If you find yourself thirsty in Oslo, Grünerløkka is a haven for everything liquid – whether it is healthy kambucha or the locally brewed beer. Let’s be very clear, though – this is not the good-for-your-gut-guide to Grünerløkka (though malt actually is quite good for your digestion). If you follow this pub crawl to a tee, this might very well cause your body to ache the next day.
Grünerløkka is the heart of both mixology, craft beer and wine in Oslo. Whether you prefer an icy cold sauvignon blanc in the afternoon sun, or a trusty, old-fashioned pint at one o’clock in the morning – Grünerløkka will serve you well. Over the years, the area has undergone a massive transformation, and today’s bar scene perfectly marries the past with the present: the proletariat, working class beer gardens of the past, and the experimental and ecological territories of the future.
Olaf Ryes plass 11, bar with a separate music venue.
Opens at 11:00, closing times varies between 01.00-02:00
Recommendation: Go for beer on tap!
To warm up the throat we start with something light, a fuzz-free pint at Parkteatret, an institution in the heart of Grünerløkka, at Olaf Rues plass. We choose a pint from the super local brewery Schous (just down the street), that leads us into a discussion about which Norwegian pint is actually the best. Schous is a favourite in the neighborhood for obvious reasons, but also the long lasting, and very traditional beer Ringnes has a tight grip on the community, with the original brewery some minutes up the road. As Oslo-folk we do not always recognize Hansa, the pride and glory of the West Coast city of Bergen, as anything to write home about, even though it is well-represented on tap in the neighborhood. Of course, many will beg to differ.
Parkteatret showcases the old and classic Grünerløkka-identity. Back in 1907 it was a cinema, and the bar knows how to take care of its cultural heritage. Photographs from the early 1900’s show the same arched entryway which visitors walk beneath today, and the big capital letters are as dominant in marking Parkteatret’s territory in the neighborhood as they did one-hundred years ago.
The style of the bar is art deco, and it is neatly furnished. Nevertheless it has an unpretentious vibe, and the clichés of nostalgia have been checked at the door. Our time is undoubtably modern at the draught beer faucets: Indian Pale Ales, sour beer, porter, stout, pilsner – the draft selection is not massive, but it certainly covers your needs, and then some.
After a while, the music signals that the afternoon is officially bygone, and the amped up volume forces us to show off some not very smooth (but very honest) chair-dance moves. We finish our beers before that pulsating feeling, which only Friday night can serve, pushes us on to the next location.
Aku-Aku Tiki Bar
Thorvald Meyers gate 32, cocktailbar.
Opens at 17:00, closing times varies between 01.00-03:30.
Recommendation: Go for any drinks with chili in it.
The colorful stepsister of Parkteatret has a seat saved for us; Aku-Aku Tiki Bar is the place for some real good and professional mixology.
Hawaiian shirts are uniform here, and the concept cannot be mistaken: this is all about long drinks and vacation vibes – an illusion catering to the cold-blooded Norwegian. The bar aims to reach far beyond our geographical pin point in Thorvald Meyers gate, but nevertheless nods to our cultural pride and glory – the world famous explorer, Thor Heyerdahl. The name Aku-Aku refers to mythological creatures from Easter Island, which later became the name of both the book and documentary film which Heyerdahl made of his findings during his expedition to the South Pacific in 1955-56.
The menu does its best to get you seasick. Huge cocktail bowls are a clear favorite among the visitors. We get recommended everything that has chili on the menu, and go for one passion-fruit-and-chili-combo – along with another drink way more daring, with a burnt cinnamon stick, which gives us a sophisticated Long Island Iced Tea feel. The employees are clearly enjoying each others company, and it is contagious.
As most Grünerløkka bars, Aku-Aku is crammed and small. Since we did get a seat, it feels exclusive, which we like. The shelves boast of heirlooms, tiki-statues – originally called moai – that the liquid gold can be poured into. Masks, Hawaiian roses and lanterns make us visitors feel like we are in a cabin. More generally, the neighbourhood’s heart for maximalism and eclectic interiors is what meets the eye. Stripped down Scandi-minimalism is not what this area is about, and we love it exactly for that reason. Here, everything is on display, so you don’t have to be.
Thorvald Meyers gate 56, 80s retrobar with a dance floor.
Opens at 14:00 (12.00 on Saturdays), closing time is 03:30, except at 01.00 on Sundays and Mondays.
Recommendation: Go for a pint! (or frankly anything else you might fancy).
The next bar is yet another u-turn in culture and decade. It also says so in the name; as the next door neighbour to a Methodist Church, Rebell seem quite… rebellious. Rebell does whatever floats its boat, and an authentic Grünerløkka-mentality is always at play here. The bartenders are nice, but they don’t necessarily sport some typically humble “the-customer-is-always-right” attitude. We enjoy that about this place – personality over stiff service phrases, please!
