Bergen (sometimes called by the Norse Bjørgvin), located on Norway’s scenic west coast, is the 2nd largest city in Norway, with a population of about 275,000 as of 2014. Bergen has a rich and unique history, very different than other Norwegian cities. A member of the Hanseatic League, Bergen was home to German merchants in the wharf area immediately surrounding the port. The Germans created their own segregated encampment there consisting of homes and businesses. The wharf area is known as Bryggen, the remains of which still exist today. Bryggen is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Due to fires throughout Bergen’s history only one-fourth of Bryggen consists of the original wood buildings dating back approximately 300 years; the remainder is rebuilt according to historical records.
Near to Bryggen is Bergen’s world-famous Fish Market (Fisketorget), where tourists and locals alike purchase freshly caught fish, handicrafts, flowers, fruits and vegetables, and more. The street lining the port is home to excellent, albeit expensive, fish restaurants. For the more exotic-minded consider purchasing a minke whale steak, which tastes remarkably like beef but with a salty sea accent and a texture not unlike tuna. (Whaling is a contentious issue both inside Norway and internationally; I will write more about it in a separate article).
One of Bergen’s most well-known attractions is the Fløibanen Funicular, open since 1918. The funicular is a narrow gauge railway that travels a length of 2,789 feet and a height of 984 feet. The route takes about seven minutes, including stops at each station along the way. The funicular departs every 15 minutes from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. For early morning and late evening departures, the funicular runs every half hour instead. The route’s final stop is at the peak of Fløyen, one of seven mountains (De syv fjell) that surround the city.On top of Fløyen one can enjoy spectacular views of the city below and the surrounding fjords and islands. In August of 2007 a special granite viewing platform, Fløytrappene, was constructed, covering 500 square meters in a series of steps and ledges. Many people visit the kiosk and souvenir shop where it’s popular to purchase a coffee, hot dog, ice cream, chocolate bar or soft drink. There is also a full-service restaurant available, Fløien Folkerestaurant, open daily from mid-May to the end of August. Yet Fløyen is best appreciated by leisurely wasting away an afternoon taking in the beautiful nature. There are many different walking trails available, along with picnic spots, a playground for children, access to Skomakerdiket lake, and more.
Also worth seeing downtown is the statue of Ole Bull, the famous violinist and composer from Bergen. Other tourist attractions worth seeing include the Bergen Aquarium and the Old Bergen Museum, consisting of 55 wooden homes from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. There are so many other interesting and unique attractions that Bergen has to offer, you really need to visit to see for yourself. There are also other attractions outside of the city center, which will be the subject for a future article.
The photos in this article were taken by Doug Tomren in April of 2013 (unless otherwise noted), in conjunction with a trip on the famous Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyage on the MS Midnatsol. For more more photos and information about this trip, see my previous article Visiting Honningvåg on the Hurtigruten.
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