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Stavanger might be a small city, but the cultural life here is just amazing.

Katrine Lilleland, director of the Stavanger Chamber Music Festival

The region hosts a lot of festivals, and you'll find several amazing museums and galleries in the city centre.

Not to mention cool street art on almost every corner.

“ If I need a break from the city, the beaches are my escape. Nature and culture combined, that's Stavanger.

Join the festival director as she shows you her favourite spots in her vibrant home city!

Stavanger's best cultural spots

with festival director Katrine Lilleland

Feeling jazzy? Hungry for some delicious vegan food? Or maybe you want to experience amazing artwork, both indoors and out? Either way, Stavanger's got you covered, according to Katrine Lilleland.

Among high mountains, endless beaches and wide plains in Fjord Norway, lies one of Norway's oldest cities, Stavanger. Over the years, the city has grown from a small fishing port to a cultural hub, and you can now find everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to a wide range of art in the charming city. One of those who lives and breathes the cultural life of Stavanger is Katrine Lilleland.

"When I grew up here, there were lots of cultural events and communities, like the jazz scene, and, of course, the fantastic Rogaland Teater. But, I have to say, the development in the cultural life of the city has been enormous in recent years," explains Katrine.

She has always been drawn to big city life. Despite the relatively small size of her home city, Katrine's desire for a pulsating city lifestyle is more than met by Stavanger.

"Today, the city is blossoming with more alternative scenes, amazing museums and galleries, and a fantastic concert building that is home to a very skilled symphony orchestra. Stavanger's locals also seem to be good at taking advantage of what the city has to offer," says Katrine.

As director of the internationally renowned Stavanger Chamber Music Festival, as well as a yoga teacher and a bar owner, she knows a fair bit about what's stirring in the cosy coastal city.

Are you planning a weekend break or a longer stay? Find inspiration for your experience with Katrine's highlights:

Katrine Lilleland's cultural triangle

In the heart of the city centre, right by the harbour, you'll find the venerable Hotel Victoria, the first of Katrine's three cultural highlights. The hotel is easily visible for visitors who arrive by boat, and stands as a landmark in the city. Just look for an artful facade with a pattern of red and yellow bricks and white trim.

"The hotel itself is fantastic to look at, and it feels luxurious," Katrine explains.

The hotel first opened in 1900, and has later been through an extensive renovation. The result is a building filled with modern decor and well-preserved historical elements. You'll also find hand-picked antiques in several of the rooms and suites.

In 2021, the hotel was named Luxury City Hotel in Scandinavia by the World Luxury Hotel Awards.

"In addition to how fantastic it looks, they also serve an amazing lunch and excellent drinks. When the sun comes out, I like to sit outside with a good drink," says Katrine.

The hotel's restaurant and bar, SALON du NORD, is named after a hairdresser and barber salon that was located in the room in the 1900s. Here, you'll find excellent cocktails and good music at night, and fantastic lunch and dinner options during the day.

Feeling hungry? You don't have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy some fantastic food. Stop by for lunch!

Every other Saturday, the hotel serves a classic afternoon tea, with scones, local cheeses, sandwiches, and petit fours.

“This is the perfect lunch option if you're looking for some luxury. Just look at it! So cute, and tasty at the same time.”

Now that her belly is full, Katrine is eager to show us Stavanger's art scene.

Let's go!

Art meets nature

"I want to take you to a place I think shows an excellent combination of nature and art, which Stavanger is all about," Katrine says.

Three kilometres from Hotel Victoria, you'll find Katrine's next cultural highlight, the Stavanger Art Museum. If the weather is on your side, and you're wearing good shoes, it's a nice 40-minute walk through the city. You can also easily get there by taxi or bus.

The museum is beautifully situated in the park surrounding Mosvatnet lake, one of Stavanger's most popular outdoor areas. Here, you'll also find a sculpture park nearby.

"Many people like to run by the lake. There's a path which you can follow all the way around. We used to have PE classes here when I was a kid. And in wintertime, we went ice skating on the lake," Katrine says.

The museum's characteristic glass dome is clearly visible from the path. Inside, you can experience a collection of distinguished Norwegian art, ranging from nineteenth century to contemporary art, including Norway's largest Lars Hertervig collection and paintings by Kitty Kielland.

