Last Updated on: 17th January 2023, 01:23 pm
Are you planning a trip to Poulsbo and looking for the best things to do?
This charming small town on Washington’s Kitsap Peninsula is famous for its natural beauty, Scandinavian heritage, and maritime culture.
Today, when you visit Poulsbo, you’ll find a ton of history to explore, but that’s not all!
You might be surprised at just how many things there are to do in this small town, especially considering that the current Poulsbo population is less than eleven thousand residents.
And yet, you can easily fill a weekend getaway here – or even a week!
See why the city of Poulsbo is one of Washington’s most popular destinations for history and culture travelers.
This list contains the best things to do in Poulsbo (including my personal favorite Poulsbo activities) plus tips to make your time in Little Norway a smashing success!
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Good to Know: During this portion of my trip to Washington, I was hosted by Visit Kitsap Peninsula, an organization that promotes tourism to the Kitsap Peninsula and Kitsap County.
We explored many parts of this corner of the Pacific Northwest, including Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Bremerton, Suquamish, Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island, and Port Gamble.
While VKP hosted the trip, all opinions are my own, including thoughts shared about my visit and my tips for what you should do during your trip to Washington state.
My Favorite Travel Booking Sites for 2023
These are my favorite companies that I use on my own travels.
Protect Your Trip via Safety Wing
Find the best deals on hotels & vacation rentals on Booking.com.
For English-speaking private airport transfers, book through Welcome Pickups.
For road trips and independent travel, rent a car through Discover Cars.
Find information and cruise reviews on Cruise Critic.
For packing and travel essentials order via Amazon.
The Best Things to Do in Poulsbo, Washington
Here we go!
Learn Why Poulsbo is Called Little Norway
On your way into town, the signs greet you, “Velkommen Til Poulsbo.”
The architecture downtown looks more like Oslo or Reykjavik than Seattle. And you notice there are Vikings – everywhere.
What exactly is going on here?
Welcome to Little Norway!
You may have noticed that the town is on Liberty Bay which is part of a fjord, and it’s no coincidence that Scandinavian immigrants came here and felt right at home in this landscape.
While the area was traditionally home to the Suquamish people, many Suquamish moved to the Port Madison Indian Reservation after the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855.
The town of Poulsbo was founded by a Norweigan immigrant named Jørgen Eliason.
The town was officially incorporated in 1907 and is named after the hamlet of Paulsbo, Norway, near the Swedish border.
I have lots of ideas for how you can learn about town history while you are here, but starting with this history of Poulsbo primer is a bit of homework you can do while you’re on your way to help you have an even better time here!
Walk Through Charming Historic Downtown Poulsbo
To dig deeper into the rich history of Poulsbo, you can schedule a historic downtown walking tour of Poulsbo by contacting the Poulsbo Historical Society.
Pro Tip: You can pair your time in Poulsbo with a visit to the Suquamish Museum, which is fifteen minutes away in the town of Suquamish so that you get a wider view of the history of the area.
Go on a Self-Guided Poulsbo Viking Tour
If you’d prefer to walk around town on your own, you can conduct a self-guided walking tour and count how many Vikings you find around Front Street.
From window displays to statues to murals to fun places like shops and bookstores, keeping a running tally of exactly how many Vikings and Viking Longships you come across is a great way to enjoy your time exploring Poulsbo on foot.
This is also a great free thing to do in Poulsbo with kids since they can be on the lookout and help you find them!
Another option is to stop by the Poulsbo Visitor Center at the start of your trip so that you can get any last-minute information and new brochures or maps to enhance your visit.
Address: 19010 Front St NE, Poulsbo, WA 98370
Enjoy the Best Poulsbo Coffee Shops and Cafes
I’m not an everyday coffee drinker, but I did stop in four separate coffee shops and cafes during my visit to Poulsbo.
Yes, four: Sluys Poulsbo Bakery, Hot Shots Java, Viking Brew Coffee, and Poulsbohemian Coffee House.
And that’s not even scratching the surface when it comes to coffee shops and cafes in Poulsbo.
