DO walk the cobbled streets winding their way down to the harbour, lined with fashion boutiques and fantastic eateries. Øvre Holmegate or “the colourful street” is an epitome of this, with quaint cafés and shops painted in an array of fresh pastel colours making for a pleasant atmosphere. During summer, a myriad of flowers adorn the streets, adding to Stavanger’s rustic appeal.
DON’T expect everyone to immediately understand the way you pronounce names of locations and streets. Simply have where you are headed written down to avoid getting confused stares and creased forehead responses that seem to have become the staple reaction to uninitiated tourists everywhere. Even among themselves, Norwegians speak different dialects depending on their place of origin, adding to the linguistic hodgepodge. But rest assured, English is widely used.
DO amble around Gamle Stavanger, also known as Straen – the largest surviving wooden house settlement in northern Europe. Just on the western side of the main harbour, this stunningly picturesque area is mercifully free of tourist tat. The long rows of ornate 18th-century whitewashed clapboard houses are immaculately maintained, complete with picket fences, cheerful flowerboxes and perfectly manicured terraced gardens. There is little architectural pretension, but here and there flashes of fancy wooden scrollwork hint at their nineteenth-century pedigree. Contrary to popular belief, most houses in Norway are not white in colour as salt and humidity in the sea breeze discolour the walls rapidly so this fortunate anomaly and its succession of narrow lanes rightfully stand out. Formerly home to local seafarers, craftsmen and cannery workers, the area has been maintained as a residential quarter and you’d be able to peek through the windows to catch a glimpse into the marvels of yesteryear and the unpretentious habits of the locals.
DON’T underestimate your budget or you will end up having to live off the cheapest meal in Norway – a McDonald’s cheeseburger for the Norwegian Krone equivalent of €1.50.