Prior to the outbreak of Covid19, I visited Bergen, known as the gateway to the fjords, which nestles between seven mountains and is Norway’s second largest city, located in Hordaland, on the western Norwegian coastline.

This charming World Heritage City instantly captivates visitors with an abundance of natural beauty, a fascinating history – the ideal spot for a Scandinavian adventure.

Founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070 and only four years after the end of the Viking era, Bergen rapidly developed around its bustling harbour and became a major centre for trading seafarers. It was the Norwegian capital in the 13th century and prospered greatly due to maintaining exclusive rights to negotiate European trade. The Hanseatic League (the German medieval guild of merchants) dominated Baltic maritime trade along the northern European coastline.

For a deeper understanding of Hanseatic life take a stroll along to the Hanseatic Museum, housed in one of Bryggen’s oldest wooden buildings. Furnished in the style of the 18th century, it has retained its original interior and provides an intriguing insight into the life and work of the Hanseatic merchant.

For those seeking the highest level of comfort and service, the ideal place to stay is the Opus XVI, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Located on the quiet plaza of Vagsallmenningen, the property is owned by descendants of renowned Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Hagerup Grieg, This grand, historic building dates back to 1876 and once housed Bergen’s largest bank. The spacious main floor features granite walls and soaring marble columns and the many decorative details demand the utmost admiration.

Accommodation options include classic, superior and deluxe rooms and a choice of suites. The double-storey Peer Gynt suite, named after one of Edvard Grieg’s masterpieces, measures 69 square metres and reflects a fusion of contemporary style with classic elements. The living room includes a large dining area with comfortable seating and elegant drapes and the bedroom features a king size bed swathed in luxurious linens and plump pillows. The spacious bathroom offers under-floor heating and an excellent rainfall shower, which, for those of us who take a while to recover from a deep slumber, is just the ticket. Hotel amenities include complimentary WIFI, an in-room tablet for guests to use, and an impressive mini-bar crammed with drinks and snacks. Following a hearty buffet style breakfast and with most attractions within walking distance I set out to explore the city.

In 1979 Bryggen, was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and today the vast majority of visitors flock to the brightly coloured wooden houses along the waterfront. Painters, weavers and craftsmen toil away in their workshops enticing passersby to stop, admire and purchase their artistry. There are also a number of quirky boutiques, trendy cafés and busy restaurants dotted along the wharf. Consider stopping off and sampling Fårikål; Norway’s national dish – a delicious mutton stew layered with cabbage and served with potatoes. You may prefer Stekte Pølser – fried sausages accompanied by a selection of vegetables. Seafood lovers should head for Enhjørningen, a unique fish restaurant on Bryggen. Housed in a narrow, restored 18th century building, it offers a wonderful view of the waterfront, excellent service and some truly mouthwatering dishes.

Norway is the world’s second biggest exporter of fish and a visit to Torget fish market, three minutes' walk from Opus XVI, is not to be missed. Visitors are encouraged to admire the display and sample the products, including fish cakes, salmon, calamari, seafood salads and of course fish and chips. Wander around the harbour and you'll spot the Bergenhus fortress, one of the best preserved castles in Norway. Be sure to visit the royal hall, known as Haakon’s Hall after King Håkon Håkonson. It dates back to 1260 and is Norway’s biggest medieval building, now used for official functions and banquets.

Another popular attraction is the defence tower, known as the Rozenkrantz Tower, built in 1270 by King Magnus VI. In the 1560’s, castle commander Erik Rosenkrantz integrated the tower into a larger structure and today it's recognised as the most important Renaissance monument in Norway.

For a breath of that fresh Scandinavian air, take a short stroll to Øvregaten Street, Bergen’s oldest street. The Fløibanen funicular railway, which dates back to 1918, is Bergen’s top attraction and you’ll be rapidly transported to the top of the Floyen mountain; 1050 feet above sea level, to be rewarded with spectacular views of the city below. Or, take the vintage shuttle bus from the fish market, hop onto the cable car and soar to the top of Mount Ulriken for panoramic views of the city, surrounding mountains and fjords.

If you prefer to view the scenery at ground level, make your way to Zachariabryggen, adjacent to the fish market. Board the White Lady for a leisurely cruise around the harbour or embark the catamaran, which offers a three hour cruise to Mostraumen, where the fjord narrows and the vessel is surrounded by steep mountains. The return voyage takes in around Osterøy and pauses at Heskjedalsfossen waterfall. Passengers are presented with a sample of the water, which the crew collect. This experience is by far the most leisurely and comfortable way to view and appreciate the beautiful surroundings savouring every moment of your Scandinavian adventure.

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Images (excluding accommodation) courtesy of Visit Norway.