If you love coffee, you’ll love checking out the different coffee styles and coffeehouse aesthetics available in town.
You can figure out which has your favorite cup of joe, the best views, coziest atmosphere, best food, best artwork, coolest murals, and comfiest chairs.
You’ve got a lot of delicious work ahead of you!
Stop by Sluys Bakery for the Most Famous Pastries in Poulsbo!
While you can get your coffee at whichever coffee shop catches your eye, you simply must stop by Sluys Poulsbo Bakery for your breakfast pastries!
While the handmade donuts, glazed doughboys, and maple bars are worth a stop here, it’s their Viking Cups that put them on the map!
(That and their amazing murals and artwork).
What’s a Viking Cup? It’s a pecan roll in the shape of a flat-tipped cone with cream cheese frosting down the middle.
They are insanely over-the-top sticky sweet, but, oh man are they delicious!
Good to Know: Head to Sluys Bakery early, because they typically have a line out the door!
Walk Along the Liberty Bay Waterfront
The Poulsbo Waterfront is a really beautiful place to spend some time.
Liberty Bay is an offshoot of Puget Sound, which is part of the larger Salish Sea.
A walk along the water here offers views of the fjord, boats in the water, and beautiful houses across the water.
One of the most popular places to go in Poulsbo to get close to the water is American Legion Park, which features a boardwalk you can traverse all the way to Muriel Iverson Williams Waterfront Park, which has picnic areas and a beautiful Pavilion.
If you want more walking and biking trails in Poulsbo, you can use this TrailLink Map to see the variety of trails available.
Take in the Beauty of the Poulsbo Marina
I love seeing boats docked, and the Poulsbo Marina is a great place to go boat-watching.
If you have your own vessel, they offer Guest Moorage, but if you are a mere boatless mortal like me, you can still enjoy the magnificent boats docked in Poulsbo.
Get Out and Have Your Own Adventure on Liberty Bay
While I prefer looking at (and riding in) boats, I know some of you guys are adrenaline junkies looking for more adventure than a tame cruise.
You can enjoy Poulsbo’s water activities like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, surrounded by the beauty of the fjord.
If you don’t have your own kayak or paddleboard to bring with you, you can get rentals through the Olympic Outdoor Center, which is located right on Front Street.
They also offer lessons for beginners, day tours for the more adventurous, and camps for the kids.
Check to see if the Mountain’s Out
While it won’t get your adrenaline pumping as much as getting out on a kayak, checking to see if Mount Rainier is visible is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Poulsbo.
I couldn’t see it while in Poulsbo, but I did get a great view of it driving to Kitsap from the Tri-Cities.
If you do get to see Mount Rainier, it’s a perfect backdrop for your Poulsbo pics!
Learn about Poulsbo Village’s Norweigan History at the Poulsbo Heritage Museum
The Poulsbo Historical Society oversees several museums about different aspects of Poulsbo history.
The Poulsbo Heritage Museum displays objects from throughout Poulsbo history, including clothing and artwork brought over from Norway by some of the first immigrants to the area.
Besides the beautiful clothes, some of my favorite objects include yearbooks from the local high school (whose mascot is the Vikings, obviously), gifts from the Sámi people in the Sápmi region of Northern Norway, and toys from different eras of Poulsbo life.
Then Pop Next Door to the Maritime Museum to Understand the Town’s Economic Past
These two Poulsbo museums are located next to one another, making visiting them back-to-back a breeze.
A visit to the Maritime Museum affords you the opportunity to learn about the maritime history of Poulsbo, including how boats and ferries were the primary transportation method for anyone coming to or from town, and how that kept the community relatively isolated into the twentieth century.
See What Life was Like for Early Settlers First Hand at the Martinson Cabin
This is the only Poulsbo museum I didn’t get to visit during my trip, but it’s high on my list for my next Poulsbo getaway!
Open on Saturdays, the historic late-nineteenth-century Martinson Cabin has been preserved to offer a glimpse of early settler life on the Kitsap Peninsula.
