Upon visiting Finland, Sweden and Denmark, I thought that I experienced all the major things about Scandinavia I needed to know. How wrong I was! You know nothing about Scandinavia before you went to Norway. And Bergen should be the first city in your list.
Being a trade port for many centuries and participating in many European historical events, it’s still a gem with its peculiar atmosphere and multiple attractions.
Founded in the 11th century under the name of Bjørgvin, it later became the largest city of the Norway and retained this title up until 19th century when Oslo came to power.
Bergen’s population mastered the commercial skills for centuries. Hanseatic League, one of the main trade organisation of the time kept a bureau in here since the mid-14th century (now it’s a museum that just went for a lengthy reconstruction). It’s also worth knowing that the city was struck by severe fires and many historical buildings were lost due to that. Nevertheless, its Bryggen area (read below) was listed as a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.
Taking a ride to fjords is an essential part of any Norwegian experience as Bergen is often called ‘The Gateway to the Fjords of Norway’.
Nevertheless, I’m not sure you can (or you should) squeeze it with seeing all other attractions into one day – just because it’s a completely different experience. Thus, I’ll write a blogpost about fjords separately.
Well, what to do and see in Bergen? There are a lot of sliders in this blogpost, make sure you don’t miss some photos!
Bryggen is definitely the most known attraction of Bergen. This is exactly the spot on the side of Vågen harbour where the city started, with the main religious sites, a fortress and a wharf all gathered in one place.
It was rebuilt in 1702 after a massive fire and has been a part of the UNESCO’s World heritage since 1979.
Feel free to pop into the cafes and the shops that now occupy the houses, admire the buildings’ facades and get lost in the narrow streets between the houses.
Stay alert for the Julehuset, the all year round Christmas shop.
St Mary’s Church
Another unmissable spot at the Bryggen area is the St Mary’s Church – you can see its towers on the left on the photo. Being constructed in the 12th century, it’s the oldest remaining building in the whole city.
Bryggens Museum & Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene
Bryggen area hosts several museums. Bryggens Museum is a nice place to start exploring the history behind Bergen. Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene consists of two buildings in a short walk from each other invites you to explore the daily life of the Hanseatic merchants.
We were lucky to be one of the last visitors to the museum. It’s not a joke – the main building of the museum closed on the 1st of October for the restoration works that would run for the several years in a row – and we were there at the second part of the day on the 30th of September. You can still explore some artefacts from the main collection at Schøtstuene as they are to be moved there and opened to public spring 2019.
Radisson Blu Royal Bergen
The hotel where we stayed – Radisson Blu Royal Bergen – and its adjacent restaurant called 26 North are also placed in this area. I must say that its location is just perfect – this hotel and the 26 North Restaurant occupy the several buildings on the left side of the pic.
As you see, i they are located just a few seconds walk from the Bryggen Museum and St. Mary’s church. Do you see the window of the second building in the second row just below the roof? Actually, it was my room 🙂
Just look how magnificent is the view from it! The interior itself was amazing as well – very spacious and stylish.
If you choose to walk from Bryggen to the outer side of the harbour, you’ll quickly reach Bergenhus Fortress passing the magnificent ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl (on the photo)
Buildings in this area were the heart of the city for many centuries – you can explore its full history from the museum’s artefacts – including the Battle of Vågen between the Dutch and the English in 1665, WWII events and the massive explosion at Festningskaien nearby in 1944 that left the buildings in pieces.
The buildings of the fortress are undergoing reconstructions at the moment. You can still enter the 13th century Rosenkrantztårnet – Rosenkrantz tower – where its feudal owner Erik Rosenkrantz once resided.
If you’re up to the Harry Potter vibes, hurry up to enter the medieval Håkon’s Hall that also originates from the 13th century. Just imagine how splendid must the banquets held in here have been!
Fish market Fisketorget
Fisketorget is another must-see place in Bergen. It’s a market where the city inhabitants were buying fish, seafood, vegetables and other goodies for the last 8 centuries – it has been moved to different parts of the harbour and finally placed where it’s located now.
