To be perfectly honest I only recently realized what a wonderful city Stavanger is to visit. I had driven through Stavanger several times and never thought much of it, but I also had never spent the time to properly explore the city. But then my friend Vanessa moved to Stavanger and really opened my eyes to it, and now I even occasionally find myself suggesting that people visit Stavanger instead of Bergen!
I’ve visited Vanessa in Stavanger twice now (in December and July), but if you’ve read any of my other Norway guides you’ll know that I only like to write about places I know incredibly well, as I want to give you the most in depth and helpful information possible. So I enlisted Vanessa’s help to compile this Stavanger travel guide so that you can experience the best Stavanger has to offer, according to a local. Thanks, Vanessa!
And if you want my most in depth travel advice, you can buy my Norway travel ebooks here.
Things To Do in Stavanger
Stavanger walking tour
One of my favorite ways to get to know a new city is simply to wander around downtown. I especially enjoyed doing this with Vanessa because she could share lots of local history as we walked – it helps that she used to work as a tour guide! If you want that same local experience, I highly recommend booking a guided walking tour for your first morning in Stavanger. This private Stavanger walking tour is fully customizable, so you can tell your guide what you’re interested in seeing and learning about.
Translating to “the color street”, Øvre Holmegate or simply “Fargegaten” as the locals call it, is located just up the hill from the downtown harbor area and attracts visitors and locals alike who’re looking to grab a coffee or drink. There are a dozen bars to choose from, some also functioning as cafes during the day. So whether you’re looking to simply enjoy a coffee, a cold beer, a fancy cocktail or some Turkish tea, chances are you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The street actually used to be quite boring back in the day, until local entrepreneurs sat down to think how they could attract more people to their part of town. Their simple but brilliant idea was to paint each of the plain white buildings on the street a unique color, resulting in a beautiful rainbow of buildings. And the street really lives up to its new nickname – it’s super colorful!
Make sure to read on for where to grab a drink in Fargegaten.
Stavanger has the discovery of large quantities of oil in the North Sea to thank for its current reputation as a vibrant and international city. It used to be a sleepy fishing and farming town, but by the 1980s, the city was suddenly filled with Texans working in the oil industry and American schools and neighborhoods started popping up. The city remains very international and has quite a large expat population, while still also maintaing its charm from the old days as a Norwegian fishery town.
Exactly how the city developed and how Norway became one of the wealthiest countries in the world is something you can learn all about in the Norwegian Petroleum Museum downtown. Rather than just glorifying the past, the museum does a really good job of presenting both the positive and negative aspects of the industry and its impact not only on Stavanger and Norway, but on the world in general. The museum even has a separate exhibition on climate change and carbon footprints.
You don’t need to be particularly fussed or even interested in the oil industry itself to enjoy a few hours at this very interactive and exciting museum!
Gamle Stavanger & IDDIS
If the modern multicultural side of Norway doesn’t really appeal to you and you’d rather experience a more traditional side of the country, the old town of Stavanger (also known as Gamle Stavanger) is the place to be.
With its 173 old wooden buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, the old town really is the most charming neighborhood in the city. Go for a stroll in the little alleyways, greet the cats that live there, visit one of the many arts and handicrafts shops around, or head to IDDIS – the Norwegian Printing and Canning Museum.
Wonder what printing and canning might possibly have in common? Back in the day when Stavanger still used to be a fishery town and heavily dependent on herring, said fish would be canned and sold all over the world. To market the canned herring, the most colorful and original labels would be used, and you can still find 35,000 can labels at the museum today!
Pro tip: Head here on a Tuesday or Thursday in summer when you can try smoked sprats fresh out the oven!
Sverd i fjell
About a 10 minute ride outside of the city center you’ll find Sverd i fjell. This is a monument consisting of three swords in a rock, symbolizing the unification of Norway into one kingdom by the famous Viking Harald Fairhair. The monument was erected in the 1980s and is made of bronze and situated right by Harfsfjord, where the famous battle of Harfsfjord that lead to Harald becoming the first king of a united Norway supposedly took place.
Pro tip: If you visit in June, you might be able to experience the local Viking festival Harfsfjordkaupangen that takes place in the bay by the swords each year!
I’m putting this in the middle of the list of things to do in Stavanger for a reason! While many people only pass through Stavanger or just stay a day here to see Lysefjord and hike Pulpit Rock, the city actually has a lot more to offer than this. But it’s true that Lysefjord really is a majestic fjord to experience, no matter the weather. So while I do think you should stay in Stavanger long enough to see a bit of the city, you certainly don’t want to visit without seeing the famous Lysefjord as well.
