Stavanger is a city that truly has it all. It’s a beautiful town surrounded by stunning fjords and mountains. There’s a lively atmosphere, an intriguing arts and culture scene, and well preserved architecture and historical areas. Needless to say, there are lots of amazing things to do in Stavanger, even if you only have a day in the city.
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When Justin and I visited Stavanger on a cruise aboard the Nieuw Statendam by Holland America Line, we decided to set out and explore by foot. Right from the Stavanger cruise port, there are enough attractions and sightseeing activities to fill an entire day in port.
Our Norway cruise consisted of four ports: Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Flåm. While each city and town had their own unique offerings, I quickly fell in love with the vibrant city of Stavanger. I loved the random bursts of color in its street art, the rows of white wooden houses in Old Stavanger, and the serene lake in the middle of town.
Though it’s the third largest city in Norway (when combined with neighboring Sandnes), Stavanger exudes small town vibes in its city center. Here’s our list of what to see in Stavanger along with a self-guided walking tour map at the bottom of this blog post to assist your journey.
Wander the Streets of Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger)
Start your day by walking from the port of Stavanger up the hill to Gamle Stavanger, or Old Stavanger. You’ll see picturesque cobblestone streets lined with rows of wooden white houses. The owners of each property beautifully maintain their homes. Nearly every white house has a brightly painted and colorful front door.
You’ll see manicured gardens and planters bursting with rainbows of flowers to match. In total, there are 173 wooden homes dating back to the 18th century, making it Europe’s best preserved settlement of wooden houses. A trip to this charming old town tops my itinerary of things to do in Stavanger.
Browse the Unique Boutique Shops
As you wander around Old Stavanger, be sure to pop into some little shops and galleries on your way. The neighborhood has lots of handicraft boutiques where you’re sure to find some unique gifts. Our favorite shop was a little place called Cokott’, which features handmade origami paper jewelry.
Coffee Break at Kafe Go Nok
If you had an early morning start, you might be craving a cup of coffee by now. There’s a sweet little coffee shop right in Gamle Stavanger called Kafe Go Nok. Stop by the cafe for an espresso beverage. Make yourself right at home in their cozy coffee shop or order your coffee as take away if you wish to keep wandering.
Visit Norway’s Oldest Cathedral, Stavanger Domkirke
As a truly stunning work of architecture in Stavanger, you must visit the Stavanger Cathedral (Stavanger Domkirke). It’s the oldest cathedral in Norway, built in the year 1125. Therefore, it’s one of the must see Stavanger attractions.
Continuously used since the 1300s and retaining most of its original architecture, there were only minor additions throughout the years (partial reconstructions in 1272 after fire damage, a pulpit dating to 1650, and new stained glass in 1957).
We didn’t have the chance to check out the interior of Stavanger Domkirke because it wasn’t open until later in the day. If you have a chance to take a peek inside, please let us know what you think!
Even if you only get to see the outside of the cathedral, it’s one of the best things to do in Stavanger. There’s a good chance you’ll walk past this beautiful building, so you may as well stop to admire it. The Stavanger Cathedral is very close to the Stavanger port and harbor, right on your way to Breiavatnet.
Things to Do in Stavanger: Stroll Around Breiavatnet
I’m always seeking the natural areas and peaceful parks within cities. In Stavanger, that particular place is Breiavatnet and its surrounding area. Breiavatnet is a small, shallow lake in the middle of Stavanger’s city center, and it’s one of the best things to see in Stavanger.
The water from Breiavatnet comes from the Kannikbekken stream, which runs through the city from Lake Mosvatnet. This stream was transferred to underground pipes and culverts in the late 1800s, so you won’t see any trace of it.
There’s a walking path that circles Breiavatnet, lined with benches overlooking the lake. We noticed several wonderful statues surrounding the lake, and there’s a large fountain in the middle of it. There’s an abundance of swans, ducks, and other bird life at Breiavatnet. While I adored walking the city streets, a trip to Breiavatnet is one of the best things to do in Stavanger for a peaceful stroll. Plus, it’s so lovely to watch all of the swans meander around the lake.
See Øvre Holmegate (Fargegaten, the Color Street)
Øvre Holmegate is a street that’s just east of the Stavanger harbor, and it’s a feast for the senses. Known to the locals as Fargegaten, or the Color Street, every home is painted a vibrant and brilliant shade. This is the most bustling and busy area of town, alive with tourists and visitors. There are many shops, restaurants, and patios to enjoy a meal or a drink. I noticed lots of wonderful street art on some of the buildings themselves or tucked away down a side street.
This street is Stavanger’s “Notting Hill” as it’s quite possibly one of the most colorful streets in Norway. Painted back in 2005, this rainbow street is a relatively new city attraction. It started when local hairdresser, Tom Kjørsvik, dreamed of drawing more attention to his business and the street.
Scottish artist, Craig Flannagan, recommended that the houses follow a regimented color scheme. He was inspired by “Miami Vice” hues when deciding on the color themes and patterns. Each detail was decided to coordinate with every home down the street, from the color of the building itself to the window trim and smaller details.
