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Haugesund is the most populous town to be found in the northern part of Norway's Rogaland County and a fixture on a number of Norwegian coastal itineraries, thanks to its rich Viking history and beautiful natural setting. As a town, Haugesund dates back to 1855, though its historic influence goes back much further, to the time of Norway's first king, Harald Fairhair, whose remains today lie in Haugesund. Thanks to the protection afforded to it by the Smedasund and Karmsund sounds, Haugesund enjoyed a long and successful history of herring fishing and the town long prospered because of the trade the waters brought. Though the town no longer relies on the herring trade today, Karmsund remains one of Norway's busiest waterways, with a significant portion of this sea traffic bringing cruise passengers to the town's picturesque shores.
A visit to Haugesund presents the chance to explore one of Norway's most significant areas when it comes to national history and a trip to the Nordvegen History Centre and Viking Settlement is a must. At the Centre, you can learn all about the history of the ancient rulers who controlled the coast and hear and see the tales of chieftains, Norse gods and kings come to life before your eyes. There is also a good choice of Viking collectables and locally produced goods to buy, which make for excellent souvenirs. The Viking Settlement, meanwhile, offers a fascinating reconstruction of Viking day-to-day life, featuring faithfully replicated buildings and artefacts. Another of the town's must-see attractions is Haralshaugen, which, strictly speaking is two attractions in one. As well as being the burial place of the aforementioned Harald Fairhair, it is also the chosen location for Norway's National Monument, which was erected in 1872, the year in which the county held the millennial celebrations of its unification. It's a little over a mile outside the town itself, but well worth the trek, as despite being an area of huge historical significance for the town and country, the countryside which surroundings it is thoroughly enjoyable.
Norway's coast is a region which played a significant role in modern world history too and for those interested in Second World War history, a visit to the Arquebus War History Museum is a must. The many displays tell the story of the resistance movement during the War and cover the period from initial Norwegian occupation to liberation in 1945. Military buffs will especially appreciate the extensive collection of mannequins on display wearing wartime uniforms and the museum's shop sells various military collectors' items. A different kind of museum which tells the story of another significant period of Haugesund's history is the Dokken Outdoor Museum. Located in Old Haugesund, its buildings remain faithful to the time and tell the stories of those who worked and lived during the time of the town's burgeoning herring industry.
If you're looking for a quality boutique browsing experience while in Haugesund, then be sure to head to Haraldsgaten, where there's plenty of opportunity to pick up a niche souvenir and enjoy a coffee in one of the street-side cafes. Knitwear and hand-made candles, meanwhile are popular examples of locally-made produce you can buy here.
The herring trade may indeed be long gone but naturally, seafood, especially salmon, plays a big part in the menus of every Norwegian town and Haugesund is certainly no exception. That said the uplands help to enrich menus with dishes made from traditional farm produce. Seafood served with west-coast dumplings, followed by a healthy serving of traditional Norwegian Queen Maud Pudding would be a good way to get an authentic taste of Haugesund.
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