You don’t need to walk more than ten steps from NMH before you find yourself at Chateau Neuf – where you can experience much more than just music. Here the heat lamps from the Glassbaren’s outdoor area glow until late at night, without your having to burn a hole in your wallet. The aroma of inexpensive beer follows you up the stairs to the lounge of the Bokcafé, surrounded by books and featuring its bar. There you can enjoy intimate concerts, lectures, quizzes or bingo. Right behind NMH is Store Studio, the main studio of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. If you listen, you can almost hear the echoes of history – in a building that has offered live broadcasts since the golden age of radio and the infancy of television. Today it serves as the regular stage for the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. There are countless opportunities for music experiences, and it is not exactly a disadvantage that NMH students have free entry!
A Music Student's Guide to Oslo
Are you unsure of what the nation's capital has to offer? Here is a list of our favourite places.
In the immediate vicinity
Just a stone’s throw away is the Deichman library. If you have a library card, you can enter at any time of the day or night, whether you need a new study environment, want to borrow a computer, or settle down with a book. If you’re interested in relaxing and taking a break, the PUST café is a typical hangout for NMH students. Enjoy healthy food or something sweet amidst the long tables and industrial lighting, or cross the street to visit the tiny French bistro Grains, where the fragrance of crêpes and the enthusiastic French bakers will treat you to a delicious break in your everyday schedule.
If the weekend seems too far away, you can enjoy a Friday atmosphere in mid-week at Café Billabong, which is also very close to NMH. The cosy interior gives you the feeling of being both in a cabin and an antique shop, and here it is more than likely that you’ll meet some fellow students.
If you want to expand your horizons, the city has a lot more to offer. Not least, nature that is close to the town. The “Green Belt Boundary”, known as Oslomarka, is a gem that only costs the price of a tram ticket. The same applies to the Sognsvann lake or the ferries out to the islands in the Oslo Fjord. Nothing can compare with the feeling of standing on the deck and feeling the salt spray in your face while your boat is chugging out to a sun-warmed island on a summer’s day. It’s like being on the idyllic southern coast of Norway in the middle of the Oslo Fjord! If you’re looking for a more urban kind of bathing, Sørenga Sjøbad offers a public swimming pool, cafés and restaurants along the waterfront (as well as ice bathing and a sauna in the winter). The Botanical Garden, Akershus Fortress and Ekebergparken Sculpture Park are all open to the public and absolutely free.
If your student budget is tight, it is also possible to go out on the town in Oslo without breaking the bank. Try a visit to Tamara, a small hangout loaded with soul, or let the sound of old, nostalgic records set the mood at Luna Park. As a counterweight to cosiness, the student bar Mastermind offers a futuristic vibe. There you can drink inexpensive beer in a giant green room with large windows facing Oslo’s most dystopian view.
In a more modest location on a side street is Himkok, which is on the list of the world’s 50 best bars. Despite the austere look of the bartenders in their white laboratory coats, the atmosphere is relaxed, and you get a sense of being in a somewhat secret place.
Small and medium-sized stages
There are many small club stages, among which Ingensteds, Kafe Hærverk, Revolver and Café Mir are worth noting. Of course, we must mention the former textile mill Blå, one of Oslo’s oldest clubs, which offers mainstream and underground music. This venue has a magical location on the banks of the Akerselva river, and you can enjoy concerts early in the evening before a red-hot club atmosphere takes over for the rest of the night. Café Sør is the place for more laid-back Sundays, with its house band and Sunday jams. The colourful interior reflects the clientele – this is a meeting place for people with different backgrounds eager to celebrate the city’s diversity.
Herr Nilsen also hosts jams in various genres and is right on target for all jazz lovers. It’s a bit more down-to-earth than flashy and has a nostalgic quality. The bar was established initially to replace the late, lamented Club 7. But you can listen to even more jazz at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene. The entrance is easy to miss, even though it’s in the middle of the city’s main street, Karl Johan. But if you go inside and sit down, be prepared for some fantastic musical experiences. This is a venue where quality is at the forefront, and as a listener, you might find yourself sitting on the edge of your chair in amazement. Riksscenen (the Norwegian Hub for Traditional Music and Dance), at Schous Bryggeri, is another possibility. There you can find folk music in the broadest sense of the term. You won’t regret having made the trip because it’s more than likely that you’ll be leaving with a smile on your lips.
