The 10 best things to do in and around Stavanger
With endless white beaches, picturesque fjords, sky-scraping mountains and the quaintest city centre you can imagine, Norway’s West Coast gem of Stavanger has so much for visitors to discover, it’s hard to know where to begin.
Charming wooden houses, unusual museums and unexpected artworks adorn Stavanger’s city centre, while just a short journey away, towering mountains drop steeply into some of Norway’s most beautiful stretches of water, creating a thrilling natural playground for outdoor adventures.
If you’re planning a trip to Stavanger, read on and find out what should be top of your sights and activities to-do list.
Tip: Book your Nordic trip with Norwegian and earn CashPoints on your flight to Stavanger and your hotel. And don’t forget, you’ll earn CashPoints when booking your excursions and activities through GetYourGuide with Norwegian Reward, and when you book your rental car through Avis.
1. Stroll around pretty Gamle Stavanger
Gamle Stavanger, or Old Stavanger, can be found on the west side of the city centre, and should definitely be on your Stavanger sightseeing list. It’s home to the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe, with a whopping 173 wooden buildings from the 18th century, many of which are picturesque white cottages.
Gamle Stavanger is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll, picking up some handicraft souvenirs and stopping for a coffee on the colourful Øvre Holmegate street.
It’s also home to the Maritime Museum and the Norwegian Canning Museum, the latter of which is dedicated to what was once Stavanger’s most important trade: canned fish. On certain days during summer, the smoking ovens are lit at this surprising museum, and visitors can try some freshly-smoked sardines.
2. Go back in time at Viking House
As one of the countries where Vikings originated, there’s tons of Viking heritage in Norway, meaning there’s plenty of museums, festivals, reconstructions and ruins dotted all over the place.
But while visiting Stavanger, make sure to stop in at Viking House for an exciting historical adventure. With the help of the latest and most advanced gaming technology, you’ll be whisked back to Viking times and immersed in a world of battles and stories in a virtual reality experience like no other.
Can’t get enough Vikings? Head over to the Sverd i Fjell (Swords in Stone) monument, just south of Stavanger. These three swords stand 10 metres high and are said to commemorate the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872 when Harald Fairhair united Norway into one kingdom.
3. Get inspired with some street art
Stavanger is known as a city of street art and just walking around it you’ll come across urban art in the most unlikely of places, from stop signs to building façades.
Over the years, the city has become recognised as one of the world’s leading destinations for street art, with many local and international artists proudly displaying their graffiti, muralism, comic culture, and stencil art here.
Stavanger also has its own art museum, and here you can experience, among other things, the country's largest and most important collection of Lars Hertevig's artwork. The art museum also has a number of exciting temporary exhibitions.
4. Learn something new at the Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway, so this is a must on your list of things to do when visiting the city, and a good one if you’re travelling here with kids. The unique exhibits of the Norwegian Petroleum Museumexplain how oil and gas are created, discovered and produced, and what they are used for.
The museum, which is built to resemble an offshore oil platform, also neatly wraps up how petroleum influences Norwegian society through interactive exhibits, models and films. Here you’ll get a peek into everything from everyday life offshore to technology and dramatic incidents, as well as how life for Norwegians has changed over the decades thanks to offshore oil operations.
Do the children want to experience yet another fun museum? Check out the Norwegian Children's Museum. Here you can, among other things, see and try an extensive collection of children's toys from the last century.
5. See the historic Stavanger Cathedral
Stavanger’s Cathedral has a captivating history, and while we know it was built between 1100 and 1150, there is some debate about which came first – the city or the cathedral?
This medieval jewel of Stavanger barely made it through a fire in 1272 which tore through the wooden structure. After it was rebuilt, it took on the Gothic feel that we see today.
The roof of the cathedral is similar to, and said to be inspired by, the hulls on Viking ships. An elaborate pulpit was added in the 1650s and some beautiful stained glass was installed in 1957.
It’s said that there is a crypt below Stavanger Cathedral, one which is believed to be an ancient wooden church built by Erling Skjalgsson around 1015.
