Traveling to Stavanger, Norway? It’s one of the oldest cities in the country so it has an incredibly rich history worth exploring. In this detailed guide to the top things to see and do in Stavanger, I’ll cover all the best attractions, museums, and spectacular viewpoints!
Stavanger has many museums that chronicle its abundant history, so expect to see quite a few of those on the list. And for those of you that always feel a bit more adventurous, I’ve also included some of the best hikes and attractions that are a little outside the spectacular Norwegian city!
Stavanger is a beautiful city in southwestern Norway, full of interesting tourist attractions and hidden gems. I’ll cover all the best sights in Stavanger, including interesting museums, the best viewpoints, unique attractions, and more!
One of the first stops on your visit to this city should be the Stavanger City Museum. What better way to get acquainted with a new city than to visit a museum that will tell you everything about its history!
The Stavanger City Museum has been around since the end of the 19th century and it offers exhibits on local history. It’s fun for both adults and kids – parents can learn about the city’s cultural history and the local flora and fauna characteristic for the region, while the children are busy with the different interactive exhibits. Just try to keep the kids out of the room filled with animal skulls, unless you want to scar them for life.
Holmegate is a street in Stavanger old town and it’s one of the most picturesque places in the city. The street is lined with colorful buildings on either side, with beautiful murals and drawings. It’s THE street for selfies in Stavanger, so definitely make your way there if you need new profile pics. It’s also called Fargegaten, which literally translates to “the colorful street”.
The cobblestone street is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants, so it’s very easy to lose track of time when you start peering into different locales. And it looks spectacular no matter when you visit! In the summer, you can often see all sorts of flowers near the entrance into the locales. During the winter months, Holmegate gets decorated with fairy lights that add a little bit of magic to the place.
If you enjoy the sight of 10th century Gothic and Romanesque architecture, you will without a doubt enjoy a visit to the Stavanger Cathedral. It’s the oldest cathedral in Norway and the seat of the Bishop of Stavanger. This is without a doubt one of the most special religious buildings in the country, and it’s definitely worth visiting.
The Stavanger Cathedral is just as magical on the inside as it is on the outside. With stained glass windows, adorned ceilings, and incredible details, you certainly won’t regret touring the interior of the building. But feel free to skip it if the queues are too long or if there’s a service in progress while you’re visiting.
Stavanger Maritime Museum is a small museum dedicated to the city’s maritime history. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like boats you’ll probably like this museum.
It’s (appropriately) located at the Stavanger docks, and it’s very hard to miss it. You can see replicas of boats, learn about the importance of fishing and the oil industry for the city, and even see restored offices and sailor’s apartments, which is really cool.
If you’re visiting Stavanger in the summer, you’ll have a few more things to do at this museum. They often hold sailing and boat-building workshops, which are usually very fun and interesting. Also, there’s a quiz at the museum every day during the summer and it could be an excellent opportunity to showcase your maritime knowledge.
The Norwegian Petroleum Museum is a very interesting building, both on the outside and on the inside. When observed from the sea, the entire building looks like an oil platform, which is exactly what makes this museum so special and such a landmark in Stavanger’s port.
The museum boasts educational and interactive exhibits on the importance of the oil industry for the region, and it’s a great place to kill a couple of hours. Learn about seabed production plates, hear the story of the North Sea’s first oil rig, and see the technological developments necessary for modern oil rigs.
Gamle Stavanger is the historic city center full of cottages from the 18th and 19th centuries. The cobblestone alley is lined with white wooden cottages on either side and walking down this street truly feels like stepping back in time.
The picturesque alley is a great place to take photos, but there’s really not much else to do here other than a quick sightseeing tour. Most of the cottages are inhabited, and you can’t really go inside and explore other people’s homes. It’s still one of the top places to see in Stavanger, just don’t plan to spend more than 30 minutes exploring it.
The Norwegian Canning Museum is a great place for all of you that like very weird things. The museum is situated in a former factory complex and it boasts exhibits on the regional industry of canning.
You can see well-preserved cans of yore, how the design of cans evolved through the years, and you get to learn about this industry and its importance for the country. The museum tour is free, so be sure to follow the guide if you want some backstory on the canning industry of Norway. Also, the museum displays some very interesting technology, and you can even try your hand at packing a can full of plastic sardines. It’s a fun experience and a great way to kill a few hours in Stavanger, just don’t expect to have your mind blown.
Vålandstårnet is an iconic tower in the Vålandsskogen public park. The tower itself is not that remarkable – it’s an old white house with a tall white tower and there’s really nothing too special about it. What makes this place so popular with both locals and tourists is the incredible views of Stavanger from the tower.
