Bergen is a photogenic quayside district on the west coast of Norway. The second-largest city in Norway is characterized by Rows of colorful higgledy-piggledy small wooden houses with triangular gables, cobbled streets with stone steps and flowers everywhere. With mountains forming the backdrop to the city and a serene waterfront, Bergen provides a landscape that hardly looks real until you’re in it. 

The picturesque county, however, has a dejected history of numerous great fires across multiple years that burnt almost 90% of the city to ashes. After years of careful restoration, the city proudly finds itself as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The region is architecturally unique and is perhaps one of the most familiar images in all of Norway.

Here are 15 Places in Bergen that need to be on every architect’s itinerary:

Places to visit in Bergen for the Travelling Architect
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1. Fantoft Stave Church

Stave Churches are Medieval wooden churches, widespread in northern Europe. The Fantoft church is one of the very few surviving Stave churches in Norway. Situated south of Bergen in an old village, the wooden church was moved to its current location in pieces to save it from demolition in 1883. It was built without the use of any nail. Unfortunately, it was almost completely burnt down in an arsons attack in 1992. It took careful rebuilding over the next five years to salvage its benevolence. The reconstructed structure appears to be painted black but the tint is due to the Tar that was lathered on to preserve the timber. The dragon inclusions, which weren’t typical to the regional design, were believed to keep evil spirits away.

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2. Bryggen

Bryggen is a small harbor district in Bergen, one of North Europe’s oldest port cities and one of the most important trade hotspots in the region. 

it is an array of colorful, wooden gabled buildings along the coastline. The buildings are made of wood in keeping with vernacular building traditions. The original compact medieval planning is preserved with its long narrow rows of buildings facing the harbor, separated by narrow wooden passages that also doubled as private courtyards. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape and prove sufficient to demonstrate how this colony’s merchants lived and worked.

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3. Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene

Hanseatic merchants from Northern Germany sailed into Bergen in the 13th century to carry trade in this port harbor. Their trading activities made Bryggen and Bergen one of Northern Europe’s most important trading hubs at the time. Today, the Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene belong to UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Bryggen. The museum paints a vivid picture of Hanseatic merchants’ lives, how they worked and made livelihood in Bergen for 400 years. Walking through the narrow alleyways is like traveling back in time- you can almost hear young men speaking German, rolling barrels and creaking cartwheels carrying stockfish!

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4. Rosenkrantz Tower

Poised south of Bergen’s fortified front is The Rosenkrantz Tower. It is named after the governor Erik Rosenkrantz who oversaw the remodeling of the tower into one of Norway’s prime Renaissance residences in its time. The tower has been there since the 13th century when it served as a home for King Eric II of Norway, the last king to hold court in Bergen. The Tower had a divided upstairs-downstairs setup- the king and later the governor’s residence was on the top floor, while the basement was used as a dungeon till the 1800s. Now, a popular Tourist attraction in Norway, Visitors from all over come here to scale the magnificent views of the city.

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5. KODE Art Museums

A group of four art institutions and cultural sites around Bergen were brought under one umbrella named “KODE”. A series of 4 buildings combine and bring for the finest museum and gallery in Norway. Each building has a designated function and spaces allocated for various activities ranging from exhibitions, cultural activities, research centers and even museums holding the most antique pieces of Norwegian history. Holding the buildings together is a central landscaped park serving as a recreational area, ideal for visitors and even locals to stroll around.

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6. St Mary’s Church

This Romanesque cathedral built in the 1160s is the oldest standing structure in Norway. In fact, no other church in the country. Its western facade, with square, unadorned towers and semicircular windows typical of the Romanesque style seem contrasting to the architecture around it. In the choir the pointed windows are Gothic, suggesting that this part of the church was rebuilt after the fire in 1248. The 4 portals are of special interest here, adorned with Romanesque bestial and foliate motifs on the capitals in the jambs.

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7. Bergen Cathedral

Stood in stonemasonry, this monastic cathedral is a testament to Romanesque beauty. Being rebuilt multiple times due to several fires in the region, this church has evolved its form with time. What we see today, is a fusion of its initial Romanesque structure with a few gothic tweaks in form of pointed arches and sharp spires, evident in its edifice.

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8. Troldhaugen

Norway’s preeminent composer, Edvard Grieg, lived in this scenic hilltop villa during his final years in Norway. He spent the summers with his wife here and would compose pieces while overlooking the lake. While the house remains an intimate living museum, filled with the Griegs’ personal belongings, a 200-seater auditorium was built at the site and a museum building was added exhibiting Grieg’s life and music.

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9. University Museum of Bergen

Bergen’s famous university is famous for its world-renowned museum collections. This collection of museum halls has an interesting art feature. The carpets in some of the exhibition spaces are customized to their theme. Some parts of the carpet stand out with a three-dimensional look of a sea bottom while others have an abstracted interpretation of plate tectonics.

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10. Gamlehaugen -Royal Residence

Gamlehaugen is the King’s official residence in Bergen. This elegant Renaissance structure has been extended several times to act as a fortification and display of power. The building combined the qualities of a fortress and a castle unlike any other castle in the country. The building itself is framed by a beautiful English-landscaped park which is open to the public and is a popular recreational area used for swimming and walking.

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11. Lysoen and Ole Bull’s Villa

Ole Bull’s summerhouse in Lysøen is quite unique in Norwegian architectural history. With its onion domes and exotic ornamentals both outside and inside, all carved out of Norwegian pine – the villa emerges as an exotic site for visitors.

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12. Haakon’s Hall

This medieval hall stands along the fortified side of the city and is also a part of the Berghaus fortress. It was used as a ceremonial hall in the mid-13th century in the reign of King Haakon IV of Norway and was used for royal weddings in the family. The Gothic construction is paired with a crow-stepped gable crowning the facade.

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13. Pepperkakebyen – The World’s largest Gingerbread City

Gingerbread, a popular local confectionery, usually found in the form of women and men, changed form into an entire city. Bergen replicated in miniature gingerbread houses looks like Christmas from Charlie and the chocolate factory.

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14. Bryggens Museum

This museum owes its existence to fires that struck the district. The remedial procedure gave the city a chance to conduct archaeological excavations and opened a window on Medieval life and commerce in Bryggen. The artifacts found are now housed in this Museum.

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15. Hardangerfjord

Norway’s second-longest fjord is a landscape of ethereal beauty. Hardangerfjord is also Norway’s fruit orchard with lush apple and strawberry farms.

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Author

Manvi Saki is an Architecture undergraduate at NIT Jaipur. She believes in designing experiences- big and small and thus her love for words. With a revoked love for reading and her passion for travel, she hopes to go places (sometimes literally) with her writing.

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