Did you know Bergen was the capital of Norway until 1299? And did you know that its Bryggen seafront is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Or, that ten percent of its population is made up of students? Whether you are in Bergen for a cruise stop, arriving here before sailing on one of the many fjords at the base of Bergen’s seven surrounding mountain peaks, or visiting for several days, consider taking this self-guided walking tour to get an overview of all the highlights and perhaps spending some time at one or many of the stops.
1 (A) Rosenkrantz Tower
Begin this walk near the cruise port at the intersection of Bergenhus and Festningskaien at the Rosenkrantz Tower, one of the oldest buildings remaining of the Bergen Castle (Bergenhus) complex. The tower is considered one of the most important renaissance monuments in Norway. Mostly built in the 1560s by the governor of Bergen Castle, parts of the tower date to the 13th century. It was built as a fortification for protection of the castle and the entire area. Bergen was not only an important fishing and trading region, but it was the capital of Norway until 1299. Rosenkrantz Tower served as the residence of the last king to hold court in Bergen until his death. Later, the cellar of the tower served as a dungeon. The tower is open most days and can be visited for a fee. If you have the energy to climb the narrow and dark flights of stairs to the rooftop, you will be rewarded with impressive views. Guided tours, in English, are available for an additional fee from June 24th to August 15th at 10 am.
2 (B) Statsraad Lehmkuhl – Sailing Ship
Walk on Festningskaien with the sea on your right toward town. Hopefully you will see the three-masted sailing ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. The ship is contracted to serve as a school ship for the Royal Norwegian Navy. It was built in 1914 as a training ship for the German merchant marine. After World War I it was taken as a prize by the United Kingdom. In 1921 it got its current name when former cabinet minister Kristoffer Lehmkuhl purchased it. It was temporarily named Westwärtsship when it was captured by German troops during World War II. It is now owned and operated by the Statsraad Lehmkuhl foundation.
3 (C) Bryggen
Keep walking with the sea on your right and the most famous of area of Bergen, Bryggen, will be on your left facing the harbor. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was rebuilt after the great Bergen fire of 1702 directly over its medieval foundations. It looks much as it was originally built when Bryggen was one of the major import/export offices of the German Hanseatic League, a confederation of merchant guilds and market towns that dominated trade for almost 400 years in Northern Europe.
4 (D) Bryggen – Shopping Alleys
Today, Bryggen’s narrow alleyways and buildings are filled with shops, restaurants and galleries. Be sure to get a glimpse of the past by walking through the covered archways of the streets near the center of Bryggen that run perpendicular to the seafront-street and walk back again to come back to main street. I think the shops on these back streets seem to offer some of the most authentic merchandise. They seemed less touristy than the shops facing the harbor.
5 (E) Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene
Continue walking along the seafront road until you reach Finnegården, where you will see the Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene on your left. The main part of the museum is located in one of the conserved wooden buildings of Bryggen that was built after the fire of 1702. The museum chronicles the time of the Hanseatic period of time of Bergen. All of the artifacts are original.
6 (F) Fish and Flower Market Area
Continue on the seafront road walking with the harbor on your right, and you will see a McDonalds on your left in one of Bryggen’s historical wooden buildings (see picture). Soon you will come to the statue of Ludvig Holberg in a square on your left across from the Fish and Flower Market on the seafront. Baron of Holberg (1684 – 1754) was a writer, essayist, philosopher, historian and playwright born in Bergen. He is considered the founder of modern Danish and Norwegian literature. Walk across the street to see the famous fish and flower markets. Continue walking straight on Standkaien, perhaps stopping at the Tourist Information office for brochures to get information about city tours and sights. Then, take a left on Fortunen and another left on Markeveien, passing a number of shops and restaurants.
7 (G) Edvard Grieg Statue
Markeveien will become Starvhusgaten and lead you right into Byparken, Bergen’s city park. Just to your right as soon as you reach the park you will see a statue of Bergen’s most famous historical citizen, composer and pianist Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907). Grieg’s Norwegian folk music put Norway’s music on the international stage for the first time, and he became known worldwide.
8 (H) Byparken – Music Pavilion
Continue walking to your right toward the center of the park, and you will come to the Music Pavilion. This gazebo is the scene for small park concerts and a great place to take some beautiful pictures.
9 (I) Kunsthall Art Museum
Walk to your right as you face the lake to the Kunsthall Art Museum. This contemporary art museum houses works of artists from all over the world and often hosts educational events and special exhibitions.
Circle the lake, exit toward Kaigaten and turn left. Then, turn right on Radhusgaten.
10 (J) Bergen Cathedral (Domkirke)
Stay on Radhusgaten after it becomes Domkirkegaten, and you will soon see the Bergen Cathedral (Domkirke) on your right. The 1000-seat Bergen Cathedral is part of the Church of Norway. Its first recorded historical reference was in 1181, when it was dedicated to Saint Olaf. In 1665, during the Battle of Vågen between English and Dutch fleets in the harbor, a cannonball landed in the outer wall of the cathedral. Can you spot it?
11(K) Fløibanen – Funicular
Turn right out of the cathedral and continue on Lille Øvregaten. The Fløibanen station will be on the right at Vetrlidsallmenningen. Here you can board a funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen and an unparalleled view over Bergen. Don’t miss it! The funicular is open daily and takes less than 10 minutes to reach the top. In addition to the view, there is a restaurant, a café and a shop. There are opportunities for biking and hiking on Mount Fløyen. Find more information at the official website:
12 (L) Bryggens Museum
From the funicular station, walk to the right on Øvregaten and turn left on Bugården. Turn right onto Gullskogården, and then turn right onto Dreggsallmenningen to reach the Bryggens Museum. The museum displays objects that have been excavated in Bryggen over the years dating back to the Middle Ages. Many of the artifacts were found after a 1955 fire that exposed foundations of some of the oldest buildings in Bergen. There is a souvenir shop, a film and a café. The museum is open most days.
Two guided walks of Bergen originate in front of the museum in the summer months. One of the tours highlights the Bryggen area and one highlights the medieval areas of nearby St. Mary’s Church, as well as the Rosenkrantz Tower.
I hope you have enjoyed this overview of one perfect day in Bergen. You can see the maps above in an interactive format at Walkli.com. Just search on “Bergen”.
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Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just perfect!