And Tom Kjørsvik’s idea worked. There are always lots of people wandering up and down Øvre Holmegate with its colorful homes. When it comes to Stavanger sightseeing, Ovre Holmegate, or Fargegaten, is a total must. If you’re looking for things to do in Stavanger in a day, don’t leave this one off your itinerary.
Visit Stavanger: Admire the Street Art
If you’re a fan of street art, Stavanger is the place to be. The Nuart Festival happens each year in Stavanger, which guarantees that more street art will be added to the growing body of works in the city. Discovering all of the street art is one of my top recommendations for things to do in Stavanger. When checking out Stavanger in a day, you could spend all day trying to find every work of art around the city.
The beauty of street art and public art is that it’s always evolving and changing. Some of the art that we see might be new to those who visited Stavanger last year. New murals in Stavanger will continue to pop up every year. The hunt for street art is part of the fun. Who knows what you’ll discover on a random wall or down a narrow alley! Check out our guide to the street art in Stavanger for more details.
Geopark, One of the Most Unique Playgrounds
Justin and I stumbled upon this quite randomly on our search for street art. The Geopark in Stavanger combines street art with a playground by turning a formerly industrial site into something functional. It’s the most interesting playground I’ve ever seen. It’s raw, there are pipes and tubes all over the place, and graffiti is everywhere.
As Stavanger is the main base for the oil industry in Norway, this particular area was an abandoned oil platform. As the space wasn’t being used, it was redesigned and transformed into a unique playground while retaining its history. All of the structures of the playground are made of scraps and materials from the oil industry. It’s not just for kids: Justin and I may have had a little too much fun trying to balance and run across the pipes, too.
Stavanger Restaurants: Where to Eat in Stavanger
Looking for a great place to grab some lunch? While there are lots of vegan options on the cruise ship, we thought it would be fun to dine at one of the local Stavanger restaurants for a change. We noticed that Døgnvill Burger Stavanger had a few vegan options on its menu, so we went there for a meal.
Justin and I both ordered The Vegan Viking burger, which was unlike any veggie burger we’d eaten. The Vegan Viking Burger has ingredients like smoked eggplant, paprika, beans, Portobello mushroom and garlic. There are several toppings, including tomato, fried green chilies, parsley root-chips and spinach.
As for condiments, it has an interesting combination of peanut butter, spinach and chipotle sauce, and a slice of vegan cheese. The verdict? Delicious! I wouldn’t have thought peanut butter could go well with chipotle sauce and vegan cheese, but it was super yummy.
There’s even a vegan dessert on the menu, a vegan chocolate pudding. I could have had it without the raspberries as I’m not a huge fan of combining berries and chocolate, but I feel like the rest of the world would find it to be pretty tasty. As there weren’t too many vegan desserts on our cruise ship, this was a really delightful treat. For vegan Stavanger meals and restaurants, head straight to Dognvill Burger for a mouthwatering meal. Justin and I left feeling very full and happy!
Views of Stavanger from Nieuw Statendam
Out of all the things to do in Stavanger on our list, most of them are totally free or inexpensive (aside from the Stavanger restaurants). If you visit Stavanger from a cruise ship, you can’t help but admire the spectacular scenery from the ship itself (another free activity!).
There’s really nowhere else in town to gain this vantage point of the city. Some of the most brilliant views of Stavanger were right from the balcony of our cabin on board. When you’re seeking what to see in Stavanger, part of that journey starts right when you wake up in the morning and look out the window on the cruise ship.
Where to Stay in Stavanger
If you aren’t traveling to Stavanger on a cruise ship, there are lots of places to stay right in the city center. I recommend staying close to the middle of town so you can easily walk everywhere and explore.
For a luxury property, book your stay at the Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel on the edge of Breiavatnet. With fjord and mountain views from the hotel rooms and an ideal location, the Radisson Blu Atlantic is my top pick for Stavanger. Read more reviews from fellow travelers who spent the night at this hotel.
To save money on your trip to Stavanger, spend the night at the highly rated and adorable Stavanger Bed and Breakfast. It’s just a short walk to old town, and it has free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi. Plus, you’ll enjoy a light complimentary breakfast in the morning. Read more reviews from fellow travelers who stayed at the B&B.
Map of Stavanger: Self Guided Walking Tour
Here is a Stavanger map so you can take your own self guided walking tour of the city. As for the street art, there are several murals that you simply won’t miss as you make your way around Stavanger. These aren’t labeled on the map itself. You can find the most up to date street art maps on the Nuart Festival website. Here are all of the best things to do in Stavanger on one handy map.
Even if you only get to visit Stavanger in one day, there are so many brilliant scenes, attractions, and cultural experiences to engage and explore. With so many things to do in Stavanger right in the city center, you really need to get out there and wander on foot.
Strap on a pair of comfy vegan shoes, pack a rain jacket, and bring a refillable water bottle. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with lots of ideas for things to do in Stavanger. Wander and see this great city that feels more like a small town. Enjoy experiencing Stavanger in a day, whether you’re visiting the Stavanger cruise port or taking an epic road trip journey of Norway.