Read on to find out what there’s to see and do when visiting Stavanger, Norway, for just a day!
Ever since moving to Stavanger over 2 years ago, I’ve always recommended people to come and visit Stavanger for more than just a day or two. The city and its surroundings just have so much to offer that you can easily spend an entire week in the area.
However, most people visit Stavanger only for about 2 days - one to do the Preikestolen hike and the other to explore the city itself. If you’re planning to do the same, read on to find out what there is to do and see in Stavanger when you’re short on time!
Sights to visit in Stavanger
Stavanger has plenty to offer, so I’m afraid if you’re visiting only for a day, you’ll have to really narrow it down to a handful of sights you’re most interested in. Here’s an overview of the best attractions Stavanger has to offer, either right in the city centre or with easy access by bus or boat from the city centre:
1. Norwegian Petroleum Museum
If you’re only going to visit one museum in Stavanger, this should be the one. The Norwegian Petroleum Museum is hands down the best museum you can currently explore here in Stavanger and it’s also a lot of fun if you’re not into technology or the oil industry at all.
The museum tells the story of how Norway developed into an oil nation with all the good and bad that followed. Rather than doing so in a merely historical way, though, the museum chose a hands-on approach, hence why there are loads of activities and things to try for all ages!
Do you want to dress up in survival suits? Slide down the escape chute? See if you can find your way out of the dark catastrophe room in only 2 minutes? Or simply watch a movie that tells you all about how Stavanger changed due to the oil industry?
As if that weren’t enough, you can also admire authentic models of oil platforms and tankers, learn more about climate change, and have a look at the work of the divers in the North Sea. The view from the mock-platform in which the museum is situated should also be enjoyed!
For more information about the museum with opening hours and ticket costs, visit the website of the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.
2. the Old Town
The 173 wooden houses of Gamle Stavanger are the highlight of Stavanger. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the harbour, the old town is always bustling with cruise ship guests during the summers who also occasionally try to enter the buildings thinking it’s an open-air museum. It’s not!
The buildings of the old town of Stavanger are actually inhabited, so please respect that when visiting. The amount of people I see in my job as a tour guide who take selfies on other people’s front door steps or even in their gardens, is way too high for my liking, so please stick to the street when visiting.
The old houses from the 18th and 19th century do make for wonderful pictures, though, and you can easily spend an hour just browsing all the little alleyways.
3. Canning Museum & Worker’s Cottage
In the heart of the old town, you can also find the Canning Museum of Stavanger. Before the oil industry was developed, the town was actually the capital of canned sardines (or rather brisling) and the main source of income for about half the working population of Stavanger in the early half of the 20th century.
At the Canning Museum you can learn more about the process of canning, how the brisling came into its cans and how the cans were marketed back in the day. The museum also has a tiny souvenir shop where you can find some of the best and most interesting souvenirs to bring back home.
Note: The Canning Museum is currently closed for renovations and will re-open in November 2020. Find more information on their website.
Right next to the museum, you’ll find the so-called Worker’s Cottage - a house of a working-class family from 1836 that is now used as a little museum and cafe. Entrance to the cottage is free - find their opening hours here.
4. the Colour Street
The colour street of Stavanger is another highlight of the city. This street full of colourful buildings is actually named “Øvre Holmegate”, but as business was slow in the former white buildings, the business owners of the street came up with the idea of painting all buildings in different colours to attract people - an idea that was absolutely successful!
Nowadays, you can find some of the best and hippest cafes and bars in this street, along with a great vintage store (Syvende Himmel) and a book store with cafe (Bøker og Børst).
Due to the city’s densely built-up area with wooden houses, a watchmen’s tower was needed, hence why the Valbergstower was built in the city centre in 1853. Here, the watchmen made sure to keep the city safe and also called out the time and wind direction several times a day.
When a fire did break out (and several severe ones did - the biggest ones in the 17th century), the watchmen would warn the citizens of Stavanger by means of cannon shots or the bell up in the belltower.
Nowadays, the Valbergstower is a museum where you can learn more about the work of the watchmen and enjoy the view of Stavanger from above. It’s only open during the summer, but you can otherwise also simply enjoy the view of the harbour and Stavanger’s old town from the viewing platform at the foot of the tower.
6. Street Art
For almost 20 years, the street art festival NuArt has now been hosted in Stavanger, making the city Norway’s street art capital. No matter where you go in the city centre, you’re guaranteed to run into a mural or two.
Keep your eyes open or participate in a street art walking tour to learn more about the history of the different pieces.
Stavanger’s biggest attraction besides Pulpit Rock is, of course, the famous Lysefjord. With a length of almost 42 kilometres, this really is quite an impressive landscape - best to be explored by a fjord cruise. Granted, the view from the top of Pulpit Rock can’t be beat, but the views you’ll be able to see from the boat are absolutely dreamy as well.
