Top choice in Bergen

Bergen's oldest quarter runs along the eastern shore of Vågen Harbour (bryggen translates as 'wharf') in long, parallel and often precariously leaning rows of gabled buildings. Each has stacked-stone or wooden foundations and reconstructed rough-plank construction. It's enchanting, no doubt about it, but can be exhausting if you hit a cruise-ship and bus-tour crush.

The current 58 buildings (25% of the original, although some claim there are now 61) cover 13,000 sq metres and date from after a great fire in 1702, although the building pattern is from the 12th century. The archaeological excavations suggest that the quay was once 140m further inland than its present location.

In the early 14th century there were about 30 wooden buildings, each usually shared by several stuer (trading firms). They rose two or three stories above the wharf and combined business premises with living quarters and warehouses. Each building had a crane for loading and unloading ships, as well as a schøtstue (large assembly room) where employees met and ate.

Do explore further than the frontages facing the harbour, as the wooden alleyways inside Bryggen are the most charming; a haven for artists and craftspeople, there are bijou boutiques at every turn. The atmosphere of an intimate waterfront community remains intact, and losing yourself in Bryggen is one of Bergen's greatest pleasures.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Bergen attractions

1. Theta Museum

0.02 MILES

Named after the Norwegian Resistance group who occupied it between 1940 and 1945, this excellent reconstruction of a clandestine Resistance headquarters,…

2. Schøtstuene

0.07 MILES

An essential complement to the Hanseatic Museum, Schøtstuene is a reconstruction of one of the original assembly halls where the fraternity of Hanseatic…

3. Bryggens Museum

0.08 MILES

This archaeological museum was built on the site of Bergen's first settlement, and the 800-year-old foundations unearthed during its construction have…

4. Mariakirken

0.11 MILES

This stone church, with its Romanesque entrance and twin towers, dates from the early 12th century and is Bergen's oldest building. The interior features…

5. Hanseatic Museum

0.12 MILES

This interesting museum provides a window into the world of Hanseatic traders. Housed in a rough-timber building dating from 1704, it starkly reveals the…

6. Rosenkrantztårnet

0.22 MILES

Built in the 1560s by Bergen governor Erik Rosenkrantz, this tower was a residence and defence post. It also incorporates parts of the keep (1273) of King…

7. King Håkons Hall

0.25 MILES

Viking fans will feel right at home at this impressive ceremonial hall, built by King Håkon Håkonsson in 1247–61 and completed for his son's wedding and…

8. Bergen Cathedral

0.33 MILES

Bergen's cathedral features stonemasonry in the entrance hall carved by the same artisans who adorned Westminster Abbey's chapter house in London.