Books by author Jo Nesbø in a bar.

In the footsteps of Harry Hole through the streets of Oslo

With over 50 million books sold worldwide, Jo Nesbø is undoubtedly Norway's most popular author. Inspired by his crime novels, we followed the trail of Oslo's most famous fictional police detective from one watering hole to another!

  • "It had been a long, hot September day with the light that turns the Oslofjord to silver and sets the low hills, already touched by the first hint of autumn, aglow."

  • "One of those days that makes the people of Oslo swear they will never, ever leave." Excerpt from the 2013 novel Police.

  • In one of Oslo's oldest districts, the name "Harry Hole" is scrawled on a simple doorbell in a typically unkempt masculine hand.

  • The address is Sofies gate 5 in Bislett. This is where the rough and unpolished fictional character Harry Hole resides. We'll return to just what happens when you ring Harry's doorbell shortly...

  • Alcoholic, troubled, and self-destructive, yet brilliant and intelligent - these are the adjectives that describe Norway's most famous literary detective, Harry Hole.

  • Created by author Jo Nesbø, there are now 13 books about the antihero, as well as a film starring Hollywood actor Michael Fassbender in the lead role.

Norway's capital plays a significant role in this fictional universe, and when it was time to turn one of the books into a film, parts of it were shot in Oslo. In fact, Nesbø was named "Oslo Ambassador of the Year" in 2015 for his efforts to showcase the capital through his books. Nesbø himself revealed to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten that choosing Oslo and its many watering holes as the backdrop for his novels was the path of least resistance:

"When I wrote about Harry Hole, I made things easy for myself by writing about places I liked, and that were close to where I lived," Nesbø explained.

Easy or not, we laced up our boots, armed ourselves with pen and paper, and set out on a hunt through the streets of Oslo, following in the footsteps of Norway's most famous police detective.

Man reading a book by Jo Nesbø at a bar.

Harry Hole's apartment - Sofies gate 5

"Harry Hole opened his eyes. The sun flashed between the lazily fluttering curtains while the shriek from the braking tram in Pilestredet slowly faded away. Harry tried to orient himself. He was lying on the floor in his own living room. Dressed, if not well-dressed. If not alive, then living." Excerpt from the 2003 novel The Devil's Star.

We're back at the apartment building in Bislett. We stand outside the block, which is situated right next to the capital's well-known and legendary athletics stadium, bearing the same name as the district.

As the rain falls and the thermometer shows close to freezing, we have just pressed the doorbell. From inside, we hear it ring loud and clear.

But nothing happens. We try again, but with the same result.

Harry must be out solving another murder case, we think. Or perhaps he's at Restaurant Schrøder up the street, trying to drown his many everyday sorrows once more?

It's worth checking out - or perhaps we should come back and try another day.

Where to stay: Hotel Christiania Teater, Stortingsgata 16, 0161 Oslo.

Restaurant Schrøder - Waldemar Thranes Gate 8

"They found him at Schrøder Restaurant in Waldemar Thranes gate, an old, venerable watering hole located at the crossroads where Oslo's east and west sides meet. More old than venerable if we're being honest. The venerability mostly consisted of the city's cultural heritage director deciding to preserve the brown, smoke-filled premises. The two officers saw the tall figure sitting under an old painting of Aker church when the draft from the door momentarily lifted the smoky veil." Excerpt from the 1998 novel The Cockroaches.

"We have guests from all over the world, year-round, who come in and ask for Harry Hole. Tourists from Singapore, China, Japan, the USA. Just name a country, and we've had visitors from there," says Khalid Imran at Restaurant Schrøder when we enter Hole's regular haunt.

Few, if any, establishments in Oslo are more synonymous with Harry Hole than Restaurant Schrøder, which is about a five-minute walk from Harry Hole's flat or a 15-minute walk from the city centre. In all the books, Restaurant Schrøder is the police officer's regular watering hole - at least as long as he hasn't fallen out of favour with the staff and been banned, which happens from time to time.

However, we are exclusively greeted with broad smiles and friendly service by staff who are more than willing to talk about the great interest in detective Hole from all over the world.

  • "Everyone who comes in wants to know the same thing: which table does Hole sit at when he's here," adds Khalid with a smile.

  • That particular table isn't hard to find. Through the door and to the right, there's a sign that leaves no doubt: "This is the table Harry Hole prefers to sit at."

  • Unfortunately, there's no Hole to be found here today. But the table is free. We have a cold beer in his spirit and instead become fascinated by the wonderful paintings from the 1920s that adorn the walls.

  • The paintings show what life was like in Oslo in earlier times – and it's not difficult to see that the interior of the establishment has been inspired by the past.

  • There has been a restaurant here since 1958, and the style from that time still applies: the tables are covered with thick white linen, the chairs are made of dark wood and equally dark leather.

