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Bergen – gateway to the Fjords of Norway

Bergen may be known as the rainiest city in Europe, but there is a sunny side to discover in this coastal Norwegian city with a small-town feel down to the warm hospitality of the people and the wonderful culture that envelops it.

During a four day stay with a local couple we had an unforgettably unique experience of living in the city as a local. We arrived to a beautiful apartment on top of one of Bergen’s many hills, with a stunning view of the city below. One of our hosts happened to be a journalist, so this set the tone for an adventure. Guided by their expertise and my natural curiosity we visited many local attractions.

Bergen is located on Norway’s southwestern coast facing the Atlantica in front of seven mountains which predisposes it to rain showers for most of the year. Norwegians love their leisurely breakfasts. Being a seafaring nation, breakfast delicacies are mainly marine in origin – like their Swedish neighbours they love small-tinned fish. After a breakfast of boiled eggs and sardines – a local delicacy, grab your brolly and head into town to discover all this city has to offer.

As a well-established port town, transport links are excellent in this cosmopolitan city. Many professionals, like those who we stayed with, live in trendy apartments on hills and transport links are excellent around the city. Free buses and trams operate regularly around the city.

The Bryggen district consists of the historic wharf and harbour, and its surrounding commercial buildings which were the centre of commerce for the league of Hanseatic merchants. All around are vibrantly coloured wooden houses. Right in the heart of the city is the funicular railway and we hiked right up to the top of the Fløyen and rode back down again on the vertical train. Indeed, a visit to Bergen is not complete without going on the Fløibanen funicular railway.  At the top. behold the magnificent views of the city from Bergen’s major tourist attractions and renowned around Norway.

Bergen is the gateway to some of the most spectacular mountains and fjords, including Sognefjord, the country’s longest and deepest. The best way to experience this is to get out into the mountains. The second day we took a drive out to the mountains and roads carved out of stone to reach an early settlement where ancient Norwegian tools were found. We also saw great waterfalls and were able to explore the area before heading back to the municipality.

Back in the city are also many attractions to keep the entire family occupied such as the Bergen Aquarium offers a shark tunnel and panoramic views of the port. Surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords, Bergen is an international city packed with history and tradition, a big city with a small-town charm and atmosphere. This beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed cruise port attracts many visitors all year round. There is a charming fish market too which sells wonderful fresh sardines, herring and local specialities and has a special charm and character all of its own.

The city truly comes to life later in the evening with vibrant, trendy bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. Because alcohol is so expensive, most people drink glogg (gluvine wine) at home before they go to the club. As it was our hosts birthday, we attended a pre-party with our drinks that we had procured from the local Vinmonopolet shop, the only place in Norway where you can buy wine and spirits legally. Many young people have parties before going off to a nightclub for a dance.

If you do wish to go out and eat, Bergen as a city of gastronomy builds on its thousand-year history as a meeting place and trading centre for local produce and unique culinary tradition. Surrounded by the sea, deep fjords and high mountains and with ample access to fertile mountain pastures, the region produces first-rate produce from the sea and land. Nowadays, Bergen has a growing reputation as a city for great dining experiences. Access to first-class ingredients from sea and land, and word class chefs provide some world-class restaurants.

The Altona Vinbar can be found in the prestigious Augustin hotel. Feast on the finest fish dinners under the low ceilings of one the oldest inns in Bergen in one of six different ‘caves’. There are seasonal seafood dishes of fresh coastal cod in winter, herring and ocean tusk in spring, mackerel in summer, and shellfish in autumn. Altona has received recognition by Wine Spectator for its vast selection of champagne and wine and has been honoured with the exclusive Best of Award of Excellence since 2009 – offering over 1,000 labels.

Bergen is a wonderful place to visit full of charm, history and culture. It is easily accessible from the UK. KLM flies from Edinburgh, Wizzair flies from Luton and Ryanair from Stansted. The fares are reasonable, approximately £18 for one way.

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