The Ultimate Stavanger Travel Guide


Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway, with 120,000+ people residing in the town. It is on the south-western coast of Norway. Stavanger’s urban area extends across many nearby municipalities and makes a fun travel destination for people who love Europe. Let’s explore.

What do you need to know about Stavanger?

There’s a reason this waterfront town has been twinned with Aberdeen and Houston: it’s known as Norway’s ‘Oil City’ for its influence in oil research in the North Sea since the 1980s (One of Europe’s largest Oil Firm, Statoil, is based here). But while much of the neighboring towns are modern, you won’t find many skyscrapers – Stavanger’s old center has some of the best-preserved and most beautiful wooden buildings anywhere in Europe, many recording back to the 18th century. It’s all charming, and in summer, the harbor comes alive in the best port-city style.

However, what Stavanger’s oil boom has brought is rural sprawl and sky-high prices, even for Norway. It’s infamous as one of the nation’s priciest locations, and finding a bite and a bed comes with a hefty price tag.

Nevertheless, it’s an excellent launchpad to explore nearby Lysefjorden and take the classic hike to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).

How to reach Stavanger?

Stavanger Airport, Sola, is a 30-minute drive from Stavanger. There are many domestic services to other major towns in Norway and some services to minor towns and cities. Discounted domestic plane tickets are usually obtainable at reduced prices if booked in advance, even during summer (although airlines may reduce frequencies). 

Besides presenting a picturesque route, train travel may be a low-cost alternative to flying. Tickets are made available for sale 90 days before departure. 

Top Attractions in Stavanger:

Stavanger Kunstmuseum

This museum, 2.5km south of the city center, showcases Norwegian art from the 17th century to the present, including the frightful Gamle Furutrær and other mural paintings by Stavanger’s own Lars Hertervig (1830 CE–1902 CE). There’s an extensive collection for other influential Norwegian artists, too, such as Kitty Kielland, Frida Hansen, and Olaf Lange. There’s a beautiful sculpture garden outside.

Canning Museum

Don’t miss this extraordinary museum housed in an old cannery: it’s one of Stavanger’s most interesting. There were sardines before oil, and Stavanger once housed more than half of Norway’s successful canning factories. By 1922 CE, the town’s canneries provided 50% of the city’s employment. The displays here take you through the whole 12-stage process from salting through to smoking, threading, packing, and decapitating. An adjacent building houses a restored workers’ cottage furnished in the 1920s (downstairs) and 1960s (upstairs) styles.

Gamle Stavanger

Over the western shore of the harbor, Gamle Stavanger is a treat to a viewer’s eye. The Old Town’s well intact cobblestone walkways cross between rows of late-18th-century whitewashed wooden houses, all perfectly kept and adorned with well-tended cheerful flower boxes.

Norsk Oljemuseum

Admittedly, the probability of an ‘oil museum being a must-visit’ doesn’t sound like the most encouraging option for an afternoon out. Still, this state-of-the-art place traversing the history of North Sea oil exploration is indeed well worth visiting. The information volume is tremendous: highlights include simulated rigs, the world’s largest drill bit, and an enormous hall of oil-platform models. There’s also an exhibition on how oil is produced and thought-provoking presentations on the accelerating climate change and Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Top Things to do in Stavanger:

The climate controls different activities in Stavanger. Stavanger has an oceanic climate, with mild winters and cool summers. Summers feature days of warm and pleasant weather, although they sometimes can be moist. Winters usually mean rain and not snow in Stavanger, although going into the hills will ensure snow.

  • Surfing: Sola Beach (Solastranden) is a rich sandy near the airport. It is trendy in the summer and allows for some waves for surfing. In the dunes, along the beach, are the remains of defenses from the 1940-45 occupation. Other less populated shores are all along the coastline, although they are hard to find.
  • Climbing and Hiking: Climbing and hiking around Stavanger is the best way to see the fabulous landscape. Many of the trails have been correctly marked out by the Turistforetning, with rocks bearing a red “T.” Turistforening huts (cabins) provide accommodation in the hills. Also, mountain bikes can be rented and taken on the tracks. The Pulpit Rock is available throughout the year for day trips, while the road to Kjerag is blocked during winter.

What to eat in Stavanger?

Stavanger is deemed an excellent place for foodies, with a variety of good restaurants, two of which have a renowned Michelin star, and an annual food fair that fills up the harbor area for a weekend during the summer months. Eating out is usually not cheap, like elsewhere in Norway. If you’re on a budget, you should go for the smaller ethnic restaurants (Thai, Chinese). Numerous excellent places exist for the traveler on an expense account – or if you want to pamper yourself or a loved one: Try NB Sørensens (upstairs restaurant), Tango, or Re-Naa. Sabi Omakase got its star in 2017 while Re-Naa received a Michelin star in 2016.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.