  • In other words, it's perfect setting for discussing crime mysteries or literature with a friend over a cold pint.

  • But with no Hole our journey must continue.

  • Where to stay: Clarion Collection® Hotel Savoy, Universitetsgata 11, 0164 Oslo.

Palace Grill Bar - Solligata 2

"What will it be tonight?" asked Rakel.

"Eight o'clock at Palace Grill is fine. But what's this nonsense about not being able to reserve a table in advance?"

"I suppose it gives the whole thing a more exclusive feel."

They agreed to meet in the bar next door." Excerpt from the 2017 novel The Snowman.

We have hopped on the number 20 bus that runs across Oslo city centre and ended up at Palace Grill Bar just off Solli Square.

In the books, this is precisely where Hole meets his on again, off again girlfriend Rakel. The woman he cannot live without. They have a beer before dinner at the sister restaurant with almost the same name: Palace Grill, which is located right across the hall from the bar. At Palace Grill Bar, you will experience a classic pub in much the same style as Schrøder: a dark oak bar counter, sofas with dark leather upholstery, and a neon sign indicating where you are in case you have one too many drinks.

  • Regulars and new faces flock in as soon as the bar opens at 5:00 pm. Here, you can enjoy tasty cocktails, beer, and tall tales. It's also possible to play darts or catch an occasional concert held in the spacious venue.

  • To complete the Harry Hole experience, it's highly recommended to try the food at the adjoining gourmet restaurant, the Place Grill. It exclusively serves a ten-course menu based on seasonal ingredients and the chef's whim.

  • The restaurant is known to be one of the capital's very best.

  • Reservations are a must - even for seasoned investigators.

  • Where to stay: Sommerro, Sommerrogata 1, 0255 Oslo.

Teddy Softbar - Brugata 3A

"Harry walked down Brugata, which was a gauntlet between drinking establishments where music streamed from open doors. He considered having a coffee at Teddy's Softbar, knew it would be a bad idea. So, he decided to walk past.

"Coffee?" the guy behind the counter repeated incredulously. The jukebox at Teddy's played Johnny Cash, and Harry ran a finger over his upper lip." Excerpt from the 2017 novel The Snowman.

"I can reveal that we have replaced the old coffee maker, so the coffee is better here now than how it is described in The Snowman," chuckles Bjørn Inge Elvebredd who is standing behind the bar. He refers to a rather brutal description of the coffee and admits in the same breath that Nesbø has not only taken literary liberties.

Elvebredd is the owner and operator of Teddy's Softbar, which Hole visits in The Snowman (2007) - book seven in the series. The Snowman was the book that really put Nesbø and the Harry Hole series on the international crime map and was the basis for the film of the same name.

Teddy's Softbar is a legendary venue on the Oslo nightlife scene and has been going since 1958. It was Bjørn Inge's father who started Teddy's after traveling around the world and realising that Oslo lacked a genuine American snack bar. Both a functioning Wurlitzer jukebox, proper American diner interior, and social bar counter have been in place since it first opened its doors and remain a key part of the venue.

Entering Teddy's Softbar is like taking a journey back in time. Since its opening, the restaurant has been a gathering place for all Oslo residents from the east to the west side.

Owner Elvebredd says that even fifteen years after the release of The Snowman, they still receive visits from national and international Jo Nesbø fans.

"Visitors who have read the books appear from time to time. The Harry Hole fan club also makes an annual visit here," he says.

Where to stay: Clarion Collection® The Hub, Biskop Gunnerus gate 3, 0106 Oslo.

Outside of Teddy´s Soft Bar in Oslo.

"When Harry walked home in the afternoon, the snow was gone from the sidewalks and streets, and the thin, light snowflakes swirling in the air were being eaten by the wet asphalt as soon as they hit the ground. He went into his regular record store in Akersgata and bought the latest Neil Young album even though he had a suspicion that it stunk." Excerpt from the 2007 novel The Snowman.

Our search for Harry Hole along the streets was not without results. We have felt the atmosphere of one of the greatest successes in the popular Nordic noir genre. We have not only seen and experienced Harry Hole's regular haunts from the inside but have also gotten to know Oslo a little better and experienced various aspects of the capital that have inspired the greatest Norwegian crime writer of all time.

Enthusiasts and crime lovers can either explore on their own like us or try guided Harry Hole tours offered by experts, such as Familieguidene, for example. Not only will you gain more in-depth knowledge about the character that has captivated millions of readers around the world, but you will also experience Oslo in a completely different way. You can also choose from a wide range of other guided tours in Norway's capital.

"Oslo," said the man and lifted the whiskey glass to his mouth.

"Is that the place you love the most?" asked Lucille.

He stared ahead, seeming to have to think over his answer before he nodded. She studied him while he drank. He was tall; even sitting next to her at the bar counter, he towered over her." Excerpt from the 2022 novel Blood Moon.

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