Four main islands (and a number of smaller ones) make up the town of Kristiansund. It is one of the most densely populated cities of Norway and the country's most urban small city center, due to the relatively small size of the islands on which it's built. The island, Grip, northwest of Kristiansund is also a part of the municipality. Until it merged with Kristiansund in 1964, Grip was Norway's smallest municipality. The former fishing village here is now deserted, but the houses are well preserved by former inhabitants who use them as holiday homes. It is a popular tourist attraction in the summer due to the very special location and architecture.
The city lay in ruins after the war and was rebuilt with distinctive architecture, decorated in shades of red, yellow and green, giving Kristiansund the nickname the polychrome city (the colorful city). Traditionally, the city has made its living from the sea: herring fishing, shipping, bacalo production, export, and in recent years the oil and gas business. Kristiansund has a rich cultural life and hosts many annual festivals, including the Opera Festival, Nordic Light International Festival of Photography, City Festival, and Tahiti Festival.
On Grip you can visit the beautiful Grip Stave Church, Norway's second smallest stave church, and Grip Lighthouse. Founded in 1876, Sundbåtene in Kristiansund claims to be the world's oldest public transport system still in operation. The small passenger ferries traverse the sounds between the four islands of the city. Visit the old part of town with its narrow streets and well preserved wooden houses. Here you also find the memorial stone, beautifully situated with a nice view over the harbor. The old city structure in Vågen is a center for the historical fishing settlement in Kristiansund. The Norwegian Bacalo Museum is also located here. Innlandet is an old city part of Kristiansund with very special and unique coastal architecture. Festiviteten (Kristiansund Opera) is the oldest opera house in Norway. It is built in Art Nouveau-style, and was completed in 1914. This is one of the few older buildings in the city center of Kristiansund that survived the bombing during WWII. Erected in 1964, the Kirklandet Church is recognized as the boldest modern church building in Norway.
Many historians believe that the very first Norwegians lived near the city of Kristiansund. At the end of the last ice age some areas at the western coast of Norway were free of ice. The Viking era saw many important battles around Kristiansund. The most famous one was the Battle of Rastarkalv on the island of Frei. There is now a memorial monument located here. The island of Grip was an important fishing community during the Middle Ages, and was considered to be the most important municipality in the region at the time. In the 17th century a small settlement developed around the area we know today as Kristiansund harbor. As more and more settlers arrived, the area became an important trading port for fish and lumber transportation along the coast. At the end of the 17th century, and for a number of years after, the city was the largest exporter of bacalao (salt cod) in Norway, exporting mainly to the Mediterranean countries. The city's bacalao production was also part of the reason why it was awarded town status in 1742.