Getty Images

Stavanger

There's a reason this coastal town has been twinned with Houston and Aberdeen: it's sometimes known as Norway's 'Oil City' for its importance in oil exploration in the North Sea since the 1970s (Norway's largest oil company, Statoil, is based here). But while much of the outskirts are modern, you won't find too many skyscrapers – Stavanger's old centre has some of the most beautiful and best-preserved wooden buildings anywhere in Norway, many dating back to the 18th century. It's all very pretty, and in summer the waterfront comes alive in the best port-town style.

What Stavanger's oil boom has brought, however, is suburban sprawl and sky-high prices, even for Norway. It's notorious as one of the country's priciest locations, and finding a bed and a bite comes with a hefty price tag.

Nevertheless, it's a perfect launch pad for exploring nearby Lysefjorden, and for tackling the classic hike to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Stavanger.