Bergen, Norway

Bergen is the Gateway to the Fjords in the heart of the Western Norway region. The country’s second largest city exudes charm, is filled with history dating back to the early 11th century and is encircled by seven majestic mountains. You will relish exploring this UNESCO World Heritage City.

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1 Arriving at Cruise Terminal in Bergen, Norway

If you are cruising to Bergen, Norway, chances are you will dock at the main terminal named Skolten Cruisehavn (or Skoltegrunnskaien) in Norwegian. While you are waiting to disembark, you will be tantalized by these wooden boathouses. You are about to have a wonderful day! Norway’s second largest city with over 275,000 residents is small enough to casually explore on foot. Or consider a hop-on/hop-off bus beginning at the terminal. Either way, you will soon discover what about a half million cruisers learn each year: Bergen is a spectacular port of call in Western Norway. It justifiably earned the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage City. This travel guide provides highlights of what to see.

Skoltegrunnskaien 1, 5003 Bergen, Norway

2 Rosenkrantz Tower at Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen, Norway

The origin of Bergenhus Fortress is debated among historians. Evidence suggests this location along the harbor was first occupied about 1070 by King Olaf Kyrre, the founder of Bjørgvin (now Bergen). When the city was Norway’s capital for nearly a century (1217 – 1314), this medieval fortress was the royal residence. Magnus VI, the king of Norway from 1263 to 1280, ordered the construction of this tower during his reign. It was expanded to five floors during the governorship of Erik Ottesen Rosenkrantz in the 1560s and given his name. Rosenkrantz Tower later served as a gunpowder magazine from the 1740s until 1930s. The tower is now a key feature of tours.

Bergenhus Fortress, Vågen, 5003 Bergen, Norway

3 Haakon’s Hall at Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen, Norway

During the 46 year reign of Haakon IV Haakonsson (1217 – 1263), Norway reached its peak of prosperity. The epicenter was Bergenhus Fortress (Bergenhus Festning). The king added this elaborate hall in 1260. This makes Haakon’s Hall the oldest surviving structure at the former palace complex. Imagine the royal events, feasts and weddings hosted here during the balance of the 13th century. Håkonshallen suffered many periods of decline and renovations. The last major restoration was in 1961. The historic property is now managed by the Royal Norwegian Navy and the Bergen City Museum.

Bergenhus Fortress, Vågen, 5003 Bergen, Norway

4 St Mary’s Church in Bergen, Norway

You are admiring the twin towers of Mariakirken, Bergen’s oldest church. Construction of St Mary’s was finished in 1180. Despite a fire in 1198 and another one 50 years later, the interior still retains many features from the Middle Ages. When the church became the main parish for wealthy German merchants from the Hanseatic League in the early 15th century, they referred to it as Tyskekirken (meaning the German Church). From this era is a beautiful reredos (triptych) above the altar. The three panels feature the Virgin Mary from the Book of Revelation, Saints Olav, Anthony, Catherine and Dorothea plus the Apostles. Also exciting to see in the choir are the 15 life-size figures created in 1634.

Dreggsallmenningen 15, 5003 Bergen, Norway

5 First Panorama of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway

You are admiring the waterfront of Bryggen, the colorful and historic epicenter of Bergen. These Hanseatic Buildings with steep gable roofs appear as the did in the Middle Ages. They are huddled together along the northeast wharf of Vågen bay at Bergen Havn (Port of Bergen). Collectively, they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area has been plagued by fires over the centuries. Each time, these buildings were reconstructed using the same materials and plans used by their predecessors. The six houses on the left were rebuilt after flames destroyed them in 1955. The eleven structures on the right are about 250 years older.

Bryggen 27, 5014 Bergen, Norway

6 Second Panorama of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway

These row houses are a continuation of those seen in the previous photo (extending to the right). They stretch to the beginning of the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. To fully appreciate their medieval appearance, a quick history lesson is needed. Bjørgvin was founded in 1070 by Olaf Haraldsson, the King of Norway (reign 1067 – 1093). The city evolved into the capital of Norway during the 13th century. From 1360 until 1559, most maritime trade was controlled by the German Hanseatic League. They were replaced by a German kantor (trading post) which lasted until 1754. During these nearly seven centuries, the epicenter of Bergen was this harbor. The port became one of the largest in Northern Europe. And the originals of these buildings served as the docks, warehouses, markets and merchant quarters.

