Speak to most people in the north and north-east about the Norwegian city of Stavanger and they will immediately think of business trips, conferences and meetings.
Aberdeen’s twin city is the oil capital of Norway, and that alone means many will visit only because of work.
The stress and concerns that brings mean businessmen and women cannot hope to get a full picture of what Stavanger could offer as the perfect destination for a short break, but regardless of what you look for in a weekend away, this city has it.
An Eastern Airways flight from Aberdeen to Stavanger takes just over an hour, and my partner and I started our journey in the ideal way – with a visit to the airline’s lounge for coffee, tea, and a chance to relax before our flight.
The views of Norway’s coast are spectacular even from the air, and you will want to see it from the ground before your flight lands in Stavanger.
The city is in the heart of Norway’s fjord country, so we jumped at the chance to embark on one of the daily cruises along the nearest, the Lysefjord.
The best views of the fjord are hard earned, but if you do manage the four-hour walk to the top of Pulpit Rock, you will certainly be rewarded for your efforts.
Back in Stavanger’s harbour, tourists are spoilt for choice when selecting hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
We stayed in the Comfort Hotel Square, which offered modern, urban and chic accommodation in a great location.
The old part of Stavanger, Gamle Stavanger, is right on the hotel’s doorstep, and offers an insight into the time when fishermen and their families would dismantle their wooden inland homes, transport them to the city and then rebuild them in the heart of Stavanger.
Hidden away in the centre of Gamle Stavanger is the Norwegian Canning Museum, a tribute to the days when oil and gas were not the country’s major export, but fish.
Stavanger’s industrial history is similar to Aberdeen’s, and at the peak of the fishing business the city was home to nearly 60 canneries. Although my partner and I were sceptical at first, we were amazed by how much we learned from and enjoyed our visit to the old cannery.
Stavanger also pays homage to the commodity behind its current boom however, and the Petroleum Museum – and its adjoining restaurant, Bolgen & Moi – are worth a look.
The interactive museum entertains visitors of all ages – and I defy anyone to resist trying on the bright orange offshore survival suits they have on display.
While museums are enlightening, Stavanger is also the perfect place to watch the world go by, especially in the cafes of the city’s answer to Notting Hill – Ovre Holmegate.
Acknowledging that the city can get very cold in the winter months, cafes in the area – including the excellent chocolatier Sjokoladepiken and Boker & Borst (Books and Booze) – have blankets for customers who want to sit outside.
The Sjohuset Skagen restaurant, for example, which overlooks the harbour, serves traditional Norwegian fare, including reindeer if you can bear to eat Rudolph.
As evening turns to night, the hustle and bustle around Stavanger’s arty boutiques and familiar high-street stores moves to the city’s pubs and clubs.
One of the recent additions, the Tango cocktail bar, is owned by Norway’s answer to Jamie Oliver, chef Kjartan Skjelde, and as well as the views of the harbour, the bar also offers drinks mixed by expert staff.
For those who prefer fine foods to fine wine, the city and the surrounding region takes as much pride in its local produce as the north and north-east of Scotland.
Food from the area is celebrated in an annual festival called Gladmat (Happy Food), which is held in July and is just one of more than 30 festivals held in the city every year.
If you feel the need to get away to more remote surroundings, the Stavanger region still has plenty to offer, although perhaps only for the adrenalin junkies.
The nearest ski resorts are less than two hours away by car, and just a half-hour drive south of the city you will find a beach, Sola, renowned among surfers, kite-surfers and wind-surfers.
The beach is also ideal for a long walk, however – something you will need if you stop at the nearby Sola Strand Hotel for lunch, which consists of an almost formidable buffet of fish, meat, and many foods I did not recognise but were delicious all the same.
Later this year, Stavanger will host Offshore Northern Seas, a four-day oil and gas conference to rival Aberdeen’s Offshore Europe.
Thousands of businessmen and women from the world’s oil and gas sector will descend on the city for the show, and probably won’t see much of Stavanger outside the four walls of the exhibition centre.
If I were you, I would leave the suit and tie at home and spend four days seeing what this city is really about.
Eastern Airways operates a choice of daily flights each weekday from Aberdeen to Stavanger, along with a Sunday service. Fares start from £198 return. Book at www.easternairways.com
Visit www.comfortinn.com for information and rates for Comfort Hotel Square, Lokkeveien, Stavanger.
For more information on activities and events in and around Stavanger, go to www.regionstavanger.com