lunch offerings. Arguably, the city's finest coffee may be found here, though I'll leave that for open discussion. Situated in one of the ancient factory structures erected during the industrial revolution, amidst the contemporary urban idyll, it's challenging to envision the erstwhile smoking chimneys. Regardless, this venue is an exemplary choice for breakfast and lunch. For those daring souls, consider complementing your (early) lunch with a glass of exquisite, unfiltered natural wine. As they say, you only live once.

On a summery day, the botanical gardens offer an oasis of serenity and verdancy. It's a delightful locale to unwind amidst myriad splendid trees and plants, taking respite from urban adventures while sipping coffee beneath centuries-old trees. Alongside the venerable plant greenhouses lies the Natural History Museum. Among its treasures, my preferred exhibit showcases thousands of minerals, gemstones, and fossils – truly captivating. I was unaware of the immense diversity of unearthed and sculpted treasures throughout history. A culminating visit within the botanical gardens is the Klimahuset, unveiled a few years ago, serving as a pivotal space where impressive and interactive exhibits underscore the monumental challenges confronting humanity.

If ruminating on these challenges has whet your appetite, allow me to suggest Pillefyken for a simple yet exquisite lunch. Their menu features modest, shareable dishes crafted with unparalleled quality, predominantly embracing greens, legumes, and various other vegetarian delights. The ingredients are of the highest calibre, and their eclectic wine selection beckons you to partake in daytime indulgence.

Recently, the Munch Museum relocated to the banks of the Oslo fjord, housed in a building that spurred significant discourse. Some say the interior resembles Copenhagen Airport. The erstwhile Munch Museum perseveres in Tøyen, having, until recently, drawn swarms of tourists. Now, Gamle Munch (former Munch) has diversified into various artistic expressions, rendering it more enthralling. Furthermore, the air of exclusivity has waned. It encompasses everything from exhibitions to music and theatre. Check their calendar to discern if any event piques your interest.

Behind the prison walls (geographically spoken) lies Njokobok Restaurant, distinguished by three characteristics. Firstly, it stands as a Senegalese restaurant, a rarity in itself, let alone in a Scandinavian capital. The menu unmistakably reflects West African (Senegalese) cuisine, featuring grilled or fried fish and delightful vegetables. The ambiance evokes the imagination of a coastal setting, with wooden fishing boats, a fleeting sunset, and bustling activity. If you can order freshly squeezed baobab juice, consider me already transported to a different realm. Njokobok is presided over by a charismatic figure – a charming man sporting a greying beard and a black bowler hat. I possess a particular fondness for such establishments, and I ardently hope Njokobok remains a gem for years to come.

For the most delectable pizza in Oslo, venture to Postkontoret. As the name implies, it once functioned as a post office during the time Oslo was dreary and shadowy. Now, it has metamorphosed into a communal space, perfect for enthusiasts of board games, Tinder dates, pub quizzes, performances by obscure bands, and, of course, those exceptionally tasty pizzas – with the Burrata Puttanesca standing as my perennial favourite.

Having exhausted the offerings at Postkontoret, one of Oslo's cosiest pubs awaits just across the street. It epitomises the local pub you might have dreamt of having in your neighbourhood. No prolonged queues, no bouncer exuding testosterone with a shaved head – none of the stereotypical trappings. The ceiling is adorned with thousands of 'Wunderbaums.' After an evening dulled by alcohol, a decision was seemingly made by happenstance to embrace a Soviet-like theme, and calling the bar 'Glasnost' after Mikhail Gorbachev's policy changings. And it makes sense. It's transperant what they do! They're a bar! The two lads behind the bar are always up for a jest, and they proffer homemade infused vodka – vodka with a unique flavour for the uninitiated. Delish!

Further enhancing Tøyen's appeal is its street art. 'The Treasure Hunter' from 2012 holds my utmost favour. Most of the artworks are splendidly illuminated, imparting a wholly different dimension to an evening stroll through Tøyen. Immense gratitude to Visit Oslo for crafting an exceptionally convenient map, ensuring no outdoor artwork goes unnoticed.

Should your sojourn in Tøyen extend to an overnight stay, the only recourse may be a clandestine stint in the cell of the brutalist police station meaning one would have to break the law somehow. Oddly, Tøyen lacks noteworthy accommodation options. Nevertheless, within walking distance lies Barcode, a relatively recent addition to Oslo's skyline, delineated by angular and architectural 'stripes.' Hence its moniker 'Barcode.' Evenings here are eerily tranquil, affording a restful night's sleep in one of the many apartments with breathtaking views available for rent. It's certainly worth a look! Otherwise, pick one of Oslo's 10 best hotels.


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