It’s probably the best panoramic city view in the area, so definitely make your way here if you want to be wowed. You can easily walk here from the city center and there’s even a café in the tower where you can enjoy a hot cup of coffee with the side of a fabulous view.
Ullandhaugtårnet is an old communication tower atop a hill near Stavanger. It’s one of the best-hidden gems in the area – the tower is not extremely popular with tourists, so it’s unlikely you’ll see huge crowds when you visit. The views of Stavanger from here are absolutely breathtaking, and the entire area is just incredibly scenic and peaceful.
There are several seating areas near the tower, as well as walking paths for scenic strolls and even a barbecue area. Also, the tower is just a short walk from the Stavanger Botanical Garden, which happens to be the next thing you must see in Stavanger!
The Stavanger Botanical Garden is the best place to go if you want to see flowers that definitely do not belong in Norway. The small garden is very charming with a marked walking path and plenty of benches where you can just sit down and take in the views.
Whether you just want to see some tulips or have a picnic with spectacular views, the botanical garden won’t disappoint. The garden is always open and the entrance is free, so there really aren’t any downsides to spending an afternoon here.
Leedal is also a museum, but certainly not a traditional one. It’s a grand residence from the 1800s full of unique art and furniture. The interior of the residence is spectacular, and the Baroque gardens outside the house are not too shabby either.
This used to be the official residence of the King of Norway, which explains the extravagant décor inside the manor. The estate was bought by the Stavanger Museum in the 20th century and has been open for tours ever since. It’s certainly an interesting place to visit in Stavanger if you like learning about new things, but it might not be very fun for everyone.
Jernaldergården is a replica of an Iron Age farmstead with plenty of fun activities to keep you occupied. It’s like a museum, but much more interesting and hands-on than a place where you just walk in and look at exhibits on the wall.
It’s a proper replica of a farmstead so there are farm animals on the grounds and you can even do some farm work yourself. There are also docents in costumes who will teach you about farming in the Iron Age, as well as a café/restaurant with great food.
On top of that, this museum is located just 3 kilometers, on a hill outside Stavanger city center. The views of the city below are spectacular and one more reason to visit Jernaldergården.
The Museum of Archeology in Stavanger is a great place to visit, especially for families. It’s fun for both kids and adults with a variety of interactive exhibits, including giant chess and Viking costumes. While the kids have fun, parents can enjoy a cup of coffee at the museum café or just check out the more educational exhibits in the museum.
The focus of the exhibits are Vikings and Iron Age, and they have quite a collection of artifacts from Rogaland. It’s an interesting museum with a superb cafeteria, so a great place to hide on a rainy afternoon!
Sørmarka is a vast public park on a hill above Stavanger. It’s a great place to escape the busy city crowds for a few hours or an entire day. With hiking trails, beautiful flowers, and vast fields, it’s hard to get bored if you bring along some entertainment.
The park is popular with hikers and joggers, dog walkers, and even for horseback rides. The huge fields are perfect for playing football or badminton in the summer, while the winter months bring with them a vast ice-skating arena. No matter when exactly you find yourself in Stavanger, you’ll have no regrets if you find the time to visit this charming park.
The Stavanger Art Museum is a lakeside museum with an extensive exhibit of modern art. With everything from paintings to art installations, you’ll get to see some very cool art here. And that’s just one of several reasons why you should visit this museum!
The idyllic location is an excellent reason to visit the museum. When you’re done admiring the art, you can go on a lakeside stroll or a picnic to escape the crowds in Stavanger. Also, the museum building is interesting enough that it’s entirely worth it to stop by just to see it. A part of it is a traditional museum building, but there’s also a glass dome that holds the café and it’s spectacular.
Stavanger’s location makes it one of the best places in Norway for a summer vacation. The city has warm summers and the sea temperature often rises to a comfortable 20 degrees Celsius. Pair that with vast sandy beaches, excellent beach bars, and countless hours of sunlight, and you have yourself a proper summer vacation!
In case the water is a bit too cold for your liking, you can always wear a wetsuit and blend in with the surfers. Maybe you can even try surfing yourself – Norway gets amazing waves, and they’re particularly high in the winter.
In addition to that, horseback riding on the beach is also popular in this part of the country. It’s an incredibly romantic way to spend an evening, so definitely consider it if you’re traveling to Norway with a significant other.
Sola Beach is one of the best beaches in the area and it’s very close to the Stavanger International Airport. The long sandy beach is great for everything from swimming to scenic sunsets and it’s easily one of the most picturesque places in the whole Stavanger area.
