The towns and cities in Norway and Fjord Norway may be small seen in an international context, but still have a big-city vibe. Their history is clearly visible as you walk around, and the modern and historical blend together beautifully. The history of shipping and trade is important in Western Norway, but they are also characterised by innovation and high-tech development. The cities boast a rich cultural scene, many festivals and an international feel, and the hospitality that is typical of Fjord Norway can be found here too. The people of Fjord Norway are proud of where they come from, and they will be happy to share their best insider tips with you.
Stavanger – food city
Stavanger is surrounded by lush coastal landscape, and is not far from the dramatic landscape of the Lysefjord. Some of the country’s top restaurants are located here, which have been awarded Michelin stars. The festival, Gladmat, is also held every summer, so get ready for many great gastronomic experiences. Areas of old wooden houses and charming shopping streets form the heart of this modern, cosmopolitan city.
Stavanger is a good starting point for day trips to the Lysefjord, the Pulpit Rock and Kjerag. You will also find good museums in the city, where you can learn more about everything from the Norwegian oil industry to Viking history. Just outside the city, you will also find fantastic sandy beaches and surfing spots. The fascinating oasis Flor & Fjære is also a must when you're in the region.
Ålesund – the Art Nouveau town
Ålesund has a spectacular location on narrow islands, where the fjords in Sunnmøre meet the ocean. It is often referred to as the most beautiful town in Norway, and it has a long and interesting history. Because of the town fire in 1904, the town had to be rebuilt quickly, and the result became one of the most beautiful concentrations of Art Nouveau architecture around. The Art Nouveau Centre provides great insight into both the history of the fire and the unique architecture of the town.
It is the perfect starting point for many great nature experiences and activities. The Sunnmøre Alps are located close by, and an hour-long drive from the centre will take you to the ocean, island communities, bird cliffs, beautiful fjords and magnificent mountains. The famous Geirangerfjord and the beautiful Hjørundfjord are not far away, and can be visited in a day.
Ålesund is also home to festivals that are well worth visiting. Both ‘Sommerfesten’ in Giske and jugendfest music festival are annual events with great programmes. The Norwegian Food Festival, which is held every year, offers local food, street food, the children’s food festival, beer festival and more.
Bergen – a European City of Culture, World Heritage city and UNESCO City of Gastronomy
Bergen is really a small metropolis, where you will find pretty much everything. This is the gateway to the fjords, perfectly located between the seven mountains, close to the Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord. The city offers the perfect combination of nature, culture and big city experiences.
Bryggen, located just by the Fish Market, is on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The city has a rich cultural scene with both classical and contemporary music and art. The world’s third largest Munch collection can be found at KODE Museum of Art. Bergen was a European City of Culture already in 2000, and offers a unique and broad range of cultural activities and experiences.
Bergen City of Gastronomy builds on over a thousand year history of local produce and unique food traditions. The Bergen region is home to several renowned restaurants and an increasing number of world-class chefs. Bergen received its first Michelin star in 2020, when the restaurant Bare was awarded one star. Bergen is also a member of UNESCO’s network of creative cities: ‘City of Gastronomy’.
Nature is easily accessible in Bergen, both the sea and mountains. There are daily tours to the fjords from Bergen, organised by, for example, Rødne and Fjord Tours, and you can take the Fløyen funicular or the Ulriken cable car and get to the top of two of the city’s seven mountains in no time.
Haugesund – the kingdom of Viking kings
Haugesund is located on the coast between Stavanger and Bergen and is a charming coastal town. Haugalandet is where the Vikings had their royal seat. Visit Avaldsnes and the Nordvegen History Centre to learn about the history of the Viking kings and how they lived.
In summer, Haugesund hosts the world’s longest herring table, the jazz festival Sildajazz and the Norwegian Film Festival – not bad for a small town!
If you visit Haugesund in autumn, check out the "Saturday jazz" at Høvleriet. At Formbar glass studio you can blow your own glass ball - maybe to decorate your Christmas tree
The national monument Haraldshaugen is located just outside the city center, and was erected in 1872 to celebrate that it was 1000 years since Norway was united into one kingdom. It is said that Harald Hårfagre must have been buried here. The monument consists of 29 monumental stones, one from each of the old Norwegian counties.
The sculpture "The rising tide" by the artist Jason DeCaires Taylor was previously in the Thames in London, and is a comment on our dependence on fossil fuels, and the climate challenges this leads to. The artwork is out in the water in Kvalsvik, just outside Haugesund.
You can take a boat from Haugesund and explore Utsira and Røvær, small islands located out towards the North Sea. Do not miss gems like the Åkrafjord and its famous waterfall, Langfoss. In the Åkrafjord you also find what is probably Norway's toughest Via Ferrata route: Kyrkjeveggen.
Kristiansund – klipfish and opera
Kristiansund is located on four islands and offers both cultural and culinary experiences.
For centuries, fresh cod has been salted, dried and turned into klipfish – a delicacy in Southern Europe. Spices and culture were sent back in return. Today, an opera festival, an international photography festival – Nordic Light – and of course klipfish, are all integral parts of the town's identity.
Take the time to stroll around in the old part of town called "Tahiti". Here, you will see the oldest preserved buildings in Kristiansund.
From Kristiansund, you can go on a day trip to the island Grip, which is a great experience.
Molde – roses and jazz
Molde is known for jazz, roses and its fantastic views; from the viewpoint, Varden (407 metres above sea level), you can enjoy the famous Molde panorama with its 222 partly snow-capped peaks.
Molde is a good starting point for visiting nearby islands such as Ona. The famous Trollstigen road is also located quite near Molde and is well worth a visit if you’re in the region.
Moldejazz is held every summer. The jazz festival’s programme includes world-famous performers and it attracts lots of people, so book in advance!
Autumn is a great time for mountain hikes, and if you are in Molde you can try the popular hikes Midsundtrappene (the Midsund stairs)! There are two hikes: either to Digergubben (527 masl) or to Rørsethornet (659 masl), on Norway's longest stone staircase!
If you visit Molde and Kristiansund, don't miss out on the Atlantic Road. This fascinating ‘Road in the Ocean’ winds its way like a serpent from Kårvåg to Vevang.