Heart of Norway

Bergen: The Heart Of Norway

Mary Elizabeth Collins

Full of history and tradition, the Norwegian city of Bergen is a cultural jewel with an intense urban life.

Located in Hordaland County, near the North Sea in Norway, the historic city of Bergen is a peaceful and beautiful enclave considered the gateway to the breathtaking Norwegian fjords.


Since ancient times, Bergen has been a major city. Already in the 13th century it was the most important outpost for the Nordic countries and an active commercial port. Its profile has remained unchanged since the 11th century, and its historic Bryggen wharf was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1979.

The people of Bergen carefully preserve their traditions and their past in a lively metropolis that exudes enthusiasm and joie de vivre. One of nine European cities honored with the title of European Cultural Capital in 2000, Bergen is famous for its Philharmonic Orchestra (one of the oldest in the world), its national theater, major museums and cultural institutions. Music is also at the heart of the city, which holds international music festivals every year. The most famous are the Jazz Festival and the International Arts Festival, which are Norway’s largest cultural events. Review our selection of luxury cultural vacations.


Bergen is a small and friendly city perfect for idle strolls through its charming streets. In summer, people enjoy the legendary Pier with its terraces and restaurants offering local and exotic fish paired with wine and beer. The Fish Market is an exciting site to enjoy delicious prawns and smoked salmon accompanied by the typical sweet donut-shaped bread with cinnamon and sugar.

In spring, the city awakens from its long winter hibernation. The cobblestone streets glisten under the frail rain and the striking colors of the houses—crowned with beautiful tile work—come alive and shine with the first rays of sunlight.


Your exploration of this Nordic paradise should begin at the 12th-century Church of Santa Maria—the oldest building in town. History buffs will enjoy the Theta Museum, dedicated to the resistance against the German occupation of Norway during World War II. Music lovers will marvel at the charming Edvard Grieg Museum, where the famous composer—born in Bergen in 1843—created his most sublime works.

Bergen is also the home of treasured art collections. These are displayed in a selection of galleries on the banks of Lille Lungegårdsvann Lake, and display paintings by international artists as well as classical and contemporary art treasures. The Bergen Art Museum is also located in this part of the city and boasts a unique collection of paintings by Edvard Munch. You will find the Contemporary Art Center of Bergen and the excellent Norwegian Western Museum of Decorative Arts also in this part of the city.


An attraction not to be missed is the royal residence built by King Håkon Håkonsson in the 11th century. And for breathtaking views, the Fløibanen funicular will take you to the top of Mount Fløien, which provides a stunning panorama of the city, mountains, fjords and the sea.

The top rated hotels in Bergen are the Clarion Havnekontoret and the First Hotel Marin— both in excellent locations. And in terms of gastronomic excellence, we recommend the Lysverket, and the 1877 restaurants.

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