Stavanger like a local

What to do in and around the oil capital

Stavanger travel: Sword in Mountain

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Sverd i fjell is an iconic monument memorializing the battle of Hafrsfjord—and symbolizing peace.

Vanessa Brune
Stavanger, Norway

I’ve recently moved to Stavanger and keep hearing people say that Stavanger can easily be explored in a day as there “isn’t much to see anyway.” Now, maybe it’s because I’m still in the honeymoon phase of living somewhere new, but to me Stavanger offers endless opportunities to go out and explore!

While I haven’t managed to visit the more popular sites like Preikestolen and Kjerag yet, I have been exploring my own backyard quite extensively, which has plenty of hidden (and free of charge) gems to discover!

I live west of the city center in an area that’s called Madla, situated at the famous Hafrsfjord. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard about the fjord before, though—I hadn’t either!

Hafrsfjord actually is the place where Norway was united in one kingdom after the battle of Hafrsfjord under King Harald Hår­fagre (Fairhair) in 872. It is a very historic place, and you can find lots of memorials of the battle all around the area.

Sverd i fjell
One of the most iconic monuments reminding of the battle of Hafrsfjord is the Sverd i fjell (sword in mountain) monument that you’ve probably already seen on postcards of Norway. The three bronze swords were erected in 1983. They were created by the artist Fritz Røed and are 33 feet tall.

Apart from serving as a reminder of the battle, the swords are also a sign of peace as they’re built into the rocks, making it impossible to ever remove them.

The monument at the beach has become quite a popular tourist destination and is not quite as off-the-beaten-path as the other places on this list, but it’s worth the drive to Madla anyway.

How to get there: It’s a 15-minute drive by car and a 15- to 30-minute ride by bus, depending on which bus you take. Number 4, 6, and 7 go to Madlamark Kirke (Madlamark Church) from where you have to walk down to the fjord (a 10-minute walk), while number 16 goes to Madlaleiren, from which it only is a five-minute walk.
When to visit: The monument is popular year-round, though especially during summer when the sun comes out, as it’s situated next to a small beach. If you’d like to avoid the crowds, visit at sunset, as that’s when most locals and tourists have already left the site.


Ullandhaugtårnet has once been a tower reminding of the battle of Hafrsfjord. Nowadays, it’s used as a telecommunications tower—its upper tip being situated at 656 feet above sea level.

You can visit the viewing platform free of charge, anytime of the year, and there even is a café that’s open on Sundays (except in January and July). From there, you have a pretty stunning view of the surrounding fjords and mountains and can see as far as Tau and Jørpeland, which you might know if you’ve visited Preikestolen before.

How to get there: Getting to Ullandhaugtårnet is a 15- to 20-minute drive by car and takes 20 to 30 minutes by bus from the city center. Bus 4 stops at Tjodveien, from where it is a nice 10-minute walk past farming land and through the forest to the tower.
When to visit: Any time of the year really, but there are Christmas lights in December and the café is open on Sundays between February and June, as well as August through December.

Stavanger Botanical Garden

Stavanger travel: Botanical Garden

Photo: Vanessa Brune
The view from Stavanger’s peaceful botanical garden.

Within walking distance of Ullandhaugtårnet, you can also find the botanical garden of Stavanger. It’s a 30-acre area exhibiting all kinds of plants and herbs from southern Norway and other parts of the world where the climate is similar. It was opened in 1978 and is situated next to the university campus. Visiting is free of charge.

How to get there: You can go by bus 6 to University of Stavanger or bus 4 to Tjodveien. In both cases, it’s a short 10-minute walk to the garden. When going by car, you have to park at Ullandhaugtårnet and walk from there.
When to visit: The garden can be visited anytime.


Stavanger travel: Jernaldergarden

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Jernaldegarden is an Iron Age farm that depicts life in the Viking days.

Jernaldergården is an Iron Age farm that depicts life in the Viking days. It’s situated amid a sheep pasture on a hill overlooking the city. It was here that I saw the northern lights this past autumn (who would have thought?), and it’s a place that’s full of history!

How to get there: Take bus 4 to Tjodveien and follow the road for about a mile to the entrance of the museum, or park there if you come by car.
When to visit: The museum is open between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day between late June and late August and also every Sunday in September. You can visit the area outside of opening hours too, though. Remember to bring rain boots or hiking boots, as you can’t really avoid stepping in sheep dung.

Stora Stokkavatnet

Stavanger travel: Store Stokkavatnet

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Store Stokkavatnet, once the city reservoir, is a popular recreational area.

Stora Stokkavatnet is an almost one-square-mile lake that once served as the tap water supply for Stavanger but now is a popular recreational area. There’s a trail that goes round the lake that you can use for hiking, running, or cycling—or you can also go for a swim in the lake.

How to get there: Take bus 2, 3, 4, 6, or 7 to Madlakrossen and walk for five minutes down the hill until you reach the lake.
When to visit: Obviously, summer is the best time to spend a few hours at the lake, but I’m sure it’s nice for a winter walk, too.

More information on visiting Stavanger
Where to stay: Scandic Stavanger Forus for cheap rates and delicious meals
Where to eat: Restaurant Mexico for tacos
Where to go for drinks: The Irishman or Newsman for a cozy pub experience
Must-see sights: The Old Town, the Canning Museum, and the Norwegian Petroleum Museum

Vanessa Brune is a German expat who’s recently moved to Stavanger after three years of life in Tromsø. She blogs about Norway and the Nordic countries on her blog

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 12, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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