Things to do in Kristiansand

Lovely archipelago gems, rich cultural life, exotic animals and fun experiences in summer and winter – welcome to the cheerful capital of Southern Norway!

Kristiansand is a summer favourite for many, but the small city offers wonderful experiences all year round! There’s everything southern Norway has to offer here – and whether you’re on a weekend visit or a long holiday, there’s plenty of exciting things to do. 

In the summer, there is a bustling life in the city centre square with live music and activities for the children, and at the fishing pier there is always a buzz when both the locals and tourists gather in the summer sun. If you take a trip in December, there is a lovely Christmas market and light art that adorns the city, and otherwise activities such as kayaking, a climbing park and plenty of great restaurants and cafes await. Or how about taking a trip during the Palmesus or Måkeskrik festival? 

Kristiansand is also referred to as the "children's city" with the zoo as the headliner, but a visit to Julius and his friends is just as much fun at any age. A trip to the city beach and adventures in the beautiful archipelago should also be on the list if you go on a trip.

Thon Hotels has three hotels in Kristiansand - Hotel Parken, Hotel Norge and Hotel Kristiansand. They are all centrally located in Kvadraturen, close to everything that is happening in southern Norway’s capital city. 

Activities for the whole family

Norway’s biggest family attraction

Exotic animals, Captain Sabertooth's World, a water park, the Forest of Huckybucky, Cattle Hill and Cardamon Town – there are many reasons to visit the Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park! Over a million visitors come here annually to meet Julius the chimpanzee and the almost 150 different species of animals that live here. 

But did you know that the zoo is open every day of the year? In winter there is a completely different atmosphere here, with fewer people and more time to talk to the zookeepers for those who want to. One of the most fun highlights is to take part in feeding the animals in the Nordic wilderness, where you can get up close to wolverines, wolves, elk and lynx. A guaranteed fun experience for the whole family! 

A bather’s paradise

Afraid of saltwater? Or just unlucky with the weather? In the middle of Bystranda is one of Norway’s largest indoor water parks and spas, where both old and young water nymphs will enjoy themselves. Aquarama offers water slides, a diving tower, swimming pool, paddling pool, an obstacle course and a climbing wall. And the toughest ones can try the AquaSurf surf wave! There are several hot water pools in the wellness centre, both indoors and outdoors, and a separate relaxation area with plunge pool, sauna and steam bath. In other words – everything that’s needed for some water fun. 

Fun high & low

With 9 trails and a total of 23 zip-lines, the Høyt & Lavt Kristiansand climbing park is the place for all adrenaline junkies. The trails vary in difficulty and go through scenic surroundings in the Grotjønn hiking area. In addition, you can try Norway’s perhaps roughest zip-line Fjellvåken, where you ride a full 500 metres at up to 80 km/h with a height difference of 65 metres. Southern Norway’s largest climbing park is located around 3 kilometres from the city centre. 

For budding researchers

Do you have a young scientist in the family? The Science Centre in Kristiansand is a popular science-based experience and learning centre for the whole family, aimed at mathematics, science and technology. Here you can indulge in exhibitions and interactive installations and activities, and challenge each other in brain teasers and eye-hand/eye-foot coordination. Open for everyone on weekends and school holidays. 

Archipelago and natural gems

Urban beach life

What do Barcelona, Nice and Kristiansand have in common? Opportunities for a great beach life in the heart of the city! Situated at the end of Kvadraturen, Bystranda in Kristiansand is perfect if you want to soak up some sun, take a cooling dip in the sea or simply just take a break during your city break. The beach includes a playground, volleyball court and kiosk, as well as being the venue for the popular Palmesus music festival. Sandstranda can also fly the "blue flag" quality stamp as one of the few beaches in Norway, which means that both the water quality and safety are top notch. So remember to pack your swimwear! 

A small piece of southern Europe

Who needs southern Europe when you have southern Norway? The three kilometre long Hamresanden, located about a mile from the city centre, has featured several times on the list of Norway’s best beaches– and with good reason. With it's sandy beach, shallow water, good bathing temperatures and windsurfing and diving opportunities, Hamresanden is an Eldorado for both old and young beach lovers. 

