When Norway discovered North Sea oilfields in 1965, Stavanger became the base of the oil exploration. Nearly one of ten of its 142,000 inhabitants was born abroad in Norway’s fourth-largest city. This is rather ironic since in the early 19th and 20th century, Stavanger was the principal port of embarkation for the great waves of Norwegian emigration to the United States. Read more about the oil capital of Norway.
The first 52 emigrants left in 1825, bound for New York on the sloop Restauration. Those wishing to trace their roots can contact Norwegian Emigration Center (Det norske utvandingssenteret).
Related: Popular Adventures in Stavanger
The Stavanger siddis (colloquialism for a person from Stavanger) claim to be the oldest true Norwegians, tracing their lines to the Battle of Hafsfjord. This decisive battle that first united the country under King Harald Hårfagre, ca 880, took place at a bay just southwest of the city. On the shore is an impressive monument to the event, Sverd i fjell, three larger-than-life Viking swords seemingly thrust into bedrock.
The heart of modern Stavanger is the area around Breiavatnet, the small lake in the middle of the city, near the Anglo-Norman-style cathedral, dating to 1125. Northwest of the cathedral are winding cobbled streets and old timber houses of Old (Gamle) Stavanger.
Related: The Little Big City in Norway
Around 1870, as fishing and shipping were in decline, the fishermen turned their attention to brisling (small herring) which were cured and canned in the town and sent as Norwegian “sardines” all over the world. Stavanger thrived on sardines until the 1950s. Today, the Canning Museum, located in the former cannery, has recreated an authentic 1920s environment.
The interactive Norwegian Petrolium Museum (Norsk Oljemuseum) provides insight into the exploration and production of oil and gas.
Feature image (on top): Visit Norway
The Oil Capital of Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg