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The Thief’s location is a story in itself: Tjuvholmen, Norway, was once a waterfront borough rife with all manner of skullduggery — a place where the most dangerous criminals were banished for their crimes. Only a few centuries ago, Tjuvholmen, which translates to “thief island” or “thief inlet,” was not the kind of place anyone besides a miscreant would be caught dead in. And yet, there I was in this Oslo neighborhood, suitcase in hand, ready to step through the doors of The Thief hotel — a reference to the past in name only, thankfully.
In modern-day Oslo, ties with the area’s tainted reputation were severed long ago. In fact, there is no indication at all that this modish municipality of contemporary waterfront buildings was or has been anything but a premier art and design hub of northern Europe. Today’s Tjuvholmen is a collection of buildings showcasing the latest architectural trends, famed art galleries, outdoor artwork, a beachside sculpture park and Oslo’s crown jewel of contemporary and modern art, Astrup Fearnley Museet (museum), designed by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano. Included in that esteemed lineup is The Thief. Since its debut in January 2013, the small luxury hotel has been turning heads in the art and design world, offering an upscale, urbane alternative in what is arguably the most aesthetically distinctive neighborhood in Oslo.
At the hotel’s entrance, I gazed curiously at the compelling sculpture positioned prominently against the building. Inscribed on the building above the human figure bowing before me were two words: The Thief. I wondered why a hotel would call itself that. In time, the answer unfolded. During the course of my visit, I learned that the staff, like many of the world’s best, work skillfully — and sometimes covertly — behind the scenes to ensure guests have seamlessly comfortable stays.
“There’s a phrase we like to use here,” said Dominic Gorham, guest relations manager for The Thief, while chatting over a cuppa hot ginger tea, a brew he blended personally for me because I wasn’t feeling well. “We say, ‘stealing you away from everyday life.’”
And I did feel like I had been taken from my ordinary routine. I couldn’t resist discovering all the original, handpicked modern and contemporary artwork and stylish furnishings displayed throughout the communal spaces, from the lobby and library areas to the dining room and rooftop terrace overlooking the fjord and local cityscape. The hotel provides guests with a treasure hunt map that details the art throughout the hotel. A special gift awaits in the Astrup Fearnley museum shop for those able to locate the most unique piece in the collection. Plus, all guests receive free entry into the museum.
The hotel’s art collection was handpicked by world-class curator Sune Nordgren, who believes that “redefining hotel art is about giving the guests quality experiences, causing reflection and perhaps changing their perception of reality for a brief moment.”
It only makes sense that Nordgren finds Tjuvholmen and The Thief the perfect locations for his vision.
Great works from emerging artists, local Norwegians and world-class talent are exhibited at every turn, from paintings, sculptures and photographs to multimedia works and video art. In a word: stunning. The 118-room hotel completes a revitalized and vibrant Tjuvholmen district, offering a perfect complement to its architectural and artistically endowed neighbors.
Winding down in my room after all that stimulating artwork was the first order of business for me (and to think, I hadn’t even left the building yet). Modern travelers will appreciate the technology-enhanced guestrooms that provide state-of-the-art conveniences. I loved watching the video “art on demand” offered on the interactive television as I wrapped up in a warm designer wool blanket by L&J for Roros Tweed and donned a pair of custom Norwegian wool slippers and a cozy bathrobe created by a local fashion designer.
A thoughtful turndown gift added to the preparation for a good night’s rest. A slender thermos of hot water and a teapot of relaxing verbena herbal tea was left in my room, perfect for sipping while drawing a bath in the deep soaking tub doused with bath salts before bedtime. Here, I could reflect on the next day’s agenda — perhaps a stroll to the art galleries and boutiques and lunch along the waterfront, or maybe I would indulge in a treatment at the hotel’s top-ranked The Thief Spa. All the possibilities sounded delightful. For the next several days, I was robbed of all my worries and concerns, swept away in the unlikely arms of The Thief.