But maybe the night isn’t over yet! Check out Kulturkirken Jacob in St James’s Church, which is operated by Kirkelig kulturverksted. With its superb acoustics, it offers a unique atmosphere for concerts, theatre and art exhibitions. Although it is a church building, it even organises its bar at times.
In the centre of Oslo, Norway’s oldest savings bank building has been repurposed as a unique venue, Sentralen, with six stages. Sentralen’s dizzying ceiling heights and exclusive marble columns form the backdrop for an impressive number of different types of concerts and cultural events. It also serves as a social meeting place where you can enjoy a delicious meal or mingle with others over a glass of wine.
Don’t forget to visit Kulturhuset, whose many stages are guaranteed to hold students involved in playing or listening to music. And it’s a friendly place, too. Then, if you stroll over to Grünerløkka, you must stop in at Parkteatret. Of course, they have a nice bar there, but the main attraction is the impressive, top-quality concerts offered.
But the night is still young! The Soria Moria palace of culture is beckoning in the Torshov district. It includes the Nationaltheatret’s “little brother”, Torshovteatret, and the comedy and music venue Nieu Scene (which also has a bar and restaurant). And of course, we must mention the legendary Cosmopolite, which has been operating for nearly 30 years and has featured such artists as Gerry Mulligan, Diana Krall, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Bo Diddley, Marcus Miller, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Mulatu Astatke – music from all over the world, which will make an indelible impression. Granted, Cosmopolite has moved around quite a bit, but it is now firmly established at Soria Moria – which also has the club stage and musical laboratory Belleville in its basement.
Major music events
Are you dreaming of playing in an orchestra? The Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra holds weekly concerts at the Oslo Concert Hall from August to May and allows you to feed your motivation as often as you want. Leading musicians worldwide appear here, presenting everything from newly composed contemporary music fresh from the pen to the masterpieces that are still the monoliths of music history – by Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler and countless others. Often at one and the same concert.
At the Concert Hall, you can also see international artists – recent years have included concerts by Maria Mena, the Real Group, Sissel Kyrkjebø, Bo Kaspers Orkester, Bugge Wesseltoft, Susanne Sundfør and Pat Metheny. Here, you can listen to top-quality commercial music in a concert hall, normally the symphony orchestra's home.
At the Opera House in Bjørvika, you can buy half-price student tickets for the Opera Orchestra and the National Ballet. It is the first opera house in the world whose roof you can walk on. In fact, it’s ideal to relax on the white marble tiles in the sun and listen to your own music or the sound of seagulls screeching and the Oslo Fjord splashing. And if you want to enjoy some ice cream, remember that it won’t stain the marble.
Cinema and theatre
The Colosseum cinema complex is adjacent to NMH. In the main hall, you can not only experience films on a giant screen but can also get a sense of sitting in the midst of film history when you gaze up at the distinctive domed ceiling, built-in 1928. When you find your way out of the dark cinema, you won’t have to walk far before arriving at Frogner Park. If you walk along the paths that meander amidst the leafy, 250-year-old trees, you can avoid the densest crowds of tourists but still get a view of the sculptures. This is a perfect place to go running or fire up the disposable barbecue and spend an entire day.
Take a stroll over to Bygdøy allé to visit the elegant Gimle cinema, built-in 1939. Gimle began sending live opera many years before the days of streaming and is still as modern as ever. Watch opera and ballet performances live from the Royal Opera House in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. And of course, you can bring a glass of champagne from the lobby bar into the cinema.
As is to be expected, the capital city offers both traditional and modern dramatic art. Nationaltheatret is, naturally, worth seeing both inside and outside and evokes associations with the year it was opened, 1899, when Oslo was called Kristiania and the bohemians reigned over the city’s cultural life. Det Norske Teatret (The Norwegian Theatre) presents major productions such as The Book of Mormon and plays based on works ranging from those of Dostoevsky to contemporary Norwegian literature.
Kunsthøgskolen (the Oslo National Academy of the Arts), Black Box theatre and Dansens hus (the national stage for dance) are all important hubs for contemporary dance and theatre, where you might be able to discover unknown, but nonetheless remarkable, talent. At Vega theatre and cinema, new dramas and contemporary – often somewhat experimental – quality films and urban theatre are presented. But if you don’t make it into one of the halls, you can just hang out in the theatre’s saloon.