Bryggen wharf is undoubtedly Bergen’s most recognisable landmark. The colourful houses date back as far as the 12th century and today feature some of Bergen’s best-known restaurants, shops and bars.
The medieval houses at Bryggen wharf are all business in the front, fun in the back. Make sure to explore the back of the houses too, where you’ll find such things as mysterious corridors, a pub and even a secret World War II resistance museum.
There’s much more to Bergen than just Bryggen, however. Discover Bergen’s many old charming, windy streets with their colourful, wooden houses and laid-back way of life.
With so much (understandable) hype about the fjords of western Norway, the sea by Bergen often gets neglected. Bergen’s position on the coast of the North Sea should be explored too, however, with islands such as Askøy and Blomøyna just a short bus ride or boat trip away.
Apart from Bryggen, the Fløibanen funicular and viewpoint are the most famous attractions in Norway’s second city. Take the cable car up to the top of the mountain directly from the city centre for one of the best and most easily accessible views of the city.
Once you’re up on Fløyen and have admired the view of Bergen, remember to turn around and head into the beautiful mountainous woodland you’ll also find on Mount Fløyen for a stroll or a hike further inland, if you’ve got the time.
Bergen is much more than Fløyen, however. In fact, Bergen is said to be immediately surrounded by seven mountains like the seven hills of Rome. Visit places like Ulriken, Løvstakken and Damgårdsfjellet for less touristy hikes and vantage points over the city.
The Stave Churches were built at a time when Christianity was taking over older Viking beliefs in Norway. The churches bear signs of both influences – with their sturdy but elegant wooden design and the dragon-style heads which often adorn them. The Fantoft Stave Church, which was moved to Bergen, burnt down in 1992 but was rebuilt as an exact replica of the original, which dated back to 1150.
The beautiful Hanseatic Museum tells the story of the impact of the Hanseatic League trading network on Bergen between the 1300s and 1700s. It is beautiful inside and out and includes the only house on Bryggen whose interior has been kept as it was in 1704.
Just an hour and a bit’s walk from the city centre, you’ll begin to see some of Norway’s most spectacular landscapes emerge. Hordaland, the county surrounding Bergen, is home to some of the country’s best nature, and if you have the time, you ought to get out of the city centre too.
The Fish Market at the centre of Bergen is an integral part of the city and one of the most lively and everyday attractions of the city.
‘Old Bergen Museum’ is a collection of more than 50 real Bergen houses which have been moved to Elsero, north of the city, to preserve them. The pretty old houses were built between 100 and 300 years ago and are brought to life through actors, workshops and performances.
The railway line between Bergen and Oslo took many decades to plan and build. Bergensbanen was finally completed in 1909 and is still the highest mainline railway in Europe. It crosses some of Norway’s most breathtaking nature and also branches off into Flåmsbana, one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world.
The Bergenhus fortress is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bergen. Located at one end of Bryggen, Bergenhus used to be a royal seat back when Bergen was the capital of Norway.
Byparken (‘the City Park’) is located close to the train station, the KODE art museum buildings and just a five-minute walk from the harbour. In good weather, the park makes for one of the loveliest areas in the city centre with its statues, large pond and fountain and pavilion; it is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon.
Bergen’s history has a very close and important connection to the sea – its traditional trades have been fishing and seafaring, and it was these which helped the city grow rich as part of the Hanseatic League. The Seafarers’ Monument celebrates this history and is just one of many of Bergen’s beautiful and interesting statues and sculptures.
Gamlehaugen, which is located a little outside of Bergen, is a manor house but looks and acts suspiciously like a little fairy tale castle. It is even the Bergen residence of Norway’s royal family when they visit, and when they aren’t there, tours are available in the summer.
The famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina loved their summer residence, which they had built themselves in 1885. You can see why yourself today – the house and grounds are now a museum and include the couples’ graves, Grieg’s composer’s cabin and a disguised underground concert hall.
Okay, so these last two aren’t strictly in Bergen, but you can get to them fairly easily from Bergen by bus and/or boat. The Hardangerfjord is the closest major fjord to the city and one of Norway’s best known. You can take the bus to several of the little villages along its coast.
Rosendal, a village by the Hardangerfjord, is an excellent place from which to stray off from the fjord and begin a hike or cycling trip into the valley. It is part of some fjord cruises from Bergen and features a beautiful little castle complete with a restaurant, café and overnight facilities.
Featured image by TimOve.