Learn to bring out your inner Viking in this truly Norwegian town, hidden away on an icy northern fjord. However don’t let the temperature fool you, as Haugesund offers an impressive display of restaurants, cafes and popular venues right on the water-front that regularly play host to a thrilling selection of festivals that keeps tourist and locals eager to come back for more.
Tucked away on an icy northern fjord, Haugesund was once the home of King Harald Fairhair although you wouldn’t realise it from the town’s hotels; most of which are cosy, homely affairs. A case in point is the Skeisvang Gjestgiveri (Skeisvannsvegen 20), a white wooden chalet tucked away down a side street and furnished with frilled and furbelowed antiques. Less cosy but more central is the Scandic Haugesund (Kirkegata 166), a northerly outpost of the Swedish hotel chain decorated in typically chic Scandinavian style. You even get pickled fish for breakfast although that’s not unique: the gorgeous Clarion Collection Hotel Amanda (Smedasundet 93) does it too.
Ignore the looming blue and yellow IKEA on the edge of town and take yourself to Haraldsgaten instead – yes, it’s named after King Fairhair. Along with another Swedish import, H&M, you’ll find local boutiques galore including many that sell traditional Norwegian chunky knits – perfect for channelling your inner Sarah Lund. For a more international selection, try Markedet (Skåregata 92), a vast city centre mall, or Amanda (Longhammarveien 27), the biggest shopping centre in the region, in the southwest of the city. Don’t forget to pick up some Karmøy Laks smoked salmon – it’s among the best Norway has to offer.
Fish is the order of the day in Haugesund, whether you’re tucking into a plateful of Karmøy Laks salmon or herring freshly caught in the Smedasundet Sound. A good place to start is Lothes Mat & Vinhus (Skippergt 4), where a white clapperboard exterior hides a seriously chichi restaurant where ‘food theatre’ is on the menu along with the fresh fish. Lanternen Kro & Restaurant (Torget) in nearby Skudeneshavn offers a similarly upmarket experience for less. Arguably the nicest – and certainly the cosiest – is Naustet Spiseri (Åsbygt 3), which is dwarfed by the Rica Maritim Hotel behind it and does traditional home cooking in a rustic setting.
Avaldsnes, home of Harald Fairhair, is home to an annual bash which celebrates Haugesund’s Viking past via re-enactments, a market selling Beserker memorabilia, concerts and a Viking historical walk.
One of the toughest endurance feats on earth, Ironman was already hard but gets even more difficult when you factor in Haugesund’s steep mountainsides and chilly fjord. Well worth watching.
Rarely do jazz events make a community-wide impact but Sildajazz is a rare exception that sees Haugesund come alive to blues beats every August. Along with a diverse musical programme, there’s a huge street parade and a sailing competition.
Havnedagene – Haugesund Harbour Days
August sees local fishermen throw open the doors of their boats to the public who are invited to climb aboard and find out more about the city’s maritime heritage. Along with historic wooden boats, there are also displays of marine crafts along the quayside.
The largest Christmas Market in Norway, Haugesund’s annual shopping extravaganza comes complete with lavishly decorated trees, plenty of mulled wine and the chance to pick up some unique gifts.