The small port town of Haugesund prides itself on its historical importance as the seat of the Viking kings and birthplace of Norway (the country was unified in the 9th century by King Harald Fairhair, who ruled from Avaldnsnes, a short distance from Haugesund). The town's origins lie in its position near an important straight, where ships could avoid stormy open seas. It was also a major source of herring. Nowadays Haugesund is best known as one of Norway's principal cultural centers. The city hosts the Norwegian International Film Festival and an important citywide jazz festival held every August.
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