Norway is blessed with an abundance of beautiful towns, cities and villages from the Arctic Circle right down to its southern tip. At that southern edge lies one of the oldest and most charming of Norwegian cities, Kristiansand. Norway’s fifth largest city combines both the old and the new of the Nordic region, with 17th Century wooden houses sitting side-by-side with ultra-modern arts centers. The city has a plethora of sights, attractions, and activities for a visitor, whether they are staying just for the day, on a port stop, or taking time to enjoy Kristiansand and its surroundings.
Prehistoric remains show that the archipelago has been inhabited since 6500 BC, but the community as it exists today sprang up about the 5th Century and was already a thriving port and town when King Christian IV visited and named the city after him in 1641. The sand part of the name relates to the sandy headland that the city is built on. Though the city’s wooden buildings have been ravaged by fire a number of times throughout its history, portions of the old town, dating back almost to Christian IV’s time still remain and are preserved by the city’s historical society.
Most tourists coming from outside the country will have to go via Oslo airport if they are flying, but from Oslo there are frequent flights to Kristiansand daily, with a flight time of 50 minutes. You can also connect via Amsterdam and once a week there is a flight to/from Alicante in Spain, but this is mostly for Norwegians looking for a bit of sun. If you are traveling overland, you can reach Kristiansand by train from Oslo and Stavanger, with the journeys taking 4 ½ – 5 hours, and 3 hours respectively, but this is a wonderful way to see the Norwegian countryside as you pass through the northern forests and rural settlements. If you are hiring a car, Kristiansand is on the main E18 route from Oslo and will take about 4 hours. Kristiansand is one of the biggest cruise ship ports in Norway and cruise ships often stop here and at Oslo on their way into the Baltics, hence the name “Gateway to the Baltic”. If you are lucky enough to stop here on your Norwegian journey, the main city is only a short walk from the cruise ship terminal.
Things To Do
Markens Gate is the main thoroughfare through town and the main shopping street. Though mostly chain stores, a few independent shops still survive and this is the place where Kristiansanders congregate, especially in evenings and weekends so can be a great place both to shop and to get a taste of the local life. The old town, Posebyen, stands just east of the main town and contains the remnants of the old wooden buildings that used to make up the entirety of Kristainsand. The towns former post office still stands, dating back to 1695, but the most well-preserved building is the 1855 Bentsens Hus. Guided tours can be arranged and it is definitely worth the time to take a stroll through these back streets to see the beauty of this old Norwegian town.
If you are visiting during the summer there are a number of other areas to explore, particularly through the long summer evenings you get this far north. In the height of summer it will not get dark here until almost 11pm, so there is plenty of time to explore. The Fiskebrygga, or Fish Market is on the waterfront and is home to a number of small restaurants and cafes, as well as the still-functioning fish market. This is a favourite with the locals and therefore you know you will not get ripped off as a tourist and that the food will be delicious. After eating, why not take a walk along the Strandpromenaden, the boardwalk leading you through beautiful parks and beaches and to the outskirts of the town. One such park is the Ravnedalen just outside the city center with lovely gardens and walks and a small café to sit by the lake. If entertainment is more you thing, the newly-opened Kilden Performing Arts Centre is home to many concerts, operas, and theater performances in the town.