Stavanger may be one of the most expensive cities in the world, but as the saying goes you get what you pay for. The city of 130-thousand people that made its riches from the oil industry is nestled amongst the breathtaking fjords, and is the gateway to famous Pulpit Rock which is considered one of the most breathtaking views in the world.
The city oozes charm in every sense of the word, from the perfectly-preserved wooden homes that dot the hillside to the peaceful parks and lively waterfront. For those lucky enough to visit, here are five of the best things to do in Stavanger Norway—especially if you love a good photo-op.
Easily one of the most colourful streets you’ll ever come across, Øvre Holmegate is comprised of a few blocks in the city centre lined with shops, restaurants and cafes painted with just about every hue in the rainbow, making this one of the top places to visit in Stavanger.
Nicknamed “Stavanger’s Notting Hill,” the district is a fantastic spot to stroll through on a sunny afternoon, or at night when twinkling lights turn on overhead.
It may not be as colourful as Øvre Holmegate, but Gamle Stavanger is equally memorable. This old part of Stavanger city is protected by a conservancy, as it’s home to Europe’s highest concentration of wooden houses.
The beautiful rows of detached homes that wind up the hillside date back to the 18th century, yet you wouldn’t know it based on how well kept they are. Even more fascinating is that the approximately 200 houses in the area are all painted white, save for distinguishing features like brightly-painted doorways and window boxes.
Vågen (The harbour)
The waterfront is one of the most popular spots for Stavanger sightseeing, thanks to the cruise ships that sail in during the summer months and deposit throngs of tourists onto its boardwalk.
The promenade is lined with brightly painted wooden wharf houses, which once served as storehouses for goods like logs and salt. They’ve since been converted into bars and restaurants, which overflow with people enjoying the view while tucking into Norwegian specialities like fiskeboller and reinsdyrstek.
Keep an eye out for the green roof of the Varberg tower which pokes out from behind the buildings, and has great views of the Stavanger old town.
The Norwegian Petroleum Museum
A museum dedicated to the offshore drilling industry may not sound like the prettiest spot, but head outside and you’ll be in for a treat. Adjacent to the building is a playground fashioned out of materials related to oil production—and it turns out they’re all rather colourful!
Walls are tagged with bright graffiti, pipelines refurbished so they’re safe to crawl through, and vibrant orange buoys now serve as a makeshift bouncy ball pit. Snap some shots, then channel your inner six-year-old and play in the park. It’s easy to see why parents trying to decide what to do in Stavanger with kids usually make a beeline for this spot!
While Stavanger isn’t a particularly crowded city, it can get busy when the cruise ships arrive. Escape to Breiavatnet, a small, shallow lake just steps away from the city centre. A walking path loops around the water which comes complete with a fountain, and families like to gather near the pavilion to watch the many swans, ducks and seagulls that call Breiavatnet home.
As a bonus, the historic Stavanger Cathedral which dates back to the Middle Ages is nearby, and just a few blocks north you’ll find the Tuscan-red Sankt Petri kirke which is one of the top Stavanger attractions.
Book a Stavanger to Pulpit Rock tour
Many people visit Stavanger just so they can see famous Pulpit Rock, which is one of Norway’s most popular attractions. Book a scenic cruise through the Lysefjord which has idyllic islands and countless waterfalls, then hike up Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), a plateau that juts out of the mountain 604 metres above the sea.
- Thon Hotel Stavanger: This chic hotel mimics Stavanger’s colourful waterfront, with brightly decorated, modern rooms. Located near the cathedral, amenities include free breakfast and a fitness centre. Click here to book
- Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel, Stavanger: With a bright, airy lobby featuring high vaulted ceilings and sleek rooms, the Radisson is particularly popular with business travellers. Click here to book
- Scandic Stavanger Park: With a great location just outside the busy centre, you’ll still be close to the action but enjoy a more serene area of Stavanger which makes this a great option for a couples getaway. Guests particularly love the spacious, clean rooms. Click here to book
This article was originally published in March 2017 and updated in August 2020
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