Many fall in love at first sight with Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. Seven rounded lush mountains, pastel-color wooden houses, historic Bryggen, winding cobblestone streets, and Hanseatic relics all make it a place of enchantment. Its many epithets include “Trebyen” (Wooden City; it has many wooden houses), “Regnbyen” (Rainy City, due to its 200 days of rain a year), and “Fjordbyen” (Gateway to the fjords).
Surrounded by forested mountains and Fjords, it’s only natural that most Bergensers feel at home either on the mountains (skiing, hiking, walking, or at their cabins) or at sea (fishing and boating). As for the rainy weather, most visitors quickly learn the necessity of rain jackets and umbrellas. Bergen is even the site of the world’s first umbrella vending machine.
This harbor city has played a vital role in the Norwegian economy. Before the discovery of North Sea oil and Bergen’s subsequent rise as the capital of Norway’s oil industry, the city was long a major center of fishing and shipping. In fact, Bergen was founded in 1070 by Olav Kyrre as a commercial center. In the 14th century, Hanseatic merchants settled in Bergen and made it one of their four major overseas trading centers.
The surviving Hanseatic wooden buildings on Bryggen (the quay) are topped with triangular cookie-cutter roofs and painted in red, blue, yellow, and green. Monuments in themselves (they are on the UNESCO World Heritage List), the buildings tempt travelers and locals to the shops, restaurants, and museums inside.
In the evening, when the Bryggen is illuminated, these modest buildings, together with the stocky Rosenkrantz Tower, the Flyen, and the yachts lining the pier, are reflected in the waters of the harbor—and provide one of the loveliest cityscapes in northern Europe.
There’s a number of attractions in Bergen and the surrounding areas. Surveys do, however, show that most tourists in Bergen find the atmosphere, cultural landscape and architecture more compelling than the typical sights, so pick a few things to see and spend the rest of your time in Bergen sitting down in a park or café, strolling around the city, enjoying a concert or hiking the mountains. On sunny summer days, stay downtown until late to enjoy the sunset in the north.