Top Things to Do in Stavanger
Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway, located towards the southernmost point of the Norwegian peninsula where it meets the North Sea.
This incredible city has all of the iconic elements that visitors seek on a trip to Norway, including old-city charm, unique and quirky experiences, and breathtaking nature. Make sure you see the best of what Stavanger has to offer on your trip.
The Charming Old Town of Gamle Stavanger
There’s a ton of history and charm in this must-see historic centerpiece of Stavanger. The buildings in Gamle Stavanger, otherwise referred to as old town, are all restored wooden structures that date as far back as the 18th century. Stavanger’s wooden architecture is a huge part of the city’s identity. In fact, the over 8,000 wooden buildings in Stavanger — many of them in old town — represent the most of any northern European location.
Cobbled streets and bright, well-maintained gardens add to the magic of the old town that is sure to transport you back in time to when the city was a modest fishing village. Most of the buildings here were home to people who worked in the city’s sardine industry, which you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about during a fascinating visit to the one-of-a-kind Norwegian Canning Museum.
Norway’s Oldest Cathedral
Not only is Stavanger cathedral — located at the very center of the city — the country’s oldest one, it is also possibly the reason the city exists in the first place. Historians still debate which of the two came first: the city or the cathedral? The cathedral was built in 1125 at which point Stavanger was declared a “cathedral city''.
Either way, this beautiful medieval cathedral from the Middle Ages is the only one of its kind to maintain its original architecture. It has also been continuously active since the 1300s, making it the longest running cathedral in Norway. Needless to say, there is much history to uncover in the walls of the Stavanger cathedral, which in many ways represents the soul of the city. Visitors can get passes to go inside of the cathedral and explore its breathtaking architecture.
Visit the Unique Museums of Stavanger
There are two museums in Stavanger that are truly unlike any other museum you’ll go to anywhere else in the world. The first is the Norwegian Canning Museum, a tribute to the culture and history of the canned fish industry that Stavanger was built off of. At one point, a majority of the canned fish exported from Norway came from Stavanger.
The museum itself is located in a former canning factory and is filled with relics dating back to the 1800s. Since the goal of the museum is to engage visitors with the history of the city’s industry, it has some great interactive exhibits and displays that are actually interesting and fun for people of all ages.
Once you’ve explored the history of Stavanger’s industry, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum will bring you into the present. The first thing you’ll notice about the Petroleum Museum is its striking architecture that was designed to resemble an oil platform. Since oil was discovered close to Stavanger in 1969, the city and country of Norway have experienced great economic growth from the oil and gas industry. The Norway Petroleum Museum provides information on that history, along with detailed explanations about how the oil and gas industry works.
Not only are these two museums entirely unique to Stavanger and Norway, they provide a ton of cultural and historic context that really helps you understand Norway at a deeper level. The best part, though, is the exhibits are super engaging and interactive, so you’ll have a great time while learning more about the city’s unique development.
Stavanger: Iconic Nordic Charm, Breathtaking Sites
Stavanger is a truly unique place to visit as it encapsulates the old-world charm of Norway while providing some modern experiences and comforts. The city is a perfect home base for nature lovers, whether you want to explore by boat or embark on the many breathtaking hikes of the area. There’s even more to discover in Stavanger, so start your journey here.