Breathe it in
Thousand year-old Bergen, on Norway’s south-western coast, has all the trappings that befit second-city status, but on a smaller and more intimate scale. As a former European Capital of Culture, there’s plenty to get your teeth into – and a whole range of mountains to explore come snow or sun. All in, it’s a fresh (and refreshing) break from the city break norm.
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Bryggen is ideal for hunting down unique items with its plentiful gift shops, arts and crafts retailers and design outlets that include Røst (Bryggen 15) and Ting (Bryggen 11). Kløverhuset shopping centre (Strandgaten 13/15) is the place to go for the latest fashion with its selection of independent boutiques and international names – the largest shopping centre, Lagunen Storsenter (Laguneveien 1), is handily located on the way to the airport. Purchase local produce at the bustling outdoor Fish Market (Torget), which sells more than just delicacies from the North Sea: souvenirs, flowers and handcrafted items can be found here.
Food & Drink
Bergen’s coastal location means fish is a key ingredient at restaurants of all styles and budgets in the city. Among the most spellbinding is Cornelius Seafood Restaurant, which serves first-rate seafood on the island of Holmen (20 minutes from Bergen by boat) amidst stunning fjords. The traditional Enhjørningen Fiskerestaurant (Enhjørningsgården 29) in Bryggen is a good city centre alternative. For a more varied menu, the gourmet Colonialen (Engen 8) serves up inventive tasting menus. Sitting down to coffee and pastries is a popular pastime in Bergen, with Baer Brun (Damsgårdsvei 109A) among the best cafés – try its delicious skillingsbolle (cinnamon buns).
Norwegian Constitution Day
Norway’s National Day is celebrated in the streets of Bergen with a colourful parade, which features a number of drumming bands and locals clad in red, white and blue ribbons. The revelry culminates in a spectacular fireworks display in Festival Square.
Bergen International Festival
This feast of the arts, which ranges from contemporary music and dance to traditional opera and theatre, puts Bergen well and truly on the cultural map for just over two weeks each year.
Having featured some of the biggest names in jazz since its inception in 1972, this 11-night series of more than 60 concerts is sure to get the feet tapping.
This popular music festival sees big names in rock, pop, hip hop and electronica take to the open-air stages next to Bergenhus Fortress and perform at intimate venues in the city’s bars and clubs.
Bergen International Film Festival
Running since the turn of the millennium, this cinematic celebration is one of the biggest of its kind in Norway. All types of film are included here, from feature-length offerings to documentaries, and screenings take place in a number of city centre venues.
From imposing city centre hotels to cosy lodgings in the city’s historic areas, there is something to suit even the most discerning of tastes in Bergen. The plush First Hotel Marin (Rosenkrantzgaten 8) is one of the many colourful Hanseatic buildings in Bryggen, the charming old wharf area. The nearby Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret (Slottsgaten 1) has a modern feel with warming browns and chic chandeliers. Close to the city’s main square, Torgallmenningen, is InCity Hotel (Øvre Ole Bulls plass 3), which features well-equipped apartments; while just across City Park is the budget Citybox (Nygårdsgaten 31). An alternative affordable option is the family-run Steens Hotel (Parkveien 22), beside the beautiful Nygård Park.