Port of Stavanger
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Stavanger is Norway's fourth most populous city, but it won't seem like a bustling metropolis when you set foot off your ship. The harbor area where ships dock is easily walkable, with the small white cottages of Old Stavanger immediately to the west, a tangle of pedestrian shopping streets to the east and restaurants housed in old warehouses lining the harbor itself. Most major attractions, such as the Canning and Petroleum museums, are a quick stroll away.
If you came to Norway to immerse yourself in fjords, Stavanger is the jumping off point for boat trips into the Lysefjord, with its dramatic cliffs (including the towering Pulpit Rock) and gushing waterfalls. However, if you want to learn a bit about what makes Norway tick, Stavanger can offer unique museums not typically found in other destinations. Sardines and petroleum might not be your first loves, but Stavanger's museums find ways to make the seemingly mundane fascinating.
Top Stavanger Itineraries
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Where You're Docked
Ships dock right in town, at the Port of Stavanger. There are four berths, two in the inner harbor and two in the outer harbor. No matter your location, you'll be a five- to 10-minute walk from most downtown attractions.
There are no port buildings with facilities, but the tourist office drops off a box of maps, set on a table as you walk out of the secure area into town. Shops, museums, restaurants and other attractions are all within walking distance.
Good to Know
Norway is very expensive; crewmembers report buying a Big Mac, fries and a milkshake for $40! Be prepared for sticker shock if you're planning on dining in town or doing any shopping.
Also, the weather in Norway can be changeable. On a July day in Stavanger, bright sun and downpours switched off throughout our visit. Wear layers and bring rain gear -- even if it seems nice when you're preparing to disembark.
On Foot: If you're sightseeing within town, you can walk to all attractions. Parts of Old Stavanger and the harbor area are pedestrian-only zones.
By Bus: A hop on, hop off bus is available if you want to visit multiple museums, including the few not immediately in the harbor area (although it's not the typical red City Sightseeing bus company you'll find in other ports). The buses park right by the premier cruise ship berth by Old Stavanger and go to the tourist information office/Stavanger cathedral, the Petroleum Museum, Stavanger Museum, Museum of Archaeology, Stavanger Art Museum and the royal home Ledaal. Buses depart every half hour, and the circuit takes 45 minutes. Tickets may be purchased at the tourist office or onboard the bus.
Local buses will take you to the Iron Age Farm (about a 10-minute ride) or to the beaches at Sola and Valard. Inquire at the tourist office for more information.
By Bike: You can rent bikes at the tourist office. One scenic cycle route takes you from Stavanger to the beach at Sola.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Currency is the Norwegian krone (NOK). For updated currency-conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. Most shops and restaurants will accept credit cards, but there are ATM's (called minibanks) throughout the harbor area if you need to withdraw cash. There are two by the tourist office, on either side of the Spare Bank building. You can also change bills only at the tourist office.
Norwegian is a varied language, with two written forms -- Nynorsk and Bokmal. When speaking, Norwegians use their own regional dialects but generally can understand each other. Most people speak excellent English, as kids learn it in school from an early age.
A few key phrases to know include: hallo (hello); tak (thank you); ja (yes); and nei (no).
Food and Drink
Norwegian fare centers on fish and local meat, as well as berries from the area such as cloudberries, strawberries, raspberries and lingonberries. Fish is often served cold -- think gravlax (salt-cured salmon) or lutefisk (fish steeped in lye) -- or as fish soup; meats might be reindeer, elk or even whale. A yummy, and affordable, treat is a Norwegian waffle served with jam and sour cream, or even the caramel-flavored brown goat's cheese.
In Stavanger, restaurants line the harbor; many are housed in old warehouses and are an easy walk from the cruise ship. You will also find a few scattered among the shops of the pedestrian area between the Petroleum Museum and the tourist office. Prices will be higher than you're used to at home.
Restaurant Renaa: One of Norway's top chefs, Christopher Davidsen, operates three restaurants in one Stavanger location -- and two are open for lunch. For affordable (by Norwegian standards) sandwiches in a cute cafe setting or to go, head to Renaa Express. Or for a sit-down bistro experience, dine at Matbaren. (Breitorget 6, but enter from Bakkegata; open Monday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
Fisketorget (Fish Market): For seafood and nothing else, Fisketorget is located at the top of the harbor, next to the actual fish market. The family-operated restaurant and shop offers a selection of fish and shellfish. (Strandkaien 31; open Monday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight)
NB Sorensens Dampskibsexpedition: A harborfront location with a mouthful of a name, this purveyor of traditional food offers two dining experiences. Choose the ground floor for a pub atmosphere and outdoor seating and the upper level for a nice, sit-down meal featuring local ingredients. (Skagen 26; +47 51 84 38 20; email@example.com; open Monday to Wednesday 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.)
Sjohuset Skagen: Try whale or reindeer for lunch with a view of the harbor at Sjohuset Skagen, located in an old warehouse building right on the waterfront. (Skagenkaien 13; open Monday to Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.)
Sweaters and knitwear with Norwegian designs make beautiful souvenirs but can be quite expensive. For true quality, try Dale of Norway (one of the largest producers of traditional Norwegian sweaters; Skagen 4) or Oleana (women's fashions in a variety of local wools; Kirkegate 31). Both have shops in the warren of shopping streets between the tourist office and Petroleum Museum, and sweaters will run you hundreds of dollars.
For more affordable souvenirs, look for troll figurines and cheese slicers (apparently invented in Norway), often with a moose or other decoration on the handle. A large souvenir shop is located in the Stavanger Port Authority building along the harborfront.