Earlier this month I got the chance to visit Egersund, a small town in the south of Norway. The town is located at the other end of the Jaeren Scenic Road if you drive south from Stavanger. I fell in love with Egersund. It has everything I look for when exploring Norway: history, picturesque views, good local food and speciality local shops. The husband and I had such a good time eating, shopping and photographing our way through Egersund.
I’ve put together an overview of Egersund’s highlights. If you are in Stavanger, I highly recommend making the trip to Egersund. You can spend a couple hours or a couple days there, and it’s well worth it.
A Little about Egersund
What does ‘Egersund’ mean?
Egersund’s name is generally considered to be one of the oldest names in Norway. It comes from an Old Norse word meaning ‘the strait between the oak trees’ (eger/eik = oak tree and sund = strait – you’ll see ‘sund’ in many place names). The Saga of Olav the Holy, written by Snorre Sturlasson in the 13th century, mentions Egersund as Eikunarsund. Olav the Holy, or St. Olav, visited Egersund many times – I’ll get into this below.
‘sund’ means ‘strait’ or ‘sound’, and it’s found in place-names. See Kristiansund, Havøysund, etc.
Not only is the word ‘Egersund’ one of the oldest names in Norway, but Egersund is one of the country’s oldest harbours. People have lived here since the Stone Age. There are several places where you can see the ruins of settlements back to the migration period (600-400BC).
Egersund was a port during the Viking Age. The centre of the town is the bay, Vågen (‘the bay’ in Norwegian). In the oldest mentions of Egersund, the name Kaupanes is used in reference to a trading place. This indicates that there were Vikings here. The town is mentioned several times in the Saga of Olav the Holy, as his fleet would regularly anchor in Egersund harbour between battles and looting around Europe. You can find mentions of the town in Snorre Sturlason’s Kings Sagas.
However, the town as we know it today didn’t arise in its present location until the 17th century. Around this time, people began to settle along the bay. From the mid-18th century, urban settlement took place. Around 600 people lived here in 1745. In 1746, Egersund became a ‘ladested’. This word means citizens had privilages to buy, load and export particularly, but not only, timber. In 1798, Egersund received customs privileges. Egersund has been a municipality since 1837, though it no longer governs itself.
Like any town in Norway famous for its wooden architecture, Many fires have occurred in Egersund. The largest fire was in 1843, when two thirds of the town were destroyed. After this, the city adopted a Renaissance-style grid plan. This can be found in other Norwegian cities like Kristiansund and Kvadraturen in Oslo, or many European towns. There were other major fires in 1859 and 162, and after this the city made wider streets to stop fire spreading.
Egersund received a train connection to Stavanger in 1878 with the Jaerensbanen railway. Furthermore, in 1905 Egersund became the first town in Rogaland county to get electric lighting.
During World War II, Egersund was occupied by German forces. Due to its harbour, Egersund was very important for the Germans strategies along the Atlantic Wall. Additionally, Egersund was home to the telegraph line between Norway and England.
The most important industry in Egersund has always had to do with the sea. Egersund has one of the best natural harbours in Norway. Up until 2006, it was the largest fishing harbour in the country. It has since been replaced by Ålesund. Today, Egersund’s other interests relate to fishing, the oil industry, and shipping.
For those who love ceramics, Egersund is a great spot for this. The first company to do this is Egersund Fayancefabrikk in 1847. It was the largest employer in Egersund until it closed down in 1979. They made glazed ceramic beats, figures, plates and other items. Today if you find one of their items, you can sell it for thousands of kroners. You can learn about their company, and the industry overall, at the Egersund Fayance Museum (click here). There is another brand called ‘Egersund’ and you can often find their ceramics in the vintage shops for a reasonable price. Take a look here on Etsy at some Egersund ceramics.
The earliest existing record of a church dates back to 1292, but the church dates back to before then. The 1292 record is from Pope Nicholas IV in Rome, discussing indulgence issues. Egersund’s first church was likely a stave church dedicated to St. Mary. In the 12th century, churches dedicated to St. Mary appeared in Stavanger, Bergen and Tønsberg. The church is no longer standing but was likely where the present-day Egersund church is. Before the church, it’s likely that the site was used by pagans. Old folklore says that an altar stood there and people used it to sacrifice to the Norse gods, but this has not been verified. Still, it’s possible and pretty interesting!