Unfortunatelly, during our visit the number of outdoor selling tents was reduced to a minimum due to seasonality. Views over the Vågen harbour were still the best though.
The indoor market called Mathallen food hall functions all year since 2012.
Tip: if you have some extra time, pop into the Bergen Aquarium as well!
Bergen is surrounded by several mountains – to stay on the safe side I won’t be naming the exact numbers of the mountains as various sources count them differently with the 7 and 9 mountains named the most frequently.
Just in a short walk from Bryggen you can find the Fløibanen funicular which will quickly take you to the top of mount Fløyen. The rain and fog were typically Bergen-ish so we had the most authentic experience being blown by wind and getting completely wet immediately upon our arrival.
Nevertheless, the views although blurry were still magnificent.
We were also thrilled to find some warm food and a real fireplace in a cafeteria nearby.
Tip: If you’ have time, riding Ulriken643 Cable Car might sound like a good idea.
Bergen Cathedral and Bergen Churches
Bergen is full of many amazing religions buildings apart from the St. Mary’s church. The first one you should be looking for is the Bergen Cathedral Domkirke dedicated to Saint Olaf. Its history is unease as well as being built in 12th century in was burnt down by fire and restored again for multiply times.
The tower of the Holy Cross Church Korskirken is the highest in the city being 61 meter tall.
Johanneskirken, or St. John’s Churchis a splendid 19th century red brick church floating above the city.
If you were wondering what’s the pretty white church visible from Bryggen on the other side of the harbour, it’s Nykirken, or the New Church.
Byparken is a nice park in the centre of Bergen around the Lille Lungegårdsvannet – natural lake later extended to its presents dimensions – and a fountain in the middle of it.
Just look how pretty is this Musical Pavilion in Byparken!
Tip: around the Byparken there are four buildings of KODE museum with collections of famous Norwegian painters Edvard Munch, Nikolai Astrup, J.C. Dahl and many artists from the other nations as well! Also, if you are interested in art, street artists of Bergen might be interesting to you especially Dolk.
Music of Bergen
Celebrate music while in Bergen! It’s famous for being called a homey top worldwide known composers – Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull. Stay alert for their memorials in the city centry and relisten to the magical melodies of Solveig and Peer Gynt’s love!
Tip: If you’re lucky to stay in Bergen for longer, take a ride to Mr and Mrs Grieg’s house Troldhaugen, which has been turned into a museum.
Pretty streets of Bergen
Bergen is happy to offer many charming streets and buildings to one who loves walking and architecture.
Just look at the main railway station opened about a century ago – how pretty is it!
What to eat in Bergen?
There are some things you must try in Bergen. Look for Norwegian waffles, pancakes with jam made from yummiest berries, open sandwiches smørbrød, various seafood, fish cakes fiskekake, salmon gravlaks, dried and salted cod klippfisk, creamy fishsoup fiskesuppe and reindeer meat.
Cinnamon roll skillingsbolle is very traditional to all Scandinavian countries as well.
26 North Restaurant where we had a wonderful diner serves a lot of traditional food which every tourist in Bergen would like to try. Their food comes from fjords, farms, and forests – “we don’t think that F-words is a bad thing” they claim – well, neither do I in this context! 🙂
Nevertheless, it’s not your ordinary Norwegian place – the serving is very modern and the design is both what you expect from a Scandinavian place and what you expect from a posh place with an contemporary touch.
Get ready to get wet.
And, finally…Bergen is notoriously known as a city where it always rains.
Well, in our case it really was like that – although we struck some lucky and got a couple of sunny hours on our second day.
The exact number of rainy days varies in different sources up to the 350 days a year but all of the numbers I’ve found are over 200. So, be warned and take your umbrella with you!
I hope you enjoyed my today’s blog!
Follow me on Instagram
Anna | London & Beyond
◈ featured in Vogue, CNN, Genic magazine
◈ Science journalist