You may not have heard of Norway’s second city. On the southwestern coast Bergen stands as a thriving port city with small town charm, and has played an important part in Norway’s history since the Viking Age.
As a gateway to the majestic fjords of Norway and surrounded by seven mountains, visitors are attracted to the city for the easy access to both land and sea. Today, Bergen is proudly a European City of Culture, World Heritage City and UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
Scandinavia’s largest regional airline, Widerøe, now operate a speedy twice-weekly route from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, so you can be there quicker than you may think. We uncover some of Bergen’s biggest draws as a city break destination year-round.
The first of Bergen’s buildings were situated at Bryggen, and the German Hanseatic League established an office there in 1360. Although the area has been ravaged by many fires – including the great fire in 1702 – it was rebuilt on the foundations that had been there since the 12th century.
Legally, any restorations to the iconic wooden buildings must be followed through with original tools and methods. This is no easy task, but crucial in preserving Bryggen’s charm and position on UNESCO’S World Heritage List. Today there are 62 buildings in Bryggen, including the oldest restaurant Bryggen Tracteursted once used as a smokehouse and assembly room. The compact, narrow alleyways are filled with craft shops, jewellers and café’s open to the public.
At One With Nature
Norwegian culture is largely rooted in outdoor living. Locals spend many weekends out hiking, fishing, cycling and sailing. The Scandinavian country is known for its expansive landscapes, dramatic fjords, still waters and peaceful woodlands and on a holiday in Bergen, you can experience all of this.
There is Mount Floyen on your doorstep accessible via the Fløibanen funicular, where on a clear day you can see views of the city or even take a guided hiking trail. In Uptown Bergen, the Ulriken643 cable car will take you to the highest point in the city on Mount Ulriken. And with several cruise companies running day trips to the fjords from the Hanseatic Wharf; you can see first-hand what Norway is famous for.
The Majestic Fjords
Discover Scandinavia’s biggest attraction. The Norwegian fjords are renowned across the world, and Bergen is the gateway to exploring these natural wonders. Surrounded by cascading waterfalls, sleepy villages and glaciers, the fjords are a must-see family-friendly attraction. There is more than 1, 000 in total, but two of the longest and most breathtaking are Hardangerjord and Sognefjord accessible from Bergen.
While there are multiple full day and half day tours, a popular route is from Bergen to Mostraumen. This three hour guided cruise glides through the 27 km Osterfjord. The scenery along this route is magical, and well worth experiencing on a short break to the city!
A Gastronomic Experience
Bergen’s trade relied heavily on the export of dried cod fish, a staple part of the Norwegian diet. To this day, fish and seafood are prominent across Norway. In Bergen’s Wharf, the Fisketorget fish market is thriving with local tradesmen selling fresh and dried produce. There’s also an indoor market and permanent restaurants where you can dine and enjoy a drink in the warmth.
As a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, the food culture is growing. You’ll come across restaurants serving contemporary Nordic dishes, as well as traditional restaurants serving authentic cuisine. Of course, specialist seafood restaurants are dotted around the city too, such as Cornelius Sjømatrestaurant and Enhjørningen Fish Restaurant. Bergen has a large student population thanks to the university, so there are plenty of cosy bars and pubs to enjoy your evenings too.
Norwegian Arts and Culture
The city is home to a great collection of Norwegian and international art. Spend a few hours exploring Bergen’s Art Street near Lille Lungegårdsvannet lake. Here you’ll find the KODE museums (there’s four in total) which house major collections from the likes of Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, Nikolai Astrup. If you’re a fan of modern art, Bergen Kunsthall is a concert and exhibition venue in the same vicinity.
Bergen is also a city of music! Why not enjoy a performance from the Philharmonic Orchestra once directed by Edvard Grieg, or attend Northern Europe’s biggest jazz festival Nattjazz? Today, you can explore the Edvard Grieg Museum comprising of his villa and gravesite.
Elsewhere in Bergen, there are plenty of interesting monuments and attractions. St Mary’s Church is the oldest intact building in the city and has undergone impressive renovations. The Hanseatic Museum showcases how German merchants lived in Bergen until the mid-18th century. And the reconstructed town of Old Bergen Museum takes you back in time to the 19th century.
Where to Stay
Need somewhere to stay? There are plenty of accommodation options to consider in Bergen, from hotels to camp sites.
Clarion Collection hotels offer the perfect base, so you are well situated to enjoy some of Bergen’s best offerings. Enjoy the modern facilities of Hotel No. 13, close to restaurants, nightlife and shopping centres. While in Bryggen Harbour, the 4 star Clarion Havnekontoret Hotel offers Baroque architecture and chic rooms.