Perhaps no town in Europe has a more scenic welcome for travellers who arrive by sea than Bergen, Norway’s most international town. The finest views of Bergen and its surroundings can be experienced from Fløyen and Mount Ulriken. A distinctive row of gable-end buildings by the harbour bear witness to a nine hundred year old architectural tradition. No wonder Bryggen is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Strolling the narrow wood-paved passages between these long buildings, rebuilt after a fire in 1702, is to step back into the Middle Ages, when the Hanseatic merchants here controlled the lucrative trade in dried cod from Northern Norway. Today, craftsmen and artists have set up shop here.
A few miles south of the city centre is Troldhaugen, the home of Edvard and Nina Grieg, and a museum that honours the composer. His great achievement was to unite Norwegian folk music with the classical music of the continent, resulting in a sound that listeners immediately associate with Norway.
Exploring fjords and villages
The district of Hardanger is a magical place, especially when countless apple and cherry blossoms unfold in May. They’re just as dazzling as the glacier and snow-topped mountains. Did you know that the first apple seeds were planted by Cistercian monks? Seize the opportunity to travel the fjord by boat — or the county’s coast for that matter. Slate-roofed farmhouses blend beautifully with the fertile cultural landscape along the Hardangerfjord.
Picturesque villages such as Ulvik and Utne, and the old hamlet of Agatunet, invite you to slow your pace even more and explore on foot. At Norheimsund, there is a museum where some of the finest boat-builders in Norway have restored many wooden vessels.
Viewing the Barony in Rosendal for the first time is like rediscovering a wonderful old memory. In its impressive Renaissance gardens, you can sometimes enjoy fine concerts. Another cultural venue of note is Mosterhavn, where historical plays are staged in an amphitheatre with beautiful surroundings.
Wedding a princess
If you’re lucky, you may see a traditional wedding when you visit the inland town of Voss or one of the villages. The colourful costumes, festivities, fiddle music and lively dancing is better than any staged show. A Hardanger bride is a fairytale princess – when she weds, she even wears a silver crown!
Attractions in Hordaland:
Bergen was a European City of Culture in 2000, and with good reason. Among them: Bryggen, Old Bergen, the charming neighbourhoods of Nordnes and Sandviken with their narrow cobblestone streets, the 12th century Church of St. Mary’s, the lively Fish Market and the numerous art museums around the central lake — all excellent. Do visit the viewpoints of Mount Ulriken and Fløyen, and stroll the promenade called Fjellveien above the city. Outside town is a reconstruction of Fantoft stave church, Troldhaugen Edvard Grieg Museum and Lysøen, the exotic home of the 19th violinist Ole Bull.
With plentiful rain, Hordaland is blessed with scenic waterfalls such as Vøringsfossen, Låtefossen and Steinsdalsfossen (which you can walk behind). The Hardangfjord is an adventure any time of year. The village of Ulvik and the historic Agatunet hamlet are a must, as are the Hardanger Folk Museum in Utne.
Further southwest lies the exotic barony at Rosendal. Along the coast there are many tiny communities, such as Espevær and Glesvær. Nordhordland’s many attractions include the Heathland Centre at Lygra. One of the finest comprehensive tours is Norway in a Nutshell. If you’re into bicycling, be sure not to miss Rallarvegen, the old construction road of the worthwhile Bergen Railway. And festivals? Plenty of them!