Bryggen 11, 5003 Bergen, Norway

7 Explore the Historic Charm of Bryggen in Bergen, Norway

There are 62 reconstructed buildings in the Bryggen quarter. The wooden alleys are filled with restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, museums, galleries, artist studios and boutique shops of every description. The setting is rustic and charming. Plan on spending considerable time here. If you don’t explore Bryggen, you can’t claim to have visited Bergen.

Bryggen 47, 5003 Bergen, Norway

8 Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene in Bergen, Norway

During the 13th century, German merchants began to establish guilds (Hansa) to conduct trade among ports in the Baltic Sea. This evolved into the Hanseatic League. The powerful confederation banded together to protect their routes, commerce and each other through laws and an army. One of their major trading posts (a kantor) was established in Bergen in 1360 and operated until 1754. They built the Hanseatic Buildings during this timeframe. The wooden row houses are still a prominent feature of Bergen’s waterfront. Learn more about this fascinating period inside the Hanseatic Museum. Affiliated with this UNESCO World Heritage Site is Schøtstuene, the former assembly hall and kitchen for the Hanseatic merchants.

Finnegården 1A, 5003 Bergen, Norway

9 Fløibanen Funicular in Bergen, Norway

Here is a visual experience you do not want to miss while in Bergen. Over a million people enjoy this attraction every year. Fløibanen is a funicular railway. You will board one of two cars painted either blue (named Blåmann) or red (called Rødhette). Then, you will travel for six to eight minutes to the summit of Mount Fløyen. There might be a few stops along the way to accommodate residents living on the hill. But you won’t care; there is plenty of scenery to keep your eyes busy. When the doors open at an elevation of 1,050 feet, you will be thrilled by the panoramic views of the city, harbor and surrounding fjords. Also consider eating at the restaurant or café. Afterwards, spend time on the walking trails.

Vetrlidsallmenningen 21, 5014 Bergen, Norway

10 Holy Cross Church in Bergen, Norway

Holy Cross Church was built in 1150 at the edge of Vågen bay. It is now about a block from the waterline. The name stems from a relic of the True Cross once housed inside the parish church but stolen by the Danes during the 16th century. Korskirken has suffered from seven fires during its 870 plus years of history. The previous twin wooden towers were destroyed. The current single tower was added in 1743. Inside the belfry are three bells. Two of them were cast in Amsterdam in 1707. Formerly a Catholic church, Holy Cross became affiliated with the Church of Norway in 2002 as part of the Lutheran Diocese of Bjørgvin.

Nedre Korskirkeallmenningen 20, 5017 Bergen, Norway

11 Bergen Cathedral in Bergen, Norway

Nearly 80% of Bergen’s population worship at the Church of Norway, an Evangelical Lutheran denomination. This cathedral for the Diocese of Bjørgvin is Bergen Domkirke. When founded in 1181, the church was dedicated to Saint Olaf. Olaf II Haraldsson was the king of Norway from 1023 to 1028 and canonized in 1164. The former Catholic diocese changed affiliation during the Lutheran Reformation of Denmark and Norway in 1537. Soon afterwards, the Bergen Cathedral was reconstructed. During subsequent renovations in the 17th and 19th centuries, efforts were made to retain its Middle Ages appearance. Look to the left of the large lancet window. The hole is from a British cannonball fired at a Dutch convoy during the Battle of Bergen in 1665.

Domkirkeplassen 1, 5003 Bergen, Norway

Dræggens Buekorps in Formation in Bergen, Norway

If you are fortunate, you will witness uniformed youth performing quasi-military routines or marching. The youngest children, beginning at the age of seven, carry wooden rifles or crossbows. Others are drummers. The officers, up to the age of 20, have swords. These are called bataljoner’ meaning battalions. There are 14 of these groups in Bergen, each from a different neighborhood. The unique tradition began in the mid-19th century. These boys are from Dræggens Buekorps. They were formed in 1856, making them the oldest of the Buekorps brigades (although this is disputed by their rivals, the Skutevikens Buekorps). Historically, this bow corps only assembles on Saturdays.

