Don’t miss Stavanger, Norway’s gateway to the most iconic hikes and fjords. Here are things 11 things to do in Stavanger and beyond!
The first day I’m balancing on a rock suspended in 984-metres in the air. The following morning, I’m chasing street art murals around Old Stavanger town. At sunset I watch the boats pass through the harbour lined with colourful buildings. The next day, I’m standing 604 metres above a fjord full of shimmering water. There are so many things to do in Stavanger.
Stavanger is not only the gateway to some of the best hikes in all of Norway, this coastal town boasts some of the most beautiful and best-preserved wooden buildings anywhere in Norway, many of them dating back to the 18th century.
The town waterfront comes alive in summer in the best port-town style. As a former European Capital of Culture, Stavanger also boasts an impressive assortment of museums and cultural events.
The Stavanger region has many scenic attractions, making it the perfect launchpad for adventure seekers. Located here is Lysefjord, home to two of Norway’s most famous and picturesque hikes, Kjeragbolten and Preikestolen (“the Pulpit Rock”). These suspended viewpoints are no less than 600 metres high. The journey to reach the top is both challenging and rewarding. It’s no wonder then Lonely Planet named Preikestolen the number one most breathtaking viewing platform in the world.
This was my second trip to Norway. The first time, was in winter so I after I spent a few days in Oslo, I headed north to Tromso where I did a lot of whale watching and Northern Light’s chasing. I couldn’t get enough, so five months later, I went back to experience this amazing country in the summer.
I spent five days exploring the stunning Stavanger region of Rogaland and found there was so much to see and do within this one space! This is where Norway became united into one kingdom in the famous Viking battle that took place in Hafrsfjord in 872 AD.
Norway has left such an impression on me that I could easily see myself living there. I only hope you’re able to experience Norway for yourself.
Here is a list of 10 things to do in Stavanger and the jaw-droppping Rogaland county.
1. Defy gravity at Kjeragbolten
If you’re a Pinterest user, then you’re sure to have seen the iconic photo of a boulder wedged between a cliff hovering almost one kilometre above a fjord. This is Kjeragbolten. Neither for the fainthearted nor to be missed.
So, how did the boulder get there? Well, it was deposited during the last glacial period around 50,000 B.C. As the Norwegian Glacier melted, it was accompanied by a rebound in rock formations as the ice was removed. In Kjeragbolten’s case, the rebound was actually faster than the rising sea level, which wedged the rock into its current position.
Just getting to Kjeragbolten is an adventure on its own. Winding through the snow capped mountains on a narrow single lane two-way road is awe-inspiring. I was so distracted by its beauty that I found it difficult to concentrate on driving!
I’ll be posting a blow-by-blow guide on hiking Kjeragbolten in the future, but for now, here are some facts.
From Stavanger, allow for a 13.5-hour return trip. During off season you’ll need to hire a car to reach the trail but from mid-June to mid-September you can take a coach from Stavanger city centre. Depending on your fitness level, the hike itself will take roughly 5-6 hours return. Dress warm and bring a packed lunch and snacks.
Unfortunately, the day I went there cloud cover was crazy and very dizzying as you stand on the boulder. This is what it looks like on a clear day.
2. Get 180-degree views atop Pulpit Rock
One of the most striking tourist attractions near Stavanger is Preikestolen, meaning “Pulpit Rock” or “Preacher’s Pulpit”. This flat-topped cliff shares the same fjord as Kjeragbolten and rises some 604 metres (1,982 ft) above Lysefjorden. In comparison, Preikestolen is much easier to hike than Trolltunga and Kjeragbolten
While it’s a sheer drop, the flat top spans approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 ft × 82 ft), so you’ll have plenty of space to admire the spectacular from afar.
Preikestolen can be reached from Stavanger by road and ferry with a total travel time of roughly one hour. Allow four hours to hike its well-marked trail.
3. Stroll Through Europe’s Best Preserved Wooden House Settlement
The city centre of Stavanger is quite compact, which makes it easy to reach most attractions on foot. My favourite part of exploring Stavanger was by walking through what the local’s call Gamle Stavanger… literally, “Old Stavanger”.
This picturesque and historic area consists of 170 white wooden homes nestled along meandering cobblestone streets, boasting the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe.
Its streets are well worth exploring, as are its galleries and museums. Two of the best are the Maritime Museum on Nedre Strandgate with its unique glimpse into the town’s seafaring past, and the Norwegian Fish Canning Museum, offering a fascinating look at the history of the country’s still important fishing industry.
4. See 15 Years of Impressive Street Art
Stavanger’s street art is a photographers dream, not to mention what it will do to your Instagram account like!
When visiting Stavanger for the first time, one might be struck by the high amount of street art present in and around the city centre.
For a small town dominated by old-fashioned wooden architecture, Stavanger contains an unexpected amount of incredible street art. From murals to stencils, and paste-ups Stavanger is full of awesome street art all thanks to the annual street art festival Nuart.
