Haugesund is a town and municipality in northern Rogaland on the west coast of Norway. The municipality borders Tysvær municipality in the east, Karmøy in the southwest and Sveio in Vestland in the north.

The settlement Haugesund had 45,352 inhabitants (of which 8,884 belong to Karmøy) as of 1 January 2020, and is thus the 14th largest settlement in the country. The city functions as a regional center for Haugalandet as well as Sveio and Etne in Sunnhordland, an area with a total of around 110,000 inhabitants.

Haugesund is a town that grew up from the middle of the 19th century as a result of rich herring deposits in the sea areas outside. It gained status as a charging station in 1854 and purchase rights in 1866. Although the herring gradually disappeared, the town is still connected to maritime industries through shipbuilding and shipping. The Norwegian Maritime Directorate has been located in Haugesund since 2006. Today, however, the trade and service industry is dominant, and in 2014 Haugesund had the country's 8th largest turnover figure per capita in retail (NOK 133,897 per capita).


Haugesund is a municipality with a small area, only 72 km². The town itself (the settlement) is located east of Smedasundet and on the islands Hasseløy, Risøy and parts of Karmøy, ie on the mainland side of Karmøy (Vormedal, Norheim, Spanne and Skre) and on the northern part of the island Karmøy (Avaldsnes and Storasund). The contiguous settlement in the two municipalities of Haugesund and Karmøy is defined by Statistics Norway as Norway's 12th largest settlement as of 2014. The settlement of Haugesund has 45,352 inhabitants as of 1 January 2020, and 8,884 of these belong to Karmøy. The city functions as a regional center for just over 111,000 people on Haugalandet.

The town is open to the North Sea, but most is sheltered by the island of Karmøy (Karmøy municipality), as well as the island community Røvær (Haugesund municipality) in the west. Between Karmøy and Haugesund is the shipping route Karmsundet. Between Karmsundet and southern parts of Bømlo (Bømlo municipality) lies the weather-hard stretch of sea Sletta.

Haugesund center is characterized by its square (grid), based on the zoning plan that was prepared in connection with the city's establishment in 1854. The center stretches along Smedasundet, and across Smedasundet there are bridges to the islands Risøy (Risøynå) and Hasseløy (Bakarøynå), which have the same the grid of streets.

The city has a very varied offer of nightlife such as cafes, discos and restaurants, which are visited by guests from both the city and neighboring municipalities.

Haugesund is a city for large events. Since 1973, Haugesund has hosted the Film Festival, considered one of the two most important in Scandinavia. The film festival is held at the end of August. The most popular festival is undoubtedly the Sildajazz, which can be described as a folk festival. Herring jazz is held in mid-August, and in addition to thousands of mounders, the festival attracts many visitors, especially from Rogaland and Hordaland. Many visitors come in leisure boats, which dock at Indre kai, so they occupy half of Smedasundet, just as the herring boats did when herring fishing was an important industry for the city. Besides these festivals, the city hosts various music festivals and national meetings.

North of the city center we find the national monument Haraldshaugen, erected in 1872, in memory of Harald Hårfagre's collection of Norway in 872. The name Harald is also found in Haraldsgata (the city's main street) and Haraldshallen (sports and swimming hall).

As the natural center for a surrounding area of ​​around 100,000 people, it is said that Haugesund is the small town with the big city's qualities and challenges. The city has for several decades had a heavy drug environment, and has for several years topped the statistics on overdose deaths in relation to the population. In the peak year of 2000, the city experienced 14 overdose deaths.

The city also has challenges in terms of traffic. The pressure areas in the road network apply to both supply roads and through roads in the city, but also the roads south over Karmøy and east through Tysvær. On the main thoroughfare Karmsundsgata, which is a normal two-lane road, almost 28,000 cars passed per day during unofficial counts in 2005.

