Oslo is an extraordinary city where you can find either wooden houses and skyscrapers, classicism and modern architec…
upd 30 January 2024
Southern Norway is a region of resorts on the North Sea coast. This region is called Sørlandet and includes two fylke (provinces) Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder. It is often referred as Norwegian Riviera.
The southern coast is very different from other parts of Norway. Many beaches, clear blue water, small towns with long promenades along the bays and relatively warm weather could only be found here in the country. Which cities are the best to visit, where to stay and how to plan a trip – in this post.
How to get there
There are several ways to start your journey in Southern Norway. For example, fly to Oslo, Sandefjord, Kristiansand or Stavanger. The most convenient airport to start your route is Torp (TRF), near Sandefjord. Flights from the Baltic States, Budapest, Milan, Poland are often made here.
Places to visit
Kragerø is one of the most popular destinations in the south of Norway, just an hour’s drive from Sandefjord. The place was loved by Edvard Munch who called it “the pearl of the coast”. Here he had one of the most productive periods of his work. In the tourist center you can take a special map with a route to the places depicted by Munch in the paintings. Comparing the paintings with modern landscapes, it is clear that some of them have not changed, while others have changed beyond recognition.
Best place to stay is Victoria Hotel in a historical building
Many years ago Risør was one of the largest maritime cities in the country, famous for building boats. To keep the tradition alive, every August a wooden boat festival with a regatta is held.
The best view of the harbor is from the Risørflekken lookout. The hill had been a navigation point for ships, and the stones on it had been whitened for better visibility.
The best hotel in the city is Det Lille Hotel, designed in traditional Norwegian style.
25 kilometers from Risør there is an unusual natural attraction – Jettegrytene på Sild. These are round pits in stones with a diameter of 5 meters and a depth of 6 meters, formed 10,000 years ago after the Ice Age. In the summertime it’s also a great place to relax and have a small picnic by the sea.
Tvedestrand appearance has not changed much over the past century and a half. More than 2,000 wooden houses have been preserved in the city, most of which are over a hundred years old. The most unique sites are the wooden churches of Dypvåg and Holt, built in the 12th century.
There is only one hotel in the center of Tvedestrand, the Tvedestrand Fjordhotell, also decorated in a traditional style.
Tromøy, the largest island in Southern Norway, is notable for its unusual forest. The tree trunks of the forest are strongly bent due to the strong wind from the sea.
During World War II, the island was occupied by German troops, who built an air defense camp here. Many buildings from those times, including a military bunker, can still be seen on the territory of Hove Farm.
Arendal has several historical sites: the Trinity Church, the wooden Town Hall built in the 19th century, and the promenade along the ships. You should stop by the Fiskebrygga cafe on the shore to try fresh shrimp and fish. An amazing viewpoint can be found on top of the hill where you can go buy a glass elevator.
The best accommodation option in Arendal is the Thon Hotel in the very center.
Grimstad is surrounded by small islands, so many ships and yachts are moored here. In the 17th century, the city became a fairly large port, and in the 18th century it became famous as a haven for sea smugglers. Writers Knut Hamsun and Henrik Ibsen lived in Grimstad. You should visit an Ibsen museum which is located in a former pharmacy where he has worked.
In Grimstad, there is an unusual accommodation option – Ibsens B&B, designed as a 19th-century hotel.
On the way from Grimstad to Kristiansand, you can stop by Lillesand – another resort town with a picturesque marina. The main attraction here is the 19th-century historic hotel where members of the royal family and a writer Knut Hamsun stayed. The interiors of the hotel have not changed much, you can stay in it now – Lillesand Hotel Norge.
Kristiansand is considered the capital of Southern Norway as it is the largest city with the main university in the region, an airport and a port with a ferry connection to Denmark. Norwegians come here to go to the Dyreparken Zoo or the Kilden Theatre. Tourists visit the Oddernes Church, founded in the 11th century, old wooden buildings, the new Fiskebrygga district and Bystranda beach.
Lindesnes is the southernmost point in Norway. Other than that it’s a beautiful place with amazing landscapes. You can go up the Lighthouse (Lindesnes fyr) to enjoy the view and also see how the lighthouses work. There are a cafe and a gift shop on the territory, you need to pay for entrance too.
The famous restaurant “Under” is not that far from the lighthouse. It opened in 2018 and immediately became one of the most unusual restaurants in the world. It’s built 5 meters under water so you can observe a panoramic view of the sea, while eating a dinner. The visibility can go up to 20 meters allowing to see varoius creatures of the North Sea.
The city Evje is surrounded by beautiful mountains. In the center there’s a white wooden church built in the 19th century. For those who are interested in sport activities there are TrollAktiv rafting center and the rope park. For nature appreciation you should visit an elk farm and a mineral park.
It is worth driving to Haukeli to see how different the norwegian naturecan be. This area has a completely different climate, and even in summer it is much colder. Low mountains with sparse vegetation somewhat remind of Iceland. Haukeli is popular in winter as a ski resort, and is also a frequent stopover on the way from the famous fjords.
Stavkirkes are frame medieval churches and some of the oldest wooden structures in the world that have survived to this day. Even though they were quite common throughout Scandinavia in Middle Ages, the best preserved stavkirkes are in Norway. Not only the architecture is extraordinary, but also the color – black. It’s usually the color of resin or tar, which was used to cover the tree for its best preservation.
The largest church is located in Heddal (Heddal stavkirke). This is a truly impressive composition, and it is hard to imagine that it was built in the 13th century.
Other famous stavkirkes are located in Bergen, Urnes, Borgunn – there are about 30 churches in the country.
Transport and prices
The best way to travel through Southern Norway is by car: great roads, accesibility and amazing views during the whole roadtrip. You can rent a car in Torp airport or any other airport. You can see option an prices on EconomyBookings.
Unfortunately, trains are not very common in Norway. You can search for bus tickets on: vybuss.no, konkurenten, nor-way.no, lavprisekspressen.no.
There is a ferry from Denmark to Kristiansand from the northern port of Hirsthals. The ferry takes about four hours and costs 150-2000 NOK with a car, depending on the season. Without a car, the ticket price is significantly lower. Hirtsals can be reached by car or train from Aalborg in an hour. Also not far from the port are the best beaches in Denmark: Skagen and Lokken.