Stop. Don’t go any farther. Did you really think you were going to blow by Bergen that quickly? You’re obviously in a rush to see the nearby mountains, fjords, and islands. They’re breathtaking. But Norway’s second-largest city shouldn’t be ignored.
Bergen, which sits on the Scandinavian country’s southwest coast, was founded by King Olaf III as a trading port. The City of Seven Mountains was Norway’s capital in the 13th century and its largest city until the 19th century. Bergen Port, usually full of cruise ships, is still the busiest port in the country. Bryggen, the colorful wooden houses along the east side of Vågen harbor, used to be the commercial heart of the city. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the Fish Market, open since the 13th century, is still the best place to start sampling Bergen specialties.
Fløibanen is just steps from Bryggen. The funicular connects the center of the city to Fløyen, one of the city mountains. At the top of Fløyen, you can see the weather vane that indicates the wind direction for sailing ships. Hiking trails spread out from there. Plus you have a fantastic view of the harbor, the Bergen Peninsula, and the North Atlantic Ocean.
Now that you’ve figured out the lay of the land, you’re ready to explore the hipper, artsier side of Bergen. KODE is the city’s collection of art museums and composer homes. The seven buildings combine into one of the largest art museums in the Nordic countries. Hordaland Art Centre was the first artist-run exhibition space created in Norway. Galleries are tucked in historic buildings, modern structures, and pop-up spots. Brightly colored graffiti seems to fill every other nook and cranny.
The last piece of your Bergen puzzle is a hotel. Hotel Norge blends the modern and historic sides of the city quite well. A hotel was first built across from Byparken, the first park that was created in Bergen, at the end of the 19th century. The original building was demolished in 1961, but another hotel reopened in the same spot a few years later. This one changed hands and expanded many times. Its most recent renovation was unveiled last year.
The 10-story hotel now has a striking glass facade. Bars and restaurants are spread between three floors. Café Norge is your first stop for caffeine. Novastuene, the breakfast room, has a view of Lille Lungegårdsvannet, the small lake on the other side of Byparken. The Lobby, a bar with mood lighting, serves its own aquavit. But it’s the elegant Restaurant Nova, which showcases modern Norwegian cuisine, that’s considered one of the best restaurants in the city.
Then there are the cozy rooms. Wooden floors, blackout curtains, and soothing colors ooze Nordic design. A cursive “escape” sign hangs above each bed. Escaping is the last thing on your mind right now, though.