Cruising the Norwegian Fjords: Stavanger “The Oil Capital of Norway”

Cunard Queen Elizabeth Cruise Ship Stavanger Norway

This is “Day 6” of the posts of the a day by day reporting of a typical 7 Night Norwegian Fjords Cruise, based on my trip on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth. The trip cruised through the North Sea and visited Bergen, Geiranger, Skjolden and Stavanger Norway. In this series I look at Cunard, Queen Elizabeth ship, and tips and advice on each of the stops.

The first post was 7 Nights Cruising the Fjords (Day 1 Departure)Also on the blog is my “Ultimate Guide to Cruising the Norwegian Fjords“, with a background on Norway, the Fjords and 8 Key Tips of you are considering cruising to the area.

Wednesday 11 July: Stavanger

Stavanger is not the greatest nor the most picturesque stop on a cruise. 

In fact, it would be one that I would try and avoid when looking at a Norway/ Fjords route. But that may be difficult as seems to be on most of them. 
Maybe I just missed what the town has to offer, but after visiting places like Skjolden and Geiranger it would need to be something special to beat those.

Stavanger is not a terrible place, but it is not really a well spent day for anyone wanting to see what Norway has to offer: Scenery. 

There is not a great deal to do that caught my interest. Though having been there and tried some things out, I do have a very clear recommendation that would make the most of a stop here.

Stavanger is a very important town for Norway, and has here are some key things of note:
Norway’s 4th Largest City, and the “Oil Capital of Norway”
Prior to Oil and Gas being found nearby in the North Sea, just 200 miles away, it was a Sardine and Fish Canning centre. This declined, but luckily was replaced around the same time as the oil and gas discovery. So it is a key town for the economy, with oil related businesses having major offices there. There even is an Oil Museum in the city!

It was the city that the German’s invaded Norway through during the Second World War. Norway was neutral but was still invaded. The easy and good sea access made Stavanger key and suitable entry point to invade the country through. This good access to the sea makes it a popular stop for the cruise industry.
Today it is invaded by Cruise Ships!
Ships berth right in the city around the “old Town”. This is an area full of wooden houses, which are under protection orders. They have charm and the area seems to be going through some revitalisation . But there mostly seems to be night clubs, bars, restaurants and 7-11 and those type of stores, rather than more craft and quirky shops to give it more character.

City of Culture
Stavanger was a European City of Culture in 2008 alongside Liverpool in the UK. It seems, and looks to me, as if the city is actively trying to improve its cultural profile generally. There is a large Concert Hall, museum, and art museum. Many of them look to be fairly recent additions and expansions.

Expensive City to Live in
It is the 4th largest city in Norway with a population of around 113000. It is also known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. 
Norway overall is expensive, but this city is known for being even more costly. 
I did note that even the souvenirs and gifts we had seen in other places where more expensive in Stavanger. Coffees were more expensive. 
On the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour they even spoke about how much apartments cost in the city.
It is, though, not a city that exudes wealth nor does it have a look and feeling of being a rich city. So that was a surprise. I assume the fast growth and limited space and availability have driven up costs, rather than anything else.

The Old Town in Stavanger where Cruise Ships Dock

The Old Town in Stavanger where Cruise Ships Dock

What are my tips of things to do in Stavanger?

Don’t Hop-on Hop-Off!
Unusually for me, I am not going to recommend that you go on the hop-on hop-off bus tour! 
Like in other ports, these were right by where the ships dock. 
However, there is not actually a great deal to see on the route, and you can walk quite easily to what there is close to the ships. 
There is not a lot of history to view, and so unless you want to specifically get a cost effective ride to one of the museums – then do not do the tour. The tour is supposed to take about 45 minutes, but took less than this…..

Instead: Go on a Fjords Tour to Pulpit Rock
Probably the only thing worth doing is what you came to the area for: See the Fjords!
This was not actually an option offered by Cunard, but I do think it is the best option available and best use of your time in port. There are 2 or 3 companies with booths right on the dockside that offer 2.5 to 3 hours boat tours from right next to the ship to the nearby Lysefjord. 
The image that the tour will sell you is a stunning one of people sitting atop the impressive “Pulpit Rock”. This is massive rock with a flat top that offers a staggering view across the Fjord. However, they will have got there after a long land based drive and 2 hours trek. You will just get to see it from the base in the Fjord. But it is still magnificent. This boat trip is better than the bus tours around the area that the ships seem to offer.
The boat tours leave at various times from about 10am to about 13:30pm. But they bill usually leave once they are full. They take about 15 people. They will make sure you will be back for your ship, as most people on them will be from the ships. But make sure they know which ship you are on, and what time you have to be back for.
The main tours are run by Rodne Fjord Cruise at

Stavanger Domkirke Cathedral

Stavanger Domkirke Cathedral Stavanger Norway
Stavanger Domkirke Cathedral

Very close to where the ships dock is this cathedral, which is worth visiting. It was built under Bishop Reinald of Winchester, and is very English in style. The story is that it was built so the King could remarry for the 3rd time. Based on the day you can go inside. There is a small lake close by.

But as mentioned focus on the Fjord Tour. Do not leave shopping to Stavanger stop either. If you also visiting Bergen, then do it there!

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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