Haugesund was separated from Torvastad municipality and given status as a charging station in 1854, and had 1066 inhabitants. The town was thus able to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2004. Haugesund's status was upgraded to a market town in 1866, and grew strongly as a result of rich deposits of herring in the sea areas outside. Until this, there were few buildings in the area, and the most important settlements between Stavanger and Bergen were Skudeneshavn at the southern tip of Karmøy and Karmøy's current administrative center - Kopervik. Despite its relatively new history, Haugesund still has a strong connection to the Viking Age, as Harald Hårfagre's royal estate at Avaldsnes is located on the Karmøy side of Karmsundet a little south of the city. After his death, Harald Hårfagre was laid to rest on Haug by Karmsund, an area that later gave its name to the town and municipality of Haugesund. A little north of the city, the national monument Haraldsstøtten stands on the place where it is believed that Harald is buried.

The so-called peasant clause in the Constitution meant in the 19th century that new shopping centers had difficulty getting their own parliamentary representatives, the parliamentary elections for Haugesund had to be made in constituencies together with Stavanger, and for decades representatives were elected only from Stavanger. This led to the election strikes in Haugesund which began in 1888, and which ended with Haugesund getting the first representative to the Storting elected in 1902.

The town's weather-protected location on the inside of Karmøy, as well as the good harbor conditions in Smedasundet between the mainland and the islands Risøy and Hasseløy, gave the town an advantage as a growing fishing port. In terms of shipping, the city was centrally located, all the time most of the ship traffic along Western Norway chose the protected lease through Karmsundet rather than going outside Karmøy. To this day, Karmsundet is one of the country's busiest ship leaders.


Along with herring fishing (and to some extent whaling) followed several other industries in Haugesund. The town has a tradition as an important shipyard, shipbuilding and shipping town, and at one time had the third largest merchant fleet in Norway. Haugesund, Karmøy and Bømlo (in Sunnhordland) have traditionally had a lot of seafarers, who went fishing, in coastal trade or in foreign trade. The most important shipbuildings were Haugesund Mekaniske Verksted AS (HMV), AS Haugesund Slip and Brødrene Lothe AS Flytedokken. Today only the former exists, which is now called Aibel. It is also the city's largest workplace. Of shipping companies, Knut Knutsen O.A.S., H.M. Wrangell, Chr. Haaland and Stolt-Nielsen. Knutsen OAS is still among the city's shipping companies.

The city's distinctive pink town hall was donated to the city by shipowner Knut Knutsen O.A.S. and his wife Elisabeth, and consecrated in 1931. It testifies to one of several wealthy shipowners, who bestowed upon the city rich gifts.

The strong growth meant that the city was expanded in several rounds. On 1 January 1911, the town was expanded with parts of the surrounding Skåre municipality, parts that to some extent were already part of the urban settlements. On 1 January 1958, the rest of Skåre followed, and became part of Haugesund municipality. The city is growing geographically strongly even today, although the population has grown more cautiously in recent decades. Today, the city is growing to the east with large residential areas in Skåredalen, and in the 70s, 80s and 90s, large areas were also developed to the north, including Bleikemyr being densely populated. To the south, the settlement of Haugesund extends into the mainland part of Karmøy municipality, and attempts have been made on several occasions to move the municipal boundary.

Gradually, industry and trade took over for the fisheries, and when the herring disappeared - first in periods and then for good - the city had such a large business activity and so many inhabitants that the city continued to grow. The city had several shipyards and other mechanical industries. The city's largest industrial workplace is Aibel (formerly Haugesund Mekaniske Verksted, Umoe, ABB and Vetco Aibel), for a number of years engaged in shipbuilding, today engaged in construction and maintenance in the oil-related industry. Today, the most important industry in the city is the service industry, first and foremost trade and service / health / education for the rest of Haugalandet.

Haugesund was little affected by World War II. The city was not strategically important, other than that the area has its share of fortifications and bunkers that were built along the entire coast. There were thus few Allied bombing raids on the city, which means that some of the very beautiful, older wooden houses are still intact. Even after the war, the city has not played any military strategic role, and has not had military activity beyond the home security level.