Our flight times had been good, leaving at just after 8pm we arrived in Stavanger less than an hour and a half later.
The airport is small and efficient so it took us less than 15 minutes to collect our bags and find transport into town.
Directly outside the terminal you will find the airport express bus. It costs 200 NOK, approximately £20 for a return journey & takes 20 minutes to reach the Centre of Stavanger. (Check out the Flybussen Website for timetables & advance purchase tickets which will save you 20 NOK)
The bus has various stops around Stavanger and most are located next to prominent hotels so it’s easy to find your accommodation. It also stops at the main bus/train station located at the bottom end of the Breiavatnet lake (opposite end to the Cathedral) so if you have no accommodation booked this is a great place to hop off and start your search.
The lake itself is a picturesque place and the perfect introduction to such a beautiful city.
Everything is within easy walking distance here, from the white, wood panelled buildings of the old town to the brightly coloured café’s & bars in the port area.
We stayed at the ‘Thon Maritime’ Hotel which overlooks the lake and it was great value. The staff are very friendly and helpful (You will struggle to find anyone who isn’t in Stavanger) and the rooms, albeit small are clean and have large flat screen TV’s. The breakfast buffet is amazing and you can easily stock up for lunch if that’s your thing, the staff don’t mind at all and even encourage you to take extra in case you get hungry later. A huge bonus here is the comfortable lobby with fast Wi-Fi, a free tea & coffee (According to my Wife, it’s a Nespresso machine with a great selection of flavours & types) and a waffle machine that you can use anytime day or night. For those of you travelling on a budget there is a Laundromat next to the Thon Hotel.
Breiavatnet Lake is small and shallow but is teaming with birdlife, you could do a lot worse than take a relaxing stroll around the lake each day. There are a number of sights in the Lake’s Park which is situated at the end of the lake closest to Vagen Harbour. Chief among the sights is the stunning stone Cathedral which is well lit at night and makes for some great photos, especially black and white shots. There is an odd statue of crocodile in the park, I never did found out why the Crocodile is there what with them not being native to the area. There are a few other statues to be admired in the park and an attractive bandstand overlooking the lake.
From the Cathedral at the top of the park you can see the wide stone steps leading down to the Harbour. You will find most of the restaurants and familiar international chains like McDonalds, Burger King & Starbucks here and helpfully two Seven Eleven stores where you can eat cheaply if your budget wont stretch to a restaurant.
Vagen harbour is where the tourist boats depart and arrive and you will also find the offices of the tour companies here.
The two main areas which attract tourists are situated on either side of the harbour the far side leads to the Strandgate neighbourhood. A quiet residential area where the buildings are still made from clean white wood, Strandgate is probably the most photographed area in Stavanger. You could see most of the area in 30 minutes or less but if you take a camera and you’re into photography you could easily spend a few hours here.
The opposite side where you will find the bars and behind them another street of bars and some very good restaurants. If you get the opportunity I would recommend trying Villa 22 Trattoria which is the bright Orange building on the dockside. It’s split into two with the dockside restaurant serving great quality Italian fare but be warned you should book ahead as its always busy. The upper level which exits onto the street behind is a great little bar which serves the best Sourdough Pizza I have ever had and the prices are reasonable.
Directly opposite is a pub called ‘Phileas Fogg’, it’s more like a TGI Friday’s with a good range of food, quick service and although always busy you can generally walk in without a reservation. The atmosphere is good and it’s one of those pubs full of pictures and memorabilia.
On the subject of food, the one place I would have loved to eat at but didn’t get the chance is 26°North based in the Radisson Blu Hotel on the lakeside. Look at the menu and you will see what I mean. 26 North Website
This side of Vagen harbour leads to the Holegate area. The Streets here are full of beautiful café’s and shops all painted in bright colours. There is a stretch of beautifully coloured bars and pubs running alongside the harbour which are always busy despite the high prices and are great places to meet the locals and other travellers.
Don’t let the weather put you off as the outside eating areas all have comfy seating and warm blankets and almost every table has its own heating system allowing you to enjoy the view in comfort. You will find very little room between the seating which gives it an almost Parisian feeling, it also allows easy conversation with your fellow patrons which is likely to be forthcoming in a culture as friendly and happy as this.
The beauty of Stavanger is not just found in the Town. Just a short distance away you will find some of the best Fjords and Mountain views in the World. there will be more on this next week in part three.