Bergen for first-timers... and return visitors

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Marie Peyre - [email protected]
Bergen for first-timers... and return visitors
Bergen Harbour. Photo: Marie Peyre

Whether you are travelling to Bergen for the very first time, or have visited before - Norway's second largest city has something to enchant and surprise everyone. By our travel editor Marie Peyre.


Discovering Bergen's history
First time: Bergen's past as an important Hanseatic town is nowhere better illustrated than on Bryggen, the first stop on most visitors' itinerary. Take time to explore the Unesco-listed wharves and back alleys, rebuilt following old patterns and methods after Bryggen was destroyed by fire on several occasions. Guarding the entrance to the harbour nearby, Bergenhus Fortress is one of Norway's oldest and best preserved fortresses, and also worth a visit. Håkon's Hall and Rosenkrantz Tower in particular are impressive buildings. 

Photo: Marie Peyre
Next visit: For a trip down memory lane, head to the Old Bergen Museum, a collection of some 50 wooden buildings giving an insight into what life was in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Costumed actors act as guides and bring history to life to the delight of visitors of all ages as they stop by the bakery, the school or the dentist - a truly enchanting way to learn about Bergen's (and Norway's) history. 

Old Bergen Museum. Photo: Marie Peyre
Edvard Grieg's home town
First time: One of Bergen's most famous sons is acclaimed composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), so a trip to Bergen should include a visit to his former home at Troldhaugen, just outside the city limits. Try to catch a lunch-time concert inside Troldsalen on the grounds - a truly special experience in one of Norway's smallest, and most beautiful, music venues. 

Edvard Grieg with grand piano, c. 1900.
Next visit: If you visit in summer the 'Grieg in Bergen' festival will be on at Korskirken (The Church of the Cross), with musicians from around the world paying homage to the Norwegian maestro. Alternatively, the International Edvard Grieg Piano Competition is an exciting event for all Grieg's fans, featuring world-class music by 30 pianists from 15 countries, a recital in the grand Håkon's Hall and a thrilling final. It takes place in September.

Edvard Munch and beyond
First time: The Rasmus Meyer Collection at KODE Art Museum is the world's second largest collection of works by Edvard Munch (over 100 drawings and 50 paintings), and as such is a must for any art lover. The museum is a great place to get better acquainted with the expressionist master's legacy, and discover other Norwegian artists in the bargain. 
Next visit: Right next door, Bergen Kunsthall, which holds a number of solo and group exhibitions by contemporary artists every year, is another important art institution worth checking out. 

Woman. Photo: Dag Fosse/KODE
Keeping the kids happy

First time: Located in Nordnes, a short walk from the centre of town, Bergen Aquarium is Norway's largest. It is also one of Bergen's biggest tourist attractions. The aquarium is home to hundreds of Arctic fish and sea creatures, as well as snakes, spiders, crocodiles and other tropical animals. Particularly popular are the penguins, sea lions and seals - make sure you don't miss feeding and training time, always a highlight. 

Bergen Aquarium. Photo: Akvariet i Bergen

Next visit: If the kids want to splash around themselves, Vannkanten, Bergen's only water park, is a good choice, particularly on a rainy day. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, slides (including Norway's longest water slide, 120 metres long), jacuzzi - there is plenty to keep children entertained here. Bowling, curling, an ice-rink (in season) and a climbing wall can be found on the same premises.
Bergen's seven mountains
First time: Bergen is famously surrounded by seven mountains. We are not suggesting you hike all seven (although some people do), but to get great panoramic views of the city nothing beats a trip up Mt Fløyen. Hop on the Fløibanen Funicular to get to the top (the trip in itself is great fun!) and either take a leisurely walk back down along Fløysvingene or spend the day hiking in the mountains. The area is well marked with paths to Blåmanen, Rundemanen or Sandviksfjellet among others. 

The view from Mt Fløyen. Photo: Marie Peyre
Next visit: Another fun and equally lazy way to explore Bergen's mountains is to get the gondola lift to Mt Ulriken, Bergen's highest mountain, which culminates at 643 metres above sea level. Should you decide to hike instead, the walk up is fine for all ages and takes about 1.5 hours. 

Mt Ulriken. Photo: Marie Peyre
Seafood straight from the fjord
First time: Bergen is known for its fish soup, traditionally made with cream, so this is a must when visiting the city. Several restaurants feature the dish on their menu. One of my favourites is Enhjørningen (The Unicorn), as much for the excellent food as for the setting, in an old wooden Hanseatic house on Bryggen. 

Enhjørningen. Photo: Marie Peyre
Next visit: Try a more modern take on seafood at Lysverket, where chef Christopher Haatuft, who earned his stripes at one of NYC's best restaurants, serves what he calls Neo-fjordic cuisine. Choose from dishes like scallops with grilled turnip and elderflower sauce, or langoustines with tomato and angelica. 

Lysverket. Photo: Bonjwing Lee




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