Bergen: 20 best things to do and see
Bergen is the second largest city in Norway surrounded by mountains and fjords. The cultural life is as rich as in Oslo, and cafes and bars are usually filled with international students and tourists. Bergen also has an interesting history. In the Middle Ages it was the residence of kings, and during the Hanseatic League – an important port of international trade. And despite frequent major fires and occupation during the war, it has preserved many ancient churches and builidings.
Bergen’s first grew in the 13th century due to fishing. It became the capital of Norway as it was an international city connected to other countries by many shipping routes. You can see still the fish market that exists since those days in Vogen harbor.
After losing the status as the capital, Bergen experienced a new economic upswing – joining the Hanseatic League. This was a large-scale alliance for those times, carrying out trade between Norway, Sweden, Germany, England, Holland and even Russia. Even after the disappearance of the Hanseatic League, Bergen remained an important port. And now there are still large liners in the harbor, heading to the north of Norway, to the fjords or other countries.
During World War II, Bergen was occupied for four years and suffered during Allied bombing.
The most famous place in Bergen is Bryggen. The colorful wooden houses on the waterfront were built in the 14th century, when Bergen became part of the Hanseatic League. At that time there was active trade on the embankment; on the ground floors there were shops and representative offices of international trading companies. The merchants lived upstairs. Unfortunately, only a part of the historical buildings have been preserved. Nevertheless Bryggen is the best-perserved wooden area in Europe with over sixty historic houses.
Between the houses, the streets of that time are recreated, even cafes and shops are stylized. You can delve into history and see recreated interiors at the Hanseatiske Museum og Schoetstuene
The Bergenhus fortress was built when the city was founded, but unfortunately very little was persevered. Even the ruins of the fortress were collapsed after the massive explosion of the ship in the port during the World War II. Only few buildings remained: The King Håkon’s Hall – the medieval residence of the Norwegian kings, and Rosenkrantztårnet – a defensive tower from the 16th century.
The main cathedral – Domkirke – was founded in the 12th century. Over the long period of its existence, the church suffered from fires and was reconstructed every time. It was once rebuilt in the Baroque and Rococo styles, but in the 19th century the original medieval appearance was recreated.
The largest concentration of shops is located in the long and wide Torgallmenningen square. Here you can see the Sailor’s Monument, where each side tells one historical episode.
St. Mary’s Church
St. Mary’s Church is the oldest building in Bergen, dating back to the 12th century. The church was built in the Romanesque style with Gothic influence, and unlike other ancient buildings, it hasn’t been changed.
Lille Lungegårdsvann lake
In the very center of the city there is an octagonal lake. From here you have a beautiful view of the mountains that surround Bergen.
Edvard Grieg is one of Bergen’s most famous residents. The concert hall, built in 1978, was named in his honor. According to the idea, the hall should resemble a piano, but from the outside it looks more like an industrial enterprise. The building is in stark contrast to the surrounding buildings, yet its architecture was highly praised by the jury and the project received the Betongtavlen Architecture Prize.
Not far from Bergen in Troldhaugen there is the Edvard Grieg Museum. He lived in the house of the current museum and composed most of his plays.
To see the best view of Bergen, you need to climb Mount Fløyen. The hike will take approximately two hours. The Fløibanen funicular will take you to the top in five minutes. To save time in line for the funicular, it is better to buy tickets in advance online: on the official website.
On the top there are cafes, children playgrounds and mountain goats. And, of course, stunning views of the whole city.
The Leprosy Museum
This unusual museum will tell you about the history of leprosy and its treatment. It is located in a former hospital, where the interiors and exhibits have been preserved. A little dark, but can be interesting.
KODE Art Museums
KODE consists of five museums whose exhibitions cover collections of world art from the Renaissance to the contemporary art. It is worth choosing in advance which collection to visit first, because it can take a whole day to explore. In particular, there is a good collection of Chinese art and paintings by the most famous Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch.
In the Nygård area there are many small mansions in romantic, classical and pseudo-gothic styles. Overall this is a very pleasant place to walk around. The University of Bergen is also located here, one of the best universities in Norway.
And near Torget Square you can find the most party streets with bars, restaurants and cafes. Like all Scandinavian cities, Bergen becomes quiet and calm after eight in the evening, but this area is noisy and has live music.
Book best cruises around the city and to the fjords on Tripadvisor
Bergen has an amazing variety of architectural styles. Unique medieval buildings, Romanesque churches, wooden houses from the Hanseatic period, classical mansions and outstanding examples of early 20th century Art Nouveau have been preserved. The city continues to develop and residential complexes in a modern style appear each year.
Edvard Grieg Museum
In Troldhaugen you can visit a house where Edvard Grieg lived. This quiet and picturesque place will be of interest not only to those who want to learn about Grieg’s life, but also to look at household items and interiors of that time.
One of the most beautiful fjords in Norway with the famous Troll’s Tongue is located not far from Bergen.
Fantoft Stave Church
Fantoft church is the most famous of the stave churches in Norway. These wooden churches are known for the dark and often black colors in which they were painted to protect the wood. Unfortunately, the historical building of the Fantoft Church was burned down in the 1990s. According to one version, Burzum band member Varg Vikernes was involved in this. The current version of the church is a reconstructed building.
Ole Bull’s Villa
Unfortunately currently closed. The villa located on the island once belonged to the Norwegian musician Ole Bull. Now this is a beautiful place for walking. Nearby are the ruins of the 12th-century Lysoen Abbey.
How to get there
By plane: check airlines airBaltic, Wizzair and Norwegian.
By train: your best option is a train from Oslo, you can sleep the night or spend the enjoying breathtaking views through the window.
By bus: from Stavanger or Ålesund.
Where to stay
There are plenty options of hotels in Bergen. Choose something in the center, because the prices don’t differ that much.
For those who travel on a budget: City Hostel Bergen. However, if you travel with a company 2+, it might be cheaper to get a hotel room with an included breakfast.