Located on the west coast of Norway, Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway. It may not be a very attractive travel destination to tourists, but it is one of the destinations of the classic fjord tours Norway in a Nutshell, and a hub for the surrounding areas like Stavanger, Flåm, Nordfjord, Geirangerfjord, or Folgefonna glacier. Bergen was our first stop visiting Norway and we took our time and stopped by a few places in the city.
(Check out: Making the Most out of Norway in a Nutshell, and Glacier Hiking: Folgefonna!)
Bryggen Unesco World Heritage Centre
Bergen has once assumed the position as a capital of Norway in the 13th century, and then a major bureau city of the Hanseatic League. Germans built trading posts (Kontors) that facilitate fish trading. 62 of these German-like architectures, called Bryggen, remained today as a proof of the city’s German past and were named Unesco World Heritage in 1979.
The area has suffered from several fires in the past up until 1955. Luckily, they restored these houses based on the original design. Strolling through these pointy and colorful houses you could still see the structure that dates back to the end of 13th century – a solid wooden exterior with a rock warehouse in the center courtyard for storage. Some of them are continuously renovated and were lively converted to become shops, workshops, studios, tourist center, cafes, and restaurants; visitors could enjoy fresh oysters, salmon, and other seafood in the nearby fish markets (Vågen Spiseriet); shop for Norwegian Troll figures, Vikings souvenirs, and high-quality wool garments; or just sit back and absorb the relaxing city vibe. Although the area is not big, the houses are long and you might get lost in the alleys between the houses. If you are interested to learn more about the history and culture of the Hanseatic League and Bryggen, sign up for a Bryggen guided tour, or visit the nearby Bryggen Museum (established after the 1955’s fire), or Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene (features the authentic rooms about the life of being Hanseatic merchants).
A Funicular Ride up Fløyen
There are seven hills around Bergen, so the city doesn’t lack a dramatic lookout from the ground. It doesn’t take long for one to reach the peak, because one doesn’t require to hike (but you can), just take a funicular. The cable car station is located right behind the Bryggen. In merely 5 minutes, the cable car climbs up to the top of Fløyen. The irregular coastline and multi-colored lightings in the sky create a picturesque image that almost looks unreal!
Ulriken is another peak in the city area that offers a farther but higher and wider view of the city and the bay. Compared with Ulriken, Fløyen developed earlier with more shops, recreation facilities, and restaurants that make the visit much more convenient. The cable car station is located close to the city center, and it’s technically free with the Bergen Card.
We visited there right before sunset and since the city is West facing, we had a great moment with the epic sunset.
Other point of interests include: Håkonshallen (Håkon’s Hall), a middle age Royal residence dated back in the 13th century (but note that the hall could be closed for events during summer); Torgallmenningen, the main shopping street in the city; and Kode 3, a museum that features a refined art collection including works by Edvard Munch.
In case you have limited time in Bergen (because you are heading to somewhere else, or getting ready to Oslo through Norway in a Nutshell), there are options for a quick glance. Take the City Sightseeing Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour, the Bergens Espressen (sightseeing train), or Harbour cruise with White Lady.