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Norway has a relatively strict alcohol policy and regulations; hence the price-level of alcoholic beverages is high. As a result, the Norwegians tend to have a few (or a lot!) of drinks at home before they go out. Norwegians arrange the infamous “vorspiel” (pre-parties) with friends before they go out. This results in clubs being deserted until midnight.
The Norwegian alcohol policy is regulated with an 18 year old limit to buy alcoholic drinks with an alcohol percent below 23 such as beer and wine, and a 20 year old limit if you are to buy spirits, rum etc. Therefore the different pubs, bars and clubs operate with different age limits based on what they serve. Most places either have an 18 or 20 year old limit. You may meet some weird age limits as well, since some places operate with 23, 25 and a few places have a 27(!) year old age limit, but these are of course not final and mostly due to have the option to reject people that “don’t fit in”. Most places have a cover charge that varies between 50 NOK and 120 NOK, and opening hours at clubs and bars are usually between 09:00 PM to 03:00-03:30 AM at the weekends.
Even though the nightlife in Oslo is relatively laid-back and low-maintained, some places operate with certain dress codes and if you dress nicely you have a better chance of getting into the clubs, it is clever to avoid wearing your dirtiest shoes and sports-wear.
Oslo may be a small capital, but its nightlife still has something for everyone whether you fancy a delicious cocktail, a chill-out lounge or dancing on the tables. (Introduction by the New York Times.)
The city is divided into different neighbourhoods and areas and the atmosphere, guests and prices vary accordingly. The most tourist area of the Oslo and the core of the city, with the main street Karl Johan in the middle, have a wide variety of different pubs, bars and nightclubs that attract all kinds of people. The west-side of the city centre, Majorstuen, Vika and Frogner, is characterized by its fashionable, flashy and beautiful guests that want to see and be seen. In the Grünerlokka district the atmosphere is more relaxed and low-maintained; the guests are still trendy, but more laid-back and carefree. The bars, cafes and pubs in the Grünerlokka and Grönland district are smaller and more intimate, and have a homier feel.
Nightlife at Karl Johan and the city centre
Brooms & Hatchets (Kongens gate 5)
Based in the historical Kvadraturen neighborhood of Oslo and located within the design hotel First Hotel Grims Grenka, this new cocktail bar focuses on craft cocktails and spirits, with an extensive Scandinavian micro-brewery beer assortment as well as a contemporary take on Gastro-pub food. Proud of its Norwegian heritage, the bar will keep close to its Nordic roots, with a modern Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan feel. The bar has a buzzing, urban and vibrant atmosphere, where service is king and product is flawless. Voted as one of the best cocktailbars in Norway. The bar also offers an after work concept on Fridays after 15:00.
The Villa, Oslo Dancing (Møllergaten 23) Was recently voted as best club of 2007. Main focus on techno, presenting well-known and new upcoming DJ-talents. This club is connected to the restaurant/bar Hell's Kitchen, which is said to have the best pizza in town, plus is claimed to be the surroundings if there were to be written a new "nightlife novel" in Norway. Beware of too trendy hipsters.
Kharma (Kristian Augusts gate)
Large club with strict dresscode - no sneakers. This club has changed name every year or so, it is just the average club with a dancefloor, lounge and VIP-room. Music varies between hip-hop/R&B, funk/disco and club/house. Watch out for glamour models. Events liker Ministry of Sound use Kharma as their venue.
Is located in the basement of Grand Hotel and has a 24 year old age limit. Large bar, small dancefloor, Lots of male guests in suits . Often events such as release parties for albums, clothing lines and fragrances.
is a very popular and packed place on weekends and it is also a venue visited by “celebrities” such as Idol finalists, reality-show contestants, pop stars, TV-hosts and well known investors. They often arrange launch parties for champagnes and perfumes in an attempt to be perceived as an exclusive and classy club, although their location, between Karl Johans Gate and Aker Brygge, somewhat prevents that.
Tors Hammer (Rosenkrantzgate)
Tors Hammer translated means “the hammer of Thor” (as in northern mythology). This place is not very sophisticated, but is one of the few places that is open until 06:00 AM and they let you dance on the tables.
Hard Rock Café (Karl Johans gate)
The place just started a new club concept THE FLARE witch is a nightclub where you have room to dance and enjoy the Hard Rock Cafe style, they also have a Party bar on their first floor from the 21th of march 2014 called NOISE. Where you will find Suits and jumpers hanging out together.
