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A view of the cityscape of Port Haugesund Norway

Haugesund, Norway

With Norway possessing countless famous natural landmarks—its glorious fjords practically enjoy celebrity status—the town of Haugesund, in the southern county of Rogaland, can be overlooked despite its history as a center of the country’s Viking rulers. Norway’s first king, Harald Fairhair, whose rule began in the latter half of the 9th century, lived nearby, and he and several other early kings are buried in a mound here along the Karmsundet Strait. Today, Norwegians know the town as a cultural center with popular music and film festivals, as well as for being a beneficiary of Norway’s petroleum wealth. As in many Scandinavian port towns, a long row of handsome old commercial buildings line the Smedasundet waterfront; today, they house busy restaurants. A block inland, the Haraldsgata pedestrian street has a folk museum, the brick Our Savior’s Church and plenty of shopping. At the edge of town, a huge granite obelisk erected in 1872 commemorates the 1,000th anniversary of the seminal Battle of Hafrsfjord, when Harald Fairhair led his forces to victory and united Norway in the process. It is also easy to get from Haugesund to the massive glacier fields of Folgefonna National Park and to the 612-meter-high (2,008-foot) Langfoss waterfall.

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