12 Fish Market in Bergen, Norway

A very popular tourist attraction is the Fish Market. Fishermen began selling their catches at Bergen in the early 13th century. The first Fish Market was located near Bryggen. In the mid-16th century, the commerce moved to the quays of Vågen bay in the heart of the city. Today, Fisketorget has bustling outdoor stalls during the summer months selling seafood plus flowers, produce and souvenirs. Additional vendors, shops and restaurants operate all year from inside the permanent facility called Mathallen. There also is a tourist information center located in this building.

Strandkaien 3, 5012 Bergen, Norway

13 Ludvig Holberg Statue at Market Square in Bergen, Norway

Given its proximity to the Bergen Fish Market (across Torget Street), Market Square is always a whirl of activity and a favorite among people watchers. In the center is a statue of Ludvig Holberg, the Baron of Holberg. During his lifetime (1684 – 1754), this native son was an influential writer of essays, novels and historical non-fiction plus a playwright of over 30 comedies. He is considered to be the father of Danish and Norwegian literature. This bronze tribute to Holberg was sculpted by John Börjeson in 1884.

Vågsallmenningen 4, 5014 Bergen, Norway

14 Two Galleries at Market Square in Bergen, Norway

At the west end of Market Square are two art museums housed in this former bank building from 1845. KRAFT specializes in contemporary crafts from Norway and other Scandinavian countries with occasional representation by artists from other countries. The gallery’s name means power in Norwegian. Its cotenant is Kunsthall 3.14. Their mission is to display mix-media works created by international artists from the late 1980s through the present. Many of the pieces exhibited make a statement about political and social issues.

Vågsallmenningen 12, 5014 Bergen, Norway

15 Homeless Sculpture in Bergen, Norway

Bergen has an abundance of outdoor bronze sculptures. The majority portray the once famous (although probably unknown to most people who walk by every day). One statue features the destitute (who most people choose to ignore as they walk by every day). The Homeless statue cowers at the front entrance of the former Bergens Privatbank. The building now houses the high-end fashion store Høyer. Utligigger was created by Arne Mæland in 1999. The inscription in Norwegian translates to “Nobody is just what you see.”

Torgallmenningen 2, 5014 Bergen, Norway

16 Seamen’s Monument at Torgallmenningen Square in Bergen, Norway

Torgallmenningen is the largest and often the busiest square in Bergen. Since 1950, the center has been adorned by the Seamen’s Monument. Sjøfartsmonumentet is a 23 foot tall tribute to Norwegian sailors and Norway’s maritime history. These are two of the dozen statues created by sculptor Dyre Vaa. There are also four bronze reliefs portraying different events at sea.

Torgallmenningen 8, 5014 Bergen, Norway

17 Bergens Tidende Sign in Bergen, Norway

If you are not Norwegian, you may stare at this Bergens Tidende sign with curiosity. This is the name of the biggest media company in Western Norway. The daily newspaper was founded in 1868. Today, the tabloid is Norway’s largest regional paper and number five by circulation in Norway. Their headquarters are less than a block away from where you are standing.

Kong Olav Vs Plass 4, 5087 Bergen, Norway

18 Ole Bull Fountain in Bergen, Norway

This fountain is a tribute to Ole Bull. He was a famous virtuoso violinist during the 19th century. On top of the monument is a statue of this native son playing the violin. He is surrounded by a rectangular pond with stepping stones that children love to play on. At the base of the fountain is this sculpture of a skald playing a mythical harp. Skalds were Scandinavian poets who sang songs for kings from the Viking Age (800 to 1066 AD) through the 14th century.

Nedre Ole Bulls Plass 1, 5012 Bergen, Norway

19 Music Pavilion at Byparken in Bergen, Norway

Byparken is a large city park located at the west end of Lille Lungegårdsvannet. The rectangular greenspace was created in 1865, a decade after a fire ravished over 180 homes in the neighborhood. The centerpiece is this lovely cast-iron Music Pavilion with Moorish details. Musikkpaviljongen was gifted to the city in 1888. Also admire the life-size bronze statue by Ingebrigt Vik of Edvard Grieg. This native of Bergen was a successful classical piano composer during the late 19th century. In the background is the former Telegraph Building. The first floor is now the Telegrafen Shopping Center.

