A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Norway and the gateway to the fjords and mountains – that is Bergen! It is the former Hanseatic town in Norway, still renowned for its picturesque Bryggen wharf with its colourful wooden buildings and narrow alleyways.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 05 JUL 2020
Despite being known as one of the wettest cities in Norway with heavy rainfall throughout the year, Bergen ranks high on many visitors’ bucket list. The second largest city features a gem of historical houses at Bryggen – and is home to one of the most impressive fish markets in Northern Europe.
If you take your time to ascend the sloping mountainside, you will be able to enjoy absolutely panoramic views of the city, the harbour and the surrounding landscape.
You can arrive at the coastal town Bergen either by ferry, plane, train, car or bus. Obviously, you can make it part of a roundtrip, including some of the fascinating deep fjords, breathtaking mountains and historic towns in the same trip (like the ‘Norway in a nutshell’ which takes you through some of Norway’s topmost fjords, landscapes and seascapes to Bergen, as well as on the spectacular Flåm Railway).
An absolutely scenic way to arrive at Bergen is from the seaside, where you on your way through the West Coast archipelago will pass small rocky islets and islands before reaching Bergen Harbour.
If you want to experience it all, you should stay several days in Bergen! We suggest that you stay at least two days in the old Hanseatic town to explore the cultural heritage, discover the beauty of the cobbled streets around Bryggen, relish in Norwegian fish specialities and get the feel of the surrounding nature!
Day 1[Stay 2 Days in Bergen, Norway]
On your first day in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Bergen, we suggest that you explore the city centre, including the picturesque Bryggen and the world-famous Fisketorget, before visiting one of the unique museums that Bergen features. Make sure to try the fresh Norwegian fish at some time during the day – at Fisketorget or in a restaurant!
It is easy to get around in Bergen since most of the attractions that the city has to offer are within walking distance.
You will start your sightseeing at the waterfront at the enticing, historic Bryggen wharf.
Go for a stroll along the old wharf flanked by the row of UNESCO World Heritage wooden houses, the series of colourful Hanseatic buildings that Bergen and Norway are so famous for. The former Hansa wooden warehouses are very well preserved, and the row of buildings in the historic harbour district is an outstanding example of the Norwegian cultural heritage.
In 1350 the Hanseatic League established a trading place in Bergen, making it one of the most important European trading ports of the time. Here they controlled the trade in stockfish coming from Lofoten in Northern Norway. The Bergen ‘office’ was one of four overseas ‘Hanseatic offices’.
Bryggen has been ravaged by a number of fires throughout the centuries, but has successfully been rebuilt every time, in accordance with the original structure. The last major reconstruction was in 1702, where the medieval structure of long buildings, interrupted by narrow passages, was preserved. Today, Bergen still features over 60 of these authentic two- or three-storey buildings, erected by the German merchants who arrived centuries ago.
While walking around between the colourful houses, check out the interesting small craft shops and restaurants established inside the buildings!
You can continue to the nearby Port of Bergen, which is a relatively large port – actually the largest in Western Norway. It is obviously a busy port which is home to North Sea oil rig units, industrial container ships, a large number of cruise ships and, not least, the traditional Norwegian Hurtigruten ships. Go for a stroll along the dockside to explore the amazingly active port. There is also a ferry terminal connecting Norway with Denmark and Great Britain.
Next, you will discover the vivid iconic fish market, Fisketorget, Bergen’s popular fish market, where you can find the freshest fish – and very likely feel tempted to have a bite! You will find all kinds of delicious seafood, fruit, vegetables and flowers here.
Fisketorget is an outdoor market (and also an indoor market from 2012) which has existed since the 1200s. Right from the beginning local fishermen came by boat to the Fish Market to sell their catch.
The German merchants from the Hanseatic League contributed to the growth of Bergen and its markets. In the 1500s the Fish Market was separated from the merchants’ trading at the Bryggen area and moved to the inner part of Vågen.
The outdoor market opens in May and stays open most days during the summer months, whereas the indoor market is open all year round. At the market you will also find a number of restaurant options serving seafood and more.
Not far from Fisketorget you will find The Sailor’s Monument at Torgallmenningen Square.
Admire the 7-metre high monument in one of the largest and busiest squares in Bergen. It is a tribute to brave Norwegian sailors who have played a role in Norway’s history, created by the sculptor Dyre Vaa in 1950.
The monument displays 12 statues of Norwegian seamen. On the sides you will also notice four bronze reliefs portraying different maritime events, one on each of the four sides.
Close to Torgallmenningen you will find another beautiful plaza, Vågsallmenningen.
Continuing across Torgallmenningen, you will at the southern end soon spot The National Theatre, Den Nationale Scene, located at a neighbouring square.
The National Theatre is one of the oldest permanent theatres in Norway and the largest theatre in Bergen. It dates back to 1850, where it opened as Det Norske Theater. The current building dates back to 1909, where the first production was Erasmus Montanus by Ludvig Holberg.
Outside you will notice the statue of the renowned playwright Henrik Ibsen. He became the director of the theatre and had the great pleasure to see the premiere of his realist drama The Pillars of Society in 1877, performed at Det Norske Theater.
After your morning stroll around historic Bergen, you will of course need some lunch (unless you already have had plenty of bites at the Fish Market!).
In the afternoon you will now either visit the Old Bergen Museum or Troldhaugen – Edvard Grieg’s Museum (or even both if you are very ambitious!).
