The first stop on our Norwegian fjords cruise was Stavanger: the fourth largest city in Norway. We docked in the city at 9am on Monday morning and had a full day to explore the harbour, city centre, Gamle Stavanger (Old Stavanger) and the colourful street ‘Øvre Holmegate’. P&O’s new ship Iona was moored up for the day alongside the quaint houses of Gamle Stavanger, some of which date back to the early 1700s. It was a really chilly day in Norway, but I could not wait to get ashore and start exploring our first port of call on the fjords.
It goes without saying that the fjords are an integral part of Norwegian life, with over 1000 of them in the country. Stavanger itself is not on a fjord, but it looks out to the North Sea and Lysefjord is only a boat ride away. If you are cruising around Norway in the near future, the city is a fascinating introduction to the Western region. There are also various inner city districts to explore, which I am focusing on in detail in today’s cruise diary: my highlights of Stavanger, Norway.
When you stand in Stavanger harbour you are at the heart of the city, footsteps from the old town and the colourful street Øvre Holmegate. Our ship docked in the harbour and Iona was taller than all of the permanent architecture, making it impossible for us to ever stray too far from the boat. The harbour has been so carefully thought out for cruise visitors, with a tourist information centre, viking experience and museum all approximately five minutes walk from one of the cruise ship docks. It makes Stavanger an easy place to explore on your own, without a shore excursion. You can also pick up smaller boat tours to Lysefjord and Pulpit Rock: natural wonders that the region is known for.
At the tourist information centre I was able to pick up a physical map of the city, which is one of my favourite things to do whenever we visit a new location. I keep them as souvenirs from a trip, displaying them in scrapbooks at home. We completed a loop of the harbour straight after disembarking the ship, taking in some of the historic boats, the tourist attractions and the row of colourful buildings that are featured on postcards and souvenirs for the city. The harbour is extremely picturesque with its variety of boats and distinctly Norwegian architecture. It is also a great starting point for a day of sightseeing in Stavanger, as you can easily visit other places of interest via the side roads out of the harbour.
Heading away from the port on foot, we found a wonderful surprise in the ‘colour street’ or ‘Fargegaten’ in Norwegian. It is a district of the city that I had no prior knowledge of, which made the rainbow-coloured architecture all the more exciting. Every business on Øvre Holmegate had been painted a vibrant colour, keeping with the colour theme. There were also many pieces of street art to admire, adding to the catalogue of urban artwork that is scattered throughout Stavanger.
Upon exploring Øvre Holmegate, I was immediately drawn to a bar called ‘Bøker & Børst‘ or ‘Books & Booze’ in English. It had some cosy indoor tables and hot drinks on the menu, offering refuge from the cold weather. We grabbed a table inside and were in admiration at the creativity of the place, with artwork displayed everywhere, from the walls to the toilet doors. It was such a unique location to visit for a cup of tea, with its lively colours and creative decor. I am so pleased that we stumbled across Stavanger’s colour street and spent an hour or so in Bøker & Børst.
Every street in Stavanger has something unique to look at, but the final highlight of the city for me was the painted wooden cottages that make up Old Stavanger. We had planned to explore this section of the city immediately after lunch, saving the oldest part of the city until last. I was very much looking forward to exploring the cobbled streets and marvelling at the architecture.
The wooden buildings are mostly residential, with a few of them reserved for craft businesses. We stumbled across a glass ornament stall in the basement of one of the historic houses. The gift shop was extremely quaint, making the most of the house’s original foundations and each of the items for sale were lovingly handmade. I chatted to the glass artist for a while, hearing all about Norwegian life and the impact that cruising has on the local economy. It made our time in Gamle Stavanger all the more special, learning about the history of the cottages from a local.
Thoughts for a future visit
Eight hours was plenty of time to see the sights of Stavanger. If we had visited the city independently of the cruise, I would have taken a boat tour to Pulpit Rock on an additional day, exploring the region further. Stavanger is a really creative place, with its memorable street art and unique architecture. If you’re visiting the city any time soon, make sure you spare some time for the harbour, colourful street and old town. They are highlights of Stavanger and with so many captivating areas of the city a short distance apart, it is an exciting urban area to explore on foot.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx