Scandinavian winters can be harsh--but don't let that stop you from visiting Norway when temperatures drop and daylight wanes.
Stavanger is the third largest city there, boasting seascapes and hugging fjords all around, but it is quite a small city in an already relatively unpopulated country. I've found locals humbled that foreigners would travel so far to reach them--but it's a no-brainer for me, because Norway is full of natural beauty, charming people, and hidden cultural gems.
The downtown harbor in Stavanger, 8 hours by train from Oslo, is one of those gems. It is both majestic and unassuming--the ancient downtown zone is compact with hilly, winding cobblestone avenues. The harbor's beauty at dusk, striking with left-over Christmas lights, is otherworldly and dream-like, even in frosty temperatures.
To visit in the summer would be an entirely different experience, but Stavanger's winter magic is its ability to invite us into the cozy indoors for a hot drink and hospitality. When we step outside again, we are refreshed and ready to meander along the water's edge and narrow streets.