Harry’s (changed name but that's it?) (Karl Johansgate 33)
As with all of the other nightclubs they tend to lose popularity after a few months and even though the place used to be quite hot when it first opened, it is now popular among the less sophisticated guests. The only stylish thing in Harry’s is the gigantic chandelier. Expect a packed dancefloor and hearing mainstream music, such as the latest hits of Rihanna and Christina Aguilera.
Friday’s Bar (Karl Johansgate)
Connected to the restaurant TGI. Friday’s, this place attracts a more mature crowd and Friday’s offer a huge selection of different drinks, everything from classics to some weird combinations. They’re known for their delicious strawberry daiquiris. Mainstream music and little sophisticated guests.
Café Sör [Café South] (Torggata)
This café/bar is popular among the urban citizens. The interior looks like it has been gathered at a yard sale, but the fruity drinks are delicious and the price-level is quite reasonable. A DJ usually plays music in the evening, which varies from funk, soul, hip hop, disco, electronica. Do not expect Britney Spears!
Tiger Tiger (Torggata 5)
Is based on a Danish club-concept and is probably among the largest nightclubs in Oslo (which compared to other nightclubs in other cities is indeed quite small!) It is divided into different rooms with dance floors, where different DJs play a variety of music, usually a mix of R&B, club-hits and disco, which attract a large crowd of young party-people, from all kinds of subcultures. The place is decorated in an oriental theme with sitting groups and even beds if you really want to take a breather between the dance sessions.
BTIZ (Keysers Gate)
This place is a fun and lively place on the weekends with a varied music profile. It appeals to everyone because it's not too fancy, and you never know what the DJ will play because it could be ANYTHING - really!
Café Art'é (St Olavs gt. 7)
A relaxing cafe with a continental touch. An artist hangout with an intimate backyard and various cultural events and concerts.
Sikamikanico (Moellergata 2)
If you enjoy clubbing, this is the place to be. The tiny club has been there for nine years and used to be known for throwing out the furniture on the street to make more room for dancing, and it is still going strong. International and local DJs play a variety of house, techno, trance and other types of electronic music. The atmosphere is amazing and the guests are very friendly. They also have a great offer on beer before 11 PM. The only drawback is the gross toilets.
Onkel Donald (Universitetsgata)
It used to be a hot spot and the crowd is more mature (relatively strict 25 year old age limit), function as a restaurant and café at daytime and arrange quizzes on weekdays, but is a popular club/bar on weekends.
John’s Bar (Universitetsgata)
It is not exactly the classiest place in Oslo, but it is still packed on weekends. The music profile is hits from the 80s and generally mainstream music. The guests are neither stylish nor fashionable, but the atmosphere is supposed to be lively. Watch your toes, as this place gets crammed!
Summit 21 (Holbergs plass)
not particularly sophisticated but located on the 21st floor of the SAS Hotel, this place has a stunning view over the city. The atmosphere is more relaxed and the crowd is mature, a nice place to enjoy your cocktails. Check out the fancy toilets.
Stratos (Youngstorget 1b)
is another alternative, but the place is usually only open at special occasions and in the summer, but the view is excellent as it is on the 11th and 12th floor of a tall building downtown Oslo. Music is varied, but expect a mix of something like disco, funk, hiphop, house.
Mono (Plöensgt. 4)
this place is very popular among both rock groups and “groupies”. There are often live bands and concerts. Tickets for the concerts can be bought at Mono.
Garage (Grensen 9)
This place is a favourite hang-out among people who love rock, indie and alternative music.
Nylon (Arbeidergt.) and Robinet (Mariboesgate)
These two are other alternatives if you prefer rock/alternative/indie music.
Naken (Pilestredet 17)
that translated means ‘naked’, is a gay club that focuses on house music and arranging fun and lively concepts.
Fugazi (Tordenskjoldsgt. 3)
is hard to find, but once you find the big black door and you pass the two doormen, then you’re inside a modern club with a funky vibe and a DJ that plays mostly soul and funk, not mainstream as in most other clubs.
Nomaden (Bernt Ankersgt.17)
is a small club decorated by paintings in the ceiling and a black/white interior mixed with old furniture that look like it belongs to a yard sale. They play a variety of electronic music, hip hop, funk, reggae, dancehall and disco and thereby attract a very diverse crowd of guests.
