Have you heard of Kristiansand Norway? It’s the fifth largest city in Norway, a popular tourist city, and a cruise port. Justin and I had the opportunity to explore the Kristiansand cruise port on our seven day Norway cruise aboard Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam. That voyage took us to Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, and Flam where we explored picturesque towns and absorbed the magnificent scenery of the Norwegian fjords.
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There are lots of things to do in Kristiansand, even if you have a short amount of time. Most of these options are also the best free things to do in Kristiansand. As Norway is such an expensive country to visit, having lots of free and inexpensive choices is always a plus.
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Kristiansand, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll show you exactly how we spent our day in this adorable Norwegian town. With our stop in the port of Kristiansand, we only had about eight hours to explore and wander.
When you visit Kristiansand, a day in the city is enough time to go sightseeing and discover local attractions. I don’t think it’s necessary to spend more than a day in Kristiansand. However, more time is always better to absorb what it’s like to live in any place. Here are our choices for what to do in Kristiansand, Norway.
Best Things to Do in Kristiansand: Explore Posebyen
My number one choice on this list of things to do in Kristiansand is to explore Posebyen. What’s Posebyen? It’s Kristiansand’s Old Town, and it’s not what you’d typically expect of an “old town” in Europe. There aren’t the typical cobblestone streets and ancient buildings. Posebyen is a picturesque neighborhood of interconnected white houses. It’s one of northern Europe’s oldest collections of historic wooden homes.
After a huge fire ravaged Kristiansand in 1892, Posebyen was the only area left in tact. Posebyen spans 14 city blocks, so you can truly spend hours wandering around these streets. You can view the manicured front steps of these postcard perfect white houses where the owners take pride in owning such beautiful properties.
There’s also an old post office dating back to 1695, old churches and chapels, and preserved houses from the 1800s. As a former commercial area, many businesses have been converted into livable homes over the years, too.
For those seeking what to do in Kristiansand, the collection of charming white houses in Posebyen is not to be missed. It’s my top choice of all the Kristiansand attractions, especially for those who love to wander around cities and towns. The white homes, colorful front doors, and perfectly placed flower boxes add so much to the beauty of the town.
What to Do in Kristiansand: Discover Street Art
For a fairly small city in Norway, Kristiansand has a lot of interesting street art and outdoor murals to discover. One of my top things to do in Kristiansand (and any city, for that matter) is to find the best street art. I love public art displays that everyone can enjoy at any time of the day.
Thankfully, when you visit Kristiansand, you might stumble upon these colorful murals. These serve to brighten up the city, especially on a rainy and dreary day. Some works of art also come with powerful messages to invoke thought and conversation.
First, there’s street art right at the port of Kristiansand after you get off the cruise ship. There are stacked shipping containers that are painted with art: a moose on one side, and a devilish woman on the other side.
This Kristiansand street art is totally unique as it’s painted on a circular portion of the building on a street corner. It looks almost like part of a castle, although it’s painted blue with dreamy figures all over it. You’ll find this one on the corner of Holbergs gate and Kongens gate.
You’ll find these two murals one across from the other on Kristian IVs gate (near Vestre Strandgate). One depicts an elephant and a girl, chained to a blindfolded woman holding a paper that reads “Apartheid”. The other mural illustrates a girl (or mermaid?) under the sea.
One of the most interesting works of public art is right near the port of Kristiansand. You’ll find this one just before you enter the Fish Market region of town. It’s labeled as “Slow Bridge” and it’s on a pedestrian pathway beneath a bridge. It’s a place related artwork by the artist, Anna Berthelsen and a team of 5300 children from 0-16 years old. The Slow Bridge artwork has thousands of small, mirrored tiles, where the children have described their dreams.
Fiskebrygga at the Kristiansand Cruise Port
When you leave the Kristiansand port from your cruise ship, the first area to discover in town is Fiskebrygga (or the Fish Market). While I don’t eat fish, I loved walking around this area of town for its overall atmosphere. Located at a quiet pier, there are many boardwalks and bridges to navigate on foot.
