When Norway’s King Harald V stands on the balcony of the royal palace, he gazes down upon Karl Johans gate, Oslo’s most glamorous thoroughfare. Named after a 19th-century Scandinavian ruler, the street snakes uphill from the palace, and counts elegant outdoor cafés, a 17th-century baroque cathedral and old-world hotels among its many attractions. Egertorget, a pedestrianised square, is the highest point of Karl Johans gate – and also a gateway to Oslo’s best shops and boutiques.
Standing in Egertorget, you may need your sunglasses because of the glint from the array of jewellery stores nearby. The streets here might not be paved with gold, but the shops are lined with it – and silver, and platinum. Thune, one of Norway’s leading goldsmiths, set up shop in the square more than 150 years ago. Expert craftsmanship underscores its vast collection of jewellery, which includes sought-after engagement rings and silver and gold pendants embellished with white diamonds. A few doors down, David-Andersen stocks a vast selection of international brands, including wristwatches by Tag Heuer and unique jewellery by Ole Lynggaard. The latter takes nature as a starting point, resulting in delightful lotus-shaped earrings and butterfly rings in gold and diamonds.
From David-Andersen, follow the style tribes around the corner to Akersgata, a charming street that mixes old and new. On one side it houses the Norwegian parliament in a yellow brick building that dates from 1860. Across the street, a series of boutiques that display the latest trends in their storefront windows have transformed Akersgata into a catwalk where Norwegian brands find a home alongside a variety of international labels.
Moods of Norway, one of the country’s most successful fashion exports, channels warmth at every turn. The label’s quirky take on so-called ‘fjord fashion’ has earned a cult following in Los Angeles and Tokyo. From cocktail dresses and sportswear to suits, expect vibrant colours, striking plaids and bold prints, which help the brand live up to its motto of ‘happy clothes for happy people.’
Oslo’s largest Louis Vuitton store signals your arrival at the centre of the city’s luxury shopping district. Vuitton’s iconic luggage and art-scrawled carryalls may steal the attention, but the store also stocks the brand’s scarves and shawls to keep customers warm when the sun sets. A few doors down, Mulberry presents a playful take on British style. The English brand, celebrated for its leather goods, still handcrafts many of its bags in a factory in Somerset, England. Bags such as the Cecily tote in biscuit-brown soft croc print and the Alexa in giraffe-printed calf hair dangle from the arms of celebrities that include Kate Moss and Keira Knightley. Even more leather bags await at Steffen, the only Tumi distributor in Norway.
Back at Egertorget, an all-encompassing approach to style reigns. Eger, Oslo’s newest high-end shopping centre, houses more than 125 fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. Among its standout shops is Høyer, a multi-label store where Helmut Lang’s gauzy tops hang near Acne knitwear and Stella McCartney trousers. Women keen to adopt the off-duty model look should consider Alexander Wang’s elegant casualwear. Paired with Jimmy Choo boots, it’s a style that will turn heads in Oslo and beyond. Men will find brands such as Lanvin, Saint Laurent and Tiger of Sweden.
A shopping spree through Norway’s capital city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Steen & Strøm, Oslo’s original department store. Set up as a wine shop in 1797 on Kongens Gate, just a few blocks from Egertorget, it grew into Oslo’s first modern department store in the late 19th century. The architects of the current premises, rebuilt in 1930 after a fire, drew inspiration from Paris’s great department stores for the building’s imposing façade and circular, wrap-around balconies on each level. Both Burberry and Hermès have set up shop here, and even more brands are coming. This spring, Gucci will unveil a two-storey shop with its own entrance inside Steen & Strøm, its first brand store in Norway.
After climbing Gucci’s stairs and trying on its butter-soft leather jackets with floral embroidery, over-excited visitors may need to catch their breath on the sixth floor. Beauticians at the Hud & Hår Klinikken offer a variety of treatments, from facials to skin peels, to leave you ready for Oslo’s high-octane night life. The Emil & Samuel brasserie, also on the sixth floor, features French cuisine with a traditional Nordic twist. The restaurant’s rooftop terrace is the perfect place to raise a glass to Oslo’s glorious past – and its even more striking present.