If you really want to feel the grandeur of this fjord, I recommend taking a RIB safari cruise from Stavanger. These boat rides are so fun (and fast!) and being so low on the water is a much more special experience than sitting inside a ferry. This RIB cruise departs from Stavanger and takes you through Lysefjord, with the opportunity of spotting seals, eagles, caves, and waterfalls along the way.
But if you want something a bit more comfortable, this Lysefjord boat cruise also looks wonderful, and includes majestic views of Norway’s famous Pulpit Rock and an opportunity to drink water straight from Hengjane Waterfall.
Kayaking through Lysefjord
If you’re even more adventurous, this guided kayaking trip along Lysefjord looks so special, and I particularly love that the guide will take photos of you!
The top of Pulpit Rock is one of Norway’s most iconic views – in fact Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen in Norwegian) might actually be the most famous hike in all of Norway. So you know it’s well worth visiting. However, be aware that as Norway’s most famous hike, Pulpit Rock is incredibly popular and you’ll likely have to share the hike with hundreds of other tourists, especially if you’re visiting in July.
If you’re up for the hike, be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots as the trail can be super slippery when wet, try to start early (before 8 am) if you want to beat the crowds, and last but certainly not least, don’t underestimate it! The hike is about 8 km long in total and it takes on average two hours to get up and two hours to get down again. There’s a total elevation gain of 500 meters, so you will feel your legs and feet at the end of it.
Make sure to go on a clear day – there are often low-hanging clouds and/or fog in the fjord, and you can quickly risk not seeing anything at all on the top if you go on a rainy day! This is another good reason to spend several days in Stavanger. If you keep your schedule flexible, you can choose to hike Pulpit Rock on the day with the best weather.
You can either drive to the start of the Pulpit Rock, which takes about 45 minutes from Stavanger, or take a boat.
If you would prefer to go with a guide, this guided Pulpit Rock hike starts with a ferry ride from Stavanger. While you can certainly do this hike in the summer without a guide, I would recommend a guide if you want to hike Pulpit Rock during the rest of the year, as conditions can make the hike more tricky, and you have to be very careful of daylight when the sun sets early. This snowshoe hike to Pulpit Rock is perfect for the winter and early spring.
Another nice hike and an easy alternative for those who aren’t up for Pulpit Rock is the hike to Dalsnuten in Stavanger’s neighboring town Sandnes. The hike only takes 1 ½ hours in total with an elevation gain of only about 200 meters and a total length of about 4 km. This is one of those low effort, high reward hikes, as you’ll be rewarded with a view of Stavanger and the surrounding area from above!
If you’re looking for something even more adventurous than Pulpit Rock, the Kjeragbolten hike might be for you! You’ve probably seen photos of Kjerag’s iconic boulder suspended between the highest peaks in Ryfylke. This is a demanding hike and certainly not for anyone with a strong fear of heights, which is why I’ve never done it.
The hike takes about 10 hours round trip, with an ascent of 800 meters. You can only attempt this hike between May and October, and if you want added safety I would recommend going with a guide. This guided Kjeragbolten hike starts with a ferry ride from Stavanger.
Flor & Fjære
One thing besides Pulpit Rock that you can’t find anywhere else in Norway but Stavanger is the exotic palm island paradise at Flor & Fjære. Situated just 20 minutes from Stavanger by boat on the island of Sør-Hidle, this very colorful and exotic botanical garden originally started as a hobby for a local gardener with a holiday house on the island.
As the island is sheltered from the wind it has a micro-climate where even in winter it’s usually 5 degrees warmer here than in Stavanger. This milder climate helped the garden to grow and grow, and the owner got more and more experimental with it.
Today, you can find 50,000 flowers here that are planted from scratch every spring, with a restaurant located in a greenhouse that serves delicious local and seasonal produce. The season runs from May to September, and you can’t get here by public transport. Instead you have to buy an entry ticket to the garden, which includes a boat shuttle from the city center in Stavanger. The ticket also includes a guided tour of the garden and, most importantly, a three-course meal in the restaurant.
A visit here truly is such a special experience and one that you can’t get anywhere else in Norway, so don’t miss out!
Can’t get enough of the ocean? Head out to the neighbouring small town of Randaberg and take a walk around the lighthouse Tungenes fyr. One of many at the North Sea coast, and especially the Jæren coast surrounding Stavanger, Tungenes was fully functioning up until the 1980s and today serves as a museum. The inside is left as it was back when the last lighthouse keeper was still living there in the 1930s. There’s also a café inside which is open every day during the summer and every Sunday during off-season.
Pro-tip: Take a walk along the coast from Tungenes lighthouse to the beach Sandestranden.
