Friday, 1 March 2013

Norway, Bergen

Bergen is a truly remarkable place. I think this is a good starting point for this blog, as I currently live here. If you love nature, culture and some of the most amazing people you'll ever meet, Bergen is your place. Some Norwegians are shy, but most Norwegians are incredibly out-going. They would give you the shirt off of their back just to help you out. For the beginner traveler, this is your best place to be.

Bergen encourages travel, so you can actually get a Bergen Card which will reduce your costs by a LOT. Follow this link for more information.


As of 28 February 2013, the municipality has a population of 268,300 and Greater Bergen had a population of 394,500, making Bergen the second-largest city in Norway (Oslo being the biggest).

Historical Information

It is commonly believed that Bergen (originally called "Bjorgvin") was founded in 1080AD by Olav Kyrre, King of Norway. However recently it has been discovered that Bergen was actually older than this. Modern research has, however, discovered that a trading settlement was established already during the 1020s or 1030s. Olav Kyrre was the son of King Harald Hardrada, who died in the famous battle of Stamford Bridge in Great Britain in 1066.

For a short time Bergen was the capital of Norway. During the thirteenth century (1217) King Haakon Haakonsson decided that Bergen would be the capital of Norway, which replaced Trondheim, the first capital of Norway. However, in 1299 it was replaced by Oslo, which is the current capital of Norway.

The principal export traded from Bergen was dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast, which started around 1100. By the late 14th century, Bergen had established itself as the centre of the trade in Norway.

The Constitution of Norway was signed at Eidsvoll on May 17 in the year 1814. The constitution declared Norway to be an independent nation. The celebration of this day began spontaneously among students and others from early on. However, Norway was at that time under Swedish rule (following the Convention of Moss in August 1814) and for some years the King of Sweden and Norway was reluctant to allow the celebrations. For a couple of years in the 1820s, King Karl Johan (sometimes known as Carl John or Charles XIV John of Sweden) actually forbade it, as he thought the celebrations a kind of protest and disregard—even revolt—against Swedish sovereignty. The king's attitude changed slightly after the Battle of the Square in 1829. The Battle of the Square (or "Torvslaget") was a skirmish between Norwegian demonstrators and forces of the United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway that that took place in Christiania (now Oslo, Norway) in the evening of 17 May 1829.

The demonstrators were participating in the May 17th celebrations, however as this had been previously outlawed by King Karl Johan. The intervention by police and troops roused civic outrage in Norway, and forced Karl Johan to lift the prohibition. It was, however, not until 1833, that anyone ventured to hold a public address on behalf of the day.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, Bergen was one of the largest cities in Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark and Sweden), and was Norway's biggest city until the 1830s, which is when the capital city of Oslo became the largest.

Norway remained uninvolved in WWI but played a big roll in WWII. Bergen was occupied on the first day of the German invasion on 9 April 1940, after a brief fight between German ships and the Norwegian coastal artillery. On 20 April 1944, during the German occupation, the Dutch cargo ship "Voorbode" anchored off the Bergenhus Fortress, loaded with over 120 tons of explosives, blew up, killing at least 150 people and damaging historic buildings. The city was subject to some Allied bombing raids, aiming at German naval installations in the harbour. Some of these caused Norwegian civilian casualties numbering about 100. Considering Norway is a rather peaceful country, this is quite a high death toll for Bergen, and Norway in general.

Today, Bergen is an incredibly fast growing modern city with one of Europe's largest Harbours. Bergen is known for it's oil export. Bergen is also home to the port with the largest merchant fleet in Scandinavia and it also houses the main base of the Norwegian Navy.

Tourist/Sightseeing Destinations

Norway is NOT a member of the European Union. However it is part of the European Schengen Agreement, so usually individuals travelling within that area are free to pass the borders without control of passport.

The national currency is Norwegian Krona (NOK). €1 is roughly 7.5 NOK and $1 is roughly 5.7 NOK.

