There is a strong cafe culture in Oslo; Norway is after all a nation of coffee drinkers. Close by, I have my regular spots (T18 on Torggata), my coffee-geek spots (Tim Wendleboe in Grunerløkka), my indulgent spots (a little further out at the Oslo Chocolaterie) but my favourite spot of all is just over the river in Grunerløkka at the Chillout Travel Centre on Markveien.
When my friend Charlotte visited back in the summer, she commented that loads of Oslo's shops seem to be multi-purpose. Well, there isn't a better example anywhere than this place! It's a travel gear shop, a travel agency, a bookshop and a cafe. It might seem unusual, but it works.
Coffee and travel is a perfect pairing here in Norway, it's like bread and butter! Many Norwegians study abroad due to the government's policy on supporting higher education for its citizens overseas as well as domestically. Many others spend weeks or even months travelling whenever possible. Norway might be an expensive country to visit, but the strong economy makes foreign travel very affordable for those who live here.
If you resist the temptation to climb into the hammock outside, there is a cafe just inside the doors where you can grab a coffee and a bun, or a selection of antipasti. I recommend the fabulous chilli chocolate boller (like warm cinnamon buns). Downstairs there is a nice seating area with travel books to read and an enormous world map, with different colour pins for where all the staff have been – a great conversation starter. My friend Glum Graham enjoyed the world map.
Upstairs there is a good selection of travel books for sale including some nice looking coffee table photography books. I'm saving my pennies… well, my small kroner coins anyway. On these shelves I found a little card game to help me with my Norwegian 🙂
On yet another floor is a bunch of travel kit geared towards backpacking, such as knives, flasks, sleeping bags, travel games and all sorts of other nic nacs. Friends of mine seem to enjoy looking around the store examining its contents. Charlotte was taken by a travel smoke alarm, while Chris studied maps for hours. He's still in there now, I think.
I can, and have, spent hours here. It's not frowned upon to flick through the books over a coffee to see if you want to buy them. Well, it doesn't seem to be anyway 😉 That's the way it should be! I haven't taken a look at the travel deals on offer as I prefer to book my own and they seem to specialise in backpacking trips to far-flung parts of the globe. I assume it's more expensive than the DIY approach, but the personal service you will get could be well worth the extra kroner.
If you're passing though Grunerløkka or are in the city centre and fancy a wander, set course for Markveien and prepare to travel the world within four walls 🙂
Also say hei to me, cos I'll probably be in there too!