“If you came back, you wanted to leave again; if you went away, you longed to come back. Wherever you were, you could hear the call of the homeland, like the note of the herdsman’s horn far away in the hills.”

~Johan Bojer, The Emigrants

Trying to correctly pronounce the names of Norway’s towns was starting to get the best of me. Before we left home, I’d found a great little YouTube video that explained how to say the three extra letters in the Norwegian alphabet: Å, Ø and AE. The A with a circle above it, for example, is pronounced “oh,” – a great help when we arrived in Ålesund.

When it came to pronouncing Stavanger, however, I didn’t even look it up, assuming that the city was called Stah’-venn-jer. But when we boarded the boat for our tour in the Lysefjord to Pulpit Rock, our guide greeted us with, “Welcome to Stuh-vang’uh.” I could have used one of those face-palm emojis to express my inner frustration!

Stavanger is Norway’s fourth largest city and one of its oldest, dating to the 12th century. Known as the “Oil Capital of Norway,” Stavanger sits on the southwestern coast and has a population of about 146,000. The city’s old town called Gamle Stavanger is known for its 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses, which I couldn’t wait to explore.

But first we had a boat to catch.

Sailing into Stavanger.

Lysefjord Cruise to Pulpit Rock

The boat that would take us on the Lysefjord was docked close to the Seabourn Ovation. It reminded me of a ferry, with a main level of forward-facing seats on both windowed sides and in the center. Shortly after leaving the port, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get the photos I was hoping for and headed upstairs to the open deck, along with a few other camera-toting travelers.

Our tour guide, who began by telling us that she was named after the Norse goddess Sif, provided non-stop commentary as we sailed, covering everything from Norwegian schools and child care to the cost of housing to what she prepares for dinner. It seemed that she wanted us to get a real understanding of Norwegian life. I would have loved to have soaked it all in, but I was far more focused on what was going on around us on the top deck, taking in the scenery and enjoying the moment.

Our ride for the Lysefjord cruise to Pulpit Rock.
Passing the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.
Bridge over Lysefjord, leaving Stavanger.
A tranquil moment.
Fish farms on Lysefjord.
Lighthouse on a small island.
On the top deck!
Heading into the cliffs.

Vagabond’s Cave

Our boat pulled into a narrow space in the fjord, slowing almost to a stop as we neared a dark opening in a mountain known as Vagabond’s Cave. Sif spun the story of the mysterious opening, which involves a group of vagabonds who were on the run from the local sheriff to avoid paying taxes and escaped by hiding in the cave. Whether or not the legend is true, it’s a fascinating, almost eerie place, surrounded by jagged rocks that soar above the fjord.

Vagabond’s Cave on Lysefjord.
A closer look.
Goats perched high on the mountain in Vagabond’s Cave.

Pulpit Rock

Officially known as Preikestolen, Pulpit Rock is a steep cliff that rises 604 meters – about 1,982 feet – above Lysefjord. The views from its almost flat top make it a popular destination for adventurous hikers. Part of the Scandinavian Mountains, it is considered the most iconic natural landmark in Norway.

Pulpit Rock juts out from the mountain.
Zooming in and looking up.
A waterfall near Pulpit Rock cascades down the mountain.

About Those Norwegian Waffles

Before returning to Stavanger, we were dropped off at a waterfront restaurant for waffles and coffee. After seeing waffles offered in cafés throughout Norway – and tasting the delicious waffles at Nordkapp as well as in Germany – I was curious about this engaging custom. Norwegian waffles are heart-shaped, thinner and softer than their American counterparts and are typically dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam and sour cream. No maple syrup on these waffles! Like cake in Germany, waffles are a sign of welcome, especially when guests stop by for a kaffebesøk, or coffee visit.

“These heart-shaped delights are more than just a scrumptious snack; they’re a symbol of kos, togetherness, and Norwegian culture at its finest.”


Restaurant along the Lysefjord, where picnic tables and a waffle station were set up for our visit.

Stavanger Torget

After a quick lunch on the Ovation, Herb and I headed into town. Stavanger Torget, or square, is a short walk from the port and a bustling gathering spot. A tall silver monument takes center stage in the square. We couldn’t figure out what it was, but I later learned it was created by Arnold Haukeland in 1968 commemorating sailors who were lost at sea. Known as “Navigation Monument,” it is also called “The Shrimp.”