Discover the archipelago

Whether you want to discover it island hopping with a sightseeing boat, sunbathe on smooth granite rocks or find your very own bay, Kristiansand’s archipelago is brimming with idyllic gems. Scheduled boats run all year round, but during the summer MS Bragdøya also runs under the name Badebåten, with daily tours of the archipelago, with nice swimming spots, hiking trails and cafes as stops along the way. 

Bragdøya is a real summer paradise, while Brekkestø, an idyllic port in Blindleia, is another favourite. Here you can also buy Norway’s largest ice cream at Brekkestø Landhandel, which is supposedly so large that you hardly have time to eat it before it melts. You can also find lovely bathing spots on Odderøya, which is within walking distance of the city centre. 

Kayaking paradise

If you want to get even closer to the beautiful archipelago, the kayak is your friend! Kristiansand’s archipelago is an Eldorado for kayaking, where you can glide through beautiful surroundings and really get the sense of southern coastal idyll. Or how about visiting a lighthouse on your trip? Both Grønningen Lighthouse and Oksøy Lighthouse are great destinations for a day of kayaking. 

A hidden gem

Although it’s not a long walk from the city centre, it’s almost like a completely new and peaceful world awaits in the Ravnedalen park on Grim. Perhaps this is Kristiansand’s finest natural area, where people come to relax, have picnics or just take in the lovely scent of flowers. Here you’ll also find the cosy Café General, which serves what is said to be Kristiansand's, and perhaps the entire southern Norway’s best burger. 

Fresh water paradise

If you prefer fresh water to salt water, Baneheia is your swimming paradise! There are several lovely bathing spots for a refreshing dip, as well as fishing opportunities for those who want to try their luck. Baneheia is often called the urban area in Kristiansand, and there are also nice hiking trails and viewpoints, as well as light trails and ski trails in the winter. P.S. It’s only about 15-20 minutes walk to Baneheia from all our hotels. 

Food and drinks


Fresh seafood is never far away in Kristiansand. Sjøhuset Restaurant has been an institution in the city for over 20 years and serves dishes based on local ingredients, in a beautiful location right down by the sea forefront at the seafront promenade. The menu changes according to the season, and both set menus and a la carte are offered. But the view is also worth coming for! 

Smag & Behag

Smag & Behag serves tasty dishes from an open kitchen accompanied by quality wines from the wine cellar. The restaurant is located in the old gymnasium of Kongens Gate school, which after a complete renovation has become a beautiful space with brick and a cosy atmosphere. Choose from small dishes based on the season’s best ingredients or the evening 5-course meal. 

Torvet Bistro

If you’re in the mood for French flavours, head to Torvet Bistro – which is logically located in the middle of the square. Here, French-inspired food made from scratch is served in an informal atmosphere. The menu includes the classic bouillabaisse and French chocolate cake. Yummy! 

Mother India

Mum India has been referred to by food critics as Norway’s best North Indian cuisine, so you’re guaranteed great flavours! The family restaurant opened in 1994, and as they themselves say, here you get genuine Indian food from Kristiansand. Today, the restaurant is run by daughter Sarita, who over the years has become Norway’s queen of tikka masala with his own cookbook and products in almost every grocery store in the country. 

The best baked goods in town

Is your stomach rumbling for freshly baked buns and deliciously baked goods? Then you’ve come to the right place. The city’s oldest bakery, Dampbageriet, opened its doors back in 1862 and still keeps things going with traditional baking craftsmanship. Try the traditional "12-øres" with burnt sugar and coconut or their well-known whole-grain bread "Dampens". Geheb Conditori, located on Markens gate, opened in 1908, and is known for its "blaudis" - layer cakes – and "southern buns" while Edgars bakery is best known for its "cinnamon dreams", lemon roll and "skillings" with coconut, baked in a genuine French oven. The baked goods here are so delicious that Edgars was named the bakery of the year in Norway in 2018! 

