After an enjoyable visit to Stavanger, we carried on around the Norwegian south coast to the city of Kristiansand which is the fifth largest city in Norway. Unlike many Norwegian cities, Kristiansand attracts a large number of tourists throughout the year and especially in the summer season, part of the reason for this is the nearby Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement park which is the largest zoo in Norway.
The Kristiansand area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and archaeological excavations have confirmed a number of settlements in the area. In the 14th and 15th centuries, there developed a busy port and gradually a development was created and fortified.
Christian IV who created a number of towns, formally gave the town the title of Christianssand in 1641, strangely the town was laid out in Renaissance style on a grid plan and merchants were encouraged to move in and create a trading port. The town suffered a devastating fire in 1734 but later became a major shipbuilding area. The town suffered other major fires in the late 19th century and was attacked by German naval forces and the Luftwaffe in 1940. Since the 1990s, the city has benefitted from the North Sea oil boom and there was a development of enterprises for marine,offshore equipment and drilling.
Modern Kristiansand is a remarkably compact but quite diverse city with a number of attractions, the cruise terminal is close to the city but shuttle buses take visitors the short distance from the port to a spot near the fish market. Along the promenade are a series of statues and other features with signs to the city centre. One of the statues is by Gustave Vigeland who is one of the most famous Norwegian sculptors.
We decided to make our way to Kristiansand Cathedral which is the largest church in Kristiansand with a capacity of 1500 people. It is located in towards the centre next to the town hall and a small park.
The cathedral was built in 1885 and inside is a mixture of simplicity and ornate wooden carvings, near the altar is a large organ and we were told that there would be a free organ recital in the afternoon. Mrs Nice was wandering around the building before we both sat and enjoyed the calm and peaceful atmosphere till the organist decided to practice a little with loud rendition of a Norwegian folk tune.
Much of the city centre is shops, restaurants and bars, unlike the rest of Europe, many of the shops are independent and not part of large global brands. However this does not mean that the prices are cheaper, Norwegian prices are not for the faint hearted and even sale prices are often way above what you would find anywhere else.
After walking around the shops we thought we would make our way to Baneheia which is a park with woods near the city, it was not a long walk but when we got there we were faced with a steep walk to get us into the area. We decided to leave the hill climbing till later and instead visit the Posebyen district.
Posebyen is the old part of the town and has a large collection of wooden buildings. These wooden buildings are always interesting and are very common all over Norway but seldom seen anywhere else. There was a downside to these buildings of course with fires that often devastated the town.
At the rear of the Posebyen district is the riverside area along the River Otra, this is mostly residential with plenty of boats in the river, our progress was halted by a fleet of Segway rides who quietly made their way down the path.
We sit on the riverfront and were surprised by how quiet the area was, coming from London we are faced with constant noise which you get used to but here we were in a small city and hardly a sound which was a bit unnerving to be honest.
When you turn around the corner from the river, you come across one of the major surprises of the city, Bystranda is known as the city beach although it is small and compact it is a favourite area for locals and visitors.
Near the beach is the swimming complex Aquarama with outdoor and indoors pool. Aquarama is next door to the hotel Scandic Hotel Bystranda, which is Southern Norway’s largest hotel. Some of Kristiansand’s most expensive apartments are along this stretch overlooking amenities like beach volleyball, playgrounds, skatepark and stairs to the water. Although Norway is not the first country you think about for beach culture, Kristiansand makes the most of its slightly warmer climate provided by the Gulf Stream.
Along the beach front is the Christiansholm Fortress, built between 1662 and 1672, it was designed to keep watch over the Skagerrak Straits.
On the way back to the ship we went into the Fish Market or Fiskebrygga, this was where the fish were landed in years gone by and was redeveloped in the 1990s and now has wood-fronted buildings housing restaurants and shops including the fish market.
Kristiansand is a small city full of surprises and delights, although compact it offers a remarkable range of attractions from a beach to woods, parks, museums, interesting architecture, bars restaurants and lots more.
If we had more time we would have explored further afield but even a short stay provided enough evidence of a vibrant and dynamic small city amongst the stunning southern Norway coastal landscape.
Old Fogies Travels are the adventures of two elderly Londoners (The Old Fogies) as they explore their home town and travel around the world looking out for the strange, unusual and absurd.
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