Thrifting Diaries: Best Secondhand Finds in Oslo

A pilgrimage through the the city center’s thrift stores


If you’re an international student, thrifting is a budget-friendly way to make your new home feel like a home, a way to express yourself in your space outside the borders of IKEA furnishings. But what sorts of life-enhancing, joy-sparking items can you find there? What does it look like when you integrate them into your home or your closet? Inter Universitas’ Hannah Caesar has already written a practical guide to thrifting in Oslo, but today I’d like to take our readers along my favorite route through the city center’s thrift shops, and linger for a while on my favorite finds.


Our journey begins after we get off of the metro at Nationaltheatret. It’s autumn, so it’s likely a cool, wet morning when we surface from the T-bane. Though it’s only 11 o’clock, the square is vibrant with activity, with evangelists preaching their mission, craftspeople selling their wares, fundraisers promoting their charities or political parties, and a multitude of others standing by the fountain, anticipating a rendezvous. 

After weaving through the crowd, we cross Karl Johan and make our way to our first stop, Galleri Normisjon, which is about a five-minute walk away. 

Pilgrimage begins

Galleri Normisjon’s website and address

Galleri Normisjon 

The bell jingles as we step inside this small but well-stocked store. Elderly women are arranging items on the shelves and standing behind the counter, volunteers. It’s an excellent place if you’re on the hunt for dishware; the displays are filled with ceramic, porcelain, and glass. After a coffee date with a friend, we stopped in here on our way to work. I needed a bowl for the soup I’d brought to eat on my break later that evening. My friend found the perfect one (thanks Natalia!) with a recipe for chicken soup printed on the side, cute and a little eccentric and exactly suiting my whimsical tastes. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy a bowl to hold it in, because, as everyone knows, soup is happiness made edible. It’s one of my favorite things I have in my kitchen; I smile every time I eat from it. 

A soup dinner in my favorite bowl.

During the wettest summer in living memory, Galleri Normisjon was also the site of a thrifting miracle. Navy-blue Hunter rainboots, exactly my size, in excellent condition, the kind I had considered ordering new online before my wallet screamed in protest. The original price was over 1000 NOK, but I bought the pair I found for the paltry sum of 450. My old boots were utterly worn out, with tears in the soles that let in more water than they kept out. I continued on my way a little poorer, but with dry feet.

Fretex Ullevålsveien’s website and address

Fretex Ullevålsveien

Our next destination is an eleven minute walk from Galleri Normisjon. After going up Stensberggata and taking a left at Our Savior’s Cemetery, we arrive at Fretex Ullevålsveien. I lived in an AirBnB in the vicinity while I was in between tenancy contracts, and I spent a significant portion of my spare time wandering around in this store. That summer, I mostly contented myself with just looking, taking pictures of things I really wanted but knew I shouldn’t spend the money on. However, in a moment of extravagance, I ended up buying a beaded ball gown for around 350 NOK. So far I’ve worn it at Christmas, as well as to an Old Hollywood themed party hosted by SiO. If you’re invited to a julebord, or Christmas table, this coming Christmas season, it’s worth checking out this location for fancy dress clothes that won’t break the bank. 

My beaded gown, styled with a vest and a broach.

Another memorable find from this store was a pair of gym shoes for 150 NOK. I’d just moved back to Oslo for my master’s, and was living off of my savings until I could find a job compatible with my studies. After the complications posed by the pandemic, I was excited to be able to play volleyball again, but I was lacking the proper footwear. You can imagine my delight when I happened upon this bargain, which allowed me to participate in an activity I loved without setting me back the several thousand NOK it would have cost me for new shoes.

