Kristiansand is Norway’s 5th largest city, situated in sunny Southern Norway (or as locals call it: “Norway’s Riviera”). Not to be mistaken for Kristiansund - a much smaller town at the Atlantic Road between Trondheim and Ålesund - southern Kristiansand might be more popular among Norwegians looking for sunshine and warmth in their own country, than it is among international visitors.
After having visited myself recently, I’d argue, though, that Kristiansand is a wonderfully charming city that offers the perfect combination of a city trip with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures, and I can only highly recommend you to visit next time you’re in Norway!
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Visit Kristiansand - All you need to know
*This post was written in collaboration with Beara Beara and contains affiliate links. All opinions, however, remain my own.
How to get to kristiansand
Kristiansand is located at the Skagerrak strait between Norway and Denmark, thus, many people take the ferry over from Hirtshals (either with Color Line or Fjordline) - a journey that only takes a mere 3 hours.
The city can also be reached by train from either Oslo (journey time of 4 1/2 to 5 hours) or Stavanger (a 3-hour journey), though, if you don’t live in Norway or Northern Europe, flying would be your best option.
Kristiansand has an airport (airport code KRS - again, don’t mix up Kristiansand with Kristiansund!) with direct connections to Copenhagen, London Stansted and Amsterdam, as well as Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim in Norway.
Getting around Kristiansand
While renting a car will give you the opportunity to visit any and all of the many picturesque villages scattered around the coast, it’s also totally possible to get around Kristiansand by bus and still be able to experience true Norwegian wilderness and stunning views!
Sights not to miss
1. Posebyen - The Old Town
The old town of Kristiansand is one of the largest collections of old wooden buildings in Northern Europe and makes for a stunning stroll around the city centre. The main part of the old town is located between the streets “Tollbodgata” and “Tordenskjolds gate”, though the prettiest part I found was “Gyldenløves gate”!
The city centre of Kristiansand is actually pretty “American” in the way that it’s not only completely flat (whereas all other neighbourhoods of the city are scattered around hillsides), but also arranged in blocks, which is definitely unusual for Norway. It’s therefore also known as “Kvadraturen” - the square.
Pro tip: When you come here, don’t forget to also go for a quick stroll along the nearby Otra river - especially on a sunny day!
Aquarama is the biggest swimming pool in Southern Norway and not only a big hit with families! It has several hot tubs/hot pools, including an outdoor pool with a stunning view on the city beach and Christianholm’s Fortress, as well as a sauna and steam room - and that’s included in the entry ticket, so no need to book the spa package unless you want to book a massage.
Pro tip: At Aquarama you can also find an indoor surf - however, that thing is impossible to book unless you’re traveling in a group of 3 or have the funds to book a private session. Believe me, I’ve tried!
Speaking of the city beach and Christianholm’s Fortress - a short walk from there you’ll find Fiskebrygga, which is the old fish wharf of the city. Characterized by colourful wooden buildings, the area now hosts the best seafood restaurants of Kristiansand (check out “Bølgen & Moi” if you want to splurge) but - thank God - you won’t find much of a fish odour in the air!
Pro tip: Right next to Fiskebrygga on the island Odderøya, you’ll also find Kilden - the opera house and theater that’s a must for anyone who’s interested in architecture!
4. Kristiansand Cannon Museum
At Kristiansand Cannon Museum, you can find the second largest cannon ever built in the world. Unfortunately, Kristiansand played quite a vital role during the occupation of the Nazis in WWII and thus, you can still find old fortresses all around the city.
The Cannon Museum at Møvik also features a bunker, from which you’ll have a spectacular 360-degree view on Kristiansand and the nearby island Flekkerøy. Apparently, back in the day, the inhabitants of this island had to open all doors and windows whenever the Nazis used the cannon for tests, as the detonation would have otherwise destroyed all windows.
How to get there: The Cannon Museum is situated approx. 20 minutes from the city centre but you can easily get there by means of bus M1 towards Flekkerøy. Get off at the second-last stop “Kroodden”, from which it is a 10-minute walk up the hill to the museum.
Pro tip: The large bunker and cannon are situated outside, without any fencing around it, so they can be visited free of charge. There is a small exhibition inside one of the smaller bunkers that requires an entrance fee of 100 NOK but even my boyfriend Simon (who is a history teacher and WWII buff) agreed that it wasn’t worth it, so stick to the outside areas instead!
5. Sørlandet’s Art Museum (SKMU) & Kristiansand Art Gallery
If you’re into art, SKMU and Kristiansand Art Gallery (Kunsthall) will be right up your alley! The Art Museum features Norwegian works from the 19th and 20th century, as well as contemporary exhibitions, while Kristiansand Art Gallery has changing exhibitions on the top floor of the local library.
Pro tip: Entrance to the art gallery is free of charge!
Sørlandsparken hosts Sørlandssenteret (Norway’s biggest shopping mall), as well as Dyreparken (a fun fair aimed at families with kids, but also a zoo). Both are quite popular attractions in Kristiansand (and for many visitors a “must”), however I didn’t visit any and had an amazing time in Kristiansand nonetheless - hence the parenthesis!
>> Watch my travel vlog for more impressions of Kristiansand and don’t forget to subscribe!
Where to go for a hike
Odderøya is a picturesque island just a stone’s throw from Fiskebrygga. The island consists mostly of forests and old coastal forts, as well as former cannons and military baracks from as early as the 17th century, but also hosts a growing community of local artists who turned the former baracks into galleries and workshops.
There is an abundance of hiking trails to choose from and all of them will offer a splendid view of the Skagerrak and the city. Odderøya is super accessible thanks to its location in the city, however, you’ll have to expect some inclines as the island is quite hilly. You can go around the entire island in approx. 1 hour but honestly? I spent 2 hours over there and didn’t even make it halfway around as we decided to stop for a picnic to take in the view along the way.