Depending on what season you arrive here in, Norway is home to some amazing cultural events and places that are definitely worth visiting. However, it is worth noting that Norway is generally a very expensive country to visit. You can easily spend a lot of money without realising it if you are not used to the currency. Norway itself is a very rich country, but when coming here from another country it can be extremely demanding on your wallet.

The biggest event in Bergen, and possibly in Norway in general, is annually on May 17th. This day is known as "Norwegian Constitution Day" or "Nasjonaldagen (The National Day)". This day is basically a celebration of Norway becoming an independent nation (you can read more about this in my "Historical Information section".). During this day All over Norway, children's parades with an abundance of flags form the central elements of the celebration. Each elementary school district arranges its own parade with marching bands between schools. The parade takes the children through the community, often making stops at homes of senior citizens, war memorials, etc. The longest parade is in Oslo, where some 100,000 people travel to the city centre to participate in the main festivities.

This is broadcast on TV every year, with comments on costumes, banners etc., together with local reports from celebrations around the country. The reason the costumes (officially called "Bunad") are so important is because everybody is wearing a certain pattern and colour in their traditional clothing which represents to place in which they were born. I will demonstrate this in the picture below. The massive Oslo parade includes some 100 schools, marching bands, and passes the royal palace where the royal family greet the people from the main balcony. Celebrations are most common in Norway, however in communities of Norwegians around the world you can see this day celebrated, also. A good example of this is in Sydney, Australia where you will often see groups of Norwegians celebrating in the streets (on May 17th).

This is my beautiful girlfriend when she was younger. She is wearing her traditional "Bunad", which is the outfit you wear on May 17th. Her outfit in particular represents East Telemark.

If you are unlucky and happen to miss May 17th, worry not(!), for Bergen is full of things to see and do. Bergen is a very cultural place. There are many historical things to see, and there is also a lot of random modern art thrown in to make your journey that little bit more exciting.

Currently I work for a company that puts together stages and sets up events in Bergen. I spend a lot of my work time in Grieghallen. This is named after the famous Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. This is a 1,500 seat concert hall which regularly has great events and concerts worth seeing. This is a link to their website so you can see what is going on currently as you visit. They do not only have classical music here, they quite often some big bands and groups (like "Motörhead", "Europe" and more recently the "Killer Queen" (the tribute to Queen, the band) stage show that has been touring around Europe). It has been the home of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra since the hall's completion in 1978. It hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986, and is the host of the annual Norwegian Brass Band Championship competition, which occurs in mid-winter. The Grieghallen recording studio is also famous within the black metal community, as several of the most important Norwegian black metal albums were recorded there. It is here that I should note that a lot of big rock/metal bands come from Bergen. For any of you metal-heads out there, Enslaved are probably the most famous at the moment. But there is a huge music culture here, and a great metal scene.

Normally I would use my own photographs, but it appears I don't have a good one of Grieghallen. I stole this from google, but I will replace it with my own next time I get to go there with my camera! :)
You can also go visit Edvard Griegs house (also called the Edvard Grieg Museum), however they do not let you take photographs inside the actual home so I can only really show you the outside of the building. If you're going there to get some great shots of historical content, you may be out of luck. However, you can see where they buried Grieg in the mountain, and that is amazingly impressive. Nina and Edvard Grieg’s home was built in 1885, and the couple lived there the last 22 years of Edvard Grieg’s life. Troldhaugen (the name of the home) became a museum in May 1928. After World War II, permanent employees were hired to manage and operate the museum, which then consisted of the villa, the composer’s hut and the gravesite. In 1985 the concert hall Troldhalen was inaugurated and in 1995 the museum building opened. In the latter building one can find the new permanent exhibition (opened in 2007), the museum shop, storage magazines, administration offices, a café and public facilities. There are some pretty useful guided tours, too. You may need to get a taxi to this location as it is a little bit off the beaten path, however it is well worth it. Edvard Grieg is from Bergen, so you will see many statues and dedications to him around the local area.

