Southern Norway's Little Gem

Home to Norway's only oil museum and the country's oldest cathedral, Stavanger is a beautiful city on itself and also provides easy access to the gorgeous Lysefjord.

Pulpit Rock on Lysefjord

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on July 14, 2011

One of the greatest natural sights around Stavanger and one of its greatest tourist attractions, is definitely the Prekestolen (a.k.a. Preikestolen). Its name literally means "The Pulpit" and if you look at it you'll know why. A near vertical precipice juts out more than 600m over the beautiful Lysefjord, its top being a 25m by 25m almost flat square surface, so closely resembling a box. The view from the Prekestolen is amazing, looking out on and far beyond the Lysefjord on clear days. So lucky we had a clear but cloudy day.

The only way to reach the top of Prekestolen is on foot. Although there are several hiking trails near the Lysefjord, most people, including us, come to the rock from the nearby parking lot. From here the interesting trail contains a steep rocky climb, a boardwalk over a boggy area and a good footpath on the edge of the fjord boosting some great views. The 4km walk climbs about 350m (average inclination of almost 10%!) and thus takes a fit person 1.5-2 hours one way. Do take something to drink and perhaps some snacks because there is nothing on the trail.

The parking, where one can find a souvenir shop, a restaurant and even the Preikestolen Fjellstue youth hostel, is located about 5km from National Road 13. From Stavanger there are 2 possibilities to reach Prekestolen. The first way is to take the 30 minutes car ferry ride to Tau across the Boknafjord (runs 1 or 2 times per hour) and from there drive the remaining 25km. The transport companies Veolia and Tide offer combined ferry/bus tickets to Prekestolen parking for around 200Kr in summer. The second way is drive south on the E39 to Sandnes for 15km and from there follow road 13 northeast until after 35km you reach the exit for Prekestolen. Note that this road will require a short ferry ride from Lauvvik to Oanes. There is no way to get here without taking a ferry. Another interesting way to see Prekestolen in a way that doesn't require you to walk is taking the Tide ferry from Stavanger to Lysebotn, at the end of Lysefjord. This ferry offers a worm's eye view on the rock and the fjord.
Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Stavanger, Norway

Home of North Sea oil

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on July 12, 2011

Ever since oil was found in the Ekofisk oil field in the Norwegian part of the North Sea by the end of the 1960s, oil and gas exports have formed the biggest part of the country's economy. Stavanger became the de facto oil capital of Norway, when the Norwegian State Oil Company Statoil chose the city for its headquarters. Forming the mainstay of Stavanger's economy, the coming of a museum dedicated to oil was inevitable. The modern building was officially opened by King Harald V in 1999. The wonderful building itself, designed by the Norwegian architects Lunde and Løvseth, is shaped as a glass and stone version of an off-shore oil rig and blends in nicely together with the surrounding port. It is located in Kjeringholmen on the shores of Boknafjord, a 10 minute walk north-east from the city centre. Entrance fee is 80Kr or half the price for children.

The museum itself mainly focuses on 2 aspects, one being the natural history of oil ("oil forming"), the other being the drilling for oil. The small natural history part has pictures and videos on the lengthy alteration from organic material like algae or plant leaves into different grades of crude oil. Also on display are some tubes containing different grades of oil, so one can view the difference in colour, consistency or viscosity. The largest bulk of the museum is taken by exhibits about drilling and oil rigs, mainly in the North Sea. The drilling process descriptions and plans are exemplified by real-life used drill heads, parts of shafts and other pieces of the mechanism. One part of the museum has several scale models from different types of oil platforms, from fully fixed to completely floating. A fun part of the exhibit, especially for children, is a reconstructed drill's control room, a safety escape route complete with netted chute, survival capsule, lifeboat and helicopter interior. Safety instructions, videos and lifesaving garment finish this collection. Last but not least, an on-site 3D cinema shows a highly informational video on Norwegian oil.
Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Kjeringholmen 1
Stavanger, Norway
51 93 93 00

Norway's oldest church

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on April 12, 2011

The oldest building in town and the oldest church in Norway is Stavanger's St. Swithun Cathedral. It is named after St. Swithun, a 9th century bishop of Winchester (England). Christianity was first brought to Norway in the 10th century by King Haakon I, who was raised by King Athelstan of England in the Anglo-Christian traditions. The subsequent kings drifted between Christianity and Paganism to a more or less extent, until King Olaf I and his successor Olaf II persuaded their peoples to convert, partly by the word and partly by the sword. For his efforts in spreading his beliefs Olaf II was later canonized as Saint Olaf, patron saint of Norway.

