Visit Kristiansand in winter? Yes why not? It is simple, when everyone goes right, I tend to go left. So why not? It was my first time in Norway and I did not just want to see Oslo, I also wanted to travel through Norway a little and see some more than only the capital.

 It was around 15.00 when I arrived at TRF Oslo Airport, or at least that is what Torp Sandefjord Aiport is called. It is far from Oslo and a bus to Oslo will take about an hour. If it would be food we would all complain because strawberry jam without strawberries is false advertisement, but when it comes to airports we just let it go. I mean why would I complain when my flight from Gdansk to TRF Oslo Airport cost only €9. I paid an extra €10 for my hand luggage, but that was it.

From TRF Airport there are direct busses to Oslo and they leave pretty frequently but I you want to head into Southern Norway you will either need to go to Sandefjord train station for taking a train or go to Fokserød for taking a bus. The bus station is about 2.5 km away and the next bus to the bus station only left 45 minutes later. As it was beautiful weather and not too cold I decided to walk from TRF Airport to Fokserød and suddenly I found myself walking in the Norwegian countryside on the side of the road. The landscape was covered with a thick layer of snow and the sun was low on the horizon, but it were my first steps in a new country, I was happy!

The bus from Fokserød/Sandefjord to Kristiansand took about 3 hours and was very comfortable. There was WiFi in the bus available but it hardly worked. I paid 380 Norwegian Krone and bought the ticket in the bus. Searching for online bus tickets in Norway is a little challenging as there is hardly any good information on the internet or it is only available in Norwegian. The best to use is still GoEuro as they have most of the long distance busses displayed, but not all.

The drive down South along the coast was super scenic with countless bridges and tunnels but unfortunately it got dark pretty fast. The bus stopped right in the center of Kristiansand. Perfect as Clarion Hotel Ernst (read the full review in the link) was only like 100 meters away from the bus stop. Kristiansand, I would say a small city in Southern Norway, is in fact the fifth biggest city in Norway. Norway isn’t that populated and with only 6 million habitants on a huge area they average 16 people per square kilometer.

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This is pretty much the walking route I followed and also shows you how small Kristiansand city center actually is. Everything is within walking distance!

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Traveling to Southern Norway in winter

But because of that traveling in Southern Norway felt so extremely laid-back and peaceful it was a blessing! Kristiansand is in summer among the most popular beach destinations in Scandinavia. Not only because it has the most sun hours on the Scandinavia sub continent but also because the beach is just a little stroll away from the city center. City beaches are the best! In winter it is a sleepy town, but off the beaten track in Europe and that is what I like. More and more people are looking to avoid mass tourism in Europe and traveling in the off season feels so much nicer. Yes I understand that Kristiansand in summer would be a nicer experience, but to stroll around old town in winter is not a punishment either.

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This is the interior of the Kristiansand Cathedral.

Trying out different local restaurants is the same in winter as in summer, enjoying cosy coffee places is even better in winter and a roadtrip through winter wonderland was amazing as well. On top of that I also travel to learn about a country by meeting locals, to hear how they live, work, party and look at the world from a Norwegian perspective. Enough reasons to travel to Kristiansand in winter.

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No city beach for me though as it was only 7 degrees mid February. Pretty nice weather for winter in Kristiansand but cold to me as apart from snowboarding I never really travel to cold places. So why did I chose to travel to Kristiansand in winter?

After my snowboarding trip in Dolomites in Italy I was actually supposed to travel to Central America. But while looking for flight tickets I found super cheap flights within Europe and via London Gatwick and Gdansk, Poland I could fly to Norway, one of the last 5 countries in Europe I had never been. By traveling to Southern Norway I unofficially made it to 100 countries in the world, a cool milestone I would say.

Traveling is not about numbers of course as it took me 7 years of full time traveling to reach 100 (have a look of how I afford to travel and became a professional travel blogger in the link). The UN officially counts 195 countries in the world, excluding Taiwan and Kosovo who are according to the majority also countries, but not according to some UN members. As far as I always understood I made it to 99 countries, but a couple months ago I learned that Scotland is not an official country, neither is Hong Kong, Macau, Aruba, Bermuda, Gibraltar and Vatican City. Whether Norway was country nr. 100 or country nr. 93, it had been on my list for so long and it was undeniable to not book the cheap flight tickets I found.

