Start: The Fish Market.
Finish: West Norwegian Museum of Decorative Arts.
Time: 1 hour.
Best Time: Any day between 8am and 5pm (when it's not raining, of course).
Worst Time: When cruise ships anchor.
1. Fish Market
Around the turn of the 19th century, this broad esplanade at the innermost reaches of Bergen's harbor teemed with fishermen selling their catch, as well as the blood, guts, and carcasses. Today, in a much-sanitized format, it's a venue for crafts, knitwear, carved Siberian and Sami souvenirs, and, to a lesser degree, fish and seafood.
From here, walk west along the Strandkaien, hugging the harborfront on your right side, making a small detour inland at the Strandkaien's end. Within a block, at an angular jog in the avenue known as the Strandgaten, you'll see the solid, partially fortified walls of:
2. City Wall Gate
This gate was originally built in 1550 as a checkpoint in a once-continuous wall that surrounded Bergen. Today it stands isolated amid the newer buildings and broad avenues that surround it on all sides. There's a cheap-clothing outlet on its ground floor and an obscure, rarely visited museum (the Buekorps Museum) upstairs.
From here, walk west along Strandgaten, noting the many shops that line the street on either side. Within about 5 minutes you'll reach one of Bergen's most visible houses of worship:
Noteworthy features of this church are the Danish-inspired, mansard roof from around 1761, the copper-capped baroque spire, and its location overlooking the entrance to Bergen's harbor.
From here, walk steeply uphill for a block along the Nykirkeallmenningen, and turn left onto the narrow confines of the cobble-covered Ytre Markeveien, noting the antique wood-sided houses on either side. Walk 4 short blocks to the Kippersmauet, and then turn left, walking down a steep, cobble-covered alleyway where, at nos. 23 and 24, there was a disastrous fire in 2001. (A pair of 14-year-old boys is credited with detecting the fire and pounding on the doors of neighboring houses, an act that saved the entire wood-built neighborhood from burning to the ground.)
Take a Break
Café Retro, Klosteret 16 (tel. 55-31-16-16), is loaded with the kitsch and artful debris of the age of Sputnik, with shelves filled with 1950s-era toasters, fans, and ashtrays (all of which are for sale as art objects in their own right). It sells sandwiches made from "ecological" (organic) breads, priced at NOK40 to NOK60 ($8-$12/£4-£6) each, as well as coffee, tea, soda, and pastries. It's open Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm.
Now retrace your steps uphill back to the Ytre Markeveien, and then turn right onto the big square (Holbergsallmenningen), originally conceived as a firebreak. Cross the wide boulevard (Klosteret) and walk east for 1 short block, turning right (sharply downhill) on the impossibly narrow cobble-covered alleyway identified within a few steps as the:
You'll immediately find yourself hemmed in, somewhat claustrophobically, by the antique wooden houses of a district known as the Klosteret. It's composed of compact and, in most cases, impeccably well-maintained wooden houses immediately adjacent to one another. Even today, the risk of fire among the brightly painted historic buildings is a much-feared issue. Especially vulnerable are what local firefighters refer to as "chimney houses" -- ones where cement, stucco, or ornamental masonry facades have been added to an otherwise mostly wooden building.
Continue descending the cobble-covered, steeply sloping length of the Knøsesmauet, bypassing brightly painted wooden houses, prefaced, in some cases, with tiny gardens. Cross over the Skottogaten and continue walking downhill. Turn left onto the St. Hansestredet. (Sankt Hanse is the patron saint of the summer solstice, often invoked in midsummer with bouquets of midsummer flowers such as the ones that adorn the sides of the houses along this street.) St. Hansestredet, within 2 short blocks, merges with the busy traffic of the Jonsvollsgaten, a wide commercial boulevard. Walk east for about 3 minutes, cross over the Teatergaten, and continue walking east along Engen, the eastward extension of the Jonsvollsgaten. On your left rises the stately looking, Art Nouveau bulk of the:
5. National Theater
This arts complex is rich with memories. It was established by violinist Ole Bull, who envisioned it as a showcase for Norwegian-language drama and music. Today performances of Broadway-style musicals alternate with more serious, mostly Norwegian works. Details to look for inside and out include life-size portrait statues of Bjørnson, author of Norway's national anthem, and Ibsen, who served as the theater's director for 5 years. (The stern and magisterial-looking granite sculpture of Ibsen, completed in 1982 and set into the lawns of the theater's eastern side, was considered so ugly that it remained in storage for many years.) On the theater's tree-shaded western side, just outside the entrance to its lobby, is a flattering likeness, in bronze, of Nordahl Grieg, often referred to as the Norwegian version of Winston Churchill because he warned of the Nazi menace before many of his colleagues in the Norwegian Parliament.
If it's open, walk into the theater's lobby, a survivor of a disastrous fire in 1916 and of a Nazi bomb that fell directly into its lobby in 1944. Completely restored in the late 1990s, the lobby has an understated Art Nouveau style and portraits of great Norwegians lining its walls.
Now, with your back to the ornamental eastern side of the theater, walk easterly along the:
6. Ole Bulls Plass
Descend the gradual slope and note the grand commercial buildings that rise on either side. Broad and wide and flanked with flower beds, restaurants, bars, and shops, it was originally laid out, in an era when virtually everything that flanked it was made of wood, as a firebreak. Today it's an architectural showcase of Bergen, named after Norway's first musical superstar.
Descend along the Ole Bulls Plass, past a violin-playing statue of the musical star himself. When the street opens onto the broad esplanade known as Olav Kyrres Gate, note on the right side the turn-of-the-19th-century brick facade of the:
7. West Norway Museum of Applied Art
The statue of a seated male lost in thought set into a niche on the museum's facade commemorates the 19th-century painter J. C. Dahl. It was crafted by one of Norway's first widely celebrated female sculptors, Ambrosia Tønnesen. The abstract sculpture set onto the lawn in front of the museum, composed of a series of rainbow-colored concentric hoops, is in honor of Bergen-born early-20th-century composer Harald Saeverud.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.