Club Cliché (Fridtjof Nansens plass 8)
has a main focus on RnB, hiphop, dancehall, breakbeats, funk and soul.
The Roxy Club (situated in Kirkegata) house the 18 year olds and have a main focus on mainstream music, R&B and hip-hop.
Nightlife at Majorstuen, Vika and Frogner
The clubs and bars located at the west-side of the city are known to host the fancier guests.
Cosmo (Ruseløkkveien 12)
One of the most talked about clubs in Oslo at the moment. Arrogant bouncers, red carpet and lots of champagne describe this fancy loved and hated club in Vika. It's divided into two levels, ground level, also called Bellini, is large, light, and dance friendly, with an excellent resident DJ, or "music profiler", Rune Refling, somewhat of a legend in Oslo. It also has a large outdoor area next to the red carpet in summertime, with comfy lounge interior. First floor, White Room, hosts a bar and some lounges too, with different music and of course, white interior. If you want to get in after 12am you should either be on the list, or know how to wriggle your way past it.
Gossip Room (Ruseløkkveien 12) the new extension to Oslo's small offer of clubs for the under-20 crowd. It's situated in the basement of Cosmo, which used to be a part of that club, called Black Room. It's taking inspiration from the popular TV-series Gossip Girl, and it's website is supposed to work the same way as Gossip Girl does in the series. The official opening party was on the 6th of June 2008.
Champagneria (Frognerveien 2) might sound more snobby than it is. It attracts a more mature crowd (27 and up) and they do serve a wide variety of champagne, but also cava (sparkling, Catalonian wine) for good prices, being Norway. This is a great place to hang out before going out, for tapas and wine. They have a small terrace on the first floor, which is super cozy.
Barbeint (Henrik Ibsens Gate 60A) a small club with superb music. The place used to be a hot club for the in-crowd in Oslo a long time ago, but has recently reopened and is taking over its old fields. It's run by two male models, and they're often hosting different fashion and media events. The interior is pretty cool, but as mentioned, the club is tiny. They use to have a saxophonist and sometimes drummers too, and the DJ, overlooking the dancefloor, is great.
Barbera (Filipstad Brygge 1)
is a popular bar due to its nice price on beer. Stay away from the drinks though, they’re really bad. The place is a café and restaurant at daytime, serving coffees and tapas. This is a place where young people go after work to eat and drink champagne (mostly to show off and wanting to live a glamorous lifestyle). Be aware of the confusing unisex-toilet.
Aapen Bar (Stranden 1)
is located at the very end of Aker Brygge and is especially nice on Sundays when the beer is cheap and the music is great. Translated the name means “open bar” and that’s what it is, and therefore a great place to people-watch. Have expanded recently and have hopefully got rid of the single unisex toilet which was making guests run over to Mc Donald’s.
It used to be a sports bar for the trendy and upper class young people, but it has definitely changed the last years. The interior is still characterized by a sport theme, but there is nothing sophisticated about the place. It has the tiniest dancefloor and pool tables.
Nightlife at Grünerlokka and Grönland
very popular and probably still (one year on) the hottest spot in Oslo. Function as a restaurant at day/evening and in the summer the outdoor restaurant is buzzing. Trendy but laid-back with its bricked walls and open fireplace.
the nightclub that belongs to Südoest. Small and intimate club in the basement of Südoest with a varied music profile and a good chance for celeb-spotting.
Fru Hagen (Thorvald Meyersgt)
used to be one of the trendiest spots at Grünerlokka and is still popular. Small and cosy café/bar, where a local DJ plays on the weekends.
Dattera til Hagen (Gronland 10)
popular colourful and nice café/bar in the Gronland-district. Music varies from funky house to disco to jazz/blues and alternative.
Tea Lounge (Thorvald Meyers gate)
do specialize in tea, but the guests are primarily going for a beer or a drink in this airy and trendy decorated café/bar.
Kaos (Thorvald Meyersgate 56)
is probably the only place with a dancefloor at Grünerloekka. Lounge-like club and it has a popular backyard that is open in the summer. Rumour has it the bouncers VERY easily reject anyone that seem to have had a drink too many. Crowdy during weekends partly due to lower prices on beer.
Very popular small and intimate bar that is known for its professional bartenders and fantastic drinks.