It may be one of the smallest capital cities in Europe, but Oslo isn’t short on options for a big night out. From arty cocktail bars to hipster music venues, local club owner Ola Smith-Simonsen tells Culture Trip the best places to go.
“Although Oslo is small, there’s lots going on and it has a great ambience,” says Ola Smith-Simonsen, part-owner, head booker and MD at the city’s Jaeger nightclub. Renowned for its live music scene, Oslo’s bars and clubs stay open until 3am and are generally easy to walk between, although alcohol is expensive and the minimum age requirement for many clubs is 23. “Though there aren’t a lot of clubs, they’re very good and most places are quite relaxed,” Smith-Simonsen says. “There are places you can dress up but generally people don’t go out in shirts and suits. It’s especially fantastic in the summer. I know many DJs who finish at 3am, then go swimming at a city beach before they go home.”
An Oslo institution, The Villa is an underground house and techno nightclub that really gets going around midnight. Close to the centre of the city, it opens on a Friday and Saturday night only and is regularly voted by music magazines as one of the best clubs in the world. The club has previously hosted sets by the likes of Diplo, Andrew Weatherall and Guy Gerber. “It’s a very cool basement club that’s been there for years,” Smith-Simonsen says. “They also have a burger bar attached to it that serves really, really good burgers.”
The ultimate backyard bar, Skaugum opened in 1997 in the courtyard behind the acclaimed Palace Grill restaurant. “The Norwegian royal family have a summer house called Skaugum,” Smith-Simonsen explains, “so of course it made sense that the backyard of the Palace Grill had to be called Skaugum!” Set on different levels, the bar has a weekend DJ and a roaring open grill that keeps the crowds warm even in a Norwegian winter. The bar attracts a mixed and very loyal crowd, some of whom are such regulars they have their names on the wall. “It’s a local favourite and a really cool place to go and hang out,” says Smith-Simonsen. “I’d say it’s one of my favourite places in Oslo.”
Tilt offers something completely different if you’re not in the mood for dancing. Situated downtown in an old public bathhouse that also houses popular live music venue Rockefeller, it offers great Norwegian beer, alongside two floors of pinball, shuffleboard and classic arcade games. Be sure to play a game of Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. The bar is open until 3.30am every day with DJs playing indie, pop and rock every Friday and Saturday. “If you want to go out with friends, drink beer and play games, it’s a fun place,” says Smith-Simonsen.
Rub shoulders with Oslo’s hippest residents at Revolver, an upstairs bar with a dark downstairs club and live music venue. Tucked away on the main street of Møllergata, it’s the best place to see upcoming bands but also hosts film screenings, pop-up food events and trivia nights. “It looks like a black painted dive basically,” laughs Smith-Simonsen. “But it’s a cool place with a more indie, punky vibe with left-field club nights and new music.”
If you like your music loud, head to Jaeger, located right in the very heart of the city. “We have one of the biggest sound systems in Europe because our nearest residential neighbours are around a kilometre away,” says club owner Smith-Simonsen, “but there’s lots of social spaces and nooks and crannies too, so you can hang out with your friends.” Playing house, disco and techno, this sociable, buzzing club regularly hosts big-name DJs. The club also has a hugely popular outdoor courtyard and is open every day of the week. “The bar opens at 3pm most days and turns into a club later, but it’s free to get in before 11pm. If you want to get in on a Saturday, you need to come before 10.30pm when it gets really busy.”
Translated as ‘The Culture House’, Kultuhuset is a great place to meet friends for a spontaneous night out. Close to the historic square of Youngstoret, the sprawling 2,000 sq m (21,528 sq ft) four-storey house has an all-day kitchen, a charming backyard and a venue which often hosts beer tastings and games, as well as DJ sets and concerts. “You can also take your laptop and work there during the day time, then they have a dance floor at night,” Smith-Simonsen says. “It’s a good place to meet friends for drinks.”
An ideal spot for bar-hopping with Oslo’s residents, the Strøget passage is a hidden alleyway between Torggata and Storga. The passageway can be hard to spot from the main roads, but the area is lined with low-key restaurants, hip bars and a handful of independent shops. Get in early to Angst before the queues build for delicious cocktails, great music and tables perfectly placed for people-watching in the passage itself. “It’s very small but very nice. It looks a little different to most places as it’s owned by an artist so his artworks are all over the walls,” says Smith-Simonsen.