Åpent bakeri’s website and address

Coffee Break

After visiting these first two shops, we might be in need of a little pick-me-up. That being the case, we can walk back in the direction we came, stopping at Åpent bakeri at Sankt Olavs plass. I don’t know about you, but I would get a single latte and a blåbærsnegle (kind of like a cinnamon roll but with blueberry jam instead of cinnamon) and sit under the awning for a spell to people-watch. The square sees a lot of foot traffic, as it lies at the intersection of five different roads, and the cafe is just opposite a Scandic hotel, constantly bustling with tourists rolling their suitcases along the cobbled street. 

After we’re sufficiently rested, we can turn down Universitetsgata and follow the road down to our next stop.

Pilgrimage continues

Fretex Universitetsgata’s website and address

Fretex Universitetsgata

This location of Fretex is about a five minute walk from Sankt Olavs plass. This was the first thrift store I ever visited in Oslo over three years ago, and I have been back many times since. It would be too tedious to list everything I’ve found there, but there are few purchases that stand out. After I managed to find work during the second semester of my master’s, I spent a slender portion of my first paycheck on a couple of posters featuring Norwegian artwork. I’d been living within bare walls, as I’d felt decor was something I could only indulge in when I had a steady income, so finally getting these posters for about 70 NOK each was a celebration of sorts. 

I also found what would become one of my most prized possessions at this Fretex: a second edition hardback of one of my favorite books, Fortellingen om Viga-Ljot og Vigdis, or Gunnar’s Daughter in English, for which I’ve written a guide in another article. It was only 100 NOK, but it is worth far more to me than that.

Sigrid Undset’s Viga-Ljot og Vigidis, tucked between some other vintage hardbacks.

M&E Second Hand, Grensen

M&E Second Hand, Grensen’s Instagram and address

To get to our next stop, take a right onto Kristian IVs gate and follow it until it turns into Grensen, where we’ll find what is possibly my favorite thrift store in Oslo. As more and more people embrace thrifting, and it is picked up as a hobby by those of economic means, the prices increase to rival those of normal department stores. Since I moved to Norway four years ago, I’ve seen a visible change in the thrifting landscape, with prices doubling at certain locations. Not so with M&E Second Hand. Aside from a few items that are clearly well-crafted out of expensive material, most everything in their store is within the reach of a student budget. 

I’ve probably made the most amount of purchases here, including several pieces of furniture, but my favorite find from this store is without a doubt my plush green rocking chair. Elegant and comfortable, it’s been the perfect place to sip my morning coffee and my evening tea, read a book, paint my nails, listen to music, and do just about any other sedentary activity. The chair was only 250 NOK, but I did have to pay a 450 NOK delivery fee as I bought it in the middle of a blizzard, and had no way to take it home without it getting covered in snow. 

The rocking chair was also a temporary book repository while I reorganized my shelves.

Uff Vintage Heaven’s website and address

Uff Vintage Haven

Our final destination on our thrifting journey through Oslo is Uff Vintage Heaven on Prinsens gate. From M&E Secondhand, follow Grensen until you reach Jernbanetorget and turn right. This shop has excellent curation, and is full of carefully selected vintage pieces. The price point does reflect the relatively higher quality, but many of the items for sale are not prohibitively expensive for a student. This past August, I attended a wedding for the first time, and was in need of some appropriate attire. At Uff, I was able to get some heels and a beautiful bag for 250 NOK altogether, which allowed me to dress formally on this special occasion, without depleting my bank account too significantly.

Glamor on a budget.

Pilgrimage ends – reflection

In reflecting on my best purchases from Oslo’s thrift stores, I realize that buying secondhand is not merely a cheap means to a practical end, but a way to make self-expression accessible. Being able to fill our apartments and adorn our bodies with things that make us feel truly at home is a luxury, but it does not have to be an unaffordable one. Thrifting can also open us up to new life experiences, from playing a sport, to attending an event, as well as allow us to buy what we need without leaving us with a sinking sense of guilt afterwards. I’m grateful to be able to shop secondhand, in a fairly walkable city that makes it easy to go from store to store to get what I need. Now that we’ve followed this route on the page, you might go and test it in real life, and find some treasured items of your own. 

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