The cathedral was constructed early 12th century, to function as the seat of just established Diocese of Stavanger, broken away from the Diocese of Bjørgvin (Bergen) under impulse of the first Bishop Reinald of Winchester. The town also gained city rights due to this fact. The church suffered heavily from the ravaging city fires in the 13th century, after which it was restored more or less to its current early gothic state. The move of the bishop's seat to Kristiansand during the 17th century by the Danish king actually meant that the church was kept in its original state, rather than undergo the vast restoration that happened to several other churches in this period. In 1925 the Diocese of Stavanger was re-established and Kristiansand became the seat of the Bishop of Diocese of Agder og Telemark.

The church is located right in the city centre near the tourist information centre and inside the Byparken, which also encompasses Lake Breiavatnet. The stocky Romanesque stature with thick walls and low towers from its early days is still very noticeable today, although many Gothic features like the pointed glass-stained windows and larger-than-life saint statues were added after the Stavanger fires. The interior still contains sturdy columns to support the construction and the original baptismal font, but also a beautiful wooden Baroque-style pulpit from around 1600. The church is still in function, so there is no entry fee, but of course they appreciate a contribution, which goes directly into a reconstruction fund.
Stavanger Domkirke Cathedral

Stavanger, Norway

The old part of Stavanger

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on September 22, 2010

Just next to the Boknafjord, between Strandkaien (beach quay) and Løkkeveien and right in the city centre, is an area that escaped a building spree that took the city after WWII, thanks to the then city architect Einar Hedén. Gamle (Old) Stavanger is the only area in town where you can still find the beautiful wooden houses that were constructed from the 18th until the early 20th century. Nowadays, the cobbled streets are lined with flower beds and the houses are freshly painted in a cool white colour. The peaceful tranquillity of this quarter resembles in nothing anymore to the area as it was when it was constructed. The first wooden houses here were constructed by the fishermen of Boknafjord. With the industrialization of the 19th century the single fishermen were replaced by big fishing companies, followed soon by the canning industry, exporting all over the world. Several new houses were built for the labour force, but along with the wealth for the business tycoons came social inequality and unrest. By the time the canning industry collapsed during the fifties, the are was considered as one of the seedier parts of town. There were plans to demolish the complete area and modernize this part of town, but luckily the town architect convinced the city council to let the quarter undergo a big restoration instead. It turned into a pleasant and completely revived part of town and lots of middle-class families settled here.

The compactness of Gamle Stavanger (around 200m x 600m) makes it an easy walking option, also because most streets are pedestrian. A good place to start your walking tour is the modern fish market, on Rosenkilde Torget (Square) at the southern end of the Vågen bay on Boknafjord. It's a great place to grab a quick lunch of shrimp salad or a smoked salmon sandwich. Just west of the square is the not so interesting maritime museum, housed in a beautiful wooden 19th century warehouse. If you continue north along the waterfront you will see more of this type of buildings, although a few of them are made of stone, but all are painted in bright white colours. At the end of Nedre Strandgata (Lower Beach Road), it's time to move away from the water, uphill to the oldest part of Gamle Stavanger and the area with the biggest concentration of these white-coloured wooden houses. Clean streets, colourful flowerbeds, great views on the city is what awaits the occasional tourist in Gamle Stavanger. Main street here is Øvre (Upper) Strandgata, but do wander around its side streets as well. A good overview of the area's history can be seen in the Canning Museum, housed in an old cannery and one of the only buildings that still retains its original colour, instead of the now omnipresent white.
Old Town (Gamle Stavanger)
Up from the waterfront
Stavanger, Norway