"The artwork shown at the museum is always excellent, and the curators who work here are incredibly good," says Katrine.

In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also offers temporary art exhibitions. When we were there with Katrine, Course and Volume, anexhibition showcasing artworks by one of Norway's foremost visual artists, Jan Groth, was on.

“I'm very open when it comes to art. I like most of it. But I have to say, I'm a big fan of sculpture. I also think textile art is very impressive”.

The museum has its own room dedicated to Frida Hansen (1855-1931), one of Norway's most prominent textile artists. Many of the works are part of the museums' permanent collection.

The impressive tapestry Semper Vadentes from 1905 (pictured), is one of the highlights of her career.

While at the museum, take your time! The collection consists of about 3,000 individual works of art.

Now, let's go for a stroll in the city, through Pedersgata street, in one of Stavanger's up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

Don't forget that the weather in Fjord Norway can change quickly, so keep an umbrella to hand if you're exploring Stavanger by foot!

“This area, the eastern part of the town, is very interesting. When I grew up, it was a working class area with lots of factories. Now, it's the cool part of town."

Pedersgata is a street lined with amazing restaurants, including the Michelin-starred restaurant Sabi Omakase. The food served in the area is inspired by culinary traditions from the whole world.

Here, you will also find cosy cafés and unique shops, like Løvås Bruktbu.

“This second-hand book shop has been here my whole life. My grandmother used to bring me here when I was little."

When you have almost reached the end of Pedersgata, take a left turn to Støperigata street. Here, you'll find Katrine's final cultural highlight.

"Best vegan food in town"

With its bright, yellow facade, it's almost impossible to miss Bellies. The building used to be an old canning factory, but has now been transformed into one of Stavanger's best vegan restaurants, according to Katrine.

"What's really great about Bellies, is that you don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy the food here. The dishes they serve will even impress those who don't normally eat meat free," says Katrine.

The festival director has been a vegetarian her whole life, and she explains the difficulties with finding good vegetarian and vegan options.

"When Øystein, the owner of the restaurant, opened this place, it was just amazing. I always say that Stavanger has Norway's best vegan restaurant," says Katrine, adding that in summer, you can enjoy your meal outside in the sun.

Looking for more good veggies? Check out Norway's top vegetarian restaurants.

“The food looks like small pieces of art".

“And the whole vibe in the restaurant is so good and comfortable. It's really cosy here."

Bellies focuses on local, seasonal ingredients.

How about baked celery root with mushroom stock, lovage, and edible flowers?

...and to top it off, end the meal with rhubarb prepared in four different ways. So fresh and tasty!

Explore more of Stavanger's cultural life

"A five-minute walk from Bellies, you'll find Tou Scene, where I used to work as head of programming. There, you can experience more alternative forms of art, which is really cool. The art gallery also arranges live music events," Katrine explains.

Katrine also recommends a visit to the  contemporary art gallery BGE, as well as Stavanger Concert Hall, which is the biggest concert arena in the Stavanger Region.

"And, let's not forget all the great festivals that Stavanger hosts! During summer and autumn, the city is a paradise for festivalgoers. You can really find something for every taste," Katrine says. She should know, being a festival director herself!

Check out Katrine's favourite festivals

Mablis: A two-day music festival held by the idyllic Vålandskogen woods, just outside the city centre. At the festival, you can listen to fantastic music, explore art, and taste local food and beverages. Mablis is held each summer.

Gladmat: One of the leading food festivals in Scandinavia, where you can taste fantastic food from all corners of the world. The festival is held at the end of June, and offers a variety of activities and events.

Stavanger Chamber Music Festival: One of Norway's most renowned festivals for chamber music, where Katrine works as director. The festival is held in August.

Utopia: A music festival in cosy Bjergstedparken, a short walk from the city centre, where some of Norway's most popular artists play. The festival is held every autumn. 

Kapittel: The Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech. The week-long festival is organised by Sølvberget Library and Culture House (where it is also held) each September. Kapittel is the second-largest literature festival in Norway.

For more information, visit the festival websites, and also, check out more cool events in Norway.

Cultural itinerary

Explore Katrine's favourite cultural spots.


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