In the weeks leading up my trip to Norway, I’d tell people I was visiting Bergen and Stavanger, and more often than not, they’d ask, ‘Where is Stavanager?’
A southwestern port city in Norway, Stavanager is surrounded by fjords, mountains and sandy coastlines. Wood houses dot the hillside above city center and cobblestone streets abound. It’s a place that oozes charm in every sense of the word.
While booking our trip, I knew I wanted to see more of Norway than Bergen, but didn’t want to lose a day on the train to Oslo. So, faced with the decision of going north (to Alesund) or south (to Stavanger), I ultimately landed on south after scoring a cheap return flight to London, and finding an affordable ferry ride from Bergen to Stavanger.
In the weeks leading up to our adventure, we decided not to book tours because we were worried the weather would be less than ideal. Once we realised we’d have five days of blue skies and sunshine, I booked us on a 3 hour fjord cruise, but left the other days open for us to wander.
In total, we were in Stavanger for two days- arrived Saturday evening and left Monday evening.
~48 hours was the perfect amount of time to explore this Scandi city. If you’re thinking about visiting Norway’s western coast, these are my top reasons for spending a few days in Stavanager.
Mountains to Hike
Stavanger’s most popular hike, Preikestolen is known to most visitors as Pulpit Rock. It’s said to be a stunning four hour return hike that ends in an incredible view of the fjord below. When we visited, the hike wasn’t officially open for the season and we’d been told to only consider it if we hired a guide and rented a car (ferries/buses don’t run often in the off-season). Interested in doing neither, we decided to busy ourselves with alternate activities, and managed to get our hiking fix while in Bergen.
Fjords to Cruise
Lysefjord is one of Norway’s most stunning fjords. We’d cruised fjords while in Bergen on Norway in a Nutshell, but found Lysefjord to be our favourite. The boat we cruised on for Lysefjord was much smaller than the one we’d been on for Norway in a Nutshell, which meant we were close to the mountain walls- even cruising right up to a waterfall to get fresh drinking water.
Our cruise left at 11 am Easter morning, which meant we had time to pick up breakfast from 7-11 (cinnamon roll and coffee, everything else was closed) before boarding the boat. For the first part of the cruise, as we sailed past fishing villages and mountains, we enjoyed the landscape through the boat’s panoramic windows- it was pretty chilly outside.
Once we slowed speed and entered the fjord, we headed to the front deck- the perfect place to see and get shots of the fjord ahead. Also ended up being a prime spot for seeing the waterfall up close 🙂
We brought breakfast on board, but there’s a kiosk offering snacks and beverages in case you get hungry while cruising.
Wherever you are in Norway, a fjord cruise is a can’t-miss activity. They’re magnificent.
An Old Town and Modern City to Wander
Oh Gamle Stavanger, Stavanger’s Old Town. Cobblestone streets, white wooden houses, groomed flower boxes- it’s picture perfect. An area composed of 173 white houses, Old Town is thought to date back to the 17th century and regarded as the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe.
Rumor has it painting your home white was a sign of wealth in old times- in a seaside city like Stavanger, the upkeep needed to maintain a white finish in salt air equated to serious money. In fact, some home owners even went so far as to paint the front of their homes white to create the illusion of having more than they actually did.
The cuteness doesn’t stop in Old Town. Areas in city centre ended up being some of our favourite places from the trip.
Øvre Holmegate is one of the most colorful streets you’ll come across- the restaurants, shops and cafes are every shade of the rainbow. Check out Cirkus for a beer, Froken Phil for brunch or a cocktail, and Boker and Borst for a coffee or beer pick-me-up with plenty of games to play.
Next to Øvre Holmegate, you’ll find The Norwegian Petroleum Museum. We didn’t visit the museum, but adjacent to the building is a playground made out of retired oil rig parts, Geoparken. Bright graffiti and a waterfront view made this one of our favourite discoveries.
Between Gamle Stavanger and Øvre Holmegate, you’ll find Vagen (the harbour), a bustling waterfront area where cruise ships sail in during the summer months. I was worried restaurants in the harbour area would be too touristy, but we really enjoyed Fisketorget, the fish market, and N.B. Sørensens, a gastropub with great fish soup and seafood pasta.
And, don’t miss Breiavatnet Lake, a small lake adjacent to city centre. It’s a beautiful, calming place with a few cafes on the perimeter worthy of popping in for a coffee- two favourites: Steam Kaffebar for serious hygge vibes and Blue Bird Kaffebar.
Have you ever been to Stavanger? Where’s your favourite place in Norway?