Olav Kyrres Gate 27, 5014 Bergen, Norway

20 KODE 1 Museum in Bergen, Norway

Anchoring the south end of Byparken is the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art. Permanenten Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum focuses on crafts – including glass, porcelain and textiles – spanning 500 years. Another permanent exhibit is the Silver Treasure (Sølvskatten). The largest part of the collection is over 2,500 Chinese artifacts and artworks. There are also paintings by Old Masters called the Singer Collection. Permanenten merged with KODE Art Museums in 2012 and is now called KODE 1. Framing the museum in this photo is Sæverudmonumentet. The abstract sculpture was created by Bernar Venet in 2000. It is a tribute to Harald Sæverud. He was an accomplished composer of piano music and symphonies during the 20th century.

Nordahl Bruns Gate 9, 5014 Bergen, Norway

21 Lille Lungegårdsvannet in Bergen, Norway

Lille Lungegårdsvannet is a five-acre, octagon-shaped lake in the heart of Bergen. Encircling Smålungeren is a walking path, benches, groomed parks, flower beds and the four KODE museums. In the center is a tranquil jet-spray fountain. Lake Lungegard is a spectacular place to enjoy a scenic respite during a busy day of touring the city.

Rasmus Meyers Allé, 5015 Bergen, Norway

22 KODE 3 Museum in Bergen, Norway

Encircling Lake Lungegard are buildings named KODE 1, 2, 3 and 4. They are four of the seven Bergen Art Museum locations. The KODE museums collectively manage over 43,000 works of art. The KODE 3 gallery focuses on Edvard Munch. He was a Norwegian artist made famous by his expressionist paintings. His work was often abstract, stylistic and sometimes haunting. They reflected his rollercoaster psyche until his death in 1944. His most famous work is The Scream. Although it is not shown in Bergen, an extensive number of Munch’s paintings are on display. They were gifted by Rasmus Meyer. He used his fortune made from Norway’s largest mill to amass the Rasmus Meyer Art Collection. A few other artists from Norway’s golden age (1880 – 1905) are also represented in KODE 3.

Rasmus Meyers Allé 7, 5015 Bergen, Norway

23 Crying Boy Sculpture in Bergen, Norway

This statue is so homely bordering on ugly that it is endearing. The Crying Boy (Grinegutten) was created in 1948 by Sofus Madsen. He spent most of his 96 years (1881 – 1977) sculpting life-size and larger-than-life human figures. If you like his work, you can see 28 more scattered throughout Bergen. On Sundays during the summer, you can also visit the Sofus Madsen Sculpture Museum (Skulpturmuseum) in the Landås neighborhood.

Rasmus Meyers Allé 3, 5015 Bergen, Norway

24 Poseidon Sculpture in Bergen, Norway

Poseidon Sculpture in Bergen, Norway
Bergen has been dependent on the Norwegian and North Seas for trade, transportation and fishing since the earliest settlers arrived in the 1020s. So, it is not surprising to find a statue of Poseidon on Christies gate near the University of Bergen. The Greek god of the oceans is shown above a dolphin and holding a three-pronged trident. He was heralded as the protector of seafarers. On the left is the spire of St. John’s Church.

Christies Gate 19, 5007 Bergen, Norway

25 Natural History Collections Museum in Bergen, Norway

The Natural History Collections has engaging zoological, geological and botanical displays. Most exhibits focus on Norway. This was voted as the best museum in Bergen in 2011. Encircling this 1865 building by architect Johan Nebelong is a beautiful botanical garden and green house. Also worth visiting is the Cultural History Collection next door. Collectively, these institutions are part the University Museum of Bergen, founded in 1825.

Haakon Sheteligs Plass 10, 5020 Bergen, Norway

26 Bergen Maritime Museum in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is the country’s busiest port. The city is surrounded by fjords in the Western Norway region. This geographic position has made the residents dependent on the sea for fishing, transportation and trade since the early 11th century. Think of all that has happened during the last millennium. Better yet, visit the Bergen Maritime Museum. The exhibits trace Norway’s maritime history dating back to pre-historic times. These include informative displays on the Vikings era (800 to 1066 AD). You will be fascinated by all of the stories leading up to the present.

Haakon Sheteligs Plass 15, 5007 Bergen, Norway

27 University of Bergen in Bergen, Norway

Approximately 15,000 students attend the University of Bergen. UiB offers seven faculties including the Faculty of Humanities housed in this bright yellow building named Sydneshaugen Skole. As a public university, it is free to attend for both Norwegian and international students. However, private universities in Norway do charge tuition fees for undergraduate, graduate and PhD programs. Tuition averages about $10,000 USD a year.

