Bergen, the 2nd biggest city in Norway after Oslo, attracts many international visitors every year for 2 main reasons: the Bryggen and the fjords.
Founded in 1070, Bergen has always been an important trade center and is still nowadays the largest and busiest port in Norway.
For many centuries, it was renowned for the trade of stokefish, unsalted fish (generally cod) dried by cold air and wind that can be stored for several years.
In 1350, the importance of Bergen was such that the Hansa, a German guild of merchants, set up there one of their 4 European offices (Kontor), the 3 others being located in Novgorod, London and Bruges.
For 400 years, the trade at the Kontor was mainly based on the import of grain and the export of stockfish, fish oil and furs.
During that time, the German built their own district composed of colourful wood buildings situated in Bryggen.
This area has been destroyed by fire many times but has always been rebuilt identically. The actual buildings have been rebuilt after the big fire of 1702 that reduced the whole city to ashes.
Bryggen has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1979.
The 61 buildings are preserved and protected but are not part of a museum. Everybody is more than welcome to enter in one of the small passages and step back in time. The spectacular wooden architecture shelter a living community of shops, offices, artists’ studios, craft workshops and restaurants.
For those interested in history, you can visit The Hanseatic museum and Schøtstuene to learn more about that time.
Most people come to Norway to visit the fjords and their amazing scenery.
The fjords’ outstanding natural beauty is derived from their narrow and steep-sided crystalline rock walls that rise up to 1400 m direct from the Norwegian Sea and extend 500 m below sea level. Along the sheer walls of the fjords are numerous waterfalls.
There are more than 1000 fjords in Norway located on the south-western coast. 2 of them, Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord, have been included in the UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site list since 2005.
Bergen is the ideal gateway to the fjords and many day trips tours are offered.
My favourite tour, without any hesitation, is “Norway in a nutshell” which gives a good overview of the Norwegian landscapes and, depending of the itinerary chosen, will pass by Nærøyfjord.
The combination of culture and nature goes further in Bergen. Indeed, the city houses interesting museums and is surrounded by 7 mountains which offer many possibilities of walking tours.
I selected 3 museums that are worth a visit:
-KODE – the Art museums of Bergen have an extensive collection of art and design. Masterpieces by Edvard Munch, Nikolai Astrup, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and J. C. Dahl are displayed.
-Bergenhus Fortress museum features exhibitions relating to women’s contribution to the Norwegian Armed Forces and World War II history in the Bergen area.
-Troldhaugen was the home of the composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina during the last 22 years of his life. Troldhaugen includes Grieg’s Villa, the composer’s hut and the Grieg couple’s gravesite as well as a modern museum building and the concert hall Troldsalen, a chamber music hall seating 200 people.
I selected 2 mountains that are easy to access, offer a great panorama and have many walking and hiking paths:
-Mount Fløyen (altitude 320 m) can be reached via a funicular located in the city center.
-Mount Ulriken is the highest of Bergen’s 7 mountains (altitude 643 m) and can be reached by a cable car. It is located further than Mount Fløyen but you have the possibility to buy tickets including a bus transfer from the Fish Market.
During my short trip to Bergen, I tried 3 restaurants. The 3 of them were excellent and deserve to be recommended:
-Altona Vinbar is the oldest restaurant in Bergen, dating from 1614. The menu is quite small but all dishes are made with fresh and seasonal products from the coast. The choice of wine is impressive with more than 1300 references.
-Bryggeloftet & Stuene is located in Bryggen and offer traditional dishes from Bergen and Norway. The fish soup is a must try!
-Da Stefano is an Italian restaurant which smells delicious and serve delicious dishes too. The restaurant is most of the time fully-booked so don’t forget to make a reservation to avoid to be disappointed.
http://dastefano.no (in Norwegian only)
TIPS: If you’re planning to visit Bergen, don’t forget to bring an umbrella or rain gears as it rains an average of 231 days per year! It even rained everyday for 85 consecutive days during Winter 2006/2007! But if it can reassure you, it doesn’t rain all day. However, it can rain several times a day because the weather changes very quickly.