Edvard Grieg's Home

"Garage" is a famous metal bar in Bergen. It is an interesting one of a kind place where local musicians who win grammy awards and basically give in their statue to be stuck to part of the building. Garage is a bar with haunt in Bergen with a private concert area. This place is well worth going to as it has a lot of musical culture and and amazing style. There are other bars worth visiting, too. This one just caught my attention as it has so much to see when you get inside. It is not particularly big upstairs, but if you ask one of the bartenders, they will gladly tell you about some of the amazing features around you in that particular bar.

For the nature lovers out there, you should definitely visit Fløyen or Fløyfjellet (originally written Fløien). It is the most visited of the seven mountains that surround the city centre. It has a funicular system Fløibanen (basically a cart that takes you to the top of the mountain) that transports passengers from the centre of Bergen to a height of 320 metres in roughly 8 minutes, and the actual highest point (425 metres) on Fløifjellet is approximately 1 km to the northeast. The funicular is used by tourists and citizens alike year-round. Price:

Round Trip adults NOK. 80 -
Round Trip children NOK. 40 -
Family ticket trip (return) (2 adults + 2 kids) NOK. 200 -.

This was one of the first places I visited when I first came to Bergen on holiday a few years ago and it just blew my mind. You can see for miles. They have a website at this link so you can plan it accordingly. You can even hike to the top, if you like! There is also a troll forrest, which is insanely amazing. There are statues or trolls EVERYWHERE. There are tours for all sorts of things involving this mountain, so check out their website for more information.

The view from one side of Fløyen
Another mountain worth visiting is Ulriken. Ulriken is the highest of the Seven Mountains (de syv fjell) that surround Bergen. It has an altitude of 643 metres above sea level. It also has an aerial tramway, Ulriksbanen, that can bring people to the top. At the top there is a TV tower, a restaurant, and free telescopes. You can check out their website for more information.

In the main city you can follow the main street down and you will come to a huge wharf, which is impressive to say the least. There are always ships around Bergen, for the ship-fanatics (I thought ship-heads may of sounded inappropriate). I have seen a massive (not joking, massive) ship parked in Bergen that was bigger than all the buildings. You could see it from pretty much anywhere in Bergen. I'll include a picture below.

Bergen has a pretty incredible Science Center. It is closed on Mondays, so plan this attraction accordingly. This place is aimed at children, but it definitely will be fun for all science loving adults, too. This is a great place to take the whole family. In the permanent exhibition at VilVite, Bergen Science Centre, you can explore roughly 75 different interactive installations and experiments. You can bicycle a 360 degrees loop in the G-Force, drill for oil, navigate a ship, forecast the weather as a TV presenter, and much more. Their main themes are the weather, the ocean and energy. You can see 3D movies and experience some pretty amazing features while you're there. You can get more information on their website. They have a help section in English, but the over all website will be in Norwegian. However, you can contact them on via email and phone and they've got great customer service. Their contact information is on the bottom of their website.

Bergen has a great aquarium. I only went there recently but it is actually well worth the visit. It is not a particularly big place, but if you time it accordingly then you will have an amazing experience. They feed the animals, have regular shows with the animals and they also have a movie section with information. They have some great animals that are well worth seeing. My favourite were the penguins and seals, but there are also some crocodiles, lizards, insects, fish, sharks, a monkey (for some reason) and more. You can walk down a tunnel of fish, which is incredible. The tunnel is basically built in to one section and the fish and sharks can swim around you. This place is also well worth visiting if you get the chance. It won't take you more than 2 hours there (and that is if you take things really slowly) but it is really a nice place to check out. You can walk there from the main street, but if you're in a hurry you can just grab a taxi. It isn't a long journey by car. I think it takes roughly about half an hour to walk there from the main street. Here is a link to their website. It should be in english, already.

