Read about the city

The city of Bergen has one of Norway's most beautiful locations in the rich and vast nature of the Norwegian West Coast. The city is the center of the most famous part og the great Norwegian fjord area, and it is well-visited as both a city break destination as a stop at the many cruises visiting the region.

Bergen is an old and historically interesting city that was once the capital of Norway. Until the railroad was opened in 1909, and before the major roadworks came into being, citizens used the water as a transport route. It is clearly visible in the city, which faces the water, and as such Bergen has fine museums in i.e. fishing and shipping.

The city center of Bergen offers many cozy and beautifully laid out squares, old streets and alleys with wooden houses, which are like taken from an idyllic history book. It is just about exploring the cozy city center, which in several places is located down to the waterfront with Bryggen as the best known place.

The charming wooden buildings, old churches and of course the famous houses at Bryggen are some of the things to see, and you should also walk through the Nordnes neighborhood, just minutes from the city center it is almost like a beautiful village with many wooden houses. With the funicular Fløibanen, it is even possible in a few minutes to get up to an impression of Bergen's wonderful location from above. From there you can see the entire city center and the waterway towards the Atlantic.

The coastal region is, like Bergen itself, characterized by very beautiful scenery, and among the many places to see on trips out of town, you can combine a train and sailing trip to the city of Flåm for enjoying the scenic fjords.

Other attractions
  • Fish Market/Fisketorget: Since 1276, the market trade in Bergen has been regulated and relocated to central squares. In 1558 the market square was located at this place by the Vågen harbor, where many fish came from the town's fishing boats.
  • Bergen Exchange/Bergen Børs: With the large trade that has always characterized Bergen, it was natural that there was an exchange in the city. The exchange building in the city was built in the years 1861-1862 according to Franz Wilhelm Schiertz's design.
  • The Old Town Hall/Det Gamle Rådhuset: One of Bergen's significant historic residential buildings was located on the square Rådstuplassen. Over time, the home became a meeting place for the city's government, and later it was turned into Bergen City Hall.
  • The Church of the Cross/Korskirken: The Church of the Cross from 1181, like Bergen Cathedral, has survived since the Middle Ages, but the appearance of the current church building is primarily a result of Renaissance-style construction in the 17th century.
  • City Gate/Stadsporten: Stadsporten is a city gate that was built 1628-1645 as a fortified building by the only access road from the south to Bergen. Back then, there were earthworks on both sides of the gate.
  • Bergen Art Museum/Bergen Kunstmuseum: Bergen Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the Nordic region, and art from the 15th century to the present day is exhibited here. The museum is housed in three different buildings. The architecturally interesting Lysverket is one of them.
  • Festplassen: Festplassen is the name of Bergen's very beautifully landscaped central square, and it is a good starting point for a walk around the octagonal lake Lille Lungegårdsvann.
  • Bergen Museum: This is a fine museum with interesting collections in cultural and natural history. The museum's history dates back to 1825, and the city's former botanical garden is also located here.
  • The National Theater/Den Nationale Scene: Bergen National Theater was first established in 1850 with the composer and violinist Ole Bull as the initiator. Bergen's current large theater building was opened in 1909.
  • Nordnes: In the district Nordnes you can see cobbled alleys with many old wooden houses that exude a real Norwegian atmosphere. The area with the steep streets on both sides of Haugeveien / Klostergaten is particularly worth seeing.
  • Bergen Maritime Museum/Bergens Sjøfartsmuseum: In the period 1850-1880, Norway developed one of the world's largest merchant fleets, and this museum works scientifically to document Norwegian maritime history.
  • Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene/Det Hanseatiske Museum og Schøtstuene: The Hanseatic Museum is housed in one of Bergen's best-preserved older buildings. The house was built in 1704 as an office and residence for a German merchant.
  • St. Mary's Church/Mariakirken: St. Mary's Church from the 12th century is Bergen's oldest preserved building, which is well preserved in its original style. The church is one of Norway's finest buildings in Romanesque style.
  • The Norwegian Museum of Fisheries/Norges Fiskerimuseum: At the Norwegian Museum of Fisheries, the exhibition is about the utilization of marine resources and the history of Norwegian fisheries through the ages. There is a special focus on the last 150 years.
History overview

    [expand title="Read about city history" id="historie2" swaptitle="Hide content"]
    The city's foundations
    Vestnorske Bergen is one of the oldest cities in the Nordic region, and its history is naturally closely linked to its location by the sea. This is where the Alrekstad royal estate was already dating from the 400s; it was at Årstad, which later developed into Bergen.

    From Alrekstad, kings such as Harald Hårfagre, Håkan the Good and Olav Kyrre ruled the Norwegian land, and as such the place was for long periods the country's center of power. Olav Kyrre was our king in the years 1067-1093, and it was he who officially founded Bergen as a city. This happened when he granted Bergen city rights in 1070.

    At this time, Bergen was a small settlement at the harbor, but it developed rapidly and also became a residence city for the Norwegian regents who took shorter stays here.

    Norway's largest city
    With its strategically good location, Bergen grew rapidly, and already in the 1100s it was one of the largest cities in the Nordic countries; it remained the largest Norwegian city until about 1830, when Oslo grew past it as a new Norwegian capital.

    The 12th century was a century of rapid growth and great development of the city. King Øystein Magnusson ruled 1103-1123, and he moved the residence from Alrekstad to Holmen, where Bergenhus Fortress was later built. The Kongsgården on Holmen became a new political center, and it strengthened Bergen, which also became bishop's seat when the relics of Saint Sunnivas were moved from Selje Monastery to the Church of Christ in 1170.

    The Church of Christ was at this time one of Bergen's most important buildings and institutions. The church was used by royal diplomacy, and Norwegian coronations also took place here with Magnus Erlingsons in 1164 being the first.

    13th century Bergenhus
    Håkon Håkonson was Norwegian king in the years 1217-1263, and he established Bergenhus Fortress through his construction of walls around the plant. He also let Håkonshallen build as a banquet hall and residence.

    In 1233, Håkon Håkonsson's right to the Norwegian throne was upheld in Bergen by a larger assembly of the country's leaders, and in 1240 the city was officially proclaimed Norway's capital instead of Trondhjem. King Håkon Håkonsson lived in Bergen and had his entire court here. He was a popular king, and his long reign was marked by peace and development of the city as one of Northern Europe's largest trading places.

    Håkon's son Magnus married the Danish princess Ingeborg in 1263, and the same day Magnus was proclaimed new king. It happened in the Håkonshallen, which can still be seen at Bergenhus Fortress.

    Trade, the Hanseatic League and the 1300s
    Permanent German trade relations were already established in Bergen from 1236, and this was something that would influence the development of the following centuries.

    The Hanseatic League established itself in Bergen and was first mentioned in 1343. After the granting of trade privileges by the Danish kings, the German merchants quickly gained control of most of the trade in the city. Trade increased, among other things, because the royal power decided that all Norwegian imports and exports should go through Bergen, where there have been trade houses since the 1000s. The main export goods from Bergen and Norway were fish and fur, wood, while imports consisted mainly of food, iron and lucus products.

    However, the Middle Ages brought nothing but trade, and Norway was severely affected by the plague. About half of the population perished from the disease, and the country was ruled for many centuries from Denmark and later in union with Sweden.

    In 1380, the kingdoms of Norway and Denmark were merged under the Danish crown. The rulers were the Danish kings, and with the capital of Copenhagen in Bergen, Bergen lost some of the political pondus of the past.

    Norwegian trade
    Bergen's regional role remained significant in the new kingdom, and it continued to evolve. People from Northern Territories were required to bring their fishing catches by royal decree to the city's commercial sites. The working German merchants established themselves on and behind the German quay, which is today simply referred to as the quay.

    The power of the Hanseatic League was first broken in 1599 by the feudal Kristoffer Walckendorf. In the years after the association maintained, connections gained and still constituted a significant part of the trade, but it became ever smaller. Around 1630 the former power had lapsed and the Hanseatic League's end in Bergen became when the last German trading house was sold to Norwegians in 1764.

    However, Berg's role as a trading center was not played out with the German decline. It was Norwegian merchants who took over, and especially the old social elite, over the centuries, built large trading companies.

    Naval battles in the area
    Fortress Bergenhus had not been used in war throughout its history, but it was changed in the 1600s, when the Second English-Dutch War was fought 1664-1667.

    On August 12, 1665, a Dutch fleet fought against an English in the Battle of Bergen Bay, and the Danish-Norwegian troops joined the battle on the Dutch side. This happened when a Dutch fleet with high values ​​on board sought shelter in neutral Bergen. Englishmen attacked, and Bergenhus' garrison set off against the British, who ended up fleeing the English.

    Over time, many extensive fires have devastated Bergen. In 1170, the first known fire destroyed part of Bryggen, and new fires occurred in 1248, 1393, 1428, 1429, 1476 and 1623. The largest fire hit the town in 1702, with about 90% of the city lost to the flames.