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Unfortunately I only had a couple days in Norway and in total I stayed 4 nights. My first 3 nights I stayed in Clarion Ernst Hotel in Kristiansand city center and my last night I spend in Oslo. A cheap but clean hotel next to the Oslo train station for €75.

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My room at Clarion Hotel Ernst Kristiansand.

How expensive is it to travel to Norway

Probably one of the most asked question from the people back home. Sometimes I feel like Holland is quite expensive itself, but when Dutch people think about Norway we think about crazy prices. To me it didn’t feel like super expensive actually. I have lived in Sydney and traveled to some crazy expensive places like Maldives, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Paris, New York, etc. quite often so I wasn’t surprised when a salad and a 0.6L beer cost 350 NOK, about €35/$39. Definitely not cheap, but I expected even worse to be honest.

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This was my $40 meal.

kristiansand travel blog 18As I said before a 3 hour long distance bus cost about €35, a coffee is €3, a mid range hotel room in Oslo is €100 per night, a prepaid sim card with 6GB cost €40, renting an E-Golf is only €30 and a train ticket from Oslo Central Station to Gardamoen OSL Airport is €10. 

When looking at all the above prices it doesn’t differ much from any other Northern European country, right? But some things are definitely more expensive. A normal beer cost about €9, a glass of wine about €13, a pizza about €14 and a standard meal in a restaurant will easily cost you €25. When you want to travel to Norway on a budget you just don’t go out. LOL!

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Where to eat in Kristiansand

To me that is no option, because eating out and soaking up some nightlife is one of the best things about traveling so I tried out a long list of restaurants, bars and coffee places.

Best coffee in Kristiansand

On the second day I explored the city on foot and pretty much strolled through the whole city center looking for cool places to drink coffee and soak up some local Kristiansand city life. My favorite places to stop for a coffee and some good cakes are:

  • Cuba Life Kaffebar

Probably the best coffee, but unfortunately just for take away. There are a couple high chairs to sit at, but this places has zero charm. The coffee is amazing though and the Guatemalan guy serving your coffee in Cuba Life Kaffebar is very friendly. The best place for take away coffee in Kristiansand.

  • Taj Kaffe & Chai Hus

Located at the end of the Markensgata, the main shopping street, you can’t miss this uber cute coffee place. Inside there are some sofas and tables and very friendly staff. The served coffee by a trained barista is excellent. When I asked the about the origin of the family who is running the coffee place I got even more excited: Northwest China on top of Tibet kind of and part of the silk route. If Taj Kaffe & Chai Hus wasn’t my favorite place in Kristiansand already, it now definitely was.

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  • Rådhus Cafeen

A fairly new coffee place just outside the city center. It is located on the foot of Lundsbrua bridge that connects Lund with the city center. This former art gallery is now converted in a charming coffee house where they serve very good homemade pizza. There is no WiFi.

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  •  Drømmeplassen Kristiansand

A locals favorite and busy place where you can also go for breakfast. It is from the same owner as Cuba Cafe and apart from some sweets they have a wide range of bread rolls and also serve breakfast. Here you will find many youngsters and the place has a vibrant vibe full of locals.

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Fiskerbrygge & Odderøya

While strolling through the city I also stumbled across the utterly charming fish market called Fiskebrygga. I imagine this place being super charming in summer with people all out on the terraces, walking around, people watching, enjoying fresh seafood, crossing the bridges and looking at small boats passing by.

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Now in winter there was not much going on, but a break at Bølgen & Moi Brasserie was worth it on my way to the Sydney Opera House version of Kristiansand: Kilden Theatre & Concert building. Surely an architectural highlight in Kristiansand from the inside and the outside. It is located just a couple minutes away from the city center on the Odderøya peninsula.

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Several Instagram followers recommended me to hike around the mostly car free peninsula but it was an old harbour crane that caught my attention. Clearly abandoned and not in use anymore, but it didn’t say I was not allowed to climb, so I took my chance and climbed to the top to get a well deserved adrenaline rush as well as good views over the city.

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Local food

In summer I would recommend you to eat fresh seafood in Fiskerbrygge, but I found my seafood craving at a local home. I got invited to a family dinner and met a great bunch of people. Apart from getting to know how locals live I also got to try typical Norwegian food: shrimps.

Skybar Kristiansand

For better views over Kristiansand and in a way better setting than the abandoned harbor crane, I recommend you to have a drink at the only skybar in Kristiansand: Club 21 on top of the Radisson Blu hotel. Nice indoor setting, chic place to take your date for a romantic drink. A Corona and cocktail cost me €35.

