Is it a coincidence that Bergen is surrounded by mountains? It might be, but the second-largest city in Norway nonetheless seems to have an appropriate name. The Norwegian word “berg” translates to mountain. The silhouettes of these peaks will be accompanying you almost wherever you go in Bergen.
A place of enchantment, Bergen’s epithets include “Trebyen” (Wooden City; it has many wooden houses), “Regnbyen” (Rainy City, due to its 200 days of rain a year), and “Fjordbyen” (Gateway to the fjords). As for the rainy weather, most visitors quickly learn the necessity of rain jackets and umbrellas. Bergen is even the site of the world’s first umbrella vending machine.
The city was founded in 1070 by Olav Kyrre as a commercial center. The surviving Hanseatic wooden buildings on Bryggen (the quay) are topped with triangular cookie-cutter roofs and painted in red, blue, yellow, and green. Monuments in themselves (they are on the UNESCO World Heritage List), the buildings tempt travelers and locals to the shops, restaurants, and museums inside.
Evenings, when the Bryggen is illuminated, these modest buildings, together with the stocky Rosenkrantz Tower, the Fløyen, and the yachts lining the pier, are reflected in the waters of the harbor—and provide one of the loveliest cityscapes in northern Europe.
Raise your head a bit further, and you will be able to rest your eyes on the mountains surrounding the city. For a change of perspective, travel to the top of one of the mountains and enjoy a splendid view of the city. The Fløyen funicular railway starts at the Fisketorget (the Fish Market) in central Bergen and brings its passengers 1,050 feet/320 meters up a mountainside. If you feel up to it, it’s possible to return to the city on foot.
During the Middle Ages, Bergen was the largest city in the Nordic countries. Oslo, Norway’s capital, did not outgrow Bergen until the 1830s. Some Norwegians say this is one of the reasons why people from here are – still – so proud of their city.
Even though Oslo nowadays is more populous, Bergen retains its position as an important shipping center. Traders from the city have been doing business in continental Europe for a long time – and vice versa. Contacts with the Hanseatic League, an economic alliance of trading cities in the 13th to 17th centuries, resulted in Bergen’s possibility to export fish and import necessities such as grain.
With some 230,000 cruise ship passengers visiting Bergen each year, the city is one of the most popular cruise destinations in Norway. The city is within walking distance from the port.
Fløibanen. Take one of the 1.2 million five-minute rides made each year by the Fløyen funicular railway to the top of Mount Fløyen. Once at the top, you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city. Alternatively, take a short bus ride from Fisketorget to the Ulriksbanen for a view from Mount Ulriken. At 2,110 feet/643 meters, Ulriken is the highest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. Street address (Fløibanen): Vetrlidsallmenningen 21
Bergen Aquarium features an extensive and varied collection of marine fauna. Apart from various species of fish, you will also be able to see penguins, seals, crocodiles, snakes and spiders. By foot, it takes 15-20 minutes to reach the aquarium from central Bergen. Other options: bus (number 11), boat (from Bryggen or the Fish Market) and car. Street address: Nordnesbakken 4
Do you lack a ship simulator on board your ship? If so, VilVite (Norwegian for want to know) might be something for you. At this science centre for the promotion of science and technology among children and young people of all ages, you can test your skills at sailing an anchoring ship into port or to an oilrig. Lots of experiments and other experiences are also available. Street address: Thormøhlensgate 51
The Wooden houses at Bryggen. A must-see during a visit in Bergen, these houses were built to replace similar buildings that burned down during the great fire of 1702 – also painted in bright colours. The houses are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. When at Bryggen, visit The Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene for a glimpse of how the German merchants from the Hanseatic League lived and worked in Bergen. Street address: Bryggen
The Fish Market is the famous square in Bergen. Even if you don’t plan on bringing anything back to the ship for dinner, the atmosphere at the Fish Market makes it worth a visit.
Shopping. Bergen is a city, with an offering becoming a city: from large department stores to smaller, specialised boutiques.
- Featuring more than 40 wooden houses characteristic for Bergen, the open-air Gamle Bergen museum (Old Bergen museum) shows how life was lived in Bergen in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Gamle Bergen sorts under the Bergen City Museum, which also includes several other museums. Examples include The Fire Museum, the well-known Rosenkrantz Tower, and the Leprosy Museum.
- The Bergenhus Festningsmuseum (Bergenhus Fortress Museum) features exhibitions that focus on the Norwegian resistance movement during World War II, including: the illegal press in the period from 1940 to 1945; the resistance movement in this area of Norway; and women’s efforts in defending Norway. Street address: Koengen
- Everything you ever wanted to know about how fishing has developed in Norway is presented at Norges Fiskerimuseum (the Norwegian Fisheries Museum). If you think it sounds a bit fishy, consider the fact that Norway has been one of the world’s largest fishing nations for many years. The main focus of the museum is on the years from the mid 1800s until the present day. Street address: Bontelabo 2
- When it comes to art, Bergen has a lot to offer. For an overview of Norwegian (and non-Norwegian) art, visit the Art Museums of Bergen. Spread over five different locations, these museums offer something for everyone. Continue to the Bergen Kunsthall, which is considered one of the leading arenas for Norwegian contemporary art. The art aficionado will also find several other galleries in Bergen. Street address (Bergen Kunsthall): Rasmus Meyers alle 5
- Bergen by boat and coach. Some tours will combine a boat ride with a coach tour of the city. Participants will experience not only Bergen itself, but also the archipelago that gives the city shelter from the North Atlantic.
- Coach-only tours will focus on the city and its main attractions, sometimes including a ride with a funicular for a view of Bergen from above (see above under Do Not Miss).
- Boat-only tours sometimes make landfall on one of the small islands that together constitute Bergen’s archipelago.
- The Hardangerfjord. Situated south of Bergen, the Hardangerfjord is sometimes referred to as “the Queen of the Fjords”. Some cruise lines offer coach tours to the area, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery. It is likely that you will make at least one ferry crossing: you will be travelling in an area where a part of the road can have a departure time.
- Do as the Norwegians: take a hike. Hiking on Fløien, one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen, is an experience that offers spectacular views of the city.
- The Norwegian 19th century composer Edvard Grieg made his home at Troldhaugen, which is now one of Bergen’s most well-known attractions. A coach tour is a good way to get to Grieg’s house, which is situated at the Nordåsvatnet (the Nordås Lake).
Drive eastwards for a while, turn right, and you can be in Oslo after 308 miles/497 kilometers. It’s a longer drive to Trondheim: 412 miles/663 kilometers.
Contributed by Andreas Lundgren
[googleMap name="Bergen" width="520" height="520"]Bergen, Norway[/googleMap]
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