Stavanger like a local: Hafrsfjord and Madla

I've been living in Stavanger for 2 months now and I keep hearing people say that Stavanger can easily be explored in a day as there "isn't much to see anyway". Now, maybe it's because I'm still in the honeymoon phase of living somewhere new but to me, Stavanger offers endless opportunities to go out and explore! 

Honestly, my list of places I'd like to visit in and around Stavanger is as long as my to-do list - and if you're a blogger yourself, you might get the length of that list...

Anyway, I haven't managed to cross much off of it yet, but I have been exploring my own backyard quite extensively and thought I'd present you my own neighbourhood today, which has plenty of hidden (and important for the budget travelers among you, free of charge) gems to discover! 


I live west of the city centre, in an area that's called Madla, situated at the famous Hafrsfjord. Don't worry if you haven't heard about the fjord before though - I hadn't either!

Hafrsfjord actually is the place where Norway got united in one kingdom after the battle of Hafrsfjord under King Harald Hårfagre ("Harald Fairhair" who promised a girl not to cut his hair until he managed to unite Norway so that she would marry him) in 872. It is a very historic place and you can find lots of memorials of the battle all around the area.


Sverd i fjell

One of the most iconic monuments reminding of the battle of Hafrsfjord is the "Sverd i fjell" (sword in mountain) monument, that you've probably already seen on postcards of Norway. The three bronze swords got erected in 1983. They were created by the artist Fritz Røed and are 10 metres tall. 

visit stavanger like a local hafrsfjord madla

Apart from serving as a reminder of the battle, the swords also are a sign of peace as they're built into the rocks, making it impossible to ever remove them. 

The monument at the beach has become quite a popular tourist destination and is not quite as off the beaten path as the other places on this list, but it's worth the ride to Madla anyway. 

How to get there: 

It's a 15 min ride by car and a 15 to 30 min ride by bus, depending on which bus you take. No. 4, 6 and 7 go to Madlamark Kirke (Madlamark Church) from where you have to walk down to the fjord (10 min walk), while no. 16 goes to Madlaleiren, from which it only is a 5 minute walk. 

When to visit:

The monument is popular year-round, though especially during summer when the sun comes out, as it's situated next to the small beach. If you'd like to avoid the crowds, visit at sunset as that's when most locals and tourists have already left the site.



Ullandhaugtårnet has once been, surprise, a tower reminding of the battle of Hafrsfjord. Nowadays it's used as a telecommunications tower, its upper tip being situated at 200 metres above sea level. 

You can visit the viewing platform free of charge, anytime of the year, and there even is a cafe that's open on Sundays (except for January and July). From there, you have a pretty stunning view over the surrounding fjords and mountains and can see as far as Tau and Jørpeland which you might know if you've visited Preikestolen before.

How to get there: 

Getting to Ullandshaugtårnet is a 15-20 min ride by car and takes 20-30 min by bus from the city center. Bus 4 stops at Tjodveien, from where it is a nice 10 min walk past fields and through the forest to the tower. 

When to visit:

Any time of the year, really, but there are Christmas lights in December and as I said, the cafe is open during Sundays between February and June, as well as August and December.


Stavanger Botanical Garden

Within walking distance of Ullandshaugtårnet, you can also find the botanical garden of Stavanger. It's a 13-hectare big area exhibiting all kinds of plants and herbs from Southern Norway and other parts of the world where the climate is similar. 

visit stavanger like a local hafrsfjord madla

It was opened in 1978 and is situated next to the university campus. Visiting is free of charge. 

How to get there: 

You can go by bus 6 to UiS or bus 4 to Tjodveien. In both cases, it's a short 10 minute walk to the garden. When going by car, you have to park at Ullandshaugtårnet and walk from there.

When to visit:

The garden can be visited anytime.



Jernaldergarden is an iron age farm that shows life in the olden Viking days. It's situated amidst a sheep pasture on a hill overlooking the city. It was here that I saw the Northern Lights the other week (who would have thought) and it's a place that's full of history!

How to get there: 

Take bus 4 to Tjodveien and follow the road for a couple hundred meters to the entrance of the museum, or park there if you come by car.

When to visit:

The museum is open between 11 am and 4 pm every day between late June and late August, and also every Sunday in September. You can visit the area outside of opening hours too, though. Remember to bring wellies or hiking boots as you will step in sheep dung eventually.


Store Stokkavatnet

Store Stokkavatnet is a 2 sqm big lake which once served as the tap water supply for Stavanger but now is a popular recreational area. There's a trail that goes round the lake which you can use for hiking, running or cycling - or you can also go for a swim in the lake itself. 

visit stavanger like a local hafrsfjord madla

How to get there: 

Take bus 2, 3, 4, 6 or 7 to Madlakrossen and walk for 5 minutes down the hill until you reach the lake. 

When to visit:

Obviously, summer is the best time to spend a few hours at the lake but I'm sure it's nice for a winter walk too.


More information on visiting Stavanger

Where to stay: Scandic Forus - cheap rates and awesome meals

Where to eat: Mexico Restaurant and Bar for tacos

Where to go for drinks: The Irishman or Newsman for a cozy pub experience

Must-see sights: The Old Town, The Canning Museum, The Norwegian Oil Museum


Have you ever been to Stavanger or are thinking about a visit? Would you like to explore the city like a local yourself?

Leave a comment below!



PS: For more info about visiting Norway, head over to my FAQ page.

More about stavanger:


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