There are many buildings painted vibrant shades of yellow and red. Even though it might be a busier area of town with cruise ship tourists, it’s still a relatively peaceful spot in town to discover. If you’re dining at one of the many seafood focused restaurants or merely passing through, a trip to Fiskebrygga is one of the best things to do in Kristiansand.
For those seeking Kristiansand shopping, whether it’s for clothing or souvenirs, head directly to Markens gate. You’ll find tons of shops along this bustling city street. It’s a pedestrian only shopping street with loads of stores, restaurants, and cafes.
It’s likely one of the most frequently tourist spots in Kristiansand, but this is where you’ll find the best Norwegian souvenirs for your loved ones back home. Even if you’re not a shopaholic, a stroll down Markens gate makes my list of the top things to do in Kristiansand.
Discover Norway Coffee Culture
Coffee lovers rejoice! Kristiansand has a fabulous coffee culture along with the rest of Norway. Although you’ll find many coffee shops in Kristiansand, I savored a cup from Camillo Bastrup at the end of Markens gate.
The coffee shop is relatively small with an intriguing design. I ordered an oat milk latte at the counter as take away. There are several kinds of plant-based milk at Camillo Bastrup, as well as a variety of espresso beverages and smoothies. Drinking a cup of coffee is deserving of a place on my list of the best things to do in Kristiansand. I personally love to sample coffee everywhere I go. Is coffee your beverage of choice, too?
See the Kristiansand Cathedral
The Kristiansand Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic cathedral, dating back to 1885. It’s one of the largest cathedrals in Norway and it’s the fourth church (and third cathedral) to be constructed on this same site over the centuries. You can walk inside the cathedral for a free self-guided tour, and there are also free guided tours and organ concerts throughout the summer (and when the cruise ships are in port). It’s a beautiful building, both inside and out. You should definitely stop by for a visit as it’s one of the most captivating things to do in Kristiansand.
Take a Stroll Around Odderøya
If you have the time when you visit Kristiansand, take a walk around the island of Odderøya. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to visit Odderoya because we took an excursion to Lillesand in the morning. However, this small island is a great recreational area with walking paths and ocean views.
Odderøya was once a military base in Kristiansand, but now it’s one of the top things to do in Kristiansand for tourists, visitors, and locals alike. You’ll be able to see the remnants of its military past, such as old ramparts. Nowadays, you can admire views of the harbor and even go for a swim at its small beaches. Visiting Odderoya is perfect for cruise ship passengers as it’s right near where the ship is docked.
Ravnedalen Valley Nature Park
The Ravnedalen Valley Nature Park is on our list of things to do in Kristiansand the next time we’re there. We didn’t have time to make it out on this trip, but it looks like such a gorgeous area to explore. It’s a giant green space and park in Kristiansand with ponds, gardens, and even festival productions in the summer. You could spend hours walking around the paths and gardens that weave around small lakes and ponds. It’s about a 30 minute walk away from the cruise port.
Once you walk from the cruise ship and through the Fish Market, continue your journey to the Kristiansand boardwalk. It’s one of the best Kristiansand attractions because there are lots of interesting sights and it’s totally free. For instance, there are lots of interesting statues and sculptures along the Kristiansand boardwalk, especially the sand sculptures.
You’ll also spot Otterdalsparken (Otterdal Park) with a giant fountain by artist, Kjell Nupen. It’s the second largest fountain in Norway, after the one at Vigeland Sculpture Park in Norway. Other Kristiansand attractions by the boardwalk include the Christiansholm Fortress and Bystranda, a public beach.
Kristiansand Shore Excursions: Lillesand
If you’re traveling to Kristiansand aboard a cruise ship, there are numerous tours and excursions at your disposal through the cruise ship. There are many advantages to booking cruise ship tours: it’s easy as you don’t have to worry about any planning (all you have to do is show up!), and the ship will never leave without you if you’re on a cruise ship organized excursion. If you’re out on your own and you don’t make it back to the ship on time, the cruise will sail without you.
