How to Live Like a Scandi: The Eco-Break Edition

Columnist Alexandra Pereira lets us in on how to achieve hygge, lagom and koselig both at home and on minibreaks across Scandinavia. Here she takes an eco-conscious mini-break among the fjords, mountains and saunas of Oslo.

It may be the home of rather intense black-metal music and world-famous skiing events, but in Oslo, warmth and peace are surprisingly easy to come by too. The summers are famously light and hot, with fjord swims and sunny hikes aplenty - but as with much of Scandinavia, it's "snug" and "dramatic" that the Norwegian capital nails the best.

Oslo may be a tiny city with less than 700,000 residents, but its eco-credentials punch well above its weight. In 2016 it introduced a "climate budget" with a goal to reduce emissions by 95 per cent by 2030; 1,000 trees were planted for the Future Library project two years later; in 2019, it was crowned the European Green Capital.

Oslo's young professionals and creatives may scatter themselves among the hip, diverse neighbourhoods of Grünerløkka and Tøyen, or the more bougie Frogner and St Hanshaugen - all Parisian-esque facades and tree-lined streets of mansions - but the main thing this city's dwellers have in common is their commitment to time spent in nature.

Ergo, the city's green, sustainable-leisure offering is increasing too. Visitors will find eco-friendly hotels committed to eliminating waste and championing reusable materials, restaurants that support third-world communities, as well as spas and saunas scattered between the city's central harbour and the dense surrounding forest.

In a time when travellers are becoming more eco-conscious, it's interesting to see Oslo's dedication to learning and introducing the bigger ideas behind eco work. Indeed, this year's Oslo Innovation Week goes digital with its aim to solve real global challenges through entrepreneurship, innovation and green tech - the subjects of its panels include energy, circular economy and life-science investment.

With all this in mind, Oslo makes a great spot for a sustainable city-break. We've picked out some of the best places to stay and play for eco-conscious travellers.



Oslo Guldsmeden

The small family of eco-friendly Guldsmeden Hotels prides itself on being one of Europe’s greenest stays, with its 99.9-per-cent-organic, pared-back yet cosy rooms peppered across Copenhagen, Berlin, Iceland and such. Set on a quiet, leafy street in Frogner, the Oslo outpost has its own candlelit spa and spacious suites with stand-alone bathtubs, four-poster beds and all-natural furnishings. All toiletries are au naturale too, including the lemongrass body oil, wooden toothbrushes and plastic-free chewable toothpaste.


Parkveien 78, 0254



Get outdoors

With the sheer wealth of open nature skirting the entire city, it's no wonder most Osloites' weekend activities revolve around getting a fix of the outdoors - it's more popular than pubbing and clubbing. A 20-minute scenic tram ride from the city will take you to the winding hiking routes, dramatic lakes and towering pines of our favourite forest, Nordmarka. It's where the trees for Future Library are planted. After exploring, take the lift to Holmenkollen, famed for its ski-jumping hill and competitions - though there's plenty of ski opportunities for amateurs too. Workout done, stop by the Bavarian-like Holmenkollen Restaurant for tartare, a hot toddy and mountaintop views.


The Well

A magnificent, high-design wellness centre where the robes are thick, the sculptures are world-famous and phones are literally swiped from your hand if used in the restaurant. Standing just outside the city, The Well collects sauna and bathing rituals from across the world under one enormous, space-age roof. It feels part Swiss health clinic, part Japanese ryokan and every part Nordic seamless. A golden bus transports visitors 20 minutes back and forth between the city centre and the complex, where you can easily spend an entire day luxuriating in the pools, saunas, massage rooms and organic cafés. Those, combined with the manicured gardens lined with thick evergreen forest, make this not only the largest spa and bathhouse in Scandinavia, but also the best. It’s perversely nice.


Kongeveien 65, 1412 Sofiemyr



Don’t fancy schlepping to The Well? Try SALT, a sauna and artspace opened by a wilderness-loving northern Norwegian in Oslo’s inner-city harbour. Set opposite the Snohetta-designed opera house, it hosts concerts, plays and exhibitions in a giant sauna that can fit hundreds of people, with lots of smaller saunas scattered along the water too. Of course, there’s a great bar and café.


Langkaia, 0150 Oslo




This is a restaurant with a really great initiative. André Evju came home from his travels with an idea to seize the affluent Norwegian appetite and put something back into the communities to which he grew close while in Africa. A snug and inviting noodle bar with a succinct menu and bottles of local craft beers, it feeds a child in need for every meal bought. We love the Frogner outpost, but there are locations in St Hanshaugen and at Oslo Street Food too.


Skovveien 3, 0257



Local brews and botanical cocktails can be found at Himkok, which has its own gin, vodka and aquavit distillery so you can expect a stellar G&T. Everything it makes is produced through sustainable and empirical production. Like this? Try Bar Robinet, a vintage-themed dive bar with excellent sips, music and staff. You’ll often find touring bands taking a post-gig tipple here.


Storgata 27, 0184



Oslo, Norway

Fuglen (or "the bird") is a coffee-shop-cum-vintage-store-cum-cocktail-joint that opened in 1963 and has consistently supported local small businesses and artisans of every flavour since. The 60s Scandi interior alone is a charm.


Universitetsgata 2 0164



This Frogner restaurant is another must-visit for its industrial-meets-flower-shed vibes. It grows its own veggies and herbs on site, produces lots of its own tonics, and hunts and forages for its ever-changing impressive seasonal menu.


Frognerveien 33, 0263



This Michelin-starred restaurant is a good alternative to the much-hyped, Noma-like Maaemo. Against a semi-industrial backrop of exposed pipework and concrete floors, it serves dishes that showcase Norway's bounty of organic, ethically sourced produce at the peak of its season. We recommend the 10-course tasting menu.


Maridalsveien 15a, 0175



Inspired by the Japanese omakase concept, this pocket-sized, fine-dining food bar in Frogner draws diners with its small rotation of dishes that change with the microseasons – think: summer tartlets with lumpfish roe; pork from Stølsvidda; blueberries with spruce milk. Snag a seat that overlooks the open kitchen.


Skovveien 15, 0257



Rest is perhaps Olso’s best restaurant in terms of eco credentials. Staying true to its “waste not, want not” motto, it transforms food waste into a fine-dining experience. Set menus make use of every scrap and wonky piece of produce – note that no vegan or vegetarian options are available.


Kirkegata 1-3, 0153

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