Each August/September the festival invites an international team of street artists to come to the city for a two-week production period. During these two weeks, the artists work outside on walls donated by the city’s population.
I visited almost all (approximately 30) pieces with a map I had plotted all the sights on. If you’re not as organised as me, then opt for the walking tour running from September to October. Visit the official website for updated maps on the current year’s works.
Below are some highlights from the 2015 festival.
5. Have Lunch in Stavanger’s most Colourful Street
To say I’m colour obsessed is an understatement so naturally, I had to visit Stavanger’s most colourful street, Øvre Holmegate.
Located in the centre, Øvre Holmegate is Stavanger’s answer to London’s Notting Hill. The area experienced a renaissance in 2005 when hairdresser Tom Kjørsvik envisaged doing something totally unique with the area. All the houses along the street were painted in different hues, in accordance with a colour scheme suggested by the artist Craig Flannagan. As you wander along Øvre Holmegate, you will find several niche shops as well as charming cafes and pubs.
6. Sunset and Chill Along Stavanger’s Harbour
Spend a lazy afternoon with a little glass of something-something in hand while overlooking Stavanger’s harbour. Hugging the elongated harbour, are numerous lively bars and restaurants serving both local to international cuisine.
7. Visit Stavanger’s 12th-Century Cathedral
Another gem is Stavanger Cathedral which dates back to the 12th century and built by Englishman Reginald of Worcester (later known as Bishop Reinald) as a Romanesque basilica.
After a fire in 1272, the choir was rebuilt in the Gothic style. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that the church was fully renovated.
In the crypt below the church are four postholes from a building that is believed to have been there before the cathedral was built. Some people believe it to be the remains of a wooden church built by Erling Skjalgsson around 1015.
8. Learn about the Vikings at the Museum of Archaeology
No visit to Norway would be complete without learning about the Vikings. Stavanger’s Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger is a great place to get your Viking fix. The museum displays replica vessels and costumes, as well as historic weapons and artefacts.
9. See the works of local artists at Stavanger Art Museum
Situated in a lush green park surrounding Lake Mosvannet is one of Norway’s finest collections of local and international talent. Stavanger Art Museum is only three kilometres (two miles) from the town centre and well worth the visit.
Of particular interest is the unique collection of paintings by local artist Lars Hertervig (1830-1902) whose romantic, powerful and highly personal landscapes still resonate with art lovers.
10. Get Three for the Price of One at Stavanger Museum
Stavanger Museum not only houses exhibitions of natural and cultural history, there is also a Children’s Museum. Learn about city’s cultural roots, flora and fauna, as well as the fascinating story of how the sea has shaped the community over the centuries.
11. Stroll Around Breiavatnet
Situated in the next to the cathedral (Domkirken) in the centre of Stavanger is Breiavatnet, a small lake with fountain. Come to this is a popular yet tranquil area to feed the ducks or simply take a short easy stroll.
You’ll find several good restaurants lining the lake and a memorial to Norwegian emigrants who helped build America. In winter, the lake freezes over and locals take to the ice to skate.
Where to Stay in Stavanger
If you’re visiting Stavanger for the first time, I recommend staying in the city centre. This will make visiting the top attractions easy as they are all within walking distance of each other here. Here are some highly-rated hotels in this convenient location:
True luxury hotels are rare in Stavanger, but the pet-friendly Clarion Hotel Stavanger, a short walk from the cathedral and old town, offers comfortable, contemporary rooms, as well as a top-floor Jacuzzi and sauna with city views. Nearby, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel has plush rooms with pillow menus, a spa, fitness centre, and the city’s only child-friendly hotel pool. A stone’s throw from Stavanger train station is the pet-friendly Scandic Stavanger Park, with a fitness centre and summer activities for children. This hotel is known for its spacious rooms with sitting areas. Breakfast is included in all these hotels.
A five-minute walk from the old town and cathedral, the hip and funky Comfort Hotel Square features bold, in-your-face art, cosy lounge areas, a gym, and a panoramic roof-top terrace. In a lovely lakeside setting, Thon Hotel Maritim, offers sleek, dark-hued rooms and free breakfast and only a two-minute walk from Stavanger Cathedral and the city centre. A few blocks away is the Myhregaarden Hotel, a red-brick 19th-century building that offers a touch of elegance, with chandeliers and sumptuous fabrics in some of the rooms. Alternatively, I stayed in one of the very central City Housing apartments, which caters for most budgets and are located all over Stavanger.
Budget hotels are also short in number in Stavanger, but you can walk to town in about 10 minutes from the Stavanger lille Hotel, and the basic rooms have TVs, mini-fridges, and shared or private bathrooms. A short drive from the city’s top attractions, the Hotel Alstor and Park Inn by Radisson Stavanger Hotel compensate for their location outside the city centre with more affordable rates.
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Over to you!
Have you visited Norway? What did you think? What other things would you recommend doing in Stavanger?
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