Sydnesplassen 9, 5007 Bergen, Norway

28 St. John’s Church in Bergen, Norway

Exquisite! That is one of several applicable superlatives to describe this Gothic Revival design by Herman Backer. He was predominately an architect of extravagant mansions around the turn of the 20th century. Backer drafted St. John’s Church in 1891 and construction was finished in 1894. After more than 125 years, this red brick church remains the largest in the city. The 200 foot spire also makes Johanneskirken the tallest building in Bergen.

Sydnesplassen 5, 5007 Bergen, Norway

29 Den Nationale Scene in Bergen, Norway

The National Theater was founded in 1850. 59 years later, Den Nationale Scene moved into this Art Nouveau building designed by Einar Oscar Schou. King Haakon VII of Norway attended opening night. Much of the structure was destroyed during WWII. After an extensive renovation, the performing arts venue reopened in 2001. Approximately 20 productions – and at least one for children – are staged annually by a professional ensemble of 40 actors.

Engen 1, 5803 Bergen, Norway

30 Nykirken Church in Bergen, Norway

A historic landmark you will want to visit while exploring the Nordnes peninsula is Nykirken Church. The New Church is a bit of a misnomer today because it was originally consecrated in 1622. The parish church was ravished by fire in 1756 and then rebuilt. The date on this clock and bell tower is 1761. Nykirken was again destroyed during WWII when the German ship ST Voorbode exploded at a nearby quay. You will be surprised by the décor when you walk inside. Much of the decorations were created by children. Hence, it is often called the Children’s Cathedral.

Strandgaten 197B, 5004 Bergen, Norway

31 Penguins at Bergen Aquarium in Bergen, Norway

One of the most popular attractions for kids of all ages is the Bergen Aquarium. Displayed among 50 tanks, three outdoor pools and a shark tunnel are over 500 species of aquatic life. Most of the marine fauna are from Norway’s coastline. Some are from other waters around the world. Especially fun to watch are the frolicking penguins, otters and seals. A different animal presentation and/or feeding session starts every hour. Equally fascinating are the large screen movies at Akvariet i Bergen.

Nordnesbakken 4, 5005 Bergen, Norway

32 Scenic Overlook at Nordnes Park in Bergen, Norway

After visiting the aquarium, take a few minutes to walk to the end of Nordnes peninsula. You will find a great viewing platform within Nordnes Park overlooking the approach to Bergen’s port and Vågen bay. Watch vessels of all sizes come and go. Stroll along the tree-lined paths. Try fishing along the shore. Go for a swim in the seawater pool at Nordnes Sjøbad. Or explore the charming row houses and cobblestone streets along the peninsula.

View Point, Nordnesparken, 5005 Bergen, Norway

Sailing Out of Bergen, Norway

After an exhausting day of sightseeing in Bergen, you may be tempted to return to your cabin aboard the cruise ship and maybe take a nap before dinner. Don’t! If you do, you will miss a marvelous scenic experience. Instead, sip a cocktail on your balcony or on deck when departing the harbor. Your ship will slowly wind through narrow straits and pass some of Norway’s prettiest seascapes. Marvel at the countless islets. Savor the site of isolated houses perched on rugged crags. Admire the aquamarine water lapping inside bays and inlets. Cherish the changing clouds as they swirl above the mountain peaks. You will long remember this passage.

Fjords and Mountains of Bergen, Norway

Bergen is often called the Gateway to Norway’s Fjords. For good reason. The city dominates the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen and is encircled by seven majestic fjords. These scenic waterways are deep, narrow, long and embraced by steep cliffs. They are exceptionally beautiful. They were carved by powerful glaciers during several ice ages ranging from 15,000 to 10,000 years ago. Another moniker for Bergen is the City of Seven Mountains. Gullfjellet (Gold Mountain) has the tallest summit at 3,238 feet.

Western Norway Encircles Bergen, Norway

As you sail by the final sweeping scenery of Bergen, rest assured more majestic vistas await you. Your ship is in the heart of Western Norway. This region has about 16,500 miles of spectacular coastline accented with tiny islets and enormous mountains. The landmass also harbors some of the country’s longest fjords. No wonder the region is such a popular tourist destination. In addition, Western Norway is a mecca for its 1.3 million residents. They appreciate having the lowest unemployment and crime rates in the country plus one of the best economies.

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