Plus, on these fjord cruises you won’t just see Pulpit Rock from below but also stop by to have a look at the “Vagabond’s Cave” Fantahålå (not sponsored by Coca Cola, lol), admire the so-called “Whisky Waterfall” Hengjanefossen (and possibly drink from it if you’re lucky) and maybe even spot some seals alongside the fjord’s shore.
8. Flor og Fjære
Another fjord adventure awaits you when booking a trip to Flor og Fjære. This exotic palm tree island/botanic garden is situated on a private island in the city fjord and only accessible by boat. The owners (a family of gardeners) started to grow a garden on the island for recreational purposes but quickly discovered that lots of people were interested in seeing it, hence why they opened it to the public in 1995.
Nowadays, the little island attracts approx. 35,000 people during the summer to admire the 50,000 annual flowers each year. Attached to the garden is also a restaurant, which is why, when booking a ticket to visit Flor og Fjære, you’ll also be served a lunch or dinner with locally-sourced ingredients.
The garden can, understandably so, only be visited between May and September and you can find more information and order tickets on the website of Flor og Fjære.
9. Ledaal & Breidablikk
Ledaal and Breidablick are two of the nicest mansions you can find in Stavanger that are open to the public. Both were built by local merchant/shipowner families and offer a rich history to dive into. Ledaal, for instance, was built by the great-grandfather of the famous Norwegian author Alexander Kielland and not only does the mansion function as a museum today, but also as a royal residence whenever the Norwegian royal family stays in town.
Both mansions are located just a 15 minute walk from the city centre at Eiganes and the entrance ticket to one also enables you to visit the other just across the road. Unfortunately, both mansions are only open during the summer (June to August).
10. Vålandstower & Mosvatnet
A quick 10 minute bus ride or 30 minute walk from the city centre are two lesser-known attractions - at least lesser-known among visitors. Locals love going for a run around Mosvatnet lake, which has been used as the drinking water reservoir of Stavanger back in the day and is now where the weekly parkrun of Stavanger is being held.
A short run (or walk) up the hill above the lake, you can also find Vålandstower. Here, the city stored the drinking water of Mostvatnet in pools back in the late 19th/early 20th century. The tower was then used for the guard of the drinking water pools, but also for the local fire brigade, and as a cafe. Nowadays, the tower provides a stunning view of Stavanger from above and there still is a cafe open during weekends.
11. Swords in Rock
If you’re keen to learn more about the Vikings, you have to make your way to Hafrsfjord and the Swords in Rock Monument. These 3 bronze swords commemorate the famous battle of Hafrsfjord where the Viking Harald Fairhair allegedly became the first king of a united Norway.
The monument, which was built in the 1980s and created by the local artist Fritz Roed, is a symbol of peace. Legend has it that the Vikings always rammed their swords into the rocks during peace time, so the locals of Stavanger say that as along as these 3 swords are situated at the fjord, there will never be a war in Norway ever again.
Good thing that the swords are worked into the rock so that they actually can’t ever be removed either.
How to get there: Take bus 16 from the city centre (stop 20, close to Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel) to Madlaleiren and continue walking down the road from there.
12. Iron Age Farm
Last but certainly not least, if you’re visiting Stavanger during the summer or on the weekend, you have to visit the Iron Age Farm. On a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Hafrsfjord, archaeologists found and rebuilt 3 longhouses from the Migration Period (around 550 AD). The fireplaces and floors of these buildings are still original and the local staff, dressed in iron age appropriate clothing, will tell you all about the life of the locals back in the day.
They might tell you, for example, that the people who lived on the farm had their stables at the very end of the longhouse in order to have the animals protect the inside of the house from wind and heat up the place.
It’s really fascinating to learn more about how people may have lived during this time and the Iron Age Farm is a very hands-on experience. I mean, have you ever tried making a fire using stones?
How to get there: Take bus 6 or 7 from the city centre (stop 19, across the Simplify building) to UiS Kjølv Egelands Hus and walk back up the hill where you can already see the reconstructed longhouses. The entrance to the Iron Age Farm is down the street. Fore more information, visit the website of the Iron Age Farm.
Where to eat in Stavanger
Make sure to grab a cinnmon bun at Kanelsnurren right next to the library (Sølvberget) in the city centre and have dinner at Noodle Noodle in the colour street if you’re into Asian fusion, at Døgnvill if you fancy the best burger in town, or at Fisketorget (right at the harbour) if you’d like to taste fresh seafood.
Where to stay in Stavanger
Are you visiting Stavanger on a budget? Make sure to read this list of the best budget hotels in town!
Bring this map:
More Stavanger Guides:
Pin it for later!
ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE?
DON’T FORGET TO SHARE IT AND MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW ALONG: