The Thief, Oslo
Oslo is famously one of the most expensive cities in the world. It is also one of the most charming. Needless to say, there is probably a connection between the two. On the whole, the kind of tourist tat that dominates many European capitals cities is pretty limited here. So, for those who are lucky enough to travel here on business, or determined enough to bite the monetary bullet and simply visit as a tourist, be prepared to find a fairly small city that manages to be cosmopolitan, contemporary and low-key; pastoral even at the centre of the city itself.
A fine example of this is Tjuvholmen, the city’s latest hotbed of urban renewal and regeneration. Once an island that bore the grim honour of being a place where criminals both hid from the law and met a brutal fate at the end of a noose – hence the hotel’s name– today it is a small peninsula joined to the rest of the city curving around the gentle fjord. Here, amongst the numerous contemporary housing developments, cafés and cultural institutions, The Thief threw open its doors in 2013.
A handsome new building close to the water – you can hear the waves lapping onto the beach from the balconies– The Thief offers dramatic views of the fjord and the chic developments that sprung up beside it. One of these is the new building of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, one of the finest contemporary art museums in Scandinavia. So, it’s only fitting that art plays a substantial part in this new hotel. Not merely confined to a few pieces in the public spaces, indeed, The Thief invited distinguished curator Sune Nordgren to personally select the individual works of art hung in each room.
Now, if all of this leads to the assumption that The Thief might tend towards museum-like clinical seriousness, nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst it certainly does a good line in Scandinavian design, the overall feeling here is hardly one of minimal modernism. Contemporary, definitely. Playful, certainly. Perhaps even a little baroque.
Deep wood tones are counterpointed with bright golds, deep amber, bold dashes of colour and more than a little decadent indulgence to create a sense of comfortable luxury. Rich, warm and rather the opposite of the monochromatic minimalism often associated with Scandinavian design, The Thief is about enjoying luxury and cosy comfort. In the rooms this includes everything from the high-end audio-visual facilities to the beautiful artisanal slippers and tweed blankets. If for no other reason, you should stay at The Thief to savour good Norwegian design as a riposte to the clichés that have sprung up over the years.
The in-house restaurant and bar are equally welcoming and an offer based on locally sourced sustainable ingredients means that you won’t have to go far to feel sated. In fact, you don’t even need to leave your room: The Thief offers 24-hour room service. If you’re feeling a little indulgent – and you will when you see the price of alcohol in Norway– the rooftop champagne bar is a warming little spot in the winter but opens onto a spacious rooftop terrace for taking in those beautiful Northern summer nights when the sun just won’t seem to go away.
In keeping with the vibe of the neighbourhood, the hotel offers bikes and local tours with a particular focus on contemporary architecture and design that seems like an excellent match with the kind of folks who stay here.