You can arrange a special presentation by the Poulsbo Historical Society if you want to dig even deeper into the learning opportunities available at the cabin.
Find the Best Poulsbo Street Art
For a small town full of historic architecture, Poulsbo is not stuffy. In fact, you’ll find bright and colorful artwork all over town!
The Poulsbo Art District holds monthly art walks, but you can run around town finding your favorite murals whenever you find some time.
Between the colorful buildings and the colorful walls, Poulsbo is bright and cheery – even on the most overcast of days!
Bow Down to the Licorice Shrine
I didn’t even realize this was in town until I was researching this article after my trip, so you can imagine that I’m pretty bummed I missed it!
The Licorice Shrine is located in the Marina Market and features over 500 kinds of licorice from all over the world as well as fifteen kinds of licorice beer.
Pro Tip: Don’t make the same mistake I did. If you go, I’d love to hear all about it!
Admire Poulsbo’s Charming Historic Churches
It’s Poulsbo’s First Lutheran Church that towers on the hill over the town, adding a little bit of extra architectural flair to the Poulsbo skyline.
The church opened its doors in 1886 under the original name Førdefjord Lutheran.
If you know much about the history of Christianity in Europe, it won’t surprise you at all that the Norwegians brought over their version of Lutheranism from their earliest days in the area.
Another beautiful historic church to look out for is the Gran Kirk.
Dating back to 1905, this church has since been turned into condos. However, you can appreciate the charming architecture from afar.
Sample Some Lutefisk and Other Norweigan Cuisine
As a huge fan of the late nineties sleeper comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, lutefisk is never far from my mind.
If you want to sample this Scandinavian staple or just go on a Norweigan grocery run, you can head to the Marina Market.
They even have a lovely explainer about lutefisk right on their website so you can catch up on its Viking roots.
Or Visit a EuroPub
Tizleys Europub features a mix of local food and European recipes, so whatever your theme for your trip is – experiencing Europe in the US or exploring the wonders of the Kitsap Peninsula – there’s something here for everyone!
You’ll find rotating local beers served alongside European brews, a menu where Swedish meatballs and Wienerschnitzel are at home with local wild-caught salmon, and brunch options that include both Irish boxty and down-home American biscuits.
Poulsbo Central Market
If you are staying in a self-catering apartment, you’ll love a trip to the Poulsbo Central Market.
There’s a seafood market, fresh produce, and a first-class deli.
If you want to dig into Washington wines, you can visit their Beer, Wine, & Spirits section for recommendations on local bottles to suit your tastes!
Taste the Crafty Side of Poulsbo at a Brewery, Ciderhouse, or Winery
Washingtonians love drinking local. And they love telling you all about it.
Which is a good thing, because the climate in parts of the state makes for absolutely superb grapes, apples, and other raw ingredients for this kind of thing.
Check out the tasting rooms at Valöhll Brewing, State Forty-Two Wines, and Bushel & Barrel Cider House, but know if you stop at three that you’re just scratching the surface.
Get Outdoorsy at Kitsap Memorial State Park
Located fifteen minutes north of Poulsbo, this state park is great for those who want to enjoy classic outdoor activities like camping, spending time on the Hood Canal, shellfish harvesting, and tidepooling while on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Park amenities include campsites, restrooms, and picnic facilities.
Like other Washington state parks I’ve visited, you’ll need to pay an entry fee or purchase an annual pass.
Tour an Alpaca Farm
If you are looking for fun kid-friendly things to do in Poulsbo, taking them on a tour of a working Alpaca Farm is a great opportunity for something that’s both fun and educational.
At the Sawdust Hill Alpaca Farm, you can tour the barn, meet the alpacas (and a llama!), and even shop for alpaca souvenirs.
Science is for the Weekend at the SEA Discovery Center
A free thing to do in Poulsbo with kids is to head to the SEA Discovery Center, a science center and museum run by Western Washington University.
SEA Discovery’s mission is to “reveal…the joy of discovery to cultivate stewards of the marine environment.”