The sandy beaches of the Jæren coast
Stavanger is near two of Norway’s famous Scenic Routes, one of which is Jæren. You might feel like you’re actually in Denmark when you stand in the rolling sand dunes of Jæren looking out on the turquoise blue water, but yes, this is in fact still Norway.
If you’re dependent on public transport, you can easily take the bus to the airport and then walk to Sola beach from there. Otherwise, there are plenty of beaches to visit by car. The longest and least crowded one of them is Orrestranden. But beware: since the beach isn’t the most crowded one, it’s gotten popular amongst nudists and people wanting to have a good old romantic time in the sand dunes – much to the dismay of the locals. So, you might want to watch out – or rather, look away?
Drive along the Ryfylke Scenic Route
While Vanessa loves the Jæren Scenic Route, I’m actually not much of a beach person, so I find the long, flat drive kind of boring. I much prefer the mountainous Ryfylke Scenic Route.
If you’re also more of a mountain than beach person, you’ll definitely want to take the time to drive at least part of this route, which starts 45 minutes outside of Stavanger in Oanes. The landscape is rocky and jagged in places, but it also has plenty of soft rolling hills dotted with the cutest little Norwegian farms.
If you want to know more about renting a car and driving in Norway, read my complete guide to planning a Norwegian road trip here.
And if you do take this route, I can highly recommend spending a night at Hoiland Gård, which is about 1 hour 45 minutes from Stavanger, along the Ryfylke Scenic Route.
I spent a night in their glamping tent and it was one of the highlights of my most recent trip to Stavanger. The views here are incredible, and while here you can also check out the Fairytale Forest, or Eventyrskogen in Norwegian, which is just a short walk from the farm. Check current rates and availability at Hoiland Gård here.
Where to eat and drink in Stavanger
A visit to Pedersgata is a must, not just to grab a bite to eat, but also to get more acquainted with Stavanger in general. Back in the day, Pedersgata used to be the shady side of town. It was here where the harbor and fishery workers lived – oftentimes in tight quarters and quite poor environments.
In recent times, however, the street has made a massive development and went from the side of town you’d rather avoid to the side of town where you can now find some of the best and hippest restaurants. Whether you’re up for Pakistani, Mexican, Vietnamese or Italian – Pedersgata truly offers something for everyone.
Make sure to try Korean bao buns at YIPS, sourdough pizza at Panzanella, square pizza at Mano, authentic Pakistani food at Zouq, authentic Mexican tacos at Casa Salsitas, or head to Sabi Sushi for some of the best sushi in town.
For dessert, try Siddis Gelato for ice-cream, Sandi for heavenly cakes, or Bønnespiren for vegan treats. And last, but not least, for drinks head to Matros for a pint in a super cosy maritime atmosphere, or Lapin for some wine tasting.
Stavanger’s local micro-brewery and hippest hang-out, Lervig Local just up the hill from the city center is certainly the place to be. Come here for a pint in the garden on a sunny day, quiz night on Wednesdays, a bite to eat for lunch, or simply just a coffee. The highlight of Lervig Local, however, is the selection of locally produced beers on tap. Make sure to try some of the less obvious ones – you might be in for a treat!
THE place to head for a drink! Try Pjolter & Punsj for delicious cocktails, Efendi for Turkish tea and cocktails, Frøken Pil for a drink and board games with friends in a super cosy atmosphere, Bøker & Borst for a slice of cake and some coffee in what appears to be a book shop but is, in fact, a lot more than that, and last but not least Bacchus for some afternoon snacks in a side alley off the hustle and bustle of town.
Try the chicken katzu curry in this Asian fusion restaurant right at the edge of Fargegaten. The portion size is massive, so maybe ask for a doggy bag. I can also recommend the Thai red curry! Or maybe ramen instead?
If you fancy some Italian and want to dine out on a sunny day, Olivia is where you should head. Their pizza selection is divine and with their location right by the harbor of Stavanger, it’s the perfect place for people watching too. Just beware of the seagulls who might try to get their share!
You might want to try some Norwegian cuisine while you’re here and what better way to do so than to try some traditional fish soup? Fisketorget at the harbor is by far the most popular place in Stavanger for this – they even have a counter running of how many liters of fish soup they’ve served that day and month!
Norway does produce some delicious pastry! Definitely head to Kanelsnurren to try one of their cinnamon rolls – the café is named after them, so you can only expect them to be yummy. They also serve delicious sunshine rolls (solskinnboller), and with their location on the market square, you can easily spend an hour here just watching the world go by.
