Bergenhus Fortress dates back to the Middle Ages, but is now used mainly for recreation and cultural events.

The area is located on Holmen outside Bryggen by Vågen in the centre of Bergen. The buildings here include Håkonshallen and Rosenkrantztårnet, both of which are cultural monuments of great national importance. There are also several military buildings from recent times. A large part of this area consists of open lawns and green spaces surrounded by ramparts and ring walls, which create a secluded and peaceful spot perfect for taking a break away from the busy city streets.

Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen - one of the highlights of 10 Best Things to Do in Bergen and 10 Things to Do in Bergen on a Small Budget (Read all about Bergen here)

Highlights of Bergenhaus Fortress

With the quay areas Bontelabo and Festningskaien in the north and west, the steep cliff with Sverresborg in the east and the tourist-dominated Bryggen in the south, Bergenhus Fortress is probably the most remote area in Bergen city centre. This makes it the perfect place to relax for an hour or two if you are on a city walk, especially if you tie in a visit to Bryggen or the old working-class district of Sandviken.

In the middle of the area is a large triangular lawn surrounded by trees. It is simply known as the "Lawn", and the place is perfect for stretching out in the sun and letting the kids run around. On the grassy slope towards the fortress quay, there are usually seating areas, which is handy if you have planned a picnic and the grass is wet. From the wall opposite the fortress quay you can stand by the statue of King Haakon 7 and look out over Vågen and towards Nordnesparken on the other side. You will probably also spot ships of various kinds moored along the quay.

photo by Odd Roar Aalborg (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

The history behind Bergenhus Fortress

The fortress has a long history. As early as the Middle Ages, there was a fortified royal court here, which functioned as a royal seat and national centre for a couple of hundred years, but by the time of the Danish era, the fortress had lost its important status.

The most significant remnant from its heyday is Håkonshallen, which is the largest and most beautiful of two stone halls built on the site under King Håkon Håkonsson. He ruled for half a century and over a larger area than any other Norwegian king. The hall was completed for his son Magnus Lagabøte's wedding in 1261. After that, the building fell into disrepair for many years, but restorations in the 19th century and following an accidental explosion left the hall in ruins in 1944. Today the hall is a magnificent building used as representation rooms for the city.

A more striking building is the Rosenkrantz Tower, which towers over the area with its characteristic roof and spire. It was built on top of building remains that were about the same age as Håkonshallen, but the tower itself was rebuilt in the mid-16th century under the Danish lord Erik Rosenkrantz. This was meant to scare the Hanseatics, who dominated trade in Bergen, into complying with Norwegian law.

These buildings are now under the City Museum in Bergen and are open to the public. Both have halls and rooms that take you far back in history. The main hall in Håkonshallen makes a powerful impression, but details such as carved heads and figures and other stonework are also interesting.   

photo by Amisan (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

Worth knowing

Bergenhus Fortress is easily accessible on foot from Bergen city centre, but if you want to give your feet a rest, it's worth taking the bus. All northbound routes drop you off close by. In practice, the area is always open, but access may be limited during cultural events. Thanks to its central location and open area, the park is used for events such as outdoor opera, food and beer festivals. Also worth mentioning are the mega concerts with world-famous rock artists at Koengen, between Bergenhus Fortress and Sverresborg Every summer the fortress area itself is completely taken over by the Bergenfest music festival every for an entire weekend. The festival is a great opportunity to experience the area at its liveliest.

photo by Nina-no (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified

Bergenhus Fortress in Bergen

Location: Bergenhus Fortress, 5003 Bergen, Norway

Open: Daily: 06.30-23.00

Phone: +47 55 54 63 87