Bergen travel guide
The historic city of Bergen was medieval Norway's capital, and is today an international tourist centre and gateway to the famously beautiful fjords. It has a spectacular setting on a sheltered harbour of the North Sea, situated among seven hills that form a delightful backdrop to the brightly painted wooden houses along the waterfront, and is one of Norway's most enjoyable cities.
Bergen's history is closely linked to the sea. It became a major trading port of the medieval merchants of the Hanseatic League, who dominated European trade during the Middle Ages. The hub of the city's social life is around the Torget, the picturesque harbour-side market plaza that is surrounded by an assortment of cafes, restaurants and pubs, and home to the vibrant fish market. Flanking one side of the harbour is a colourful row of old wooden houses, part of the historic wharf area and the remaining legacy of the Hanseatics, from where narrow cobbled streets wind their way up between the quaint houses of the picturesque old neighbourhood.
The city centre is divided into two parts: the old Hanseatic town along the wharf, and the modern centre stretching inland from the harbour. Bergen has a pleasant, slow pace and a cultured atmosphere with numerous interesting museums, galleries, an aquarium and surviving medieval buildings. A cable car and a funicular carry visitors to the top of two of Bergen's hills, Mount Ulriken and Mount Floyen, to enjoy splendid views over the city and coast. Mount Floyen is covered in forest with a well-marked series of walking trails. Boat trips to the fjords are very popular and many cruises depart from Bergen's port into the gorgeous waterways that network the region.
Bryggen (also called Tyskebryggen), the site of the old medieval
quarter of the city of Bergen, is a charming, compact area of
brightly coloured wooden homes that traditionally housed the city's
merchants. Steep cobbled lanes are lined with a vivacious blend of
cafes and artisans' workshops. The Hanseatic wharf area, with many
buildings dating from before the 17th century, has been declared a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the most
important examples of a medieval settlement in the world.
Bryggen was once the working area of the merchants and is the oldest part of Bergen, characterised by a maze of lopsided wooden buildings with pointed gables facing the harbour. The Bryggen and Hanseatic Museums as well as the 12th-century St Mary's Church are all in the Bryggen area. At one end of the wharf is Bergen's famous fish market, a colourful market also selling flowers, fruit, vegetables and souvenirs. Because of its predominantly wooden buildings, Bryggen has struggled with fire throughout its long history, and many of the structures have been rebuilt several times. One of the unexpected advantages of the destruction caused by fire was the discovery of a wealth of runic inscriptions, which are now housed in the Bryggen Museum.
The Hanseatic Museum is housed in one of the oldest and
best-preserved wooden buildings in Bryggen, the former home of a
wealthy merchant. Furnished in the 18th century style, it provides
a glimpse of the working and living conditions of the Hanseatic
merchants during the Middle Ages. The austere layout and maze-like
rooms are saturated by the smell of fish and leave a lasting
impression. Although a number of historic houses remain in the
medieval district, the Hanseatic Museum is the only house left in
Bryggen that has retained its original interior.
A short walk away, next to St Mary's Church, is the Schotstuene, a museum consisting of three assembly rooms and a kitchen once used by the Hanseatic merchants. Cooking was conducted in the Schotstuene as it was the only place in Bryggen where it was permitted to use fire; as a precaution it was kept removed from the other buildings. The ticket price for the Hanseatic Museum includes entry (on the same day) to the Schotstuene. The Hanseatic Museum is best visited on the guided walking tour which begins at the Bryggens Museum. For many travellers, the Hanseatic Museum is one of the best historic attractions in the city, and if you only visit one museum in Bryggen it should probably be this one.
Address: Finnegardsgate 1A, Bryggen
This fantastic archaeological museum was built around the
remains of the oldest buildings discovered in Bergen, dating from
the 12th century, and the ruins have been incorporated into the
exhibits along with excavated tools, ceramics and even skeletons.
In 1955 parts of historic Bryggen were destroyed by fire and the
subsequent excavations revealed some fascinating objects, which are
now on display in the museum. Bryggens Museum houses various
artefacts and traditional costumes and imaginatively attempts to
recreate life in the Middle Ages with displays of domestic
implements, handicrafts, runic inscriptions and items relating to
seafaring and trade during medieval times.
The Bryggens Museum is the starting point for a wonderful historical walking tour through the UNESCO-listed district. This tour is really good value for money as it includes entry to two other museums as well. The guided tours are offered in several languages and depart every hour or so, depending on demand. The Bryggens Museum also houses temporary art and history exhibitions. The museum itself doesn't require much time to explore and is best seen as part of a wider exploration of the historic area.
Address: Dreggsallmenning 3, Bryggen
St Marys Church (Mariakirken)
Bergen's oldest surviving building, the beautiful stone Church
of St Mary's, dates from the beginning of the 12th century. The
interior is decorated with old frescoes and a splendid Baroque
pulpit that was donated by the Hanseatic merchants in 1676. The
twin towers of the church are distinctive among the low red-tiled
roofs of the old quarter. St Mary's is constructed mainly of
soapstone and the architectural style is predominantly Romanesque.