Rebell is like a replica of a teenage boy’s room from the 1980s. Nude women with bushy genitalia is tapered at the toilet cubicles, and more ultimate babes of the ‘80s can be drooled over on the walls of the venue. The ‘80s tunes we love to hate – and sometimes love without any guilt whatsoever – are being played, and the record covers line the walls. The lighting is dark and serves to hide everything you want – your greasy hair, the bags under your eyes, and even your tongue down a willing stranger’s throat.
Rebell knows its way around surprises though. While Samantha Fox is singing that she herself is “hungry for love, hungry for fun,” what might the food menu have to offer? Amongst other things, traditional home cooked Norwegian meals! Try the cheap and hearty “Fleskepannekaker” or “Flesk og duppe” while Ms. Fox starts touching herself. She keeps singing that love (nevertheless) is confusing her brain, and we are pleasantly confused as well. This is flat-out funny, and we love it.
The venue serves it’s purpose late at night, and if you are having a nice mother-daughter weekend trip to Oslo, this might not exactly be the place (or that completely depends on your mother). It is not a shopping and champagne kind of place (and thank god for that!), but rather a place to kick-start, prolong or finish that good weekend vibe. Various DJs playing their sets here are announced on the board (photo) and are listed on social media every month.
We are a bit early for that though. But by the looks of the approach of Spring in the streets, we cannot wait to get back here to enjoy a beer in the backyard. And to dance, of course.
Thorvald Meyers gate 30B, brewery and gastropub.
Recommendation: Go for their own craft beers on tap!
Before we get properly out of balance this evening, we decide to hit Grünerløkka Brygghus for our final stop. This is a beer- and cultural institution in the streets of Thorvald Meyers gate. In the bar a broad selection of beer greets us, both in the form of beer, cocktails, locally-brewed beer from the brewery and imported beer on tap and in bottles.
This stop also forces us to travel in time and space. The nostalgic interior is reminiscent of 1920s and ‘30s railway compartment coaches, or even the waiting hall of a railway station. We picture a train bustling over our heads, shaking the ceiling. The place is a gastropub and serves food which is excellently paired with their selection of beer. Comfort-food like “bangers & mash” and fish’n’chips are staples, but traditional home-cooked Norwegian meals are available.
In contrast to most other places in Grünerløkka, the menu at Grünerløkka Brygghus is not a problem to read, as the location is heavily lit. For the two youngsters snogging next us, dimmed lighting might have done them a favour, but we still enjoy the pick-me-up some decent lighting provides for us.
To “shop locally” is a slogan often used in Grünerløkka, and even though this mainly applies to those permanently living in the area, it’s important for any tourist to know that the quirky, little bars of Grünerløkka aren’t exactly million-dollar income businesses. They survive because the neighborhood loves to invest in their own. For that reason, Grünerløkka Brygghus is one of the points of pride and joy in the neighbourhood – providing the area with their own beer festival early in the summer, called Oslo Mikrobryggfest (over at their brewery location), and naturally – good, locally brewed beer every day of the month!
We make a toast to our local heroes, who makes this street what it is, and we call it a night.
Some honorable mentions:
The basement at Schous plass, called Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, is a must-see for any beer lover. A cosy, one-of-a-kind brewery in the heart of the city. It’s at the bottom of Thorvald Meyers gate, at Trondheimsveien 2.
Hytta Bar is like a small, charming Norwegian cottage, and has an excellent selection of both Norwegian and Belgian beer (the latter because one of the managers was Belgian, and really knows his stuff!) They are located at Thorvald Meyers gate 70, and they only play vinyl. Also, right next door is Glød, owned by the same people, featuring a great selection of beer and a lovely fireplace.
Bar Boca has always been close to the neighbours’ hearts. Every respected mixologist in the city has at one time or another worked in this bar, and it is here the bar scene at Grünerløkka started – before everything became ultra-hip and trendy. Often highlighted as hands-down one of the street’s best bars, it serves cocktails until the wee hours of the morning (every bar is regulated to close their alcohol sales by 3 am). They can be found just by Grünerløkka Brygghus, at Thorvald Meyers gate 50.
For the gin lover, Chair is the place to be. They only serve gin and tonic, the classic sort as well as the experimental kind. A wide selection of Norwegian gin, which is doing extremely well at an international level (try the Bareksten gin in particular). At Thorvald Meyers gate 45. Couch, some 50 meters up the road, is Chair’s younger sibling, a aperitivo bar serving amazing italian spritz cocktails with delicious antipasta.