A guide to exploring some of Bergen's most famous buildings
As one of the oldest cities in Norway, Bergen has a long and illustrious architectural history. A visit to one or more of these locations will provide you a unique insight into the rich history and life of the city.
The city center is peppered with charming little wooden structures along cobbled streets, old churches, colorful walkways.
Below you will find a list of some of Bergen's most beautiful and photogenic buildings that are absolutely worth a visit.
St. Mary's Church - one of the oldest churches in Norway
Built nearly 1,000 years ago, St. Mary's Church is one of the most iconic structures in the heart of Bergen.
The church's 2 west towers make it unique among churches of the Middle Ages. The church is sometimes referred to locally as the German Church, hearkening back to the Hanseatic merchants who were among its adherents for more than 350 years (1408-1766).
St. Mary's Church is located just behind Bryggen and Bergen Fortress, making it easy to explore while visiting the world-famous UNESCO houses along Bryggen.
Bergen University Museum (Natural History and Cultural History collection)
Located in the middle of Nygårdshøyden among university buildings and parks is the Natural History Museum. The building was completed in 1865 and renovated as recently as 2020.
Within its impressive walls you will find an extensive scientific collection across fields such as anthropology, archeology, art- and cultural history, geology, zoology, and botany.
You can learn how the Earth was created, encounter mummies from ancient Egypt, and see the world's oldest Hardanger fiddle.
The botanical garden surrounding the building is also a treat for visitors. Considered a botanical gem, the exhibition consists of more than 3,000 plant species from around the world. A stroll through the colorful garden with a fresh cup of coffee from the cafe in hand is strongly recommended.
St. John's Church - the Beacon of Bergen
St. John's Church is one of the most visible buildings in central Bergen, with its red facade and lofty steeple atop a hill.
The church dates back to 1894, and is among the largest in the city. Located atop Nygårdshøyden, it offers a scenic overview not only of life downtown, but also of the mountaintops surrounding Bergen.
A visit is well worth climbing the steps going up to the top, and the church is a wonderful sight both day and night. As darkness falls the church lights up, creating sharp contrasts against the night sky and the glazed brickwork of the church. It is something to behold!
Bergen City Hall - the concrete block on the water
City Hall is one of Bergen's most recognized buildings, despite its unbalanced and simple appearance. Towering like a mountain over Lille Lungegårdsvann lake, it is the last major building designed by the architect Erling Viksjø, who also designed other iconic buildings in Norway.
The structure is concrete, but Viksjø employed a special technique known as Natural Concrete, where the concrete itself is augmented with river stone and then sandblasted to create an attractive surface. The building is therefore a work of both architecture and art at the same time. A complete renovation of the building was finished the summer of 2022.
The City Hall may not seem the most beautiful at first glance, as many Bergen residents would argue themselves. It's actually been dubbed the ugliest building in Bergen! Worth a visit anyhow? It's so easy to get to and so iconic, you shouldn't pass it up!
Bergen Station - a historical gem
Located in the heart of the city, Bergen Station also occupies a special place in the hearts of many Bergen residents, where many adventures begin and end, or where family and loved ones are reunited.
The train station is of a traditional design, and follows the pattern typical of stations constructed before World War I. It's one of a handful of remaining stations with this design.
At first glance the building looks somewhat heavy and dark, but this changes as soon as you set foot inside. The interior is full of light, detail, history, and space. The ceiling is glass, which reinforces the sense that this is a building full of contrasts. Bergen Station is worth a visit, and who knows- being there might just inspire you to hop on a train and set out for more adventures!
This is just a small selection of the buildings you can discover in Bergen...
The buildings described above are just some of the many discoveries Bergen has to offer. Walk through some of the residential areas to get a feeling of what everyday life in the city is like. Some of the most beautiful areas include the charming and lovely Sanviken, the colorful passages at the foot of Fløyen, the urban and classical Møhlenpris, to name but a few. Bergen is full of unique and beautiful buildings- there's only to summon your sense of adventure and let your feet do the walking.
Things to do in and around Bergen
Fjord Cruise Mostraumen
3-hour boat cruise through Mostraumen and Osterfjord
Fjord Cruise Hardangerfjord and Rosendal
Fjord cruise from Bergen to Rosendal in the heart of beautiful Hardanger