A Short Overview

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Koentje3000 on February 24, 2010

Although Stavanger is mostly overlooked by tourists in Norway, rushing between the Norwegian capital Oslo and the fjord's gateway Bergen or hurrying upwards to Trondheim or the North Cape, it is definitely worth a visit. This friendly city is with its 120.000 inhabitants the 4th city in Norway. The town itself contains an old town ("Gamle Stavanger") with beautiful wooden houses, the informative oil museum, Norway's oldest cathedral and is located nicely on the large body of water called Boknafjord, although it is more of a bay then of a real fjord. Around Stavanger are several natural sights, including the famous pulpit rock (Prekestolen) on Lysefjord, the mainly inland Hafrsfjord or the numerous islets and island in Boknafjord.


There are several ways of coming to Stavanger. First of all the Sola Airport, the oldest in Norway, was already constructed in 1937 and was an important airport during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Several daily flights connect Stavanger with Bergen and Oslo, but there are also scheduled flights to airports all over Europe, like Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam. The airport is 12km south of the city and provides car rental, taxis and public buses.
Currently there is only one international car ferry route to Stavanger, directly from Hirtshals (Denmark) on Fjord Line. The ferry continues to Bergen. The international port is near Tananger, around 15 km away to the west. Cruise ships still cast anchor on the terminal just next to the city centre. Nearby is the local car ferry port with connections across the Boknafjord.


The Boknafjord area has been inhabited for at least 5000 years, while permanent settlements came into existence around 1000 B.C. Several rival kingdoms dotted the area in the early Middle Ages, which lead to a great development in warfare equipment like fierce battle axes or superior longboats. The Stavanger land had little to offer in wealth or resources, so in order to finance their armies and increase their weaponry the kingdoms undertook long plundering raids to other areas in Scandinavia but also as far as England, France or even Italy. These fearsome men where locally known as explorers (Vikings in Old Norse) or Normans in the rest of Europe. One of these kings, Harald 'Fairhair' managed to unify the south of Norway into one kingdom under his reign, either by smart alliances or by waging and winning a war on his neighbours. Christianity also set foot in Norway in the 11th century and soon gained popularity. Stavanger's landmark cathedral was constructed during this period.

The German Hanseatic League brought great prosperity to Norway, but mainly to the foreign upper class. Royal marriages meant that the country first came into Swedish hands but from the 14the century under Danish rule. The country went into a long decline, partly due to the decimation of the population by the Black Death, but also due to a growing Danisation of society and the continuing wars between Denmark, Sweden and Russia. Denmark sided with France during the Napoleonic Wars, leading to a semi-independent Norway in a union with Sweden. Full independence was reached in 1905. The economy, mainly the fishing and forestry industry boomed in Stavanger and other places until the Nazi occupation during WWII. After the war the economy picked up especially when oil was discovered in the ocean in front of Stavanger. The oil boom still means Norway is one of the wealthiest nations in the world with one of the best social, educational, etc. systems.

Places to stay

The official Stavanger Region website contains an extensive list of accommodation in the Stavanger region. Being one of the most expensive countries in the world, it will come as no surprise that Stavanger's Mosvangen Camping, nicely situated on Mosvannet lake, attracts large crowds of tourists during summer season. Apart from places for camper or tent (around 100 Kroner or 10 euro) they also rent wooden houses for around 400 Kr. There is another camping in Sola near the airport.

The city's youth hostel has dormitory beds for around 250Kr and different types of rooms. A few small B&Bs are available in or near the city centre. Excellent value is Tone's Bed& Breakfast where the nice French landlady offered us a double room with breakfast for 500Kr. The Thompson's B&B offers similar value. In the mid-price section, the Skansen Hotel is centrally located and has spacious double rooms for around 1200Kr or cheaper but smaller "guesthouse style" rooms. Top-end hotels are mainly the ones of national and international chains like Best Western, Radisson Blu or Rica Hotels, but expect to pay over 1500Kr (more than 150€).

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