Sun. Sep 25th, 2022

Not to be confused with Kristiansand at the southern tip of Norway, Kristiansund is a much smaller town along Norway’s lengthy western coastline.

Built on several islands and surrounded by water on all sides, Kristiansund is a waypoint for tourists driving towards the Atlantic Road but is worthy of a longer stay for those interested in coastal culture.

Island hopping on Sundbåten

Given its location on several islands, getting around Kristiansund without a car would be tiresome. Since 1876, the small passenger ferry service Sundbåten has shuttled locals and visitors between the islands.

It claims to be one of the world’s oldest public transit systems. The service has changed many times over the years, but at present it’s totally free and runs throughout the day on weekdays and Saturdays.

This means it’s also a great choice for a quick tour of the city on the water. A return trip from the main stop on Kirkelandet takes less than 20 minutes.

Fishing and shipbuilding museums

It’s impossible to escape Kristiansund’s links with the ocean. Most sculptures around the town nod towards fishing or shipping in some way, so it’s no surprise that the town’s museums chronicle this aspect of coastal life.

Kristiansund is famous for clipfish, split and salted cod traditionally dried on rocks by the sea. Built by a Scotsman in 1749, a former fishing warehouse once home to 150 workers is now the Norwegian Clipfish Museum.

The smell of the former fish production is still very much present inside the museum, which is only open during the summer season. Across the bay, Mellemværftet is a shipyard turned shipbuilding museum.

Varden watchtower

It’s only 255 feet above sea level, yet the former watchtower Varden provides a fantastic panoramic view of the city, mountains and surrounding islands.

The tower is a popular spot with local hikers and dog-walkers and is free to enter, open year-round. Only a 25-minute walk from downtown, Varden is a terrific spot to get a great perspective on the coastal environment of Kristiansund.

A surprise to many visitors from outside the town is the wonderful range of artwork and historic photographs inside. From the top, maps outline the mountains you can see through each window while free binoculars let you take a closer look.

Ferry to Grip

More than seven miles out to sea, the island of Grip was once a thriving fishing community home to more than 100 people. Today, there are no permanent inhabitants but the island remains a popular tourist destination with overnight stays possible.

Highlights include Grip lighthouse—the second tallest lighthouse in Norway—and a fantastic example of a Norwegian stave church. Dating from the 15th century, it’s believed to be the only building that has survived throughout its life on this exposed island.

The only realistic way for tourists to get to Grip is via the 3.5-hour roundtrip Gripruta tour, which includes entry to the stave church and a local guide.

Where to eat and drink

Fish unsurprisingly dominates the restaurant scene in Kristiansund. Smia, Bryggekanten and Kranaskjæret are all popualar choices but none are especially cheap.

For an authentic local meal that won’t smash your budget, the fish and chips (known locally as fishan) from the semi-permanent food truck Svensson Chips is hard to beat for value.

If fish isn’t your thing, Cinammon next to the Scandic Hotel offers fantastic Indian food with modern touches. Order online to takeout and enjoy back at your hotel if you prefer.

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