Surprising Stavanger – Plenty to do!
Stavanger is a gorgeous little city along the western coast of Norway. Docking at the port, it’s easy to walk into the main part of the city center for shopping, quirky cafes, and even a few museums.
If you like charming, quaint, small cities, Stavanger has it all. Even if you are in town for only one day, you can easily walk around and do the things that we did. Throw in a great lunch along the harbor, especially if it’s not raining, and enjoy the atmosphere. What else should you do, you ask? Well, let me tell you:
Number 1 – Walk around Gamle Stavanger
No matter what, you must walk around the old historic area, known as Gamle Stavanger, to see the beautiful white houses. Apparently it’s a myth that white is a traditional color for the houses in Norway. The thing is, white is and always was too expensive to keep clean and pristine in the salty sea air. Therefore, painting houses a mustard yellow color was much more the norm. Occasionally, people would paint the front of the house white to show their neighbors that they were well off and could afford it, but the rest of the house would be a different color.
As you walk down the narrow streets in the old section, you’ll find mostly white houses with a few yellow ones here and there. The neighborhood houses are quiet and very manicured with beautiful planters and bright colored-doors opening out onto the carefully set cobblestone streets. It doesn’t take long to walk around here, but it’s a great place to get your quaint on!
Number 2 – Stavanger Torvet
Head to the city center and the expansive open area just off the main harbor. This is Stavanger’s market square, also known as Torvet, where you can find stalls selling a range of food items and souvenirs. Here you can find some beautiful Scandinavian sweaters or local artisan crafts. This is the central meeting place for the city and you can get a bite to eat in the many restaurants, or sit on the waterfront and watch the boats come and go. Everything from cruise ships to naval vessels will come into port. There are plenty of benches along the water, and, as you can tell, folks love to hang out on the steps by the church. Join right in and make a new friend.
Number 3 – Domkirken
Stavanger Cathedral, also known as Domkirken, is the oldest Cathedral in Norway. Built in the early twelfth century, the structure has undergone repairs and renovations throughout the years. However, its foundation dates back to 1125 and recent changes have been designed to return the church to its medieval appearance. Visit during a choir or organ recital for a very special experience. Outside the cathedral, on the steps overlooking the harbor, you’ll find one of Stavanger’s famous sons, Alexander Kielland, author and politician. After visiting the church, take a seat on the steps in and eat some street food or get that postcard written for the folks back home.
Number 4 – Archaeological Museum
Visit the Archaeological Museum, or the Arkeologisk Museum at the University of Stavanger. It’s only a short walk from the city center (600 meters), and you can see exhibits that go back to megalithic times. There is a children’s part where you can play games and see a mock up of an old house, and an entire exhibit of the Vikings. It’s not a huge museum, but the building is very modern and the exhibits are fascinating. The address is: Peder Klows gate 30 A, and it is open everyday except Monday at 11:00. Entrance for adults is a mere 50 NOK.
Number 5 – Geopark
Take the kids down to play at Geopark next door to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Oil is one of the reasons Norway is what it is today. This museum, and the park that is next to it, is a great way to learn about oil as a natural resource and how it has impacted the country. The park is meant to be a playground and is built from parts of their first oil platform. The museum is located in Kjeringholmen, which you can walk to following the blue promenade. Cost is 150 NOK for adults and 60 NOK for children and students. The museum is open daily from 10:00 am.
Number 6 – Troll Hunt
Go on the search for trolls. Trolls are ubiquitous in Norwegian folklore, being little “people” that play tricks on humans. They have become a symbol of the country, and you can find troll souvenirs anywhere you look. They are not cute, but they are fun.
Number 7 – Sticker Shock
Marvel at Norwegian prices, especially for food. Here you can see a blackboard menu for one of the many seaside restaurants in the downtown area. Now remember one U.S. dollar is worth about six Norwegian Kroner, or NOK. So you can see that a plate of nachos will cost you a mere $27, a burger will cost over $28, and the cheapest thing on the menu, the Gyros pita, is about $16.50. Needless to say, you will want to bring your own food or shop in the grocery stores if you are staying more than just for lunch. However, I would suggest you having at least one Norwegian meal. You can try some fresh fish at the fish market, or fisketorget, or you can find a traditional potato dumpling or komle to try.
Stavanger was a such a great city to explore. It was green, clean, well-manicured, full of brick buildings, white houses, and friendly people. The city has a fresh, maritime vibe. I loved it! If you have more time in Norway, consider heading north out of Stavanger for a visit to Bergen.
Have you been to Stavanger? What did we miss?
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