A place worth visiting in its own right …
Before you arrive. Perched on the edge of seven fjords, it’s no surprise that Bergen found fame in recent years as the main starting port for any exploration of Norway’s fjordland. Boats – full of locals and travellers alike – depart its harbour regularly. But it’s not only tourists who saw the city’s location as a key asset.
Founded in 1070, the city’s coastal location saw it fast established as a key European trading port, and it quickly became Norway’s capital. By the 14th century, a branch of the Hanseatic League (a powerful collective of merchant guilds across Europe) had set up shop here, establishing Bergen as the country’s economic powerhouse.
The League maintained a presence in Bergen for 400 years until the city was overtaken by Oslo and fell into decline. But its legacy can still be seen today in the colourful wooden houses at UNESCO-listed Bryggen on the harbour, which have survived countless fires over the centuries.
Most travellers use Bergen as a pitstop before they catch a ship or fly home. But in addition to the city’s rich history and its young, arty vibe – fuelled by a large student population and a multitude of art galleries – there are several other towering reasons to linger. Known as the “City of Seven Mountains,” here you can lace up your boots and set off hiking directly from the centre of town …
At the airport. Bergen Airport sits 20km south-west of town. Norwegian, British Airways and others run multiple daily flights direct from the UK. Flight time is around two hours. Once there, you’ll find ATMs and baggage lockers.
Getting into town. The cheapest, most efficient way is to take the Flybussen shuttle bus, which leaves every ten minutes. It takes about 25 minutes to get downtown. Taxis are also available, but more expensive.
Other ways to arrive. The Bergensbanen, or Bergen Line train, will take you from Oslo to Bergen in about seven hours. There are four departures every day. You can opt to go during the day to gawp at the mountainous scenery (the track cuts through seemingly impenetrable rock and climbs to a whopping 1,237m high) or book a sleeping compartment and travel overnight. Another way is via “Norway in a Nutshell”: this follows the same route as the Bergensbanen, but you can leave the train at Myrdal, reaching Bergen via a combination of bus and boat through exquisite scenery.