Stavanger, Norway cruise holidays
Stavanger is a former European Capital of Culture, and it’s not hard to see why. The city is heaven for culture vultures, boasting an impressive mix of museums, galleries and events celebrating Norway’s rich heritage. The gateway to Norways spectacularly scenic fjordland, Stavanger is also a town with its own rich heritage as it is regarded as the 'Cradle of the Vikings'. This small city celebrates its lively heritage dating back to 872 when Viking King Harald Hårfagre founded the Kingdom of Norway in nearby Hafrsfjord. But there’s more to the Vikings than pillaging and plundering. As you’ll find out, these bearded warriors were pioneering explorers, canny traders, skilled craftsmen and artful storytellers with a dark sense of humour.
Top sights and attractions
A walk around Old Stavanger (also known as Gamle Stavanger) is like a stroll through a bygone era. This protected area of Norwegian heritage comprises 173 restored wooden buildings, all painted in white, lining the winding cobbled streets. Originally built in the 18th and early 19th centuries, some still serve as homes, as well as galleries and boutiques where you can by local handicrafts. This part of the city is also where you’ll find the Stavanger Maritime Museum and IDDIS, The Norwegian Printing Museum and The Norwegian Canning Museum which offers a fascinating look at two of Stavanger’s major industries.
Rising majestically to 604 metres above the glistening Lysefjord, Preikestolen (known as Pulpit Rock) is a flat-topped cliff renowned for its spectacular views. With a large area of around 25 by 25 metres, there’s plenty of room to soak up the sights and capture some amazing photos without going too close to the edge. You can walk up to the top in a few hours (it’s a five-mile hike in total) or cheat and fly overhead by helicopter. And if you’re not keen on heights, a leisurely fjord cruise offers a relaxing way to admire the landmark from the other, but perhaps equally impressive, vantage point.
Delve into some enchanting history (and a little bit of mystery!) just a short walk from Stavanger harbour. No one knows the exact year the building was finished, but we can be sure the cathedral here is Norway’s oldest. Beautifully preserved in the Romanesque/Gothic style it was rebuilt in after a devastating fire in 1272, it’s deceptively large. Step inside and you’ll find a cavernous interior that can hold up to 800 people and, as you look around, you’ll notice beautiful features such as tapestries by local artist Frida Hansen who was internationally renowned for her Art Nouveau work. Be sure to check opening times before you visit.
Things to do in Stavanger
Take a cruise on the Lysefjord
It’s no wonder so many lovers of the great outdoors choose cruises to Stavanger. The serene Lysefjord is surrounded by some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Norway, and what better way to enjoy it than by taking a chilled-out cruise on the sparkling water? Marvel at the massive mountains lining the shore, photograph the thundering waterfalls and peer up at the sky-high Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), which looms more than 600 metres overhead. And remember, the weather in Stavanger can be changeable, so be sure to wear layers and take a rain jacket, even if the sun’s out.
Explore Flor og Fjære
Palm trees in Norway? You’ll believe it when you see it! Soak up the beautiful scenery on a 30-minute boat ride from Stavanger to the small island of Sør-Hidle and explore Flor og Fjære. This charming and vibrant family-run garden is home to myriad types of exotic flowers and plants and, after a guided tour of the most colourful highlights, you can enjoy a sumptuous dinner, which will be served in ‘The Jungle’. This is one of the most unique things to do in Stavanger. In fact, it’s one of the most unique things to do in Norway!
Visit the Norwegian Oil Museum
Who knew oil could be so interesting? With interactive exhibits, eye-opening films and even an oil-platform-replica play area for children aged 3 to 10 years, there are different and fun ways for everyone to find out about the country’s biggest industry at the Norwegian Oil Museum. Why not try your hand as an oil worker for a day, or step into the dark labyrinth of the Catastrophe Room to learn about the safety training people must undergo before working offshore? However exciting or laid-back you want your visit to be, you’re sure to find it a real eye-opener.
Food and drink in Stavanger
Norwegian cuisine might not be the most famous, but real foodies know how fabulous and inventive the local menus can be. With such vast, green land and deep, clean seas, it’s no wonder Norway produces some of the world’s best-quality meat and fish. Freshly caught king crab is a bucket-list dish for seafood lovers, along with local salmon and cod. Reindeer and moose are both delicious when prepared in traditional ways, and juicy lamb is always a popular choice. If you like cheese, you’ll love Norway’s blue and Gouda-style varieties, as well as brunost (sweet brown cheese), which is similar to fudge and made with cow or goat milk.
Fancy a little tipple? The distilled spirit aquavit – or ‘water of life’ – tastes like vodka and will liven up any meal when served as an aperitif. There are lots of delicious craft beers to sample in Stavanger too. And if you visit in the festive season, be sure to try Julebrus, the ‘Christmas bubbles’ soft drink that kids here love.
Shopping in Stavanger
Fancy doing some shopping on your Stavanger cruise holiday? Øvre Holmegate is known by the locals as Fargegata (the ‘street of colours’) and it’s just as popular with them as it is visitors. Take a stroll down this kaleidoscopic pedestrianised lane and you can buy everything from a new outfit or souvenir to a haircut or even a tattoo. And when it’s time for a rest, feel free to pause for a coffee or a beer at one of the cosy cafés or pubs.
For a bigger choice of shops, including fashion boutiques and interior design stores, you might prefer Arkaden Torgterrassen, a mall in the heart of the city. And for a fresh bite to eat, it’s hard to beat the Stavanger Fish Market by the harbour. Please note that shops and markets in Stavanger are closed on Sundays.
Culture and history of Stavanger
Officially founded in 1125 when the cathedral was finished, Stavanger is one of Norway’s oldest cities and has a suitably rich past. From the days of the port’s first settlers, who came around 10,000 years ago, through the Viking times and into the age of oil, there’s so much to discover about the area’s history. Luckily there are plenty of museums and attractions to delve into.
Today, Stavanger is a thriving city with its own university and a vibrant culture where arts, industry, gastronomy and rich heritage all come together in a charming melting pot. Even if you choose not to visit specific places, a gentle stroll around town will reveal so many intriguing spots, from galleries and boutiques to cafés, bars and more.
Stavanger cruise port facilities
Most of Stavanger’s attractions are either in the city centre or easily reached from there. Depending on which of the four berths your ship docks at, you’ll only need to walk five or ten minutes to reach the heart of it all; that’s why there’s no Stavanger cruise terminal. When you disembark your ship, be sure to take some warm layers and a waterproof jacket as the Stavanger weather can be unpredictable, just like it is in the rest of Norway.