    It was some time before the city was rebuilt, but already in 1756 a new fire ravaged. It was a fire on the beach, and it destroyed about 1,500 buildings in the otherwise quite active Bergen, where trade continued to be the focal point of the central port.

    Throughout the 19th century, Bergen experienced a great cultural recovery. Some of today's great artists such as Ole Bull and Edvard Grieg lived and worked in the area. The Norwegian theater was built and the first public library opened. The city's population increased explosively during this boom; from 17,000 in 1855 to 103,000 in 1920.

    Norwegian independence to this day
    In 1905, Norway became independent, which naturally created new development and new opportunities and needs in the country and its major cities. A railway was constructed for Bergen, which in a completely new way integrated the coastal city with not least the capital Oslo.

    In 1916 there was again a big fire in Bergen. This time, more than 400 houses were destroyed and over 4,000 of the city's inhabitants became homeless. The city was rebuilt, but it took just over two decades before new hardship emerged.

    On April 9, Denmark and Norway were occupied by Germany in connection with Operation Weserübung, and with it the German cruisers Königsberg and Cologne arrived in Bergen with about 1,900 soldiers. The Fort Kvarven in Laksevåg at the entrance to Bergen shot at the Germans, but they were quickly overcome, and the Kvarven, like Bergen, occupied the rest of the war. On April 20, 1944, a major explosion with loss of life and values ​​occurred in Bergen, and in October of that year a British bombardment hit Salmon Watch with many killed civilians as a result. Germany was conquered in 1945, and Bergen and Norway became free again.

    In the latter half of the 20th century, oil was increasingly drilled for and found in the Norwegian subsurface in the seas, and this gave Bergen a significant positive economic development, which affected welfare, industry and trade.

    Today, Bergen remains one of Norway's centers for the oil industry, shipping and fisheries, but the city has also evolved into a power center for oceanographic research and environmental studies.
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Bergen, Norway

Top attractions
  • Bergen Cathedral/Bergen Domkirke: Bergen Cathedral is one of the few buildings in Bergen that, despite some damage, has survived all the city's fires since the Middle Ages. The lower parts of the church are the oldest and originate from the long church, which was built around 1150. The church is otherwise in the style of the most recent major renovation, which took place in the 1880s.
  • Stenersen's Collection/Stenersens Samling: This part of the Bergen Art Museum contains modern art from the 20th century and has, among other things, Northern Europe's largest collection of Paul Klee works as well as several well-known works by Pablo Picasso.
  • Fløibanen: Fløibanen is Scandinavia's only funicular, and it departs from the center of Bergen to the top of Fløibjerget, which is 320 meters/1,049 feet high. The trip to the beautiful view of the summit takes 8 minutes and is an experience in itself. After the tour you will be rewarded with a nice panoramic view of the city.
  • Bryggen: Bryggen is Bergen's famous harbor quay, which consists of a number of old merchant houses in wood built from 1702 in North German style, where the gables face the Vågen harbor. Bryggen is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and a walk here is a must during a visit to Bergen.
  • Bergenhus Fortress/Bergenhus Festning: The fortress Bergenhus was built in the 13th century and is today one of the oldest and best-preserved historic defense facilities in Norway. Håkonshallen and Magnus Lagabøtes Kastel are the highlights of the well-preserved construction.
Trips in the area
  • Ulriken: Ulriksbanen is a cable car that leads to the top of Bergen's highest mountain, Ulriken, which reaches a height of 642 meters/2,106 feet. From here there is a very beautiful panoramic view of both Bergen city and the area around the city.
  • Old Bergen/Gamle Bergen: Old Bergen is a beautifully built open-air museum that houses more than 40 wooden houses that represent Bergen through the 1700s and 1800s. Inside, the houses are decorated as in the 1700s-1900s.
  • Fantoft Stave Church/Fantoft Stavkirke: Fantoft Stave Church is a beautiful and typical Norwegian stave church. It dates from around 1150, when it was built on its original position in the town of Fortun by the Sognefjord.
  • Grieg Museum Troldhaugen: The villa Troldhaugen was the home of the composer Edvard and Nina Grieg for 22 years. The house was built in 1885 in Victorian style with a richly decorated porch, cornices and the tower where Nina had a kitchen garden.
  • Flåmsbanen & Sognefjorden: One of the things that many people visit Western Norway for is the beautiful fjord landscape. North of Bergen you can sail on the 204 km/127 mi long Sognefjord. It can be seen and reached by water or by the famous railway between Flåm and Myrdal.
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