Spending A Day In Poulsbo, WA

II am ashamed to say that in the 18 years I’ve lived in Washington state, this is my first year exploring the magnificent Olympic Peninsula. The mountain views, ocean smell, outdoor activities, and charming marine towns are enchanting, and one particular marine town hooked my heart forever — Poulsbo in Kitsap county, Washington.  

A new friend of mine happens to be a Poulsbo local, and after hearing the detailed fondness of her hometown, I asked her to give me a tour of what Washingtonians call “Little Norway.” I am a sucker for fun, touristy attractions because although tourism can include large crowds and clichés, behind them are usually history, tradition and community intention, and those are the things I’m indeed a sucker for.

The History Of Poulsbo 

In the 1820s and 1870s, Dogfish Bay, otherwise known as Liberty Bay, the Suquamish people’s land, was settled by Norwegian immigrants and founded the Poulsbo. Poulsbo was a Scandinavian destination for generations, hence how it attained its nickname and cherished Norse motif. And because I have Norwegian and Scandinavian lineage, this trip felt extra special for me.

Poulsbo flag and signs

Velkommen Til Poulsbo

During warm summer days, Poulsbo is buzzing with tourists who come to enjoy the views on the water and the cute downtown. We chose to go during the offseason. My friend and I arrived on a cloudy weekday, which felt unfortunate as far as blue-sky views go and the necessary raincoat, but the benefit was the ability to browse town without the crowds. Before exploring downtown, we took a pleasant stroll along Liberty Bay, a perfect spot for family gatherings and dog walks. We admired the sailboats and giant wooden gazebo while getting my little Aussie pup some exercise in Liberty Bay. There are so many nods to old Nordic culture, with several themed murals that add color and brightness, along with the seasonal changing rosemaled window paintings, European architecture, Scandinavian flags strung up around town and if you look closely, you’ll notice the Viking boat emblems on the benches along Front Street. 

Poulsbo Bench

Cafés  

We began our chilly, drizzly tour with a piping cup of cocoa at the walk up-espresso window, Viking Brew, located along the main drag in downtown Poulsbo, Washington. Be careful, or you might miss it. Helpful tip: Look for the “Coffee on the Corner” sign. This little café is walk-up only, but that’s part of the fun! Other highly suggested cafes are Cups Espresso, where you can grab a delicious piece of Strata and Poulsbohemian Café, where the water views are unbeatable, and you can get a glimpse of the never-ending community scarf. 

Sluys Bakery Poulsbo

Sluys Bakery 

I’m a firm believer that a warm beverage should always accompany a pastry of some sort, which is why visiting the famous Sluys Bakery was a must-visit place in downtown Poulsbo, WA. Mounds of strudel, Finnish ribbon cookies, sweet, sticky rolls, frosting-painted goodies and toasted, coconut donuts (my personal favorite) are displayed. Sluys has a welcoming staff and a sweet smell right as you enter the door. Sluys is arguably one of the more popular destinations in the small town, but they keep that homey, small-batch feel alive for customers.

Poulsbo storefront

Boutiques, Antiques, Décor And More 

Check out hand-painted Dala horses and other rosemaling goods, some limpa bread baking mix and a variety of classic “UffDa” apparel at Nordiska Shop. Pair a locally made bar of soap with a book of poetry at Edit Apothecary. Shop modern Swedish fashion at Flicka, pick out sweet rustic decor at Front Street Home Store, and buy your grandmother that elegant vase she’s been searching for at Cat’s Meow Antiques. Poulsbo features many charming boutiques, shops, and art galleries, but if you’re looking for something Scandinavian/Poulsbo kitsch, be sure to stop by Marina Market. This little market has Nordic souvenirs, snacks and even a licorice shrine to admire.  

Poulsbo mural

Food and Drink

Downtown Poulsbo, Washington offers delicious dining options for lunch and dinner, such as The Paella Bar, JJ’s Fish House and The Loft, which my local friend says is the best spot for a bite on a nice evening. The outdoor seating is located on their deck, giving customers a pristine view of the bay, and there are lights strung all about to enhance the vibe. If you don’t plan on driving home anytime soon, indulge in a glass of wine at the little slice of Italy in little Norway, Sogno di Vino, or take a turn and head up the street to Valholl Brewing. Enjoy the Viking esthetic, wooden interior and savor a Golden Warrior ale with your fluffy friend. Yes, dogs are welcome! My Australian Shepherd appreciated being able to tag along.

Downtown

Although many businesses in Poulsbo, WA are open for in-store shopping and dining, please keep in mind to adhere to the safety guidelines of Kitsap County. Until we meet again, ha det Poulsbo!

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Natalie Benson

Natalie D. Benson was born in the rocky desert of the southwest and lives at the edge of the Central Cascades. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing and her work has been featured in The Scarlet Leaf Review, Manastash Literary Journal and other publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and editor. She lives to make the written word bleed. Benson spends most of her time exploring new mountain trails, admiring the color and texture of the world around her and finding new ways she can support her community.

2 Comments

  1. […] its large bounty of dogfish.  The large Norwegian population took a few years to make their way to Poulsbo, though. After a few years, a fellow Norwegian named Jorgen Eliason took a boat from Seattle to Dog […]

  2. Visit Kitsap Peninsula on April 18, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Hi, Natalie: thanks so much for the wonderful article about Poulsbo located on the beautiful Kitsap Peninsula…the journey to the Olympic Peninsula begins on the west side of the Hood Canal Bridge. You can learn more about the amazing cities and communities of the Kitsap Peninsula at http://www.VisitKitsap.com. Thanks for visiting! Visit Kitsap Peninsula team!

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