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.
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
Avid Cruiser Posts, Photographs and Videos Featuring Bergen.