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Isn’t it the cold, dark and rainy days that bring out the best in us: reading, writing and the focus on hygge (the Norwegian word for well-being that was adopted by the Danish to describe the feeling of coziness and satisfaction)? Bergen is pretty much known as the rain shower capital of Europe, and boasts the astonishing mountainous beauty of fjords, funiculars and fine food, a glorious hub undamped in spirits that thrives 365 days a year. It is in fact where many artists and musicians relocate to gain perspective and focus, especially when the polished vibe of the capital gets to be too much and their forest cabin drives them a little too stir-crazy.
Encased by seven hills and seven fjords, the city is a mashup of culture, nature and originality, with jutting mountaintops mixed with postcard-pretty harbors, rainbow-housed streets and footpaths. A city that feels more like a cozy coastal town but has all the vivacity and activity – perhaps more – than its neighboring city, Oslo. Like every modern Nordic city, it’s super clean and, though standardly hefty on the wallet, unnervingly functional. If you are headed outside you might be damned without your umbrella, but there are plenty of indoor events when you’re done getting rain-beaten on a breathtaking hike.
Sleep like a King
Swoop into Bergen center via the ever-reliable Norwegian Flybussen, an express transfer from the airport that drops you to wherever you’re staying. There’s a choice between cozy, earthy stays at more family-run hotels or glossier more modern stays, lots of places also offer free coffee, mid-afternoon pastries and sometimes even light supper: though of course there are many places to check out around town. For luxury boutiques, check into the Hotel No 13 on the central street Torgallmenningen, or any of the Clarions, and for a more low-key vibe, the Steens Hotel is perfect and provides a continental breakfast in an old-school wood-paneled breakfast room. It’s imperative to take a coffee break at one of the city’s esteemed roasteries or serious coffee houses, such as Krok og Kringel, which is also a book store.
As for things to do waste no time in exploring Bergen’s prominent art scene: on top of heaps of galleries and museums such as the Byggens or the Hanseatic. The main modern art museum and the fortress just outside town are also worth a peek. In addition to these galleries and museums guests can take a ten-minute stroll down King Oscar’s Gate for a browse of the fantastic contemporary arts museum, Kode, one of Scandi’s largest art and music museums offering, of course, daily tours and national collections from 15th century to present, including the vast works of famed art collector Rasmus Meyer, and the odd, childhood-reverie images of Nikolai Astrup. Dive into a late lunch of traditional Hanseatic fare on historical grounds at Tracteurstedet or enjoy steamed cod with lobster and potatoes, mussels’ soup, or even sardines on toast.
Come down from the clouds and visit world heritage site Bryggen, the old wharf and twinkling gem in the Hanseatic city’s crown. A lot of the yellow, rust and red wooden houses remain intact after fires centuries ago. When visiting this city save room for a special dinner-to-remember at Lysverket, run by the brilliant Christopher Haatuft. Owner and head chef, he is part black metal aficionado, part nature enthusiast who marries his interests and great expertise in the form of Bergen’s most revered restaurant, where you can enjoy wine-paired set menus that traverse the west coast terrain via seared scallops, cod custard, chanterelle mushrooms, fennel ice cream and to-die-for brown cheese chocolate truffles fit for the Queen of Norway (who Haatuft has cooked for a number of times).
Stroll about the old fish market and port and catch a three-hour fjord cruise with Rødne Fjord Cruises to Mostrarmen. On the catamaran you’ll see misty fjords and waterfalls, goats and an old prison from the coziness off the inner deck or the slightly blusterier deck. Afterwards head to the cozy Pingvinen for one last hit of divine Norwegian coffee (and kjottkaker with mash and lingonberry jam if you have room) to keep you buzzing with energy. ■