Where you Can Fjord It
Located on the southwest coast of Norway, Bergen is your gateway to the famous fjords of Norway. You may have learned about this geological gem back in high school, but here's a refresher. A fjord is a long narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs. In Scandinavia, this can also mean shallow lakes or lagoons. But this description isn't enough to explain its massiveness – in scale or beauty.
You can use Bergen as your jumping off point for our Sognefjord in a Nutshell. This 128-mile long Fjord is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and that's why we think it deserves special treatment. Choose one of three itineraries using circular routes to make the most of the ancient, awe-inspiring surroundings. You'll take both mountain railway and express boat through the wondrous Sognefjord waterway.
Don't think for a minute that this means skipping this city by the sea. Until the 14 th century, Bergen was at the forefront of Medieval Norway. Today it's known for shipping (thanks to its famed waterfront – more on that later), banking and having one of the country's best universities. Bergen is also an important cultural center, and is best known in this regard for the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra founded in 1765.
This is a cold place. In the winter, when the deep freeze sets in, many locals and tourists head inside to drink in one of the many beer taverns. Strandgaten 81, which is said to be Bergen's oldest known tavern, allegedly dates back to the 17th century. Come summer is when most choose to visit – perhaps to see the sun never set and party until dawn (whenever that is.)
During the day, there's plenty to see and eat. Check out the fresh catch at the Fish Market, home to not just fish, but souvenirs, flowers, fruits and vegetables. You can purchase boiled shrimp and have a picnic right on the waterfront. The Bergen Aquarium, located on the outermost point of Dordnes, offeres a delightful view over the port. One of Europe's largest collections of fish and invertebrates, you'll find seals and penguins playing for the crowd. This is also one of the few aquariums to keep a shoal of herring. Known once as a food for the less-than-well to do, you'll barely find it on any street corner or menu anymore. It seems that food in Bergen has grown up. Modern boites now mingle with an onslaught of (American) chain restaurants.
Now it's time for a Norwegian lesson. Bryggen is the name of the city's world famous waterfront – ask a local for directions to here using this word and be greeted with a smile. This is the oldest section of town, formed by the Hanseatic League of trading merchants dating to the mid 14 th century. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can take the Fliobanen (funicular) from here to get an extraordinary view of the North Sea and surrounded mountains.
You can see more magnificent scenery with our Norway in a Nutshell pass. Combining rail, ferry and bus, you'll explore beautiful landscape at a pace that suits you rather than a tour guide. Travel the routes of the Vikings through mighty glaciers and green forests.
Bergen is a bit over six hours by train to capital Oslo. But this is no little sister. Bergen is cosmopolitan in its own right. Compact and tidy, progressive and positively beautiful.
Contributed by: Rachel, E-business Editor, who has experienced much more of Europe than she ever imagined, traveling by train.