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Global Blue's guide to Tjuvholmen and Aker Brygge


Home to sought-after boutiques, acclaimed eateries and some of the city’s most eclectic architecture, Tjuvholmen is one of Oslo’s most vibrant districts, Verity Hogan discovers

Verity Hogan
Verity Hogan ,

In the 18th century, Norway’s most dangerous criminals were sent to the tiny island of Tjuvholmen. Today, it has been transformed into a hub of contemporary art and architecture and has become Oslo’s most vibrant district. Located on the Oslo fjord and just five minutes’ walk from the city centre, Tjuvholmen offers 2 kilometres of seafront along with an array of high-end boutiques, award-winning restaurants, extraordinary works of art and magnificent architecture.

As soon as the sun starts to shine, Tjuvholmen and the neighbouring district of Aker Brygge attract visitors and locals, who flock to the area from the city centre. Here, they wander along the pedestrianised streets, stroll along the quay, admire the many sights and enjoy a meal with a view at one of the many harbourside restaurants.

For those with an interest in contemporary architecture, the area has plenty to offer. Buildings by 20 architects feature across the island, providing a comprehensive overview of current trends. Architectural styles differ across the island, and building uses range from chic apartments and offices to shops, bars and art galleries. Aker Brygge was, for over a century, the site of a shipyard and today is distinctive because of the way in which historic buildings and warehouses have been combined with striking modern architecture.

Nautical style
The area now has the highest concentration of shops in this part of the city and its portfolio of stores makes it well worth a visit. Local clothing labels such as Menswear can be found here, along with international brands. With its nautical influences and preppy styling, the Norwegian label Jean Paul is perfectly suited to its Aker Brygge location. It is also a label worthy of international attention. According to Monica Solberg, the brand’s marketing manager, when André and Per Placht opened their first store in 1977, the collection, style and philosophy were similar to those of Ralph Lauren, René Lacoste and John E Brooks, founder of the US clothing retailer Brooks Brothers.

Since then, Jean Paul has perfected a relaxed and sporty style and has become known for its maritime colour palette of navy, white and red. ‘Jean Paul has strong associations to sailing and activities by the sea, as well as the preppy style you often find in these environments,’ says Solberg. ‘Aker Brygge is the one place in Oslo that offers store locations with a sea view and boat piers. It is a perfect match for our brand.’

A meal with a view
After a long day shopping in the area’s finest boutiques, visitors are sure to be in need of refreshment, and Tjuvholmen’s dining scene doesn’t disappoint. The restaurants in Aker Brygge alone have a seating capacity of 5,000 and a number of Oslo’s finest restaurants are located in the area. Unsurprisingly, given the location, seafood restaurants are the most prevalent, among them Alex Sushi and Lofoten. As well as offering a menu based on high-quality local produce, Onda contributes to the area’s distinctive appearance with its spectacular architecture. Onda means ‘wave’ in Spanish and the restaurant is shaped to resemble its name, with curved walls clad in yellow pine which perfectly complement its maritime setting.

Cultural highlights
The southern tip of the island is dominated by the Astrup Fearnley museum. Designed by Renzo Piano, it is one of Oslo’s most popular attractions, hosting temporary exhibitions throughout the year by leading international and Norwegian contemporary artists, and with sculptures in its gardens. Its collection dates back to the 1960s and has consistently featured works that push the boundaries. When the museum was looking for a new location a few years ago, creative Tjuvholmen was a perfect fit. ‘Tjuvholmen provides the museum with a prominent location in the centre of Oslo,’ says Gard Andreas Frantzsen, the museum’s head of communications. ‘Furthermore, the new building is an architectural masterpiece and the area is much more vibrant – in the summer it is buzzing with people.’ 

The museum’s diverse collection and location have wide appeal. ‘A typical visitor could be anyone from an art and architecture connoisseur to urban lifestyle-orientated people,’ says Frantzsen. ‘The building is meant to be a place for silence and meditation, but it’s also somewhere to meet people or to just enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the boats in the fjord go by.’

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