Egersund Church replaced the early church in 1623. While Egersund Church has undergone alterations, it has never burnt down. This new church is situated so that the choir is at the east end of the building. In 1726, the Danish/Norwegian King Frederik IV sold the church to pay some debts hs had from the Great Northern War. The parish purchased the church so it was no longer privately owned.
Between 1785 and 1788, the church underwent a major renovation. Architects added the cruciform layout and higher ceilings. The new ceiling height meant that teired galleries were built around the church. This expansion greatly increased the capacity of the church and made it the second largest church in the county.
In 1927, it was restored back to its 17th century appearance. You’ll see a blue plaque out the front commemorating the churches involvement in the 1814 voting.
Egersund Town Centre
Looking for the best preserved wooden centre in Norway? Egersund is considered one of the best!
Egersund has the poor economy to thank for its preserved wooden architecture. Throughout the last century, the municipality prepared zoning plans to demolish the old buildings. Instead, they wanted to build concrete ones. However, due to the lack of funds, they were unable to follow through. The wooden houses remained.
Today we know Egersund for their original architecture. Most wooden houses are the Late Empire style.
There are lots of little shops in the streets of Egersund, especially on Storgaten. One of my favourites is a tiny antique store – it’s where I bought my Egersund ceramics!
Here are some of the most picturesque streets:
Strandgaten (Beach Street) is one of the main streets of Egersund. Many places in Norway have a Strandgaten, and it is typically found close to the bay’s edge. Before the city regulation of 1843, Strandgaten winded between the sea and the park. The street was straighened out after the 1843 fire. Strandgaten then linked the steamship quay and the railway station.
The street was heavily trafficked and difficult to pass through. In addition to having wooden buildings on each side of the road, there were staircases up to the buildings built on the road. Only one carriage could fit down the road at a time. In the 19th century the municipality made efforts to get the locals to remove the stairs, but it didn’t get better. Instead, herring barrels were stacked where the stairs used to be! Along the street, sailors and craftsmen lived.
Storgaten (Big Street) is another main road. It is the main traffic artery between the east and west parts of the city. Since 1972, Storgaten is a pedestrian street. It’s here that you’ll find the more historic wooden houses.
Pig’s Square (Grisatorget)
The name comes from the fact that piglets used to be traded on this spot. The statue is from 1984 and commemorates this trade. When they unveiled the statue, the locals grilled a whole pig in the square.
At this spot you’ll find narrow alleys leading between wooden houses. This is the only place in Egersund where you can see the original street layout before the grid plan.
Grand Hotel dates back to 1878, when it opened as Hotel Jarderen. One of the first events here was the opening of the railroad. Sadly the hotel has been affected by fires multiple times, and in 1896 and 1926 was rebuilt.
Egersund Chocolate Factory
The Egersund Chocolate Factory is a unique attraction in the centre of Egersund. Here you can buy real chocolate made on site in the factory in the basement. Additionally, they offer courses in chocolate making. Over 800 locals supported the opening of the factory and are all shareholders. They meet every summer at the General Assembly to discuss and eat their product.
It is possible to reach Egersund by train from Stavanger, Kristiansand and Oslo.
Oslo to Egersund: 7 hours
Kristiansand to Egersund: 1 hour 50 minutes
Stavanger to Egersund: 1 hour 9 minutes. This is the Jærenbanen, or a renowned scenic coastal train.
The trains run hourly to Stavanger, while there are express and regional trains to Kristiansand and Oslo.
Egersund is located close to the junction of the County Roads 42 and 44. County Road 44 is the famous National Tourist Road for Jæren (click here). County Road 42 will take you to the European Highway 39 (E39), which links Stavanger with Oslo via Kristiansand and the Oslofjord region.
Oslo to Egersund (via Kristiansand): 6 hours 24 mins
Stavanger to Egersund (E39): 1 hour 9 mins
Stavanger to Egersund (Jæren Scenic Road): 1 hour 23 mins
Note – most of the parking in Egersund town centre requires payment. Download the app EasyPark (click here) to pay for parking. This app is common around Norway. There’s street parking close to the church and town centre.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do in Stavanger. If you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend. Even if it’s a day trip from Stavanger, it’s well worth it. Walk through the narrow alleys, eat some chocolate, and buy some Egersund ceramics!
If you’ve been to Egersund, let me know in the comments 🙂