The church is the only one surviving of 12 churches and three
monasteries built around the time of Bergen's foundation. Its
survival is mainly due to the fact that it was the chosen place of
worship for the wealthy German merchants of Bergen, whose patronage
ensured it never fell into ruin. Like many buildings in Bergen, St
Mary's has been damaged by several fires through the centuries and
has therefore been repaired and renovated, but even considering
these slight alterations, the structure remains remarkably intact
and has ultimately changed very little through the ages.
The church is an active place of worship and those wanting to attend services will find them listed on the website below. Sightseeing visitors are also welcome.
Address: Dreggen 15, Bergen
Lillehammer is best known for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics,
and the area does offer excellent opportunities for winter sports
such as skiing and snowboarding; in fact, Lillehammer is considered
Norway's oldest winter sports resort. The situation of Lillehammer
is picturesque, overlooking Lake Myosa and surrounded by mountains.
The village transforms from season to season: a beautiful frozen
world in winter, and a lush green valley in summer. In the cold,
snowy months, visitors can find some of the best cross-country ski
trails in northern Europe at nearby Nordseter and Sjusjoen, and a
great ski centre at Hafjell. Lillehammer itself is a very small ski
resort, with only about 630 feet (192 metres) of vertical descent.
In the warm summer months some wonderful hiking can be enjoyed.
This small town has other attractions as well, including Maihaugen, the largest open-air museum in Norway; the 12th-century Garmo stave church; and the PS Skibladner paddle steamer. The picturesque main street of Lillehammer is not to be forgotten, lined with charming 19th-century wooden houses. There is a wide selection of shops, restaurants and accommodation in Lillehammer.
Sognefjord is the largest fjord in Norway and the third longest
in the world, stretching 127 miles (205km) from the coast to the
village of Skjolden. Sheer cliffs rise to heights of 3,300 feet
(1,000m) and more above the water.
In addition to some of the most dramatic and magnificent scenery in the world, Sognefjord contains or provides access to many of Norway's most famous tourist attractions, including three popular national parks, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and much more. Sognefjord offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences for visitors: travellers can see, touch and even walk on the largest glacier in Europe in the Jostedalsbreen National Park; investigate numerous heritage treasures, like the UNESCO-listed Urnes Stave Church in Luster, the oldest church in Norway; marvel at the thundering waterfalls, wild rivers and pristine mountain lakes that feed into the fjord; and explore the steep mountains on either side of Sognefjord, which boast an impressive network of hiking, climbing and skiing trails.
Gorgeous, mostly dry summers, and mild winters mean that the fjord can be explored at any time of year, depending on desired activities and adventures. Popular activities in and around Sognefjord include cycling, fishing, hunting, hiking, climbing, kayaking, river rafting, skiing and canyoning, but those who just want to sit back and enjoy the splendid scenery can take one of the many fjord cruises or even enjoy a train trip.
Bergen Flesland Airport
Location: The airport is situated 12 miles (19km) southwest of Bergen.
Time: Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
Contacts: Tel: +47 67 03 15 55
Getting to the city: An airport bus services the city centre. There are also boats to a number of locations from Flesland Quay, which is connected to the airport by a shuttle bus.
Car rental: Car rental companies in Bergen Airport include Avis, Europcar, Budget, Sixt and Hertz.
Airport Taxis: There is a taxi stand near the main entrance to the terminal building. A taxi ride into Bergen takes approximately 30-40 minutes.
Facilities: There is a selection of shops, bars and restaurants at the airport. Other facilities include a bureau de change, ATMs, left luggage, duty-free shopping, child facilities, tourist information and business facilities with fax and internet access. Disabled facilities are good.
Parking: With 4,500 parking bays, there's ample parking space available at Bergen Airport. Parking lots P0, P1 and P2 are all short-term parking lots. P0 is only available for drop-offs and pick-ups. Long-stay parking lots include P4 to P9.
Departure tax: None.
Bergen has an efficient bus and night bus network, though service to the city's outskirts can be erratic. A free bus service operates during the day from Monday to Saturday, looping around the city centre. However, central Bergen is easy to negotiate on foot, with plenty of attractions within walking distance. Metered taxis are plentiful and can be hailed at one of the many taxi ranks or ordered by phone, but are expensive. The city also has an extensive ferry system, which tends to be less tourist-orientated than the express catamaran service, and visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the fjords. Driving in Bergen can be somewhat confusing, and drivers must pay a toll every time they enter the city so driving and parking becomes expensive; nevertheless, car rental agencies are available.
Bergen is the warmest and wettest city in Norway. Summers are pleasantly mild to warm, and in winter temperatures generally remain above freezing, although stiff breezes may make it feel much colder. Snow falls on odd days, and is generally not more than 10cm deep. In summer, June to August, average temperatures range between 50°F (10°C) lows and 64°F (18°C) highs; and in winter, December to February, average temperatures range between 31°F (-0.5°C ) lows and 39°F (4°C).
The best time to holiday in Bergen depends hugely on your desired activities, as many people plan cruises and outdoor excursions which are weather dependant. The most popular time to visit Bergen is in late spring or early summer, May and June, when the city receives the most sun and its best weather.
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