Ice cream, of course!

You can hardly visit the cheerful south without eating ice cream! Here, the goodies are sold almost on every corner, and the Nordic's oldest ice cream manufacturer Hennig-Olsen, who has been known for making "the cream of ice cream" since 1924, comes from here. Check out Brygga Isbar on Fiskebrygga or Snadderkiosken at Bystranda for a refreshing temptation in the summer sun. Norway’s largest ice cream can be found at the popular ice cream kiosk at Brekkestø Landhandel, while SVAL gelato and coffee on Markensgate serves homemade Italian ice cream with exciting flavours. 

Museums, culture and attractions

City walk

If you stay at one of Thon’s hotels in Kristiansand, you are in the heart of the city centre, and with straight roads and no uphill slopes, the city is perfect to explore on foot. The centre is called Kvadraturen, and here you will find a wide range of shops, eateries and the lively square. In the "old town" of Posebyen you will find Kristiansand’s oldest collection of white wooden houses, the classic image of southern Norway’s idyll, while a short walk away from you can soak up the sun on Bystranda or head to the bustling Fisketorget.

For the art lover

Sørlandet’s Kunstmuseum (SKMU) shows exhibitions of contemporary art and craftsmanship with a focus on visual art, relevance and topicality. The museum is located in the old cathedral school’s premises, but is moving according to plan to Kristiansand’s new museum Kunstsilo in 2024. This will be a kind of cultural experience centre in addition to the museum, and will, among other things, exhibit the Nicolai Tangen's collection. 

The world’s second largest land-based cannon

With a range halfway to Denmark, the cannon at the fortress complex Kristiansand Kanonmuseum Møvik Fort is a powerful sight. The cannon was built by the Germans during World War II, with the intent to close the sea route to Eastern Norway, and is the world’s second largest cannon ever assembled on land. At the museum you can join a guided tour and see a large exhibition of military items in the bunkers.  

Cultural main space

In the mood for a cultural top up? At the Kilden Performing Arts Centre, you can enjoy concerts, theatre performances, the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, opera and various events under the same roof. This is Norway’s second largest performing arts institution, with an exciting programme all year round. 

Kristiansand in the old days

At the open-air museum at Kongsgård, you can get an insight into what everyday life was like in Kristiansand in the past. There are around 40 different wooden houses from Kvadraturen, an old school room and two older farmyards from Setesdal and Eiken, as well as educational exhibitions and a museum shop. Or head to the Gimle farm where you can join a journey back in time through the lives of five generations in the stately manor, from the end of the 18th century until the last owner’s death in the early 1980s. 

Day excursions

Hop on the Setesdal Line

Hundred-year-old steam locomotives, venerable station buildings and the smell of burning coal are what await when you take a seat in one of the stylish train carriages on the Setesdal museum railway line. The line was opened in 1896 and ran between Kristiansand and Byglandsfjord, but after its closure in 1962 it opened shortly after as Norway’s first museum railway. Between June and September, you can join a unique journey of around 8 kilometres, with lots of exciting experiences along the way. There is also the option of a charter in the summer. The Setesdal Line is located in Vennesla, around half an hour’s drive from Kristiansand. 

Off we go!

Around 100 kilometres from Kristiansand, the whole family can try out the fun activity of riding a draisine on a true cultural monument – the hand-built Flekkefjord line. At the station in the centre of Flekkefjord, you will be given a type of bicycle specially designed for use on railroad tracks, before heading for a 17-kilometre journey through a varied landscape and 17 tunnels, to the journey’s end station, Bakkekleivi. A fun activity for old and young! 

Visit Norway’s southern tip

Norway’s first lighthouse and the country’s southernmost mainland point are about 1.5 hours’ drive from Kristiansand. Lindesnes lighthouse was lit for the first time in 1656, and the lighthouse is currently open to visitors and designated as the national lighthouse museum, which is open all year round. There is also a cafe, museum shop and gallery. If you want to push out the boat, head to the nearby Michelin restaurant Under, which is 5.5 metres below water (!). 

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