Bergen - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Bergen


The historic city of Bergen was medieval Norway's capital, and is today an international tourist centre and gateway to the Fjords. It has a spectacular setting on a sheltered harbour of the North Sea, situated among seven hills that form a delightful backdrop to the brightly painted wooden houses along the waterfront, and is one of Norway's most enjoyable cities.

Bergen's history is closely linked to the sea. It became a major trading port of the medieval merchants of the Hanseatic League, who dominated European trade during the Middle Ages. The hub of the city's social life is around the Torget, the picturesque harbour-side market plaza that is surrounded by an assortment of cafes, restaurants and pubs, and home to the vibrant fish market. Flanking one side of the harbour is a colourful row of old wooden houses, part of the historic wharf area and the remaining influence of the Hanseatics, from where narrow cobbled streets wind their way up between the quaint houses of the picturesque old neighbourhood.

The city centre is divided into two parts: the old Hanseatic town along the wharf area and the modern centre stretching inland from the harbour. It has a pleasant, slow pace and a cultured atmosphere with numerous interesting museums, galleries, an aquarium and surviving medieval buildings. A cable car and a funicular carry visitors to the top of two of Bergen's hills, Mount Ulriken and Mount Fløyen, to enjoy splendid views over the city and coast. Mount Fløyen is covered in forest with a well-marked series of walking trails. Boat trips to the fjords are very popular and the excellent 'Norway in a Nutshell' package tour provides a spectacular glimpse of Norway's scenery in a day, for those short on time.

Information & Facts


Not only is Bergen the warmest city in Norway, thanks to the influence of the Gulf Stream, but it is also probably the wettest. In fact, so well known has the city become for its high rainfall that at one stage an entrepreneur posted umbrella vending machines in the streets. Bergen's annual average precipitation is 88 inches (2250mm), and most of this falls as rain. Summers are pleasantly mild to warm, and in winter temperatures generally remain above freezing, although stiff breezes and high humidity may make it feel colder. Snow falls on odd days, and is generally not more than 10 cm deep.

Getting Around

Bergen has an efficient bus and night bus network, though service to the city's outskirts can be erratic. A free bus service operates during the day from Monday to Saturday, looping around the city centre. However, central Bergen is easy to negotiate on foot, with plenty of attractions within walking distance. Tourist passes are available but are not necessarily good value. Metered taxis are plentiful and can be hailed, caught at one of the many taxi ranks or ordered by phone, but are expensive. The city also has an extensive ferry system, which tends to be less tourist-orientated than the express catamaran service available, and visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the fjords. Driving in Bergen can be somewhat harrowing as Norway operates on a priority from the right rule and traffic circles are usually confusing with little indication of intent from drivers. Drivers must also pay a toll every time they enter the city and so driving and parking becomes expensive. Car rental agencies are available, although drivers usually must be over 21 and have had their licence for a minimum of one year.

Norwegian is the official language, but English is widely understood.

The official currency is Norwegian Krone (NOK) divided into 100 ore. Larger establishments accept major credit cards and travellers cheques. Use of credit cards is widespread, with Eurocard/Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club the most common. Visitors should be aware that credit cards are generally not accepted as a means of payment in Norwegian supermarkets and petrol stations. Foreign currency and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks and major post offices, as well as many hotels and travel agents, although for poorer rates. ATMs are available in all towns and cities.

Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).

Bryggen, the site of the old medieval quarter, is a charming, compact area of brightly coloured wooden homes that once housed the city's merchants. Steep cobbled lanes are lined with a vivacious blend of cafes and artists workshops. The Hanseatic wharf area, with many buildings dating from before the 17th century, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the most important examples of the civilisation of a medieval settlement in the world. This was once the working area of the merchants and is the oldest part of Bergen, characterised by a maze of lopsided wooden buildings with pointed gables facing the harbour. The Bryggens and Hanseatic Museums as well as the 12th century St Mary's Church are all in the Bryggen area. At one end of the wharf is Bergen's famous fish market, a colourful market also selling flowers, fruit, vegetables and souvenirs.

The archaeological museum was built around the remains of the oldest buildings discovered in Bergen, dating from the 12th century, and the ruins have been incorporated into the exhibits along with excavated tools, ceramics and skeletons. The museum houses various artefacts and traditional costumes and imaginatively attempts to recreate life in the Middle Ages with displays of domestic implements, handicrafts, runic inscriptions and items relating to seafaring and trade during medieval times.

The Hanseatic Museum is housed in one of the oldest and best-preserved wooden buildings in Bryggen, the former home of a wealthy merchant. Furnished in the 18th century style, it provides a glimpse of the working and living conditions of the Hanseatic merchants during the Middle Ages. The austere layout and maze-like rooms are saturated by the smell of fish and leave a lasting impression.

Bergen's oldest surviving building, the beautiful Romanesque stone Church of St Mary's, dates from the beginning of the 12th century. The interior is decorated with old frescoes and a splendid Baroque pulpit that was donated by the Hanseatic merchants in 1676. The twin towers of the church are distinctive among the low red-tiled roofs of the old quarter.

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