Sometimes we are all guilty of assuming that, to visit places of great beauty and culture, we have to fly great distances. And yet Bergen is immediate proof to the contrary – a city set amid spectacular scenery which is easily accessible for a fascinating weekend escape.
Bergen nestles in picturesque fashion on Norway's west coast – acting as the gateway to the fjords which famously shape this glorious region. And, happily, it is located under two hours' flying time from the UK. British Airways ( ba.com) offers daily services from Heathrow, while Norwegian ( norwegian.com) flies in from Gatwick airport. easyJet also runs services from Gatwick (until the end of May; easyjet.com).
The fjords which frame the city are true must-see moments for any traveller – astonishing steep-sided trenches which were carved by the slow movement of glaciers in the Ice Age.
The city sits on the rippling Byfjord, and is within quick range of two other wonders of nature. The Hardangerfjord, which cuts into Norway's torso for 111 miles, is just to the south – a miracle enclave of glaciers and waterfalls where you can hike to the top of Trolltunga (an unmistakeable shard of rock which juts out above a dizzying drop, 700 metres in the air). The Sognefjord, meanwhile, is located to the north of the city – a 127-mile corridor of geographical splendour where smaller branch-fjord the Naerøyfjord stands proud as a Unesco World Heritage site. These fjords can all be seen on boat tours – where you find yourself astounded by the size of the rock walls as you venture past them.
There is also much to see inside the city. Bergen is alive with museums, galleries, bars, restaurants – and a wealth of sites that call to your camera. Bryggen, the wharf area that has become the city's key landmark, also has well-deserved Unesco World Heritage status thanks to its colourful wooden merchants' houses – which sing of the 16 century and the Hanseatic era, when vessels from all over Europe berthed at these docks. Adjacent, you can see Bergen's continuing maritime traditions at the ever busy fish market (Fisketorget).
Culture shines at Bergen Art Museum, which boasts several works by the Norwegian icon Edvard Munch – and at Troldhaugen, the former summer home of the 19 century composer Edvard Grieg, now preserved as a museum in his honour. Between June and September, you can listen to daily concerts at Troldsalen – an adjacent concert hall which was purpose-constructed as a venue for Grieg's work. Indeed, musical shows are a regular part of Bergen life – particularly in summer, when daylight paints the sky until midnight.
Visitors can save money by buying the Bergen Card (available in 24- or 48-hour versions), which provides free or discounted entry to a range of museums and attractions, and access to much of the public transport network within the Bergen area – including the Fløibanen, the famous funicular railway which forges up Mount Fløyen, Bergen's striking mountain neighbour. From the top, you can glimpse the fjord region in all its drama – as well as a welcoming city which is far closer to the UK that you may ever have imagined.
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