Restaurants in Kristiansand

For dinner I can definitely recommend you to go to Bønder I Byen right in the heart of the city. It is on the square opposite the Cathedral. You can dine here in an uncomplicated chic cafe setting and the food is delicious. This is were on my first night I had a goat cheese salad and a 0.6L beer for €35. Pricey but totally worth it!

For the best pizza in Kristiansand go to Jonas B. Gundersen and for one of the most tasty restaurants in Kristiansand I can recommend you Mother India. No need to tell you what kind of food they serve here of course. I have to admit though that Indian food is one of my favourites so I might be biased.

If you are into American dinners then Egon might be a place for you. This saloon kind of restaurant is located in the main shopping street Markensgata and for those on a smaller budget. They serve food like pizza, Tex Mex, etc. Definitely not a standard Norwegian restaurant but perfect if you are traveling to Southern Norway on a budget. They also have afternoon all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for as little as €10, tap water is free.

Day trips from Kristiansand

When talking about how expensive it is to travel in Norway I already quickly mentioned a rental car. At Hotel Clarion Ernst it is possible to rent an E-Golf for €30 per day. As it is an electric car it comes with 250 free kilometers when it is fully charged. It is only available for Clarion Ernst Hotel guests.

Stand up paddle boarding in Sandøya

Through the Southern Norway Tourism Board I was recommend to head to Sandøya, an island about 1,5 hour drive northeast from Kristiansand. Close to Tvedestrand there are a couple islands clustered just offshore and in summer a very popular destination for Norwegians. One of the islands here is Lyngør, recognized as one of the most well preserved villages in Europe. People travel from all over the world to visit Lyngør, but I chose to visit Sandøya island because of Kotenull, an adventure tour company based in Sandøya. I parked my car in Tvedestrand where the Kotenull crew picked me up by boat and we drove to Sandøya Island.

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The Kotenull base camp at Sandøya.

On my drive from Kristiansand to Sandøya I drove through the most amazing winter landscapes and most of the water bodies I passed were frozen. I was about to either go kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Yes in the middle of winter! It sounded like an awesome adventure already and I was super excited. When arriving at the Kotenull base camp on Sandøya they provided me with a thick wetsuit, water shoes and neoprene gloves and socks. We decided to go stand-up paddle boarding, exploring some bays of Sandøya searching for seals.

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You must think it was extremely cold, but trust me it was not that bad actually The thick wetsuit kept me warm enough and the warm winter sun on my face was a blessing. Peddling on these crystal clear calm waters in winter felt like meditation. So calm, so peaceful just me, nature and clean crisp air. It sounds like a crazy adventure to go stand up paddle boarding in Sandøya in winter, but it was a fabulous experience.

Towards the end though my feet started to feel numb and they were actually pretty cold, but only after 1,5 hour. I reckon the water was not warmer than 5 degrees and although I was tempted to jump in for a picture, I decided not to!

Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any seals while on the board but we found them with the boat later.

After our adventure on the water we hiked around Sandøya for about 30 minutes and we went to Linns lysstøperi og Ragnvalds pølsemakeri. A restaurant where they make their own sausages.

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While enjoyed the a typical Norwegian meal in a Sandøya restaurant I learned more about this lovely island and the local community. There are about 250 people living here in winter, but in the peak summer months there are about 8,000 people on the island.

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Boat from Kristiansand to Denmark

As Hotel Clarion Ernst is located just footsteps away from the port I saw massive ferry ships coming in and out. When I asked around I found out that these ferries were going to Hirtshals in Denmark. Damn that sounds like a cool adventure, right? As I had no flight out of Norway yet I looked into taking the boat to Denmark and found out it was only between €20 and €25 for the ferry crossing. When you disembark the boat in Hirthals, Denmark it is only 30 minutes by a shuttle bus to Aarhus. Unfortunately it didn’t fit into my travel schedule, but next time I visit Kristiansand I totally want to do this. Definitely when I heard that every Wednesday the 3 hour crossing costs only €5. Count me in next time!

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Thank you for keeping up with the adventures of Traveltomtom and I hope you liked me exploring Southern Norway in winter. Norway is such a peaceful place and must be a road trip heaven. The landscapes are absolutely incredible and I can only imagine what it would look like in summer or even in fall or spring when the trees get colorful. As always I will be back!

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Tom Grond
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from Holland
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