With the exception of the capital of Oslo, Bergen was the only other Norwegian city I had heard of prior to my cruise. Everything I read about Bergen was rave reviews-that it was gorgeous, that its location made it the perfect departure point for seeing fjords, and that it was oozing with history.
Bergen was the last port on our cruise and while I booked a port excursion to visit the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s home, Troldhaugen, since it wasn’t until the afternoon, I still wanted to see some of Bergen. So if you’re short on time, here’s a brief itinerary to still get a pretty nice overview.
First things first, try to be off the ship as soon as it docks in port and hightail it to Fløibanen, the funicular that travels up to Mt Fløyen. I had heard that as the day goes on, the lines for Fløibanen get ridiculously long. We thankfully didn’t have to wait at all for a car (and actually you can buy your tickets in advance which even saves additional time) but by the time we had finished taking pictures up at the top and came back down, the line was already out of the building. This is due to its being a popular tourist destination AND tour groups descending on it in hordes. Unfortunately it was somewhat foggy and overcast so the views could have been better but it was still quite beautiful at the top all the same. There’s also a cable car in Bergen; however, it’s not in the city center so I didn’t investigate it (Fløibanen is only about a 15 minute walk from the cruise port).
Although we ended up only walking through the outdoor one (historically the fish market had always been outdoors but in more recent times an indoor one opened as well to make it more desirable to visit in all weather conditions), I really enjoyed it. I saw more types of fish and sea creatures than I could even begin to identify but was also quite enchanted with the lovely freshly grown produce I saw. The highlight though was sampling smoked minke whale (this is not endangered, in fact it’s overpopulated!), elk, and reindeer. Surprisingly I liked the taste of the whale the most! We ended up buying one smoked sausage to take home with us.
Part of why I enjoyed Bergen so much was that it had a wealth of beautiful buildings and interesting statues. While I couldn’t tell you their names or histories, they were lovely to photograph.
We only popped into the gift shop (it was classy and sold museum wares, not tourist junk), but this is a place I wouldn’t have minded checking out. The Hanseatic League was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns. It ruled maritime trade along the coast of Northern Europe from the 1400s to 1800 and stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea, and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries). It had German origins and the Hanseatic League contributed to Bergen’s becoming the center of merchant and shipping activity in Norway; it grew to major importance. The museum covers all of this and is located in a conserved wooden building on Bryggen (Bryggen does not mean Bergen but rather is the Norwegian word for wharf).
When one sees those guidebook worthy photos of Bergen, they’re almost always of Bryggen, which is the city’s famous wharf area. It consists of a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings and since 1979 has been on the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites. In 1360 a kontor (a foreign trading post of the Hanseatic League) was established at Bryggen and it became the center of the Hanseatic commercial activities in Norway.
While today Bryggen is overrun with tourists due to the numerous shops and restaurants found there (I will say that some of the stores definitely carried higher quality souvenirs), one can’t deny its iconic beauty and history. Norway truly is a country where wood is king and Bryggen is so that. It was interesting to learn how some of the buildings were bombed during World War II and you could see their caved in state which remains to this day.
We didn’t go in here but we did pass by it coming and going from the ship and it is quite a beautiful structure. Being a fortress, it’s located at the entrance to the harbor in Bergen and is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway.
Well there you have it, a quick stroll through Norway’s most popular city. It’s one I would love to return to one day, which is made all the more appealing since there are even direct flights there from the United States!