From the owners of one of Stavanger’s three Michelin star restaurants, Sirkus Renaa is a more affordable place to grab a bite that still doesn’t compromise on the quality of the food. They have two cafés in the city and both locations tend to be jam-packed by locals, which is always a good sign!
Their sourdough pizza is equally as delicious as their croissants, and they serve organic drinks alongside their food. They also have amazing gelato, so make sure to leave some space for that as well!
This is for all the vegans out there! Bellies is a 100% vegan restaurant in Stavanger’s hip East where you’ll be served a full 7 course menu completely based on seasonal, local and plant-based ingredients – all the wine served is vegan too. A full course lasts around 2,5 hours, but you can also head here for lunch if you fancy something simpler.
How to get to Stavanger
Stavanger has direct routes to/from Oslo, Bergen and Kristiansand (SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe respectively), as well as Trondheim (SAS). And with Stavanger being the oil capital of Norway, there’s also a decent selection of direct flight routes from abroad, including:
– Amsterdam (KLM)
– Copenhagen (SAS, Norwegian)
– London (Norwegian, SAS, Wizz Air)
– Frankfurt (Lufthansa)
– Barcelona (Norwegian)
– Stockholm (SAS)
A cheaper way of getting to Stavanger is taking the ferry – either from Bergen if you’re on a mission to explore all of Western Norway, or from Hirtshals if you’re driving up from Denmark/mainland Europe. The ferry between Bergen and Stavanger takes approximately 5 hours and tickets can be found starting at 250 NOK (excluding a car), while the ride across the North Sea from Denmark takes 11 ½ hours.
If you’re already travelling around Norway and want to make Stavanger one stop on your journey, you could also take the train/bus from Oslo or Kristiansand, or the bus from Bergen. While the ferry from Bergen is a cheaper and more comfortable way of travelling, you might want to see more of the coastline of the country, in which case the Kystbussen bus could be a good alternative. It also has the advantage of taking you right to the city center of Stavanger, while the ferry only stops in neighbouring Tananger and you have to take an additional 30 minute bus ride from there into town.
Coming from Eastern/Southern Norway, you can take the train from Oslo or Kristiansand. The journey from Kristiansand takes a mere 3 hours while the journey from Oslo takes 8 hours. Train tickets are most affordable when bought about 3 months in advance.
There’s also a bus service running from Oslo/Kristiansand to Stavanger, but journey times and prices are roughly the same, so I’d opt for the train, as it’s more comfortable.
Where to stay in Stavanger
You’re going to want to plan your accommodation well in advance when visiting Stavanger, as it’s not uncommon for the city’s hotels to all fully book out. Don’t worry, I’m including tips for where to look if the city center is fully booked, but if you want your first choice of hotels definitely book your Stavanger hotels early. Like right now!
Fancy a stay at a hotel that first opened its doors in 1900? Hotel Victoria has been completely refurbished since that time, but the charm of the old days remains. With its location right by the harbor of Stavanger and an exquisite afternoon tea that oftentimes is booked out months in advance, you can be sure that a stay at this hotel is money well spent. Check current rates and availability here.
Clarion Collection Hotel Skagen Brygge
A slightly more affordable option just down the road, so equally central, is Hotel Skagen Brygge. Located in traditional fisherman buildings and with a stunning view of the harbor, a room here comes with breakfast, afternoon tea and even a simple dinner! Check current rates and availability here.
Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel
Stavanger’s fanciest modern hotel is worth the splurge. Situated just down the road of the train station, the hotel comes with a sauna, a barbecue restaurant, a fantastic view over the small lake Breiavatnet, and an excellent selection of cocktails at the hotel bar. Check current rates and availability here.
Scandic Stavanger City
If you’re looking for something slightly more affordable but with an amazing breakfast buffet and a location in the center of the city, Scandic Stavanger City is a great choice. Pro tip: You can rent their bikes for free, and that way explore even more of the city. Check current rates and availability here.
Clarion Hotel Energy
Situated a 10-minute bus journey from the city center but within walking distance to the Swords in Rock monument, Clarion Hotel Energy usually has availability when all the hotels in the city center have been long booked out, and the hotel comes with decent sized rooms and a great breakfast buffet for an affordable rate. Check current rates and availability here.
If you don’t mind staying in Stavanger’s neighbouring city Sandnes and want to save money, Smarthotel Forus is a good option. With a 30-minute bus journey to Stavanger, you do have to travel a fair bit to see it all, but at least you can save quite a bit of money for more Norway adventures. More advantages of staying here: Smarthotel Forus is Norway’s first and only street art hotel with street art that can be found both, on the outside and inside of the hotel, and parking here is free! Check current rates and availability here.