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Six surprising things you need to do in Bergen

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Six surprising things you need to do in Bergen
Beyond Bergen's well-trodden paths lies a number of lesser-known gems and activities waiting to be discovered. Photo by François Fayet on Unsplash

When people think of Bergen in western Norway, they typically picture the iconic Bryggen wharf, the Fløibanen funicular, or the Fish Market. However, the city is home to many surprising attractions and things to do that often go unnoticed.

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Norway's second-largest city, Bergen, is most famous for its stunning landscapes (it is nicknamed "The Gateway To The Fjords," after all) and rich history (the UNESCO site Bryggen is especially popular), which typically attracts over two million visitors a year.

READ MORE: A weekend in Bergen: Everything you should see and do

However, beyond the well-trodden paths of Bryggen, the centrally located Fløibanen funicular, and the Fish Market lies a number of lesser-known gems and activities waiting to be discovered.

An anchor in the mountains?

One of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen's city center, Sandviksfjellen, holds a surprising remnant from WWII – an anchor lying in the grass.

This anchor originated from the Dutch ship Voorbode, which exploded in the centrally located Vågen harbour on April 20th, 1944.

The Dutch vessel, carrying over 100,000 kilograms of explosives, was in Bergen for repairs en route to northern Norway. When it exploded while docked alongside the fortress in the city centre, it caused massive devastation.

The blast killed 160 people, mostly German soldiers, and injured another 5,000.

The explosion was so powerful that it hurled the anchor 3,000 meters from the blast site.

Today, this spot features a commemorative plaque and still displays parts of the anchor.

Bergen's seven-mountains walking tour

If you visit Bergen in May, you'll have the chance to participate in the Seven-Mountain Tour (7-fjellsturen), an annual endurance test that attracts thousands of hikers.

This trek covers approximately 35 kilometres across Bergen's seven city mountains, with a total ascent of 2,400 meters.

For those seeking a slightly less demanding challenge, there are also options to complete a shorter four-mountain or three-mountain tour.

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READ MORE: Oslo versus Bergen: Five big differences between Norway's two largest cities

The Seven-Mountain Tour is more than just a hike; it's a festive community event, and Bergen locals proudly claim this trek offers some of the best hiking experiences in the country, rewarding participants with incredible views.

The classic Seven-Mountain Tour route starts at Gravdal, near Nutec. The trail leads over Lyderhorn, Damsgårdsfjellet, Løvstakken, Ulriken, Fløyfjellet, Brushytten, Rundemanen, and finally Sandviksfjellet.

The hike typically takes between 9 to 15 hours.

The Stoltzekleiven trail

Located in the heart of Bergen, Stoltzekleiven is a steep, paved trail and staircase (featuring 722 steep steps) leading up to Sandviksfjellet mountain.

Each October, the trail hosts the "Stoltzekleiven Opp" fitness event, attracting around 2,000 participants.

The fastest climbers reach the top in about ten minutes, while most people take around half an hour.

Once you've conquered the steps, you can continue to the upper Fløibanen station for coffee, sweets, and one of the best views in Bergen.

One of the world's largest barrel bonfires

One of Bergen's most distinctive traditions is the barrel bonfire at Laksevåg, called Tønnebålet, to celebrate the summer solstice.

The Tønnebålet serves as Bergen's official midsummer bonfire.

Standing at 30 meters, it's recognised as one of the world's largest barrel bonfires. Every year, this structure is built by the local marching neighborhood youth organisations.

Thousands of residents gather in Kirkebukten in Laksevåg to witness this event, where kegs worth tens of thousands of kroner are set ablaze, lighting up the summer night.

The bomb crater on Askøy

If you have the time to cross the bridge to Åsebø on Askøy, you'll be able to visit the crater of a bomb dropped on January 12th, 1945.

On that day, dozens of Lancaster bombers from England aimed to destroy the submarine bunker at Laksevåg.

READ MORE: Five great restaurants for a dinner date in Bergen

Due to the heavy smoke, one pilot couldn't see his target and turned towards Askøy, where he was hit by a German fighter plane.

To lighten the load, he dropped the bomb on Åsebøåsen, creating a crater nearly 15 metres deep and 50 metres in diameter, still visible today.

The path up to Åsebøåsen is well-marked, and an information board at the top provides historical context.

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Norway's oldest brothel

Bergen is home to Norway's oldest brothel at Steinkjellergaten 10, just a short walk from Bryggen in the Old Town (it's a popular stop on many of the city's guided tours - although the building is no longer actually a brothel).

The brothel was active as early as 1455, in the same building where the coffee factory Kaffehuset Friele later started operating (From 1800 to 1882).

Prostitution was widespread in old Bergen, and Steinkjelleren ("the stone cellar") was one of the most well-known brothels.

The basement beneath the house served as both a tavern and a brothel.

It remained a popular tavern for centuries, frequently visited by German merchants due to its proximity to the wharf.

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