Across the street I spy the largest butcher’s shop I’ve ever seen. It looks as if it takes an entire block’s ground floor with numerous counters stacked with meat. From the ceiling hang a multitude of cured meats, legs of several land animals, and a few fowl as well. For a town connected more to the water of the fjord, it’s strange to see so much meat in Stavanger. I make a mental note to revisit after my run.
I never did make it back to the massive butcher shop. Maybe it was just a dream the whole time. Or maybe I knew my body couldn’t take that much meat. Instead, I explored Stavanger’s harbor on a run, the fjord by boat, and found an incredible craft beer bar in a historic old building. To get a taste of the real Stavanger, follow my footsteps.
The best way to see Stavanger is on foot. Head out early for a run around the old town and harbor. Running along the water not only takes you off the road so you don’t have to dodge traffic, it also provides a nice cooling breeze on the hot days here. Make sure to circle around the cathedral and park with its serene lake as well. The geese taking flight might even inspire you to pick up the pace and set a new record. Be careful on the steps of the market in front of the church where random and uneven steps can be tricky. The cobblestone of the old town may be tough on the knees, but exploring the shops and restaurants here now will make it so much easier to find the perfect spot later. In the morning before the tourists arrive, you’ll find sleepy alleys and colorful buildings that you might miss later.
After a run through town to get acquainted with the scene, take a stroll further out. On the west side of town is the historic gamle district. Here, whitewashed wooden houses sprawl across the district, giving an impression of what much of Norway looked like in olden days. These historic buildings are difficult to maintain as fires like to take hold and spread. Thankfully vigilant town patrols have kept this area very much in tact. It’s even a good place to get a traditional Norwegian waffle if the mood strikes. These big confections, larger than the more famous Belgian variety are the perfect pick me up especially when paired with fresh berries.
Now that you’ve seen the town, it’s time to explore the fjord. Carved through the mountains millennia ago, these picturesque canyons wind through the mountains with lush waterfalls traversing back down. The Stavangerfjord contains a large number of waterfalls, and a fjord tour on a small boat is the best way to get up close. Like so close the boat will actually pull up to the waterfall to collect water to drink.
Beyond the falls, there is plenty to see around the fjord. Goats roam the cliffs and may even come up to the boat if they know food will come to them. There’s also the massive cliffs and notably, the Pulpit Rock. This rectangular formation stands high above the fjord and is a highly visited landmark of Norway. You can hike up to it from the boat, but it’s quite long and strenuous. From the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views over the ford though.
From the boat, head back into town for a phenomenal atmospheric drink at the Cardinal pub. This bar has a storied past and serves up some of Norway’s finest craft brew. Try the Flam brewery pale ales for something tangy and citrusy on a summer day. Or the stouts brewed for the bar itself are quite nice on a less hot and sunny day. The bartenders are extremely knowledgeable about the beer and the several pound book of beers they also have in bottles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or suggestions.
After the Cardinal, take some time to meander around the old historic district of Stavanger. There are many shops, cafes, and restaurants to partake in. Many have outdoor seating with heaters or even furs to keep warm.
Stavanger offers the perfect opportunity for the visitor to get a taste of both the scenic and beautiful fjords of Norway along with a historic town with plenty of history. MAke sure to get a bit of both in when visiting. The majestic fjords are a UNESCO site for a reason, and highly visited for their beauty. The town itself is a great example of Norwegian towns and wants for little in the way of great food and drink. Make sure Stavanger is on your list when visiting Norway.