There’s a cafe at the island’s southern tip, but also a lighthouse and several old forts for you to check out! Make sure to choose the path going left when leaving the car park and follow the trail until you reach the sign with an overview of the entire island and all smaller paths. You’ll then be able to choose the trail that interests you most, based on what kind of buildings/forts you’ll get to see along the way!
Ravnedalen & Baneheia
Ravnedalen is a stunning valley just a kilometre outside the city centre with steep cliffsides and plenty of hiking trails in the forest. This park is connected with Baneheia - another nature reserve that’s right outside the northern part of the city centre - meaning that you can spend a while hiking through Ravnedalen before making your way back to the city via Baneheia.
While you’ll find a picturesque cafe and even an outdoor concert venue at Ravnedalen (both only in use during summer), Baneheia offers several lakes that invite for a swim on warm days, as well as stunning views of Kristiansand from above!
You’ll find restrooms at the cafe in Ravnedalen (again, only in summer), as well as at the big lake in Baneheia, making both hikes very accessible for families and any fellow IBDers.
How to get there: I suggest walking from the city centre (or taking the bus to the stop at “Setesdalsveien/Ravnedalsveien”) to Cafe Generalen at Ravnedalen, walking up the forest path next to the outdoor stage and then following all signs pointing to “Sentrum” for an approx. 4km hike through Ravnedalen forests and past Baneheia lakes.
Tømmerrenna in Vennesla
The old timber slide transformed into hiking trail in the nearby town of Vennesla (approx. 30 minutes from Kristiansand) makes for an absolutely scenic day trip! The trail part of the old slide (that’s to say the length of the slide that’s actually still safe to use) is approx. 4 km long and you can either hike its entire length or hike halfway and picnic at “Paulen Gård” (the pathfinder’s cabin) before returning.
How to get there: You should start the hike at Steinsfossen. There’s a parking lot right by if you have a car. Otherwise, you can also take the bus (31 towards Vennesla) until “Grovane bedehus) from where it’s only a 10-minute walk to the waterfall Steinsfossen that marks the start of the hike.
Where to eat
Monsoon (Asian Fusion)
Granted, you might not want to come to Norway to eat Asian fusion but if you do end up fancying sushi, a thai curry or ramen during your visit, Monsoon is the place to go! Asian food (at least the weakly-spiced dishes) is the only cuisine that’s almost 100% safe for me to eat and if you’re celiac or for other reasons can’t have gluten and dairy, then I couldn’t recommend Monsoon enough!
After dinner at Monsoon, we really wanted to go for drinks at Barbarossa. Their mocktails sounded too yummy to resist, but unfortunately, they were closed. If you end up having more luck, tell me if the place really is as good as it sounded!
Til stede mat og mer
Til stede mat og mer is the perfect lunch spot for any vegans and/or food allergy folks out there. They focus on organic and local ingredients and always offer one fish dish of the day, as well as one vegan/vegetarian dish of the day. They also offer the most amazing raw cakes and desserts - Simon and I couldn’t say no to this dessert sharing platter!
I mean, do I even need to say more?
Where to stay
As always when staying somewhere for more than just a night or two, Simon and I booked an Airbnb, which I’m usually super happy with. This time around, however, we ended up at a place that was kinda disgusting (despite having great reviews), so we spent our first evening buying cleaning essentials and giving the place a basic clean to at least be able to use the bathroom and prepare food without having to worry about germs…
I’m sure this isn’t Kristiansand’s fault, though, and I’ll continue to stay places via Airbnb. However, this time around, I kinda wish I had gone for a hotel instead!
One local hotel that I would have liked to stay at is YESS! Hotel. They offer budget hotel rooms with (seemingly clean!) en suite bathrooms in the city centre of Kristiansand. Rooms come at around 650 NOK per night, which is definitely a good price for Norway.
Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda
Another hotel I wouldn’t have minded staying at is Scandic Kristiansand Bystranda. I love staying at Scandic hotels as their rooms are always super comfy, their breakfast buffet amazing and their prices quite reasonable. Situated right next to Aquarama and the city beach, this Scandic definitely has a great location as well!
What to pack for Southern Norway
Kristiansand has a fairly mild climate year-round, though you can expect a lot more snow in winter than we have here in Stavanger, and also a lot more sunshine during the summer. The average July temperature is 20 degrees Celcius, whereas the average February temperature (when we visited) is 2 degrees.
As anywhere in Norway, dressing in layers is important, so make sure to bring some woollen layers for colder days, as well as a rain jacket and good hiking shoes. Don’t forget swimwear and sunglasses in summer - after all, they call it “Norway’s Riviera” for a reason!
You’ll also need a high-quality backpack for your sightseeing endeavours, as well as your hiking adventures. I’ve recently had the chance to test the San Jose backpack of the London-based company Beara Beara. They started to produce high-quality bags in Bolivia, following traditional techniques and using local materials, after their founder Jake Bullough met the artisan Julia, who produced and sold leather bags together with her family in their small store in La Paz.
Today, Beara Beara has more than 40 employees in Bolivia who all focus on creating unique, handmade bags that are highly durable and made to last.
The San Jose backpack that I’m lucky enough to call mine, provides more than enough space for everything I need on my adventures in the North. It fits my entire camera gear and still has plenty of space for my water bottle, snacks, a light cardigan and even a book - everything you need on a city trip in other words. As it’s made of 100% leather, it’ll also easily survive the odd rain shower (of which we get more than enough here in Norway), making it the perfect companion on any city trip you’re planning in the Nordics - whether you’re just sightseeing or going on shorter hikes in urban nature!
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