Being named the European Capital of Culture (ECC) has really helped to elevate some of Europe’s lesser-known destinations. In 2008, Liverpool, England shared the title with Stavanger, Norway, and both got a big boost in tourism. And many of Stavanger hotels were renovated or upgraded for the event.
But even before ECC, Stavanger had reaped the economic benefits of being the hub of Norway’s North Sea oil industry. And today, Stavanger is a prosperous, cosmopolitan place that effortlessly combines old and new.
The fjordland scenery is beautiful. The historic harbor is charming. And there are several interesting museums and churches to check out.
The most notable church in Stavanger is the Domkirke, which was begun in 1125. It was pretty much destroyed by fire in 1272, and rebuilt in the Gothic style with twin towers, and a chancel. Between 1938 and 1942, another renovation restored its medieval appearance. The highlight of the church is its carved-wood pulpit, which illustrates scenes from the Old Testament. The baldachin overhead celebrates key moments in the life of Christ. Look for the Norse dragon and griffin column capitals.
With more than 170 examples from the18th- and 19th century, Gamle Stavanger has the largest collection of wooden houses in Scandinavian. The houses, which are jointly owned by private citizens and the city of Stavanger, have been extensively restored. And exploring the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old town with its pretty flower boxes, neat gardens, and gas lamps is like stepping back in time.
The Stavanger Museum is actually five museums – one that combines history and natural history, one dedicated to the city’s maritime history, a canning museum, an old neo-classical mansion, which is the home of the Norwegian royal family when they’re in Stavanger, and a restored Victorian house built in 1881. Entrance to all is included in the price of admission.
As you’d expect, many of Stavanger’s attractions are closed in December and January.
Although it’s usually filled with oil industry executives, the Clarion Hotel is one of the top hotels in Stavanger. It’s location, a few blocks uphill from the harbor and within ten minutes of the old town, is also convenient to shops and restaurants. Many of the 249 rooms have great views of the fjord and its islands. And they include amenities like Duxiana beds, original artwork, wireless Internet access, and Scandinavian furniture. The décor is clean and inviting with lots of natural materials like birch and stone. And the top-floor relaxation center has a Jacuzzi, sauna, and more beautiful views. There are two restaurants and a bar.
Close to the Clarion physically and figuratively, the Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel has 354 rooms decorated in the modern Scandinavian style. The location on Lake Breiavannet is convenient to Stavanger’s attractions. Rooms have free WiFi Internet access, coffee makers, and a trouser press. Many have lake views. The Restaurant Antique has views to match the food. And the English-style Alexander Pub and King Oscar Bar & Saloon are pleasant spots for a drink. There’s no fitness club on site, but guests have access to a nearby facility at reduced rates.
The Atlantic’s sister hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel has 204 rooms decorated in four different styles – Scandinavian modern, Pan-Asian, high-tech, and green, which features arts and crafts made of natural materials. The Royal is more luxurious than its sibling. The Pool Club has a heated swimming pool, saunas, Jacuzzi, whirlpool, and exercise equipment.
Located in Stavanger’s picturesque harborfront and designed to look like one of the old wharfhouses, Skagen Brygge Hotel is one of the most charming hotels in Stavanger. The architects did a terrific job of replicating the tall, narrow townhouses with their steep gables. Ten of the rooms are in a 19th-century brick building. These rooms are decorated with English country fabrics and many have exposed brick walls and wood beams. The exercise room is in this part of the hotel. Rooms in the newer section are brighter with large windows designed to take advantage of the harbor views. Guests have charging privileges at 14 restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.