Near the monument, we happened upon footprints of Al Gore cast in bronze in the sidewalk. It turns out that a Stavanger-based human rights foundation called  Point of Peace took a page from the playbook of LA’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater (now called TCL Chinese Theater) and asked Nobel winners for casts of their feet to decorate a peace pathway by the harbor.

Shops and restaurants along the Stavanger Torget.
“Navigation Monument” – aka “The Shrimp – by Arnold Haukeland.
An American in Norway…Stavanger’s Path of Peace.
Stavanger Cathedral, Norway’s oldest, dating to the early 12th century, was closed for restoration when we were there.
These two fellows turned out to be my last troll sighting in Norway.

Gamle Stavanger

Stavanger’s Old Town is a treasure trove of restored wooden buildings built in the 18th- and early-19th centuries. Charming white houses with colorfully painted front doors and doorsteps overflowing with pots of flowers line cobblestoned streets. Once traditional workers’ cottages, the houses on Øvre Standgate are especially beautiful. Some buildings are owned by the municipality, but most are privately owned.

Walking into Gamle Stavanger.
I loved this charmer of a street.
Beautiful doors…

The building at the end of this street houses a café, a sharp contrast to the rest of the architecture.
IDDDIS – The Norwegian Printing Museum and the Norwegian Canning Museum.
A sculpture in Gamle Stavanger called “All for Children” is dedicated to Lars H. Lende, who dedicated his life to helping children and adolescents.
“Let the spirit of inquiry freely rule your land, no narrow-mindedness shut out the boldest and most glorious.”

Øvre Holmegate

Our last stop was a sharp contrast to Gamle Stavanger, but an equally charming one in a most colorful way. Øvre Holmegate, known locally as Fargegaten, or Color Street, is a shopping and dining destination with buildings painted in almost every color imaginable. Local hair stylist Tom Kjørsvik came up with the color idea in 2005 as a way to create a vibrant environment that would draw more visitors to the area.

“The houses on either side of the street were painted in different colors, based on a Miami Vice-inspired color scheme suggested by the Scottish artist Craig Flannagan. It’s not the colours alone that make the street work, but the very deliberate colour combinations. Each house was given a series of colours for its façade, doors and window frames, designed to harmonize with its neighbors.”


The street is literally bursting with color, a sensory overload that makes you smile as you walk from one end to the other. Even the outside décor seems to be purposeful in its color selections. Overhead triangular banners, round ball-like lanterns and flower boxes add to the ambiance and blend well with the colorful buildings. I kept thinking how the street could have been a caricature of color, but instead I found it to be beautiful, whimsical and simply fun.

Walking down Øvre Holmegate…

A shade of purple, even in the street!

Moving On

Back on the ship, I repacked my travel purse, replacing notes about Stavanger with those for the next day’s port. Farsund would be our last stop in Norway before heading to Denmark. We were booked on an excursion to the southernmost point in mainland Norway, which I thought would be a perfect full-circle moment after standing the northernmost point in Nordkapp.

And then it hit me. Farsund. I hadn’t checked on how to pronounce that town, either.


  • These photos and your description of Stavanger are wonderful. We didn’t walk into the town–and I’m sorry we missed Gamle Stavanger. We’ll be there again next summer and will not miss it!

    • Thank you, Susan! It was quite the full day, after our wonderful cruise to Pulpit Rock…and of course, those waffles! 🙂 You will love walking through Stavanger and are sure to have an interesting perspective with a return visit.

    • What a lovely comment, Joan…thank you! I’m glad to know you’re enjoying the posts. Norway is such a beautiful place to photograph!

  • Oh … this post brings back so many wonderful memories. We had hoped to do the hike to Pulpit Rock, but the timing didn’t work. So, we ended up staying in town. Loved, loved, loved Gamle Stavanger. Had our very first Norwegian waffles there. We spent so much time amongst those charming white buildings that we almost didn’t make it to the streets with the more colorful houses … which would have been a shame.

    Thanks for your in-depth journal. The only problem reading your stories is that now I want to go back to Norway again. Alas no time to squeeze it in over the next few years.

    • Erin, I loved hearing about your wonderful day in Stavanger. Thanks so much for sharing here! We could have spent more time in Gamle Stavanger as well, but wanted to fit in the colorful street, too. I’m happy to have rekindled such great memories and maybe even sparked a future return trip. There’s never enough time, is there?!

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