We spent the first half of our day in Kristiansand on a tour called “Lillesand: The Jewel of Sorlandet”. It’s a four hour tour that involves taking a bus ride to the nearby town of Lillesand, and then embarking on a boat trip along the coastline on the way back to Kristiansand.
Visiting Lillesand, Norway
The highlight of the excursion is the trip to the adorable town of Lillesand. The village itself is not that large, and you can easily see it within an hour. That’s about how long you’ll have to explore while you’re on the cruise ship shore excursion. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain throughout our entire trip to Lillesand. Definitely bring a waterproof rain jacket when you travel to Norway, and it might not be a bad idea to bring waterproof hiking shoes, too.
I’m sure this town looks so much better in the sunshine. However, we did spend our hour in Lillesand huddled beneath an umbrella, trying to avoid the puddles (and failing miserably), and ultimately taking cover in a coffee shop. There’s not much you can do when the weather doesn’t cooperate. You’ve just got to make the best of every situation. In our case, it meant getting soaked head to toe! Lillesand is a very beautiful place, even in the rain.
If you’d like to visit Lillesand independently of an excursion, you can travel there by bus. There are frequent bus trips between Kristiansand and Lillesand. If you’re traveling to Kristiansand on a cruise ship, I’d either take the ship excursion or plan your bus trip to Lillesand very early in the day. It’s not worth taking the chance of potentially missing the rest of your cruise due to a delayed bus. Reserving Kristiansand shore excursions ahead of time is the best way to ensure that the cruise ship doesn’t leave without you.
Cruise along the Coastline to Kristiansand
Now, I’m sure that this Kristiansand shore excursion is SO much better in the sunshine or even on an overcast day. It was pouring rain throughout our entire excursion, which meant that everything was soaked in water. We boarded a boat called the SS Christiansand, an 82 foot long schooner.
Unfortunately, it was a little bit too cold and wet to enjoy this trip around the small islands of the fjords. I tried my best to enjoy the sailing, but even in a waterproof rain jacket, it was a little too much rain for me. The schooner offers some protection from the elements on a rainy day, but water and rain still splashes onto the boat at times.
My advice? If the weather forecast calls for storms and downpours, stay in Kristiansand for the day. I’d look into walking tours through neighborhoods or Kristiansand attractions. On our cruise, Holland America Line offered trips to see Norway’s southernmost lighthouse, a walk through historical Kristiansand, or a trip to the open-air Vest Agder Museum. I’d look into those Kristansand shore excursions as rainy day activities. There’s also this Kristiansand City Highlights Tour that you can book while visiting the city.
Where to Stay in Kristiansand
I recommend staying right near the Kristiansand cruise port in town and the middle of the action. You’ll want to be close to all of the Kristiansand attractions, especially if you’re only spending one day there. It’s always great to be within walking distance of everywhere you want to be. Kristiansand is a very walkable town, too!
Although there are many hotels in Kristiansand (feel free to browse them all!), my top choice for a budget hotel near the city centre is the Yess! Hotel. This modern hotel is in a quiet area of town, features complimentary Wi-Fi, and it has great reviews. My top pick for a luxury hotel in Kristiansand is the Radisson Blu Caledonien Hotel. It’s only a three minute walk from the Markens Gate pedestrian road, feature a fitness center and free Wi-Fi, and it has fabulous reviews.
Of course, there are all kinds of apartments, rooms, guest homes, and various types of accommodation listed on Airbnb. If you haven’t registered for Airbnb yet, you can save $50 on your booking when you sign up through my link!
There are lots of things to do in Kristiansand to fill an entire day with fun activities and sightseeing opportunities. It’s a wonderful place to spend the day, whether you’re planning a formal tour or simply wandering around on your own. I’m hoping you’ll be able to visit Kristiansand in the near future as it’s such a lovely town, and I thoroughly enjoyed my day there.