Haugesund is a town and municipality in Rogaland county, Norway. The town is the main population centre of the Haugaland region in northern Rogaland. The majority of the population of Haugesund lives in the main urban area surrounding the city centre, with the northwestern part of the municipality being fairly rural.
The town is situated on a strategically important sound, the Karmsundet, through which ships could pass without traversing heavy seas. In the early years, the coastal waters off Haugesund were a huge source of herring, and the town grew accordingly. Despite being barely a village back then, King Harald Fairhair lived at Avaldsnes, very close to the modern town of Haugesund. In the last decades, the town, like its neighbours, has been turning towards the petroleum industry, with the herring being long gone.
The 73-square-kilometre (28 sq mi) municipality is the 398th largest by area out of the 426 municipalities in Norway, making it one of the smallest in Norway. Haugesund is the 23rd most populous municipality in Norway with a population of 37,166. The municipality’s population density is 543.7 inhabitants per square kilometre (1,408/sq mi) and its population has increased by 15.1% over the last decade. The „urban area“ of the town of Haugesund, which actually crosses over slightly into the neighboring municipality of Karmøy, has a total of about 40,152 (of that 5,425 people live in Karmøy) people. This leaves about 2,000 residents of Haugesund that live outside the town of Haugesund in the rural portion of the municipality.
The Haugesund Region, a statistical metropolitan area, which consists of the municipalities Karmøy, Haugesund, Tysvær, Sveio and Bokn, has a population of approximately 100,000 people (as of 2009).
Despite being a fairly young town, the areas around Haugesund were lands of power during the Viking Age. Harald Fairhair, the first king of Norway, had his home at Avaldsnes, very close to the present town. Fairhair was buried at Haraldshaugen, a burial mound adjacent to the Karmsundet strait. This site is the namesake of the town and municipality of Haugesund. The national monument at Haraldshaugen was raised in 1872, to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. The Battle of Hafrsfjord has traditionally been regarded as when western Norway was unified under a single monarch for the first time.
The urban village area of Haugesund (population: 1,066) was declared to be a „town“ and it was separated from the municipality of Torvastad on 1 February 1855 to become a separate municipality of its own. On 1 January 1911, a small urban area of Skåre (population: 3,847) that directly abutted the town of Haugesund was transferred to Haugesund. On 1 January 1958, the remainder of the municipality of Skåre was merged with the town of Haugesund, creating a larger Haugesund municipality. On 1 January 1965, the island of Vibrandsøy (population: 70) was transferred from Torvastad municipality to Haugesund.
Haugesund has a strong historical bond to the sea and especially the herring. In the earlier years, the coastal waters of Haugesund were a huge source for fishing herring, and the town grew accordingly. The protective straits of Smedasund and Karmsund gave the town potential to grow in both fishing and shipping. Even to this day, Karmsund is one of Norway’s busiest waterways. The town is still growing geographically even though the population has increased only moderately the last decade. Today the herring is long gone, and the town is turning more and more towards the petroleum industry, like its neighbouring town to the south, Stavanger.