Oslo is full of bookstores; however, most of them are part of large chains that you’ll find anywhere in the country. Independent bookstores can give you a more personable experience and often host intimate neighborhood events, helping to bring the local community closer together. Below is a list of the best small, large, and specialized independents you’ll find in Oslo.
Sagene Bok og Papir (“Book and Paper’) is an important part of the Sagene neighborhood a little north of the city center. The store has been in place since 1936 and praises itself on being “not at all modern,” though it has of course updated its shelves with all the best quality books since then. The store is run by two women, Angelique and Signe, who create a lovely, cozy atmosphere and arrange multiple events like presentations and talks and even a free writing course and drawing competitions. This is a great place to find some more unusual books, including a well-stocked travel literature section.
Located on the site of the former Eldorado cinema, Eldorado has quite a big presence in the city center. The bookstore opened in 2003 but plays on the former cinema with the motto “Culture since 1891.” The large store has a great range of Norwegian and international titles and an extensive English-language section. Unusually, publishing companies rent space for their books in the store, allowing Eldorado to retain overall control. Sit back in a comfy armchair and enjoy a coffee from the connected café or spend a languid half hour browsing through Norway’s largest music section.
In May 2016, the Christian bookstore at Akersgata 47 was forced to close down after 118 years at the address. Just six weeks later, however, dreams of reopening the store were back, and this was made possible through the the hard work of its retired former manager who now owns the shop. The two-floor store truly has an impressive range of Christian and religious books and a nicely relaxed atmosphere.
Oslo’s other Christian bookstore deserves a shout-out too. Where Bok & Media competes with the larger stores in size and range, St. Olav is more of a treasure cave of specialized Catholic literature and paraphernalia. The little yellow wooden house can be found just by Oslo’s Catholic cathedral, a short walk north of the city center.
This one-room bookshop in Bislett is home to so many books that they overflow unto the street outside. With the motto “the little bookstore with the great literature” as their guide, its employees seek to share their extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for books with the world one customer at a time. They usually have some great deals and you can order anything you don’t manage to hunt down on the overflowing shelves.
Røa Bok og Leker is a place for the whole family with its awesome combination of books and toys (“Bok og Leker” means “Books and Games”). The combination of these two trades doesn’t mean that they do either half-heartedly—staff members are knowledgeable and always available with a good reading suggestion no matter the genre or age. Located in Vestre Aker, this store caters to the eastern side of Oslo.
Tronsmo Bokhandel, usually known just as Tronsmo, combines a great range of political and cultural literature with what is probably Norway’s best-assorted cartoon section. The store moved to its new and modern rooms at Universitetsgata in 2015, but it has been around since 1973. Back then, it was the only bookstore in Norway to have its own dressing rooms—the previous shop had been a clothes store. Tronsmo also has an online shop with a selection of the books and cartoons that you’ll find in the store.
The store at the National Gallery is more than your standard gift shop. It has a great assortment of art and design-related books and, unsurprisingly, is a particularly good place to find books on Norwegian people, movements, and styles such as Munch and Scandinavian design and to pick up a good-looking coffee table book.
To the east of the city center in Helsfyr, you’ll find Torvet Bok og Papir, the result of the recent mergence of two independent bookstores. It is run by a friendly and relaxed staff and also sells toys and writing materials. They have an excellent overview of both classic and emerging titles, and try to match lonely and overlooked books with readers looking for something a little different. Best of all, pets are welcome in the store.
With books from floor to ceiling, this little store is very charming and features reasonable prices, which is always a great combination. In their own words, they sell books of all shapes and sizes and even shelves for you to put your books on. They’re particularly strong on textbooks and nonfiction but you’ll find most common fiction here too. You’ll also find a good range of audio books. The store has catered to the Sankt Hanshaugen area just north of the city center since 1916.