Bitterly cold? Dispiritingly dark? Extremely expensive? Oslo is all of these. But the Norwegian capital is also the world leader in happy living, serves great coffee and is on the doorstep of some of the world’s most arresting scenery.
Between October and March Norway is largely cloaked in wintry darkness. This, coupled with Oslo’s on-screen reputation as a snowy backdrop for grim murders in Scandi noir thrillers, might suggest the city is a depressing place to live. Not so. For starters, in summer months Oslo is bathed in natural light until sunset at 11pm. And all year round, the capital is the beating heart of the happiest country in the world, according to the UN’s 2017 World Happiness Report. Citizens enjoy high salaries, low crime and cradle-to-grave welfare supported by the country’s $1trn sovereign wealth fund.
A buyer’s market
Oslo’s reputation for high-cost living is well earned — its housing market included. However, following years of soaring house prices, the market has cooled quickly in the wake of government rules introduced at the start of 2017 to temporarily limit speculative buying and mortgage lending.
According to investment bank Nordea, apartment prices in Norway’s capital are already down 12 per cent from a 2016 peak. The lender forecasts Norwegian house prices will dip 1-3 per cent before they stabilise in the second half of this year and flatten in 2019. A current oversupply of unsold apartments could, therefore, mark a rare opportunity for cash buyers to get a foothold in the Oslo market before lending limits are scheduled to be lifted in June.
A skyline in evolution
Since fire destroyed much of the city in 1624, Oslo’s skyline has been constantly evolving. As a result, the city boasts some of Europe’s most dynamic architecture. By the harbour, the Opera House, home to the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, is a case in point. Its marble and white granite angled exterior is designed to appear to be rising from the water.
Beyond Oslo’s architectural attractions lies an adventure playground of considerable natural beauty. If you enjoy cross-country skiing, hiking or fishing, Oslo provides a gateway to the surrounding fiords, mountains, glaciers and archipelagos. A slick rail and bus network, plus an airport within 20 minutes of the city centre, means the stunning scenery of Trolltunga or Preikestolen — not to mention passage to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights — are within easy reach.
Smell the coffee
Oslo is a magnet for discerning coffee fanatics. Locals are so keen on coffee alchemy that the city has become the unofficial home of the light roast — a technique that produces especially complex, delicate flavours. Highlights of the buzzing coffee scene include Tim Wendelboe (a roastery, bar and coffee school run by a former world champion barista); Supreme Roastworks, which is co-owned by three-time Norwegian black coffee brewing champion Odd-Steinar Tøllefsen; and the Fuglen coffee bar.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto