Stafr: Branch, Angr: Bay
Coming back to Norway only after few weeks since we re-visited the capital city, Oslo; but this time to a new destination never been before: Stavanger. Fortunately as a rare exception to any Norwegian city, here money seemed to last a little bit longer. Nothing to compare with the most expensive city we’ve been so far in the country, Bergen, and even still, a bit cheaper overall than Oslo. This is in a way good to know, but remember that a meal for two in a normal and “not expensive” restaurant will come to a minimum of £40, that is over 400 NOK.
Nicknamed the Oil Capital City of Norway can self-explain a lot. Yet it is not only about the oil and energy, but on the more demanding tourists coming here to enjoy some of the most spectacular natural landscapes on earth that lie only few kilometres away, being its highlight the world known Lysefjorden Fjord, which is the icon and symbol taken to represent any fjord on any catalogue about Norway.
If you are expecting a beautiful city to the likes of Oslo, Bergen or Tromso, then you might be a bit disappointed, but only due to its very small size. However, Stavanger is one of the oldest cities in Norway and ranks among the best examples in wooden architecture from the 18th and 19th century that can be found everywhere around the city centre and outskirts and are beautifully preserved and restored.
Seeing the city won’t take you longer than 5 hours to entirely visit, maybe 6 if you plan to enter the Petroleum Museum (mind that you might be disappointed not for its architecture and overall collection, but for its reduce size); then plan ahead you day as otherwise you will end up with nothing else to do and pretty much bored. The city is really nice and surely you will enjoy the hundreds of wooden houses, but the feeling is that of a small village. Surprisingly its nightlife is very thriving with plenty of bars, discos and clubs all around the old harbour, yet not a “cheap” business though, a pint of beer is £10, with spirits sky rocketing. Alcohols is very expensive in Norway hence the reason you might have wondered when you landed and made your way to baggage reclaim, the duty free shop and every Norwegian buying lots of wine and spirit bottles.
As commented at the beginning, in the other hand, that you are coming to Stavanger is not for just visiting the city, (or at least I want to believe that!), but because you plan to get to the Lysefjorden and reach either the Preikestolen or the Kjeragbolten, if not both. Any of them rank high on any “Things to do before you die” list. This makes truly worth it to come here and the entire trip; what is best is that you do not need to get a rental car if you don’t want to because through the year there are daily tours from Stavanger by ferry and by bus. If on a ferry you will not get to hike the amazing Preikestolen but will see the majestic fjord from below. You will see both Preikestolen or the Kjeragbolten from below, while on a bus they take you to the Preikestolen car park, where then you will start the 4 kilometres hike on foot.
For more information about Stavanger check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. As for the Lysefjord, there is also good information in Wikipedia site. Norway’s currency is the Krone (NOK). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Stavanger
- Gamle Stavanger Is the old town, with fully preserved original 19th and 20th century wooden houses in a maze of little streets. Very charming and one of the largest examples in the country with over 250 buildings in the area.
- Cathedral Is the oldest in the country and the only one unchanged since the 14th century. Finished in 1150, destroyed by fire was then again rebuilt in pretty much the shape you can see now in 1272.
- Petroleum Museum The only one of its kind in Europe, with a great architectural design by the harbour and the best collection and information related to the petroleum industry is a must do when in the city.
- Stavanger Museum The oldest museum in the city, established in 1877 is comprised of 8 different buddings with the theme of natural and cultural history (maritime, children’s, printing, natural history, art, canning and school). Most of the buildings itself are sights on their own for their beautiful wooden architecture.Notorious:
-Ledaal Royal Residence Built in 1800 as the summer residence of the Kielland family.
-Breidablikk Villa Built in 1882 for the rich merchant and ship owner Lars Berentsen.
-Canning Museum Housed in a former canning factory.
-Maritime Museum Buildings Dating from 1770 to 1840 located by the old port.
- Monument to the Battle of Hafrsfjord Simplified as the Three Swords it commemorates the battle of Hafrsfjord in the late 800’s where Harald Hårfagre became the first King of Norway.
- Lysefjorden Fjord Considered as the most beautiful of all the fjords in Norway, it is difficult however to come to such a conclusion. It is by all means as spectacular as those near Bergen, the capital and door to the Fjords. The best way to explore and enjoy this marvel of nature get on a sightseeing tour, either by boat or by bus. Ferry tours depart from Stavanger port through the year at 11.00am and take approximately 4 hours, with more frequencies and other routes during summer months. The most complete information and price can be found in their official website here. By bus in the other hand is more frequent and they take you to both of the landmarks within the fjord:
-The Pulpit Rock Known in Norwegian as the Preikestolen, is a cliff of over 600 meters step drop with an almost flat large top that can be accessed. It ranks as number one of visited tourist attractions in the whole of Norway. Unfortunately for those who do not like hikes, this is a 4 kilometres hike that cannot be done or get any near by car. It is either reaching it’s top on foot, or seeing from below on a ship. It took us 2 hours and a half to reach it, and 1 hours 45 minutes the descent down back to the car park.
-Kjeragbolten This boulder sits at 989 meters high over the fjord and has become the symbol and iconic representation of Norway and its fjords in any travel catalogue, blog and any image search will highly retrieve those images as top results. It is located towards the east end of the Lysefjorden Fjord and as you can imagine it’s the most photogenic tourist attraction to be at the top of the hanging rock.
Sola Airport is located few kilometres to the south of the city and it is nowadays well served by flag carrier and low cost airlines to destinations within Norway and across Europe. Although not served as of September 2015 by Ryanair or Easyjet, there is the otherwise much nicer competitor Norwegian Air Shuttle offering quite good deals when booking well ahead of time and out of season. As example, we booked this flight just 2 weeks before going and was £60 return to/from London Gatwick.
For the cheapest way to reach the city centre from the airport is by taking the bus number 9 that runs at a frequency of every 30 minutes and takes around 40 to reach the city centre, costing 38 NOK. This bus has more stops along the way and across the city centre so probably more convenient as you might be near a bus 9 stop rather than the central bus station where the express services go/arrive.
The most comfortable and secure way is, in the other hand, the Airport Shuttle Bus which runs every 20 minutes and barely takes 25 minutes to the centre. It costs 110 NOK one way, 160 NOK for a return ticket; half price if student/senior. If you hold a student card or are senior, or if arriving later in the night this is the best option as it will cost you almost the same but will save you time and guarantee you will arrive on time to/from the airport.
If arriving from elsewhere in Norway, there are good connections by train to Olso and other destinations but note it will be a lengthily journey yet very scenic. Long distance buses will take you to more destinations across Norway, but again this is a matter of time rather than cost. Getting a good flight deal is not impossible and can cost you less than a train ticket.
Within the city there is no need for any public transportation since distances are quite small and the centre and tourist sights are covered on foot, so there is nothing to worry about this as long the place you are staying overnight is not far from the centre as otherwise you will for sure need public buses. There is no tram nor metro systems.
Like anywhere else across the entire country, expect to pay quite high rates for any accommodation, unless you opt for coachsurfing if you are lucky to find anyone doing so. The city boats a large amount of hotels and this is merely for the fact of being the Oil Capital City in Norway hence a lot of business people, together with how important point of call for cruise ships and highly demanding tourists that know precisely why to come here for the spectacular scenery and nature right on the footsteps.
Finding a good deal on a good hotel is mission impossible, so either have this in mind or lower your expectation which in any case won’t set you in a good budget either. So as how things are and knowing this fact, it is obvious that if you decide to come to the city then you need to be prepared to pay higher for everything. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at actually one of the nicest and best hotels in the city. The Scandic Stavanger Park, right in the city centre and meters away from the cathedral. From all possible availability around I have to say this came really great, and even though we paid almost double than what we would usually pay elsewhere in Europe for a 4* hotel, it was still a very good deal and cannot complaint for anything. The staff was great, location unbeatable, extremely comfortable (as any Scandic, they really have nice beds), very well kept and cared bedrooms and a really nice included breakfast.