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Stavanger Travel Guide

Stavanger travel guide

Norway’s energy capital has an international feel and a fascinating street art scene. Here's our guide to the best of Stavanger.

The country's oil and energy HQ may not strike you as the most obvious city to visit, but Stavanger has a lot going for it. The oil wealth (known as the “black gold”) means the city has a genuine international feel to it, which is reflected in its restaurants, bars and shops.

Most of the business takes place in business parks well outside the city. That leaves Stavanger town centre nicely preserved, with white wooden buildings and historic attractions.

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Like Bergen, it's a good base for a trip farther afield, specifically to the Lysefjord and some of the country's most famous photo opportunities. Read on for more!

Street with white wooden houses in the old centre of Stavanger

Things to do in Stavanger

Most tourists head straight for the whitewashed wooden houses and cobbled streets of Gamle Stavanger, the city's Old Town, because it stands above the main cruise ship terminal!

Wandering the streets is a great way to spend a short visit, but you'll soon want more. Thankfully, the city has you covered! The old district plays host to the Canning Museum, which is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds.

The National Petroleum museum might sound like a bore but actually offers a lot to keep kids happy while the adults learn more about the industry that shaped the city. Stavanger's street art is worth exploring.

Street art in Stavanger
Street art in Stavanger

While you're in the downtown district, don't miss the colourful street Øvre Holmegate, home to interesting cafes and shops and in stark contrast to the white of the old town.

To stretch those legs some more, why not explore some of the coastal paths and beaches near Stavanger? If that's too far from you, there are a number of museums within walking distance of the city centre.

The Museum of Archaeology is the best of the bunch. The well-curated space has a host of Viking artefacts and the world's most complete skeleton of a Polar Bear, which dates back to the Ice Age.

Street cafe on Øvre Holmegate

If Viking history is your thing, be sure to check out the famous three swords sculpture. Located farther outside of the city (you'll need a bus to get there), the sculpture commemorates the historic Battle of Hafrsfjord, when King Harald Fairhair united all of Norway under one crown.

Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord

Stavanger is a good base from which to explore the nearby Lysefjord, home to two of Norway's most famous attractions: Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten.

Preikestolen – Pulpit Rock in English – is a flat cliff top that overhangs the fjord, offering a truly remarkable view across the fjord. It's one of the most popular hikes in all of Norway, but it does require a reasonable level of fitness.

Here's one writer's recollection of the hike. Just be wary of the crack! If you don't fancy the hike and prefer to take things easy, you can explore the fjord by boat instead.

Lysefjord

Boat trips run from Stavanger city centre but can often be very busy with tourists, so check in advance and book a ticket on an early or late departure to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Where to stay

For most of the year Stavanger functions as an important business destination, so most accommodation is geared towards that market.

This means that many central hotels can be both expensive and difficult to book at short notice. Overnight capacity remains a problem in and around Stavanger, so be sure to book hotels as far in advance as you can.

Getting around

Stavanger's public transport consists of public buses in and around the city, and some ferry routes to hard-to-reach places including Lysebotn, Ryfylke, Tau, Kvitsøyruten, Hjelmeland, Haugesund and the city islands.

Kolombus winter bus in Stavanger

If you're just planning on taking a wander around the old town and popping your head into a museum or two, you won't need to worry about the buses. But for those who need it, here's our guide to getting around Stavanger.

Pre-travel checklist

Before you visit Stavanger, here's a quick checklist of important things:

  • Guidebook: The Moon Norway guidebook has all the details you need
  • Accommodation: Book your hotel in advance and save money
  • Car Rental: Secure the best rates by reserving your car of choice in advance
  • Travel Insurance: Don't run the risk of travelling to Norway without adequate cover
  • VPN: Secure your smartphone's internet connection while you travel
  • Tours & activities: Save money by pre-booking tours & activities
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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

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