Visit the open-air city museum Old Bergen Museum, a small Norwegian town with around 50 reconstructed wooden houses. It is located about 3 km north of central Bergen, so you can either walk from the city, or go by bus or car.
The buildings date from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Explore the houses, the streets, the ambience and the lively markets as if you walked around in a time wharp in old Bergen. At the time Bergen was unarguably one of the most important wooden cities in Europe!
Sometimes a number of ‘actors’ perform here, dressing in the style belonging to former centuries, which obviously contributes to the authentic atmosphere in the small museum town. You can meet both noble people and their servants at these occasions.
Experience Troldhaugen, the former home of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina Grieg. This is the villa where he composed his music and where his and his wife’s graves can be found. Today, it is a museum with a permanent exhibition relating to his music, as well as a restaurant.
Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen on 15th of June 1843 in the Grieg family’s house at Strandgaten 152. He grew up in Bergen, but as a young man he went to the music conservatory in Leipzig to pursue his career. Later, he came to Copenhagen to be part of the cultural society there, before continuing to Oslo, the old Kristiania.
The villa Troldhaugen was designed by Grieg’s cousin, the architect Schak Bull. Noticeably, the name ‘Troldhaugen’ refers to the site where the house was built. Haug is an old Norwegian term meaning ‘hill’, and trold means ‘troll’. In 1885 Edvard and Nina Grieg completed the construction of Troldhaugen, located just outside Bergen, and it became their home for many years.
After Grieg’s death the house was converted into a museum. In 1985 Troldsalen was added, a concert hall with outstanding acoustics.
Troldhaugen is situated about 10 km south of Bergen, and the easiest way to reach the place is by car.
Day 2[Stay 2 Days in Bergen, Norway]
On day 2, in the morning, you will visit Bergenhus Fortress and continue up to the old Skansen, and then you will take an afternoon trip up Mount Fløien or Ulriken by funicular or cable car.
Visit Bergenhus Fortress and the Fortress museum dedicated to the resistance movement during the Second World War.
The Fortress is located at the entrance of Bergen Harbour, and it is probably the best preserved fortress in Norway! The original buildings date back to the 1240s, but other parts of the buildings were added as late as in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The area Holmen, where Bergenhus stands, contained in medieval times both the royal residence, a cathedral, the bishop’s residence, and a Dominican monastery. Until 1300, Bergen was the capital in Norway, and thus the royal city.
As a real gem Bergenhus features the medieval Haakon’s Hall, an impressive stone hall from the 13th century, located inside the fortress.
Excavated foundations from before 1100 indicate that the first construction may have been erected already by King Olav Kyrre (who ruled in the 11th century).
In the 1500s the area was converted into a military fortification under the Danish king. For centuries Bergenhus has stood here on the very same location, now and then being adequately restored after destruction. For instance, subsequent to World War II it needed comprehensive reconstruction after being used by the German navy – and after construction of a bunker inside the fortress.
Today, Bergenhus is a popular concert venue and a feast hall for special events.
You will now continue on foot along the steep, zigzagging streets up to the old Skansen. Here the former fire station, Skansen Brannstasjon, was built in 1903, and it is today an important cultural heritage site in Bergen. From up here you have panoramic views over Bergen city. That is also why Skansen was designated the perfect location for detecting potential flames down in central Bergen more than a hundred years ago.
The wooden fire station was designed by Paul Theodor Bjørnstad, who mixed the style of the period, the art nouveau, with local building traditions and designs. Originally, the fire station included a stable for the horses, and later a garage for the fire trucks as well, when they started having those in 1936. During the night a fireman kept watch, while another one slept in the room below.
There is still a large pond, Skansedammen, right next to the fire station, which is the pond from where the water was taken to extinguish the flames.
Every year, on 17th May, a cannon is fired up here to mark Norway’s National Day.
In the afternoon you will enjoy the mountains and magnificent views of Bergen and the seascape.
Ride the Fløibanen funicular from the city centre up Mount Fløien into Bergen´s surrounding mountains where you can hike in the scenic nature. In a few minutes you will be way above the busy city.
There are numerous enticing walks and nature trails starting where the funicular ends, so it should be possible to find a suitable hike whatever your preferences are. Fløibanen has existed for more than a hundred years, taking people to the top of the mountain.
Another option is the Ulriken cable car, which will take you to the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains for absolutely spectacular views (it has undergone restoration in 2020, and it will continue into part of 2021). You will spend a great afternoon up here enjoying the awe-inspiring mountainscape and several world-class hiking options.
You can also hike from Mount Fløyen to Mount Ulriken, a hike named Vidden. Be aware that this is approximately a 5-hour hike, so you will have to leave early in the afternoon to complete this!
In the evening you will be back at Bryggen for a well-deserved, outstanding restaurant experience!
You can also make Bergen part of a trip along the Norwegian West Coast: Things to Do in Norway – Trip West Coast – Fjords & Cities 12 Days
Check out the Augustin Hotel in the heart of Bergen:
Centrally located hotel in Bergen set near the Fish Market and Bryggen. Some rooms feature views of the harbour and Bryggen wharf. Gym, hotel library, free WiFi, coffee and tea.
Check the price / book
Check out the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Bergen:
This hotel has a unique location at Bryggen, 300 m from Bergen Fish Market. The hotel offers air-conditioned rooms, free WiFi, gym, sauna and a steam bath.
Check the price / book
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