Open on Fridays and Saturdays, you can visit all the different local aquatic animals that call this marine science center home.
Find the Most Instagrammable Poulsbo Photo Spots
Poulsbo is an adorable town, filled with colorful artwork, historic painted buildings, and miles of waterfront – so you really can’t run out of Instagrammable places here.
I spent a lot of my free time in Poulsbo photographing the charming downtown.
If you also love travel photography, prepare to spend some of your time discovering your own favorite Poulsbo photo spots.
Escape into the Countryside at Poulsbo Fish Park
If you’re looking for more nature trails, rural shorelines, and opportunities for wildlife viewing, then head down to the Poulsbo Fish Park!
This forty-acre city park has three miles of family-friendly walking trails, thematic artwork, and a salmon-viewing platform.
Find the Best Things to Do Near Poulsbo
Because the Kitsap Peninsula is a wonderful place to explore, you may decide to go on a day trip while you’re here.
There are beautiful towns, waterfalls, and even an official unit of the National Park Service that you can visit while in Kitsap County.
A few ideas for day trips from Poulsbo:
The Naval Undersea Museum – Keyport
Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial – Bainbridge
Gondola Rides – Gig Harbor
Suquamish Museum – Suquamish
Check Our Poulsbo’s Special Events Calendar for a Unique Visit
A town with a unique history obviously throws some unique events!
The most popular annual Poulsbo Festival is Viking Fest, but keep an eye on Kitsap’s Events Calendar.
It’s full of Scandinavian-influenced events like Midtsommer, Norweigan Pancake Breakfasts, Viking Pilages, and Ladies Night in Lil’ Norway.
Shop for the Best Poulsbo Souvenirs and Gifts
Poulsbo is a fun place to go shopping. Even if you don’t usually go shopping on vacation, you should set aside some time to pop into Poulsbo’s beautiful art galleries and boutiques!
Some of my favorite galleries and stores in Poulsbo include the Red Plantation, Nordiska, Stix & Stones, Front Street Gallery, Northwest Land & Sea, and Liberty Bay Books.
However, don’t confine your Poulsbo shopping adventures to just the stores!
My favorite Poulsbo souvenir is a “Let Them Eat Lutefisk” magnet from the Maritime Museum (no true Drop Dead Gorgeous fan could resist it).
Some of my favorite Poulsbo gifts came from some non-traditional places, like museum gift shops and coffee shops.
A few more ideas for gifts and souvenirs from Poulsbo: Poulsbo waterfront art, antler souvenirs, and Viking Brew coffee beans.
Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Poulsbo, Washington
These are the topics visitors planning a trip to Poulsbo most want to know.
Is Poulsbo worth visiting?
Yes! Its status as Lil’ Norway is not a gimmick – it’s steeped in almost one hundred and fifty years of Scandinavian influence.
When is the Best Time to visit Poulsbo?
Like everywhere on the Kitsap Peninsula and Olympic Peninsula, things book up fast in summer and are much more crowded.
We visited in late April. The weather was amazing and we escaped the crowds that arrive later in the year.
I love traveling in April, May, September, and October, but if you need to plan a trip in summer, just make sure to book your accommodations early!
What is Poulsbo known for?
Poulsbo is famous for its Norweigan and Scandinavian heritage.
What does Poulsbo mean in Norwegian?
It’s not actually a Norweigan word! The town was named after Paulsbo, Norway, but the name was misread by the restoration office in Washington, D.C.
Why is Poulsbo called Little Norway?
Poulsbo is called Little Norway because of its strong Norweigan roots, architecture, traditions, and cuisine.
What can you do in Poulsbo?
See above! There are so many things to do in Poulsbo, from museums to coffee shops to water activities and outdoor trails.
What is the population of Poulsbo?
There are just under 11,000 permanent residents in Poulsbo.
What are some popular tourist attractions in Poulsbo?
The historic downtown, Poulsbo Fish Park, and the SEA Discovery Center are three of the biggest tourist attractions in Poulsbo.
