The jazzed-up former Norwegian America Line headquarters-turned-luxe boutique (complete with its own nightclub) breathes a dreamy new life into central Oslo.
In sharp suits from hot Norwegian designer Holzweiler paired with white pumps and silk scarves and other custom-made Holzweiler accessories, the effervescent staff with glowing complexions and tireless pizazz are moving about the light and lively lobby of the new Amerikalinjen hotel.
If you thought the offices of a cruiseliner might be fairly uninteresting, try to imagine this place in the early 20th-century as Norwegians gear up to depart across the Atlantic to begin a new life over in NYC.
Today, the nautical theme is explored and enjoyed - old artefacts are celebrated, several being repurposed in design details such as small, chic library. Original details such as the elevators and elaborate ceiling stuccos remain.
The bustle is such that you feel like a traveller in an unknown locale; somewhere between boarding an opulent liner and entering Gatsby 2019's cocktail brunch. Oslo is relatively sleepy but in recent months has been invigorated by a smattering of new restaurants, fjordside saunas, eco-initiatives and human rights conferences, the continuation of the Future Library and a rebirth of the Munch and National museums.
There's an elegance and opulence here that avoids overt lavishness or clinical vibes. A lot of glass and white tiling, for example, is beautifully balanced by touches of brass, original porcelain fixtures and a roll top. Edison bulbs and lamps from Birger Dahl and Hadeland Glassverk hang gloriously among subdued palettes of white, blush, navy-blue cotton, velvet and mosaic in the bathrooms.
What's for breakfast?
Guests kick-off the Nordic-meets-Americana morning with rich coffee and toasted rye or bagels with lox, edging towards mimosas to wring off the edge of the Gustav hangover (see below). You can also fashion your own fresh waffles, served with yoghurt or cream. Falling-apart delicate croissants and conserves also impress; as do the fresh juices and smoothies, part of their Atlas Café.
What about lunch and dinner?
Stepping up for an eclectic jazz brunch on weekends (not a Marnie from Girls in sight), the Atlas brasserie serves excellent salads, sandwiches, steaks and seafood with just the right amount of golden, crispy indulgence that will please both of the traditional city-roamer and funlover. The food is consciously modern, using lots of locally sourced Norwegian ingredients. Order the goat-cheese salad with walnuts and a shared shellfish platter and enjoy the low-lit, spacious ambience. Evenings here are coveted - make sure to book ahead.
Is there a bar?
Ever felt like a martini while you and your guest (in lieu of a fight over two lonely, overpriced bottles of red and white wine from the minbar)? All hail your favourite new hotel concept, launching this autumn: the Floating Bartender. A dapper and friendly real-life mixologist and his magical cabinet of spirits and botanicals on wheels, will roll into your suite on request to shake up something special while you pamper and preen. Truly experiential. And then there's Gustav. He's the one who, darkly mysterious and surprisingly loud, will coax you out of your fluffy white robe, into your gladrags and into his nocturnal clutches. Gustav (albeit named after the original Mr Amerikalinjen) is the hotel's Harlem-inspired basement jazz club with a killer sound system and exciting live guests each weekend. En route here, you'll pass Pier 42, a natty little cocktail bar named after the New York port pier, where the menu includes conconctions from each decade between 1919 and the present.
The basement spa has rain showers, the type that thunder down heavily on your neck and shoulders post-workout (there's a 24-hour gym, too), as well as beautiful heated mosaic beds and a Finnish sauna. Concierge and room service are white-hot - they even dashed out to find me an HDMI-cable before they'd got Apple TV set up. All rooms have Nespresso machines and cosy monogrammed pink or blue slippers to take home.
Things I should know…
The much-celebrated five-year art programme for osloBIENNALEN launched in May and will see continued unveilings of site-specific performance art, installations, sculptures scattered across the city and much more over time. Check in on its website to time your visit to the city's most historic new gem with this important (extended) moment in art history.
Within a short walk I can find…
The hotel's heavy front door faces the Central Station hub, from which different modes of transport will take you many places other than the airport (which is 20 minutes via train). Take the tram to Nordmarka forest in just half an hour, or visit Ekebergparken Sculpture Park in just 10 minutes' drive. Amerikalinjen's classy derriere faces the famous Snøhetta-designed Oslo Opera house.