Kristiansand: Norway’s favorite resort city and gateway to the South Coast

KristiansandPhoto: Gunnar Ridderström / Unsplash
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Kristiansand, on Norway’s southern coast, is a resort city that remains one of the country’s most popular warm-weather destinations. A beachside backdrop is the perfect setting for this city’s mix of history, culture, and tourism.

Capital of Sørlandet, King of the Norwegian Riviera

If you travel about 300 kilometers south of Oslo, down along Norway’s gorgeous southern coast (Sørlandet), you will find the beautiful city of Kristiansand. The largest city in Agder County, this seaside resort destination has a population of just over 100,000, making it the country’s sixth-largest city. Its relatively mild (when compared to more northern parts of the country) climate has made it a popular destination for summer holidays for generations of Norwegians.

Its location on the Skagerak (the strait that runs between Denmark and Norway) makes it an important port destination for trade and tourism. Its southern location gives it a temperate oceanic climate which is full of sunshine. The average mean in summer is, for Norway, a balmy 17 degrees with highs expected of 20-25 plus. Though not as hot as other cities, the amount of sunshine and beach vibes make Kristiansand the King of the Norwegian Riviera.

A prehistoric beginning, an important pre-Christian location

Kristiansand has roots that stretch back to prehistoric times. Over the past two decades, evacuations have uncovered some of the prehistoric origins of the city. During the 1990s, the well preserved skeletal remains of a woman, dating from approximately 6500 BCE, were found in Søgne, just west of the city. In 2010, a neolithic ritual enclosure was found dating to approximately 3400 BCE whilst excavations around the site of the modern-day Oddernes Church have found a settlement dating to, at least, 2000 years ago.

The area surrounding the modern church also seemed to be the center of religious activities as more excavations found one of the largest pre-Christian burial sites in all of Southern Norway. At least two wooden churches were constructed up until the year 800 CE before a more durable stone church was constructed in 1040. The area seems to have been particularly hard hit by the Black Death as church records show a huge drop in population around the 13-15th centuries. By the end of the 15th century, however, a small, bustling port emerged in this area.

Kristiansand
Kristiansand from above. Photo: Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB

17th century origins and the dilemma of a name

The location of Kristiansand, on the Skagerrak, made it a vital link between the North Sea and Baltic trade routes, making it perfectly placed to exploit maritime trade and commerce. The area grew and by the 17th century, it was soon big enough to warrant royal attention. What is now modern-day Kristiansand was founded on July 5, 1641, and named in honor of the then King of Denmark and Norway, Christian IV.

The spelling of the city has changed over the centuries reflecting its political fate. Its original name, Christianssand, lasted up until the 19th century encompassing most of the Danish sovereignty over of Norway. An 1877 local ruling changed the spelling away from the Danish version to a more “Norwegian” sounding Kristiansand. This made the city at the forefront of the Norwegian nationalist movement sweeping across the country. This movement would not only culminate in independence but also see the change in spelling of the nation’s capital from Christiania (again a city with a Danish name origin) to Oslo.

A Renaissance center, growth, catastrophe, and economic rejuvenation

The city was laid out, in true Renaissance style, in a “grid” plan which still forms the center of the town (Kvadraturen – The Quarters). As maritime trade in Northern Europe blossomed, so did Kristiansand with more and more merchants operating out of this port city. Generous tax incentives and trading privileges were given to encourage the local economy.

During the 17th century, its strategic importance saw the city become a garrison town and the relocation of a bishopric, from Stavanger, saw the city grow further in national importance and prestige. The city was a center of shipbuilding up until the mid-19th century and also became an important port for the trade of lobsters and timber. It continued to flourish up until the Great Depression when the city, which mostly dealt with commodities, was hit hard by the global downturn.

More tragedy was to befall Kristiansand as the city was invaded during the Nazi German Operation Weserubung on April 9, 1940. 800 Nazi soldiers garrisoned the city and the cathedral and many buildings were damaged by the Luftwaffe and German Navy. Post-war, the city rebuilt itself and has become a major tourism destination for cruise ships and has seen its economy diversify to include marine and offshore equipment and drilling.

Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park
The ‘Pirate Village’, part of Kristiansand Zoo & Amusement Park. Photo: Tor Erik Schrøder / NTB

Norway’s most visited attraction, Odderøya fortress

The climate of Kristiansand makes it the perfect location for the largest zoo in Norway. Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park was established in 1966 and is Norway’s most visited attraction. The Zoo is divided into zones featuring animals from a range of climates from the Nordics to the tropics. There is also a pirate village, a haunted house, 3 restaurants, gift shops, and rides to entertain and amuse all ages.

As mentioned, Kristiansand’s strategic location made it an important garrison town well into the 20th century. A fort was constructed on Odderøya in the 17th century and it was only in 1999 that the military withdraw from the area. Visitors to the island can see military paraphernalia ranging from 17th-century cannons until the military defenses built up during the Second World War. Be sure to head to the lighthouse (Odderøya Fyr) on the island for breathtaking views out towards the sea. There is also a cafe nearby for a picture-perfect coffee break.

Swimming possibilities are endless

The main draw of Kristiansand is, of course, its beaches. Two of the most popular are :

Bystranda: quite unusual for any city in Norway, Kristiansand has a beach accessible just minutes away from the center of the city. The beach is surrounded by some of the most expensive apartments in the city and also hosts Scandinavia’s largest beach festival, Palmesus. The beach has wheelchair accessibility and there are children’s playgrounds, beach volleyball courts, and a skatepark located nearby.

– Hamresanden – is a 3-kilometer stretch located just outside of the city. The beach offers unparalleled and uninterrupted views of the Skagerrak and is far more peaceful than Bystranda. There are three different camping facilities and a hotel available for those wanting to stay more than a day at this gorgeous beach.

Should the weather be less than perfect, there is always the Aquarama Bad. Alongside a huge arena, there is a water park, a spa, sauna, and fitness center. However, most locals like to head out to some of the many idyllic beaches that are found on the peninsula and islands surrounding the city. Dybingen is perfect to camp overnight under the stars whilst you can rent kayaks and paddle around Bragdøya.

Odderøya Kristiansand
Pictured is Odderøya, a recreational island in Kristiansand. Photo: Ben Bodien / Flickr

Christianity is an important part of the culture

Kristiansand has been an important center of Christianity since, at least, the 11th century. With the bishopric moving from Stavanger to Kristiansand during the 17th century, this only increased. A huge part of the culture of Kristiansand is still linked to churches of various denominations. There are twelve parishes in the city that each have a church. The largest is the Kristiansand Cathedral which was built in 1884 and dominates the skyline. However, the oldest church is Oddernes (1040 CE) and Tveit (1100) showing the permanent presence of Christianity since then.

In more recent times, the city was part of the so-called “Norwegian Bible Belt” which stretched from Western Norway to Kristiansand. The city was strongly against the 1926 repeal of Prohibition. The city and its surrounds also house a large number of Christian missionary organizations and there is a Hillsong Church presence in the city center.

Accessible from the air, land, and sea

Kristiansand is accessible by an international airport, with daily flights from Oslo and Bergen. Flights are also available to the city from Copenhagen and Amsterdam. The port city is also serviced by two ferry services (Color Line and Fjordline) from Hirtshals in Denmark, often operating daily during the warmer months.

A daily bus trip with either VY or Nor-Way Express can take travelers from Oslo to Kristiansand whilst travelers from Stavanger can take a daily Sorland Express bus. By car, Kristiansand is located on the E18 road 318 kilometers from Oslo, some 233 kilometers on the E39 road from Stavanger, and 440 kilometers on the same road from Bergen. The only thing left to do is come and see why this bustling and charming port city really is the “Capital of Sørlandet!”

For more information on Kristiansand, visit the city’s official tourist website here.

Source : #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayTravel

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