Just one of the tricks and events you can see at the Bergen Aquarium
Art Museums of Bergen are great places to visit for the Art-Lover. It is a consolidated museum foundation. It is comprised of the homes of three composers/musicians, a museum for decorative arts and design and a museum for fine arts. These are the foremost museums for fine art, decorative art, design and music in the Bergen district. This museum consists of Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen, Siljustøl Museum, Lysøen Museum, Permanenten: The West Norway, Museum of Decorative Art and, of course, the Bergen Art Museum

The museums do not share the same location. Permanenten and Bergen Art Museum are situated in the heart of Bergen city centre, while Troldhaugen lies along Lake Nordås, ca. 8 km south of Bergen city centre. Siljustøl also lies to the south of the city (ca. 13 km), near Flesland Airport. Ole Bull’s summer villa, Lysøen Museum, is situated on the island of Lysøen in the municipality of Os.

There are many more things to see in Norway, these are just some of the top tourist attractions that I found pretty amazing. I hope you enjoy them! If you visit any of these then please let me know what you thought in the comments section below. I'm excited to hear what other people thought of these attractions, and Bergen in General. If you feel like I left something out, then let me know that, too! I'll happily update this blog with more information.


Transport in Bergen is pretty straight forward.

You can take the Bybanen from town to other main living locations in Bergen. The Bybanen is aimed more at the people who already live there, although it may go past the location you are staying. I will include their website here so you can check for more information, if this should effect you. They do have an english section on their website.

There is an airport bus, which is very punctual and useful. The Airport Express Coach is usually found waiting for you outside the arrival area. Departure every 15 – 20 minutes. You can use the mapservice on their website to see which stop that is best situated according to where you are staying in Bergen.

There are busses that can take you pretty much anywhere, so long as you know the route you need. Skyss control the Bybanen and the bus here. If you need to get more information you can do so on their website. This can also be changed to english, should you need it! If you want to bring your bicycle on the bus or Bergen Light Rail, you have to pay the same price as a child’s ticket for the bicycle, maximum NOK 40. You also have to pay the same price as a child’s ticket for dogs on a bus, although guide dogs travel for free.

Street Art

Bergen is looked upon as the street art capital of Norway, the famous artist Banksy visited the city in 2000 and inspired many to start with street art, a bit later the city brought up the most famous street artist in Norway; Dolk. His art can still be seen several places in the city, and in 2009 the city council choose to preserve Dolk's work "Spray" with protective glass. In 2011, Bergen council launched a plan of action for street art in Bergen from 2011 - 2015 to ensure that "Bergen will lead the fashion for street art as an expression both in Norway and Scandinavia. 

A local man has gotten a lot of praise recently in the local media based on his Instagram account getting so much attention. He travels around and he posts pictures, and sometimes information, based on street art in the areas that he visits. I put a feed to his account below. You can check it out, and check out his account by clicking on the images.

Map Locations

Main street

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Edvard Grieg's house (Troldhaugen Museum)

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Fløyen Transport

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Ulriken Transport

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Science Center

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Art Museum

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Lake Nordås

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Lysøen Museum

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Welcome, Traveller!

Welcome to the first post of many in this travel blog. Hopefully this guide will help you in your adventures across the globe. I hope to include topics in each post that will both motivate me to do research in each city and it will hopefully help you in your journey. My goal is to include the following topics:

  • Population
  • Historical Information
  • Tourist/Sightseeing Destinations
  • Transport
  • Good Street Art Locations (this is dependant on me finding any locations, of course)
  • Good Places to Stay
  • Places to Avoid (again, this is dependant on me finding any locations, of course)
  • Seasonal Information
  • Pictures and Information
  • General Information about the Area
  • Map Locations (to help you get around)

Hopefully this guide will help you in your various travels and adventures, too. This will (hopefully) be a highly interactive blog. I want people to respond with their favourite locations, or any information that I may of missed.

If I re-visit a location and discover I have missed something, I will also gladly update the blog.

I hope to see you all out there, soon.

Take care!

- Ken