Licensed Guide and Norway Tour Planner

Southern Region Guide

The southern coast of Norway, also known as Sørlandet to Norwegians, is an idyllic coastline known for its charming coastal villages, archipelago, and pristine nature bringing you close to the sea.

This guide covers from the town of Kragerø in the south-east and down to Lindsnes at the very southern tip of Norway.

When to Visit

Sørland (southern Norway) is a summer destination when everything is open, the weather is pleasant and people are out and about. I can’t really recommend visiting this part of Norway in the winter, so here’s an overview of the weather from April to October.

NOTE: The best northern lights are often seen in October and March, but can in general be seen all winter.

Blog: See my packing list for Norway.

Summer (June to August): This is the peak tourist season in Sørlandet. The weather is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F). Summer offers the best conditions for outdoor activities such as hiking, sailing, and exploring the coastal landscapes. The days are long and you’ll find Norwegians staying up late to enjoy those bright summer evenings.

Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to October): These shoulder seasons can also be good times to visit. Spring brings blooming flowers and autumn offers vibrant foliage. During these times, you may experience fewer crowds and accommodations might be more affordable compared to the peak summer season, but keep in mind that certain businesses can be closed or have limited opening hours.

However, the weather can be more variable, so it's advisable to bring layers and be prepared for some rain.

Getting Into

The southern coast of Norway being close to Oslo in the north and Kristiansand in the south is fairly well connected with buses, trains, flights, and a good road network.

Train: Go Ahead Nordic ties together the southern part of Norway with their Sørlandsbanen Line between Oslo and Kristiansand. Just note that it mostly runs a little bit inland, so you’ll have to catch a bus from the train station to get to the coast. Find train tickets here.

Bus: Nor-Way Bus Express has an excellent bus line connecting several of the places recommended in this guide. Check out their line Konkurrenten which departs from both Oslo and Kristiansand, connecting places such as Grimstad, Risør, and Kragerø in between.

Flight: Most convenient airports close to the southern coast are the Oslo Airport, Torp Airport close to Sandefjord, and Kristiansand Airport. Find flights here.

Car: A great way to see the southern coast is by rental car. You have the E18 highway running nearby the coast and just small detours can take you to the coastline and idyllic small villages and beaches.

White houses with blue doors and lots of flowers in southern Norway

Places to Stay

I’ve listed some places to stay in my favorite towns along the coast. I’ve picked these for their maritime charm, but also to give you a mix of smaller and larger towns.

Kragerø

Kragerø is a charming town with small business, a picturesque harbor front, and 450 small islands dotting the nearby sea. My favorite hotel is the Tollboden Hotel where old-time charm meets an exclusive and modern design. The hotel has 19 rooms and is located right on the waterfront.

Risør

Risør is nicknamed the white town of Skagerrak due to its collection of white wooden houses lined up along the waterfront. Risør has tons of charm, small shops, and a lively harbor front in the summertime. I’d recommend staying at The Lille Hotel (the small hotel) which has a sailor-vibe and a maritime library. The hotel has ten suites, some of them with antique furniture and a fireplace.

For a cheaper yet nice option, check out the Risør Hotel.

Grimstad

As a young man, Henrik Ibsen spent some years in Grimstad and you can find his name all over town. Grimstad is another gem along the coast. A small idyllic town with white wooden houses overlooking the waterfront. Holsthuset Losji Guest House offers the best combination of comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. It’s a charming place dating back to the early 1800s, but has been newly renovated. Some rooms have a balcony and some have a view over town.

Arendal

Arendal is a more populous place than Kragerø, Risør, or Grimstad, but it's still a charming place to spend a few nights. The Lille Hotel is an artsy boutique hotel with rooms decorated by local and international artists.

Right on the waterfront in the historic area of Tyholmen you find the 4 star Clarion Hotel where some rooms are overlooking the water. Nearby is the slightly less expensive Thon Hotel Arendal, which can be good value for money.

Kristiansand

Kristiansand with its population of almost 90.000 people is considered the capital of the south and is the largest of all the towns mentioned in this guide. Yet, it has a small town charm and can be a nice place to spend a day or two.

A budget option in Kristiansand would be the Citybox Hotel. My favorite hotel which is bright and comfortable is the Thon Hotel Parken located close to the cathedral and a 600 meter walk from the central station. Their hotel bistro serves french inspired food.

Note that prices for hotels highly fluctuate throughout the year, and if you book early you can sometimes find good deals! The high season in Norway goes from June to August.

