Bergen, the second biggest city in Norway with 230,000 inhabitants, is on the west coast, surrounded by seven mountains and seven fjords. Tourism in Bergen is big, understandably, since it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Norway. In addition, it has a vast number of restaurants, hotels and attractions. The city is known as the gateway to the fjords and is the perfect starting place for your adventures in the fjord region of western Norway. Bergen is also the start of the famous Hurtigruten, the boat trip stretching all the way up to Kirkenes near the Russian border. Although Bergen is by the sea, it is “protected” by the island of Askøy to the west, which means it’s not as windy as you might expect from a city on the west coast. However, neither Askøy, nor anything else, can protect Bergen from precipitation. And it does rain a lot here – about 270 days a year, for a combined 2,000 mm (80 inches). That’s more than three times the amount Oslo gets. Bergen rarely gets any snow, however, since the winters here are mild, thanks to the Gulf Stream.
A Brief History of Bergen
Bergen was founded nearly 1,000 years ago and became the capital of Norway in the 13th century. During the Middle Ages, the city developed into a crucial trading port for the German Hanseatic League. Although the town was founded by the Norwegian king Olav Kyrre, it was the Germans who put Bergen on the world map and rightfully gave the city its name, which means “the mountains.” The history of the city is still evident today with the old wharf, Bryggen, where the Germans set up one of their four most important trading stations in northern Europe. In 1702, Bryggen suffered from a fire but was rebuilt four years later and is today on UNESCO’s world heritage list.
Bergen was the capital of Norway until 1299, when Oslo took over, but the city would continue to grow, still thriving from the trading business. In the year 1600, it was the most populous city in Scandinavia with 15,000 people. Over the next couple of centuries, the population stagnated and, by 1890, it was overtaken by the current capital Oslo. Like many Norwegian cities, Bergen was severely damaged during World War II. After the war, when it was rebuilt, a lot of suburbs sprung up around the city, which significantly increased the population.
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