When your ship calls on Stavanger, you’ll arrive in the very heart of the city. Only a few steps from the gangway, and you’re in the old town or at the markets and restaurants that flank the harbor.
Few, if any, cruise destinations deliver passengers in such close proximity to the city center, which makes it extremely easy to enjoy a Shore Excursion to the countryside or the fjords and still see the city.
Convenience, in fact, is the key word for cruise passengers coming to Stavanger. The city in the south of Norway is not only well positioned for cruises coming from the Continent or from the British Isles but also convenient for cruise passengers who want to explore the city by foot.
With its 18th and 19th century wooden structures, Old Stavanger (Gamle Stavanger) is situated next to the city center and only a few steps away from the docks.
Representing one of northern Europe’s best preserved wooden neighborhoods, Gamle Stavanger features quaint, white-painted houses that are mostly residential with a few craftsmen’s workshops interspersed. It was almost torn down during the last century, but a town architect saved it. The white paint was meant to show wealth. Sometimes only the facades of the houses would be painted white, while the rest of the house was painted in other colors.
Stroll along cobblestone pedestrian streets to shop for quality Norwegian products, including replicas of Viking Age jewelry that was discovered in the region, which claims to be the “Cradle of the Vikings.” You might even meet a few of the local residents sitting outside their homes or gardening. Be sure to visit, the Norwegian Canning Museum (see description under Museums).
Also nearby the docks is Stavanger Domkirke (St. Svithun’s Cathedral), the best-preserved medieval church in the Nordics, built around 1125 in Anglo-Norman style.
Stavanger has a number of museums worthy of visit. All are within easy walking distance of the docks.
In fact, on a tour called “From Oil To Oil,” walking between two museums, you can see nearly all of Stavanger and its history, from the Norwegian Canning Museum where fish were canned in oil, creating Stavanger’s first economic boom, to the Norwegian Petroleum Museum, where the discovery of oil off-shore (on Christmas Eve 1969, no less) brought about Stavanger’s second and current economic boom.
- Norwegian Canning Museum demonstrates not only how the renowned local sprats or brisling (from the same family as sardines but able to survive in colder waters) were smoked and canned during the “brisling-boom” but also allows visitors to try their hands at the process.
- Stavanger Maritime Museum, an old wharf, shows the town’s history, including the mass emigration to America.
- Norwegian Petroleum Museum shows the start and development of the oil adventure in the North Sea and what it has meant to Stavanger – Norway’s oil capital.
The optimal ship visit for seeing Stavanger and its surroundings is eight hours, says Wenche Hansen, manager Guide Companiet, which handles many of the shore excursions for Stavanger. Her top recommendations:
- Highlights of Stavanger – Visit the Iron Age Farm, Stavanger Domkirke (the cathedral), do a city walk and visit Swords in the Rocks on this 3.5-hour tour.
- Cruising Lysefjord. Board a boat in the city center for a tour to beautiful Lysefjord. Try to book your excursion on your cruise ship, as you’ll often be accompanied by a personal guide who can point out what you’re seeing on this three-hour excursion. One thing you’ll definitely want to see is Pulpit Rock. But don’t expect to be standing on top of it, as you may have seen in posters. You’ll be seeing Pulpit Rock from a different perspective, from its base. If you have eight hours, you can hike to the top. The roundtrip journey, including the ferry from Stavanger, requires from seven to eight hours, but is not an extremely arduous hike.
- Stavanger and Surrounding. City sightseeing by bus before the one-hour motorcoach ride through beautiful countryside to Byrkjiedal for coffee and waffles (or lapper as they’re called in Norway) with jam and cream. Also visit nearby Gloppedalsura, Europe’s largest boulder field, then travel back by bus to the beaches in Stavanger, which boasts 50 kilometers of sandy beaches. Visit Swords of Rocks, then back to city for a city walk. Duration: 5 hours
- Monastery tour. Visit the only monastery in Norway. The three-to-four-hour tour requires transiting the longest and deepest underwater tunnel in the world. Some cruise passengers visit the Monastery only for the purpose of traveling the tunnel.
- Home visits. Travel by bus to the homes of some of the guides, where guests are served coffee, tea and cakes or lapper. Learn about the life of the local people and also tour the garden. Duration: 2 hours.
[googleMap name="Stavanger" width="520" height="520"]Stavanger, Norway[/googleMap]
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