Places to Eat

All the places mentioned in this guide are popular places to visit, especially in the summer, and you can expect a good selection of restaurants and cafés. Especially abundant is fresh seafood being so close to the sea.

Note that many restaurants close down in the off-season.

  • Kragerø: Nordraak Restaurant - This charming restaurant is located in a cute yellow house and is my favorite restaurant in Kragerø. All meals that they serve start at set times, so make sure to book ahead.
  • Risør: Bakgården Restaurant and Stranden Restaurant are both well worth a visit. Bakgården sits in a charming backyard, while Stranden sits on the waterfront. Portions are generous in both places and you’ll find both salads, meat, and fish dishes.
  • For two great bakeries in Risør head to Stavelin which is a cozy café, or try out Kortreist which makes local pastry and even homemade lefse (arrive early before it sells out).
  • Grimstad: Herlighed Café - This café has fresh pastry and a cozy atmosphere. Smak & Behag is a restaurant sure to give you a culinary experience. They use local ingredients and have a seasonal menu. For the best hot dogs in town head to the iconic Nottos hot dog stand.
  • Arendal: Steenhuset Restaurant - A cozy white tablecloth restaurant with great seafood dishes, some typical Norwegian while others more experimental. For delicious asian food in Arendal, I’d try out the Hong Kong restaurant.
  • Kristiansand: Sjøhuset Restaurant - Located right on the waterfront and serving delicious seafood dishes. One of my favorites. Try their 5-course menu, or for a light meal have their tasty fiskesuppe (fish soup). For the best café in town head to Dampbageriet for mouth watering baked goods and well-made coffee.

Things to Do

The Sørlandet coastline is all about enjoying the water, good food, idyllic towns and picturesque surroundings.

Kragerø

Do like the locals and head to one of the many swimming spots and jump into the sea. Climb the hill up to the Gunnarsholmen fortress to get nice views of Kragerø and the archipelago. Another nice hike is up to the Steinmann View Point. Enjoy Sauna at the Kragerø Sauna Association, book ahead or drop-in.

With a car I’d recommend doing a half day trip to nearby Portør, an old fisherman's village located right next to the sea. For a full day trip take the ferry to the Jomfruland island where you can stroll around and enjoy peace and quiet (bike rental also available).

Risør

This hilly fisherman's town with its maze of small streets makes for enjoyable strolling and exploring. There’s an idyllic spot around every corner and on warm summer nights there’s a nice buzz of happy Norwegians down by the harbor front.

I recommend the slightly steep hike up to the Urheia viewpoint where you’ll get fantastic views over Risør and the Skagerrak sea. See the old Risør church and check out the art exhibition at Risør kunstpark (sometimes concerts in the summertime).

For swimming, head to this spot or jump straight in from here. For a nice outing, take the ferry to Stangholmen Fyr (lighthouse) where you can also find a restaurant (reserve ahead of time).

Grimstad

Walk in the footsteps of Henrik Ibsen and visit the Ibsen Museeum. Another nice museum is the Grimstad Maritime Museum where you can learn about the rich maritime history of this town.

I love strolling around in Grimstad and always make my way up to the Grimstad Church and along the waterfront stopping by the Fish store to admire the catch of the day.

The Apotekergaarden Gastropub sometimes has live concerts in summertime.

Arendal

Take the glass elevator to Fløyheia for a panoramic view of Arendal and the surroundings. Visit the KUBEN Museum to learn about Arendal and its history. Stroll around Tyholmen which is the old town of Arendal. Go for a swim in the sea or at the public bath Sinta.

If you are a family, you can do a day trip to the Trollpark where you can find fun activities for the whole family.

Kristiansand

See the old Christiansholm fortress and hike out to the Odderøya fortress. Kristiansand has a beautiful Cathedral worth visiting and is also a great town to stroll around and enjoy its many pedestrianized streets. I also recommend strolling down to the marina and visiting the fish market.

For local guided city tours and kayak tours in Kristiansand check out GetYourGuide.

If you have rented a car, I would recommend driving to the Lindesnes Fyr (lighthouse) which is the southernmost point of Norway. It’s a captivating spot both on a sunny day and a stormy one. From here, and onwards, is just water until you reach Denmark.

Beautiful crafted wooden boats in dock

How to Get Around

Public transportation

Sørlandet is connected together with buses and trains and they run fairly frequently. If you have time, and budget for it, I’d recommend that you rent a car. This will make it easier for you to get around, and you can explore places that are hard to get to by public transport.

For public transport, check out Agder Kollektivtrafikk. The ENTUR website can also be helpful for tour planning in the area.

Beautiful crafted wooden boats in dock

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