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The North Sea has always played an important role in Stavanger. Where fishery and shipbuilding used to be the city's main activities, now it's all about the oil industry. That doesn't sound like a particularly nice place to spend a few days yet Stavanger is certainly a nice city break destination. The presence of many foreigners working in the oil industry makes Stavanger the most cosmopolitan city in Norway and it is also known as the gastronomic capital of the country. Add to this the rugged fjord coast near Stavanger, and it will become clear that you won't get bored here.
Still, we begin this review of the biggest small town of Norway with that oil industry. In the late sixties oil was discovered off the Norwegian coast and the history of the oil industry is revealed in the Norsk Oljemuseum at the port. Great emphasis lies on the technological development of oil drilling. You can look at old and new equipment here, including drills, diving bells and a rescue capsule. The museum is housed in a strikingly modern building; seen from the sea it resembles an oil platform.
At the ferry port lies the old city center, Gamle Stavanger. This picturesque part of town with its cobbled streets and wooden houses came very close to ceasing to exist. After the World War II a new urban plan was unfolded, in which there was no place for the old wooden houses. City architect Einar Hedén objected to the plans and in 1956 it was decided to keep part of the old center. It was at that time the 'least attractive' part of the town. Now the wooden houses have been restored it is one of the most desirable places in the city. This is also where the Do Hermetikk Museum, the 'can museum' is. Doesn't sound like an appealing attraction? It is. You will be challenged to do the same as what used to be done in the 'can factory': put sardines in a can in an alternating way by hand. The fastest workers completed ten cans per minute (or every can took six seconds). Can you do that too?
The town's cathedral (Stavanger domkirke) is the oldest stone church of Norway and dates back to 1125. Like many other Scandinavian cities Stavanger was occasionally struck by fire. One of those big fires happened in 1272 and the cathedral was damaged heavily. During the restoration that followed Gothic elements were added to the originally Roman church.
There have been many archaeological excavations in the province of Rogaland (of which Stavanger is the capital). The prehistoric finds in the excavations are exhibited in the archaeological department of the Stavanger Museum. Objects of a settlement from the Stone age and ancient instruments that were found near the Hafrsfjord are on display here.
You can learn more about the maritime history of the city in the Maritiem Museum, inside a beautiful historic building from the eighteenth century at the port. Besides the exhibition about the development of the shipping and fishing industry the museum has two old sailing ships, the Anna af Sand from 1848 and the Wyvern from 1896.
It was already mentioned above; the human history of the region goes way back. Near Stavanger remnants of human civilization have been found of nearly ten thousand years old. Not far from the city you can see a cave, the Visehola, which has been inhabited since the Stone Age.
Stavanger is situated in a beautiful region that invites you to explore it with a rental car. In Rogaland you can find mountains, picturesque islands, waterfalls and plateaus. And of course fjords. The most visited near Stavanger is the Lysefjord of 42 kilometers long and 500 meters deep. The main attraction here is the Preikestolen, meaning 'pulpit'. It is a rocky outcrop about 600 meters above the fjord. It has a magnificent view. Do not go there on your own, because it is very dangerous and strictly prohibited. Want to go a little bit higher? Visit the mountain Kjerag at 1110 meters altitude. The Kjeragbolten is a large stone that is wedged between to rocks. On that stone you will stand about a thousand meters above the Lysefjord. Not for those with vertigo! Not far from this stone is the beautiful waterfall Kjerag Fossen of 715 meters. Due to its height, the Kjerag is a desired place to BASE jump.
The center of Stavanger is partly traffic free. For the rest, the city is divided into parking zones where different rules apply (some zones are reserved for residents). You can park on the street, but a better alternative is to park your car in one of the parking garages.
Stavanger Airport is located in Sola, eleven kilometers southwest of the city center. The airport is easily accessible by rental car via the motorway E39. The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.