What are some interesting places to visit in Poulsbo?
The boardwalk along the waterfront is a must-see!
How to Get to Poulsbo
Poulsbo is easy to reach from Seattle, Tacoma, and the Olympic Peninsula.
You will want a car to get here as well as to get around once you’re here. If you are flying into SeaTac before heading to the Kitsap Peninsula, reserve your rental car early.
How to Get to Poulsbo From Seattle and Tacoma
The quickest way is to take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and then drive to Poulsbo.
The official drive-time for this Seattle to Poulsbo route is one hour and fifteen minutes from downtown or ninety minutes from the Seattle Airport.
However, this does not take into account ferry wait times, which can be a few hours during peak driving times.
If you don’t want to sit in line for the ferry, you can drive south and go through Tacoma by leaving Seattle and driving south on I-5.
Take HWY 16 and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge across to the Kitsap Peninsula and continue to HWY 3 to Poulsbo.
The estimated drive time for this is 1 hour and 45 minutes, and there may still be delays due to traffic.
However, you’re not likely to get stuck for two hours at a stand-still like you can be in line for a ferry ride.
Pro Tip: Don’t leave without a full tank of gas just in case you get stuck in traffic! This goes for your return from Poulsbo to Seattle as well, as ferry lines and highway traffic can be bad in both directions.
Where to Stay in Poulsbo
We stayed at the Suquamish Clearwater Resort, which is just a ten-minute drive from Poulsbo.
Our rooms were comfy and cozy, with epic views of Agate Pass.
The restaurant on the property was nothing short of scrumptious, and the atmosphere in the lounges was a perfect blend of Pacific Northwest traditional architecture and modern comforts.
The resort is owned by the Suquamish Tribe, so staying here is a great way to give back to the people from whom US settlers took so much.
During our time on the Kitsap Peninsula, we also stayed at The Marshall Suites on Bainbridge Island.
This comfy hotel features kitchenettes, onsite laundry rooms, and free Diet Cokes for guests, so I was essentially in my element.
Just a twenty-minute drive from Poulsbo, this is a great option for those who want to see more of Bainbridge Island with day trips to other Kitsap towns like Poulsbo and Gig Harbor.
If you are looking to stay in the city of Poulsbo, you can find a variety of Poulsbo accommodations for all budget levels.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Washington State
A Packable Down Jacket – everyone in our family has one. They’re light and easy to keep in your backpack or car, but they’re warm enough to make a huge difference if the weather turns cold.
A Lightweight but Durable Backpack – My Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Daypack was a steal for the price. It’s survived 17 national parks as well as trips to Mexico and El Salvador!
It won’t last forever, but it has more than proved its worth so far.
A Pair of Binoculars for parks where I’m going to be looking for wildlife. I use these binoculars, and my husband has a separate pair.
A Portable Charging Bank in case my phone dies. Having a portable charger for your phone is crucial.
This is a safety issue as my offline maps may be the only way to navigate where there’s no cell phone data available, as well as the convenience of being able to use my cell phone camera.
I relied on this heavily during my time on the Kitsap Peninsula, as cell phone coverage was spotty in places, which drains the battery.
A Basic First Aid Kit to handle minor issues while you are out. Don’t let a hot spot on your foot turn into a blister, or leave a small cut open to the elements.
I keep a small first aid kit in my backpack at all times when we are on the road.
More Washington State Resources
Here are all the resources I have written about travel in Washington state.
Washington State Guides
Olympic Peninsula Guides
Kitsap Peninsula Guides
Tri-Cities and Southeastern Washington Guides
Before You Visit Washington – Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Whenever I go on a trip, I always make sure to get travel insurance!
The company Safety Wing is the travel insurance company I always look to first, and I happily recommend them!
I always make sure to get travel insurance whenever I’m going to be over one hundred miles from home, in large cities where tourists can be the target of pickpockets, and anytime I’ll be doing outdoor adventure or beach activities.
It makes my life easier knowing if something should happen, I’ll be able to take care of it!