6. Hike up to Pulpit Rock
Pulpit Rock is one of the most famous places to visit near Stavanger, and is located about a an hour and a half’s drive away from the city, including a ferry crossing.
Known as Preikestolen in Norway, it’s a sheer rock face which stands a hair-raising 604-metres above the gorgeous Lysefjord, and is surrounded by mountain peaks. Hikers are lured to the summit by the promise of breathtaking panoramic views – and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, Pulpit Rock was dubbed one of world’s most spectacular viewpoints by both Lonely Planet and the BBC.
The 25×25 metre mountain shelf makes for an 8 km round hike, one which has relatively easy trails and is suitable for all ages. For inexperienced hikers, the best time to visit is during the warmer months when the trails aren’t icy and more challenging.
There are plenty of guided hikes on offer throughout the year, many offering pick up in Stavanger. Book a Preikestolen hike with GetYourGuide and you’ll even earn CashPoints towards your next Norwegian flight!
Fun fact: If this amazing cliff face looks familiar, it’s because Pulpit Rock featured in Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
7. Take an awesome photo at Kjeragbolten
If Pulpit Rock sounds like your thing and you’ve got a head for heights, then a trip to Kjeragbolten is a must for those visiting Stavanger. You’ll find this impressive giant boulder wedged in a mountain crevasse on Kjerag Mountain, around 2.5 hours by car from Stavanger.
Kjeragbolten is definitely one of the most spectacular places to see in Norway, but the climb up is tough – we’re talking 12 km on rough terrain. We recommend a guided hiking tour which will pick you up in Stavanger and take you on a scenic journey, past waterfalls and up the 26 hairpin turns of the Sirdal mountains, then on with a professional guide to the Kjerag Boulder. Those who make it up can expect incredible views and a once-in-a-lifetime photo op.
8. Catch some rays at Sola Beach
Sola Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the Stavanger region, and one of the best beaches in Norway. The 2.3 km-long, crescent-shaped bay has fine sands that slope off gently into shallow waters, making it the ideal beach to visit with kids during summer.
There’s also a range of activities for all ages on offer at Sola Beach, including volleyball, sailing and kite-surfing.
If you’re planning to stay here for a few days, take a look at the Sola Strand Hotel for your accommodation, which has large sun terraces, a full-service spa and a pool, as well as a new water sports center which opened in summer 2020. This place also has a rich history dating back to before WWI, and rooms made from broken up ships!
9. Get out on the water at Lysefjord
Guided hikes to Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten can usually be combined with a trip out on the Lysefjord – a 42 km-long fjord, surrounded by towering mountains reaching up to 900 metres high. The proximity of the Lysefjord to Stavanger (around an hour by car) makes it ideal for a day trip out of the city.
From canoeing and kayaking to ferry cruises and RIB boat tours, there are options for everyone to get out on the water and enjoy some spectacular sightseeing here.
While on the Lysefjord, you might want to make a stop off at the village of Flørli. This roadless hamlet is serviced by around four ferries per day and is best known for its 4444 steps un the mountain – the longest wooden staircase in the world. It’s not ideal if you have a fear of heights, either, but for those who can manage it, the views from the top are truly mesmerising.
10. Visit the Island “Flor og Fjære”
A 20-minute boat trip from the center of Stavanger, from Bekhuskaien, you will find the idyllic island of “Flor og Fjære” in the sea gap at Sør-Hidle. This is a private family country house estate owned by familied Hidlefjord, but is open for pre-booked visits in the summer.
A visit here includes a guided tour of the beautiful gardens of around 50 acres. The gardens have different thematic divisions and here you will see flowers and plants in all colors and shapes, with inspiration from different parts of the world.
You will also find a restaurant in the greenhouse on the island, where you will eat a 3-course meal after the tour. After the meal, you will have free time to explore the wonderful gardens on your own before returning home.
Ready to go?
Stavanger and its surroundings are amazing places to explore when visiting Norway. You could even include some of the sights and activities above as as part of a road trip around Norway.