Stavanger’s location is ideal for exploring the south of Norway, with quite a few interesting places worth visiting. If you’re up for a day trip or two, be sure to visit at least one of the places below!
Sverd i Fjell is an iconic monument just outside Stavanger. Really, it’s so close that it will take you about an hour to walk there from Stavanger city center, so you have no excuse not to visit!
The fjord-side monument consists of three 10-meter tall sculptures of swords that are absolutely magnificent to look at. It’s also a great place to take photos since the sword sculptures look amazing from pretty much every angle.
Another great thing about this tourist attraction is its proximity to the beach. It doesn’t make that much sense to walk for an hour if you’re just going to snap a few photos of some stone swords. But if you can also go for a swim and sunbathe for an hour or two, the walk is suddenly much more attractive!
Pulpit Rock is an iconic hiking destination in Norway that’s popular among both tourists and locals. The hike to Preikestolen is easy and suitable for beginners but the trail tends to be crowded, especially during the summer.
It takes about 4 hours to complete the out and back hike from the Preikestolen mountain lodge to Pulpit Rock and you’ll enjoy every minute of it. The cliff juts out of the mountain and towers over the Lysefjord, offering some of the best views you can experience in this part of Norway.
The best thing about this hike is that you can complete it and get back to Stavanger without ever renting a car. It’s possible to take a bus from Stavanger to get to the trailhead at the mountain lodge, making this one of the best hikes in Norway for tourists!
Lysefjord is a 25-mile glacial fjord featuring mountains, amazing viewpoints, waterfalls, and even seals! It’s also the background of some of the most popular hikes in the area, including Pulpit Rock, Florli, and Kjeragbolten. You can still enjoy the same scenic views but without all the crowds that tend to occupy the best hiking trails in Norway.
You can just drive up to the mountains above Lysefjord on your own, or you can go on a guided cruise of the fjord. Summer cruises depart from Stavanger, so you just need to make your way to the harbor – the cruise takes care of everything else. They’re usually 3-5 hours, taking you to see the magnificent Lysefjord, the Pulpit Rock above it, and even the well-hidden Vagabond’s Cave. The cruiser even passes so close to Hengjane Falls that you can actually get sprayed by the cold mountain water.
This is certainly a great way to see some of the area’s best attractions in a single afternoon, so it’s perfect if you have the will but not the time to explore the landscapes outside Stavanger!
Florli is another exciting destination very close to Stavanger. It’s home to the world’s longest staircase and the entire point of visiting the area is to climb the 4444 steps! It sounds exhausting, but it can be fun if the weather is nice and you’re in the right mood.
It takes a few hours to climb to the top of the staircase but the views at the top make the entire experience worth it. Also, you feel a great sense of accomplishment when you make it to the top of the world’s longest staircase, and it’s certainly a story you’ll be able to tell over and over again.
When it’s time to head back, it’s best to take one of the simpler hiking trails back to Florli. Descending down the stairs can be dangerous, especially in the colder months when they become icy. Also, the stairs are very narrow, and getting out of the way for someone who is ascending them can be quite tricky.
Head to Frafjordheiane Nature Preserve if you want to explore some great hiking trails, enjoy stunning fjord views, and spend some time in Norway’s extraordinary nature. You should rent a car since public transportation options are limited and can take up to 3-4 times longer than driving on your own.
The nature preserve is home to many wonderful attractions but the most popular one by far is Kjeragbolten. It’s a rock wedged between two tall cliffs and you can stand on it to get a photo that will induce a mini-heart attack in everyone you show it to.
It’s actually not that tricky or dangerous to stand on top of the rock – there’s a clear path and there’s no jumping involved. You just can’t see the path in the photos, which is why the entire place looks so scary and surreal.
The hike to Kjeragbolten is fairly easy and suitable for beginners. And it’s just one of the many hikes in this nature preserve that test your skills and reward you with magnificent views of Lysefjord.
Flog or Fjaere is a vast garden on the small Sør-Hidle island. You can get there by boat from Stavanger and it’s best to just pay for a guided trip to and from the island. Tour the gardens, take lots of photos, and stop by the fabulous restaurant for a delicious local meal. This is one of the best day trips from Stavanger, especially if you’re into flowers and gardening. It’s mesmerizing to see so many exotic flowers and trees in Norway, and it’s impressive that the owners have managed to keep them alive!
It’s worth noting that the gardens are only open in the summer, so you can’t visit Flog or Fjaere if you’re traveling to Stavanger in the winter.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!