Things To Do In Haugesund, Norway

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Located on the southwest coast of Norway, Haugesund is a historic town with rich Viking heritage. Today, it's known as one of the country’s busiest cruise ports. Here's how to spend your time in Haugesund.

When I first moved to Norway, Haugesund wasn't somewhere on my radar. In fact, it took me eight years to make my first visit to this curious place that lies between Bergen and Stavanger.

Waterfront in Central Haugesund, Norway.
Waterfront in Central Haugesund, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

During that first visit, I saw a large ship from Princess Cruises in dock, with a lot of international visitors milling around the city. It was only then that I realised how popular Haugesund was as a cruise ship destination.

That popularity has continued. In 2023, the city welcomed 370,000 passengers from 125 cruise ship visits, thanks to its ability to handle some of the world’s largest vessels.

Organised tours include visits to the nearby Viking farm, RIB safaris including visits to the small island communities nearby, bus tours of the city including the Haraldshaugen monument and Steinsfjellet viewpoint and hiking area.

Away from the cruise line excursions, Haugesund is a pleasant small city to explore on foot, although you'll likely want to take a short bus ride or ferry trip to make the most out of your time.

Introducing Haugesund

Haugesund is every bit a modern Norwegian city set within a historic landscape. In many ways, it's Bergen or Stavanger in miniature. Visitors to either of those cities will recognize the look and feel of Haugesund.

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However, most tourist attractions lie outside the downtown area. The town’s rich Viking heritage is evident, especially at Avaldsnes, where Harald Fairhair, the first King of Norway, once resided.

View of Haugesund from ship.
View of Haugesund from a cruise ship. Photo: David Nikel.

Today, Haugesund thrives on its maritime industries. Its strategic location by the Karmsund strait and pastures of Karmøy island highlights its historical significance and natural beauty.

Viking Age Farm

Before we dive into what the city itself has to offer, let's take a look at some popular cruise ship excursions and short trips out of the city.

For 3,000 years, the island of Karmøy was an important centre of Viking power as it was strategically placed along an important sea route. That power was centred on the settlement of today's Avaldsnes.

Today, the Nordvegen History Centre reveals rulers we know about from the sagas, archaeological discoveries, and tales of the Norse gods. This underground museum preserves the history while protecting the historic landscape.

A short walk away, the Viking Farm transports visitors back to the Viking Age with live demonstrations and reconstructed buildings. The site is engaging for families, offering fun activities that bring history to life, but it's enjoyable for all.

The viking farm at Avaldsnes in western Norway
The viking farm at Avaldsnes in western Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

Local bus routes 209 and 210 serve Avaldsnes on Karmøy Island from the centre of Haugesund, with a journey time of approximately 25 minutes. You must also factor in the 10-15 minute walk from Avaldsnes to the history centre and farm. If you're a group, you could of course take a taxi.

Also on Karmøy island, Skudeneshavn is a still-thriving, 19th-century clipper town. Home to more than 200 beautiful wooden houses, the old town, ‘Gamle Skudeneshavn', is regarded as one of the best preserved in Europe.

Haraldshaugen: Norway’s National Monument

A little north of the city centre you'll find Haraldshaugen, or the National Monument of Norway. This striking site commemorates King Harald Fairhair's unification of Norway in the 9th-century.

The event itself took place in Stavanger, but this site is believed to be Harald's final resting place.

If it's a nice day, a comfortable 45-minute walk from the cruise port through central Haugesund and its northern suburbs will bring you to the monument. If you're starting from the downtown area, it's more like 30 minutes.

The area is ideal for a leisurely stroll or a quiet picnic. On the way, be sure to stop by the statue of King Harald Fairhair, staring out to sea opposite the city park. You'll find both locations easily enough on Google Maps.

If time is short or the weather isn't so good, take the five-minute ride on local bus 231 from central Haugesund to the ‘Gard A’ bus stop, just a few minutes walk from the monument.

A Boat Trip to Røvær

Escape the crowds of your cruise ship or downtown Haugesund by taking an enjoyable boat trip to the islands of Røvær to discover Norwegian island life.

The journey is straightforward with several daily ferries, but a little planning is a must to ensure you don't have a long wait for your return.

The islands are easy to explore on foot. A walk to Bråvarden, the island’s highest point, is a must for the breathtaking views.

‘Proposal Road’ leads to the Bridge of Love, where couples leave padlocks. For a more relaxed experience, head for the small beach, or dive into some history at the Grønasvika Viking Age graves.

Explore Central Haugesund on Foot

Aside from cruise excursions and trips away from the town, central Haugesund offers enough to keep the casual visitor interested for a few hours. From the cruise terminal, a 15-walk brings you to the downtown area.

Our Savior’s Church in Haugesund, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
Our Savior’s Church in Haugesund, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

The central feature is the sound running through the city's heart. The waterfront (on the city centre side) has places to eat and drink and is a pleasant place to relax on a sunny day. Watch out for the surprising sculpture of Marilyn Monroe!

Built in 1931, the pink Haugesund City Hall is one of Norway’s best-known neo-classical buildings. It overlooks the city square and a small park and is a good place to aim for on a walk.

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Our Savior’s Church is a striking red-brick, new Gothic church with a notable tower and room for more than 1,000 people inside. It's well worth taking a look. The church is usually open and free to enter on cruise days.

There’s more to Haugesund’s history than just its Viking roots. Karmsund Folkemuseum is a cultural history museum telling the stories of the city’s involvement with shipping, fishing, and agriculture, in the 1,000 years since the Viking Age.

If you find yourself wandering through Haugesund with time to spare, consider a visit to Viking Planet. Here, the Viking Age story of the region is brought to life through immersive digital experiences. It's not for everyone, but definitely fun for kids.

Cupcakehuset on Haraldsgata in Haugesund. Photo: David Nikel.
Cupcakehuset on Haraldsgata is a cozy spot for a break in Haugesund. Photo: David Nikel.

Finally, for a break, there are several coffee shops and cafes in central Haugesund. However, for a dose of independent charm, you'll need to wander just a few minutes out of town.

My recommendation is to head to Cupcakehuset on Haraldsgata. Whether you want to enjoy one of the delectable cupcakes or simply relax with a coffee, this cozy, independent cafe is the perfect spot.

What are your favourite things to do in Haugesund? Perhaps you recently visited on a cruise ship and discovered a hidden gem? Let me know in the comments.

About 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 professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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