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Joanne Blain


Joanne Blain is a freelance travel writer based in Victoria, B.C. and was formerly a writer and editor for The Vancouver Sun and The International Herald Tribune. Hotels with a pillow menu and a fabulous spa make her very happy.

Oslo has long had a reputation for being sleepier and a tad less cosmopolitan than Stockholm and Copenhagen, its big-city Scandinavian neighbors.

That started to change when Oslo’s spectacular new opera house opened in 2008 to worldwide acclaim. The trend gathered steam when a museum dedicated to Norwegian artist Edvard Munch opened next door in 2021 and the National Museum moved into its contemporary new quarters the following year.

The transformation of Norway’s capital city into a cultural mecca has given rise to a spate of sophisticated new hotels.

At the top of that list is a pair of sister properties, Sommero House and Villa Inkognito, which sit side by side in the chic and central Frogner neighborhood and share amenities.

Photo courtesy of Sommerro House

Sommerro House opened its doors first, in September 2022, transforming a landmark office building from the 1930s into a stylish 231-room hotel with an Art Deco flair. As many original details as possible were kept from the building’s previous life, including a spectacular mosaic wall and wood changing rooms in its below-ground public bath, now an expansive spa.

Photo courtesy of Villa Inkognito/Francisco Nogueira

Next door is the smaller but even more stunning Villa Inkognito, built in the 1870s as a small apartment block and later used as office space. After a meticulous renovation that draws from Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau and classic Norwegian design styles, it debuted this spring as a 11-room boutique hotel. The attention to detail is impressive, from period-inspired wallpaper, draperies and light fixtures to modern touches of luxury like Le Labo bath products and Dyson hair dryers.

Photo courtesy of Villa Incognito/Francisco Nogueira

All guests have access to its sumptuous public rooms, including a retro lounge, library and cozy bar. They can also book a private cabana at its rooftop pool and a spot at the breakfast table in its tile-lined kitchen, with a private chef catering to your culinary whims. The truly well-heeled can rent the entire villa—something to keep in mind if you win the lottery.

Photo courtesy of The Thief hotel

In the waterfront Tjuvholmen district is a hotel that James Bond would have felt right at home in when his latest epic, No Time to Die, was filmed in Norway in 2019. The Thief is dark and enigmatic with moody lighting, velvety furnishings and contemporary art and fixtures. Most rooms have private balconies with water views, but you might still want to head up to the rooftop bar for a top-notch cocktail with sweeping vista of the city and sea.

Tjuvholmen translates as “thief islet” and the area was once notorious as a base for criminals and other ne’er-do-wells. Now it’s home to upscale condos and offices, and adjacent to Aker Brygge, a walkable district filled with shops and restaurants that’s also the setting for the must-visit National Museum. Most of Oslo’s other attractions are a walk or a short tram ride away.

Photo courtesy of Amerikalinjen hotel

Smack in the middle of Oslo’s central district is Amerikalinjen, in the former headquarters of the transatlantic passenger and freight shipping company of the same name founded in 1919. The stately building was reborn four years ago as a boutique hotel that blends period details like high ceilings and herringbone wood floors with contemporary furnishings and art.

For a 122-room property, Amerikalinjen has an embarrassment of riches in the food and drink department, with four bars and restaurants as well as a takeout bagel shop. You can even hire a “floating bartender” who will bring a rolling bar cart to your suite to make you a custom cocktail or three.

Photo courtesy of Frogner House Hotels and Apartments

If you are a self-service traveller, Frogner House Hotels and Apartments is a good option. It’s not one property but a collection of 448 apartments in Oslo (and another 360 in Stavanger, if you’re headed there) ranging from studios to three-bedroom suites.

Most people will like the kitchens and extra living space the suites offer, but the biggest draw for anyone travelling with only carry-on baggage—a smart thing to do in these days of airline chaos—are the washers, which most apartments have either in the suite or down the hall. Trust me, you’ll really appreciate being able to refresh your wardrobe mid-trip. All the suites are centrally located, but inside they are all different; read the online reviews to find what will work best for you.

Photo courtesy of Citybox Oslo

If you’re looking for a centrally located hotel that’s stylish, practical and budget-friendly, check out Citybox Oslo, which opened a decade ago but underwent an expansion and renovation in 2019. It now has 341 rooms that are basic and tiny, but comfortable and spotlessly clean.

Citybox doesn’t have a restaurant, bar or spas, or even a reception desk. You check in and out via a machine in the lobby, but real people are a phone call away if you need assistance. But if price is your priority, who needs frills?

Lead photo courtesy of Villa Inkognito/Francisco Nogueira

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