Stavanger is a cultural melting pot of trendy bars, international restaurants and many different cultural institutions. Here's our guide to Stavanger's best museums.
Stavanger’s position on Norway’s west coast means it sees more than its fair share of wet weather. On average there are 244 days with rainfall in the city each year. But don't worry, there are plenty of things to do in Stavanger to escape the miserable weather.
Visiting one of the city’s museums is just one option. From museums that celebrate the region’s maritime past to one that’s dedicated to Norway’s oil exploration, there are many to choose from. Let’s take a look at the city's museums in more detail.
Norwegian Petroleum Museum (Norsk Oljemuseum)
After many unsuccessful drilling attempts in the North Sea in the 1960s, Norway finally struck ‘black gold' in 1969. It happened some 320 kilometres southwest of Stavanger at the field that would become known as Ekofisk.
The city played a pivotal role in Norway’s oil story, one that is showcased at The Norwegian Petroleum Museum. It’s located at Kjeringholmen 1A in centre of Stavanger. The museum is an interesting way to learn not just about the country’s petroleum history, but more about the fascinating world of deep-sea oil exploration too.
There are some exhibitions that explore the extensive map of pipelines and range of tools used and others that provide detailed descriptions of how the rigs themselves function. The museum is also child and youth friendly with lots of fun things to occupy them.
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Top tip: if you choose to visit the during December, don't miss the city’s gingerbread town (pepperkakebyen) displayed in the same building.
Stavanger’s Maritime museum traces the development of shipping, commerce and shipbuilding over recent centuries in the region. It’s located at Strandkaien 22 in the 200-year-old harbourside warehouses in Vågen just a stone’s throw from the centre of the city.
There are various collections to experience including vessels, photo collections, design archives and exhibitions that take a look at maritime history from herring to oil. There are also various rooms that show how they would have looked during the building's original use – the shipping company’s office is one such recreation.
Norwegian Canning Museum
The Canning Museum is located in Stavanger Old Town (Gamle Stavanger) in Øvre Strandgate 88. It’s a venue that focuses on the city’s canning industry which was at its peak between the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century.
The aim of the museum is to show an authentic canning factory environment whilst simultaneously presenting the realistic working conditions of those that worked there. You can explore the process behind the canning of fresh fish including the production of canned brisling and fish balls.
The Canning Museum is undergoing major construction works and is currently closed. It is due to reopen in Spring 2021.
Museum of Archaeology
One of my favourite museums in Stavanger is the Museum of Archaeology. The museum is a branch of the research carried out by the University of Stavanger and gives visitors the chance to explore the region’s cultural and natural history over a period of 15,000-year.
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Collections at the museum range from many prehistoric artefacts from Rogaland, to exhibitions that showcase archaeological finds from the Stone Age all the way up to the end of the Middle Ages.
There is also an exhibition called Viking Voyagers that focuses on local Viking history. It centres on some recent burial finds in the region including swords, buckles and coloured glass beads.
If you want to learn even more about Viking history, then you’ll want to checkout Viking House at Strandkaien 44. Located in the heart of the city, this museum utilises VR in order to bring visitors closer than ever before to the region’s viking past.
Through VR-technology and video imagery, visitors can see the magical world of the Viking Age and even listen to some of the great sagas. The museum also revisits the famous battle of Hafrsfjord which took place in Stavanger in 872.
Viking House is an immersive experience and one that sets it apart from other Viking museums that have come before. The main length of the VR experience lasts 25 mins while the movie is available in Norwegian, English, German and Spanish.
Located at Muségate 16, Stavanger Museum is another that focuses on natural and cultural history but this time from 1893 onwards. It concentrates on the history of Stavanger and the biological diversity in the region.
The exterior that houses the museum is also worthy of some appreciation. It's been through several stages of construction to get to the building you see today: from the initial build in 1893, significant works in 1930, a redesign in 1964, to various later additions to other parts of the grounds.
Also located in the same building are the Norwegian Children’s Museum, Norway’s Bird Ringing Centre, a museum library and rooms that hold various technical workshops. The building is open seven days a week throughout the year.
Stavanger Museum of Fine Arts
The Stavanger Museum of Fine Arts is one of the lesser known museums, but if art is your thing then this is the place to go in the city. It’s located only 3km, a pleasant walk away, from the city centre.
The museum has collections from nineteenth century artists all the way to contemporary Norwegian names in the world of art. One of the venues most prized collections are the paintings by local artist Lars Hertevig (1830-1902). His works mostly feature landscapes, those that evoke romantic and powerful notions connected to Norwegian Romantism.
Top tip: take a stroll around the beautiful Mosvannet, the lake that the museum sits beside.
Other places worth checking out
While not a museum, Stavanger Old Town (Gamle Stavanger) is a collection of about 250 impeccably well-preserved wooden houses in the district of Vågen. The houses on the cobbled streets of Øvre Strandgate, the Main Street, are full of traditional Norwegian charm and one reason why it’s one of the most popular tourist locations in the city.
Just remember that people live in these houses, so do respect their privacy!
Right next to the city’s Sola airport, you’ll find an aviation history museum (Flyhistorisk Museum) located inside an authentic WW2 hanger. Inside, there is a collection of 30 planes, from passenger aircraft to jet fighters that have been used by the Norwegian Air Force. The museum is run by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers to help you on your way.
The Ledaal manor house is a royal residence nestled in the Eiganes district of Stavanger. It was built between 1799 and 1803 by Gabriel Schanche Kielannd, a merchant and prominent citizen in the city. It has a number of elaborate rooms, complete with various pieces of ornate furniture that have become a part of the building’s history over time.
What's your favourite museum in the region? Which do you think are the best museums in Stavanger?