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Bergen guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
Bergen Travel Guide
Bergen Travel Guide and Bergen Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
Bergen, the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’, is Norway’s second city and one of its most attractive with delightful natural setting and seven imposing mountains surrounding it on three sides and the island-dotted North Sea on the fourth. On a lovely clear day, the approach to the city by sea or air is a rewarding experience with the rocky islets and towering mountains form a dramatic backdrop for the rainbow-painted houses clinging to the sides of the mountains down to the waterfront.

The Viking king Olav Kyrre founded Bergen during 1070. With its fortunate combination of sheltered harbour and the proximity to rich fishing grounds, it quickly established itself as one of Norway’s most important towns.

By the beginning of the 13th century, it was Norway’s capital, a status it enjoyed until the late 1200s, when the seat of government transferred to Christiania – the city nowadays known as Oslo.

Economic success was further assured in the 14th century when the Hanseatic League, a German organisation created to promote trade between the eastern and western parts of Europe, chose Bergen as one of its four main bases. The League’s offices and warehouses, the Bryggen (wharfside), are the only survivors of the 4 original Hanseatic Kontors (trading offices). During 1980, UNESCO designated this district a Cultural World Heritage Site. By 1600, the city was Scandinavia’s largest, with over 15,000 inhabitants.

Despite the dismantling of the Hanseatic League during the 18th century, Bergen remained a very successful trading port. Greater prosperity came with the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1960s, which led to a new influx of foreign nationals and more than 5,000 currently live and work in the city, the largest single group being the British.

Bergen’s long history as Norway’s leading port and latterly as an international business and tourist centre lends it a more cosmopolitan air than other major Norwegian cities. The atmosphere around the Torget (market), the focal point of the city’s social life, with its eclectic mix of restaurants, cafés and pubs, reflects all of this. Additionally, although fishing, shipping and other maritime industries still play a major role in Bergen’s economy, international tourism is becoming an increasingly significant income source.

The locals (known as Bergenseners) are very friendly and widely regarded as the most outgoing of the Norwegians. They are immensely proud of their city, its history and traditions. Bergen is a city generously endowed with museums, galleries and other cultural institutions – the arts figure large in the city’s life and it was a European City of Culture in 2000.

The peak tourist season is from May to September, although it is just as likely to rain then as at any other time of the year. The area has the dubious honour of experiencing one of Europe’s highest average annual rainfall counts. However, this should not spoil a visit completely, as there is still plenty to do indoors. Between November and March, the rain turns to sleet or snow but even the worst winter weather is not harsh by the Norwegian standards and temperatures rarely sink below -5ºC (23ºF).