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Bergen, Norway - harbor w/clipper ship - Bergen Norway travel and tourism

ABOVE: Bergen Harbor with clipper ship; the Tourist Information Office is on the quay behind the boat.

Don't let the tourist brochures fool you: Bergen, Norway is neither a quaint fishing village nor a medieval town. Rather, it's Norway's second-largest city, with a population of 222,000 and a university with 17,500 students. Most of the city's buildings are modern, and fishermen are outnumbered by business people, technical workers, and oil roughnecks on leave from Norway's offshore drilling platforms.

Fortunately for the tourist who seeks a unique experience, the downtown area is well-supplied with ancient landmarks and overlooks a harbor that's jammed with international ferries, coastal steamers, fishing boats, yachts, freighters, and other vessels of all sizes. And because the city is surrounded by hills and mountains, there are plenty of panoramic views to remind visitors that they're no longer in Des Moines or Manchester.

Norway's former capital

King Olav Kyrre founded Bergen in 1070, just four years after the Norman invasion of England. By the 1200s, Bergen was Norway's capital, and it remained the country's largest city for nearly 600 years. It was under the domination of the Hanseatic League from 1370 until the mid-1700s, when it began losing influence to Oslo.

Bergen's Hanseatic heritage is most obvious in Bryggen (see photo above), a harbor quarter that's within easy walking distance of the railway station and the international ferries from England, Denmark, and the Faroes.

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