Oslo’s quirky borough along the banks of the Akerselva River, Grünerløkka used to be a gritty industrial area. Now, it’s where the cool kids go to shop and play. Løkka (as locals call it) brims with retrofitted, century-old buildings, public squares, and parks. Its current cache of indie-owned boutiques, cafés, galleries, and bars exemplifies Oslo’s edgy alter ego—an energetic contrast to the Norwegian capital’s more reserved city center nearby. “Løkka is like a village,” says local Nina Schjeide, co-owner of the Elisa Daystore. “People greet one another in the morning in the coffee shops and at night in the restaurants and bars.”
Mathallen – Opening in October, Oslo’s first dedicated food hall will host stalls for sausage makers, bakers, coffee roasters, farmers, and fishmongers.
DogA – In the old transformer station, the Norwegian Centre for Design and Architecture (known as DogA) stocks its on-site shop with elf motif tableware by Wik and Walsøe and other high-design must-haves.
Markveien Mat og Vinhus – This nearly 30-year-old bistro serves seasonal menus that might include its signature baked halibut, complemented by a wine list singled out by Wine Spectator.
Popsenteret – The recently opened interactive museum of music celebrates Norway’s pop and folk tunes and trends since 1904. Kids love the recording studios and the chance to have their photo on an album cover.
Elisa Day – This clothing shop is run by two seamstresses who sell (among other brands) their own hand- crafted clothing designs, from sundresses to ball gowns.
Galleri Markveien – Established and emerging Norwegian artists, including acclaimed abstract painter Tone Granberg Sletten, display their works here in a naturally lit showroom.
Velouria Vintage – The best of the many vintage shops in Grünerløkka, the small, always crowded Velouria sells go-go boots, sequined tops, chunky necklaces, and clothing from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Bar Boca – Epicurean cocktails rule at this longtime, retro-themed watering hole. Try the Bentley: a masterly marriage of calvados and Dubonnet.
This piece, written by Becca Hensley, appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.