Planning a trip to Stavanger this summer?
The city really is one of Norway’s most undervalued gems as it has SO MUCH to offer, yet most people flock to the fjords when visiting. This and the following six other mistakes is something you really shouldn’t do when visiting - take it from a local!
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1. Only come here to hike pulpit rock & Kjerag
I’ll never get tired to explain this (okay, I probably will at one point), but Stavanger really has so much more to offer than just Lysefjord and the Pulpit Rock/Kjerag hikes. The city is absolutely stunning, offers a ton of museums, street art, even Michelin restaurants - and that’s not even the best part!
There are literally so many other scenic places surrounding the city, that I like to call the Stavanger region itself “Norway in a nutshell”. You don’t just have the gorgeous fjords and mountains you’d expect in Norway, but you also have sandy beaches and rugged islands only a short drive from the city borders.
So please, if you’re planning to visit Stavanger, at least think about doing something other than just hiking Pulpit Rock and Kjerag. Whether that’s heading to the palm island Flor og Fjære, going on a street art tour or reenacting the Viking Age at the Swords in Rock monument!
2. Hike Pulpit Rock & Kjerag as a beginner hiker without proper equipment
Pulpit Rock and Kjerag aren’t beginner hikes, sorry! If you come from a flat country and have never climbed a mountain before, you’re more than likely to struggle on these hikes - especially if the conditions are bad and you don’t bring proper equipment.
Both, the hike leading up to Pulpit Rock and the hike to Kjerag, can be extremely slippery when it’s raining (which it does a lot in Western Norway, remember!), so proper hiking boots are an absolute must when attempting the hikes. Sandals and flip flops belong to the beach - not the mountains of Norway!
You also need to keep in mind that the weather in Norway can change really quickly, so bring warm and wind/waterproof clothes, as well as plenty of water and snacks.
3. ignore weather reports and local warnings
Both hikes, to Pulpit Rock and to Kjerag, can periodically be closed due to bad weather and poor conditions of the trail.
Note: The hike to Kjerag is also only open in the summer whereas it’s advised to only head to Pulpit Rock in winter with a guide, if you’re an inexperienced hiker.
When this is the case, don’t ignore these local warnings. These rules are set up for a reason and ignoring recommendations and attempting the hikes regardless of the weather/path conditions can lead to serious injuries or worse. Bad weather always brings the risk of avalanches/rockfall and by getting lost in the mountains in bad weather you don’t just bring yourself in danger but potentially also the rescue team that might have to attempt to find you in the end.
4. think one day is more than enough to see the city and all it has to offer
Most people spend 2 nights in Stavanger which gives them a day for the Pulpit Rock or Kjerag hike and maybe half a day to actually explore the city itself. That’s not even nearly enough - in my humble opinion as a local who’s madly in love with the city…
While one day might be enough to cross all the must-see’s of the city centre of your list - namely, the Old Town and Canning Museum, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, the colour street Øvre Holmegate, Flor og Fjære, the Iron Age Farm and maybe the Swords in Rock monument - one day just isn’t enough to truly understand what makes Stavanger so fabulous. For that, you need to leave the city centre!
You see, I think the Stavanger region is Norway in a nutshell because it offers every kind of landscape you could possibly expect from Norway within very short distances. That’s why you should rent a car and explore the surroundings of the city: explore the Jæren coast with all its beautiful beaches and islands, or go for a hike in the mountains of Frafjordheiane. Once you’ve reached the countryside of the Stavanger region, you’ll probably understand that there are so many more stunning places than just Pulpit Rock and that staying in the area for a day or two isn’t nearly enough to take it all in!
5. book a hop-on-hop-off tour
Now, I have absolutely no intention of bashing hop-on-hop-off tour busses. They’re great in cities where the main sights are quite far from each other. Stavanger, however, is no such city!
You can easily explore the city centre on foot, which is why these bus tours only run on cruise ship days - in other words, they’re designed for an older target market who visit the city by cruise ship and can’t walk that much.
If you’re my age and relatively fit and active, you’ll just waste money booking a hop-on-hop-off tour in Stavanger. The tours literally only go from one end of the city centre to the other with the longest walking distance (from the Petroleum Museum to Leedal Mansion) being a mere 20 minute walk. You don’t need a bus for that!
And if you really like to see more of the city than just it’s core, the local busses will be way cheaper and way more effective (a day ticket costs 90 NOK whereas a ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus costs over 350 NOK!). Or you can do as the locals do and rent a public bike for only 30 NOK an hour!
6. not rent a car for your visit
As I said, in order to truly appreciate what makes the Stavanger region so special, you need to rent a car! Sure, it’s totally possible to visit many scenic viewpoints and hidden gems of the city by bus - Swords in Rock, Ullandhaug Tower, Trollskogen, Stokkavatnet, Mosvatnet etc.
However, a car gives you the freedom to really explore places that not many other tourists even know about! Go for a hike to Månafossen Waterfall or explore the old monastery at Utstein. Or maybe you’d rather visit the old WWII fort at Fjøløy or the wonderfully scenic lighthouse at Tungenes?
All of these wonderful places are reasons why I’m so in love with the Stavanger region and unfortunately, they can’t be visited by public transport and definitely require a car!
7. just pick the nearest restaurant without any prior research
Did you know that Stavanger is home to not only one but two Michelin restaurants? Just picking the closest restaurant when you’re hungry would be such a shame!
If you’re into sushi, Sabi Omakase will likely blow your mind (and budget as Michelin restaurants are everything but cheap - and this is Norway), while Renaa will serve you the best produce the Stavanger region has to offer.
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