Sunshine in Bergen is not something to be taken lightly.
As any Scandinavian knows, the winters have a stranglehold on the lives of those in the north, which is softened only in some parts by the beauty that is the aurora borealis (northern lights). And, as any Scandinavian knows, summer does not always mean a reprieve from the stubborn sun-less days and dismal grey skies which dominate so much of the year.
This is all the more true in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city. Being located on the west coast means that regular rainfall is the norm – occurring approximately 275 days a year. Indeed, postcards depicting soaked locals and streets resembling streams are almost as common as those showing off Bergen’s quaint harbour, and in some circles Bergen is referred to not just as the city of seven mountains, but also as the city of rain. (Interestingly, umbrella vending machines were once trialled in the city, though ultimately proved unsuccessful).
If all of this paints a bleak picture of Bergen then travellers can find reassurance in the knowledge that it is both one of the warmest and most striking cities in Norway. In June and July it is possible to encounter splendid days where the sunshine melts like butter over the city, revealing what is arguably some of the most picture-perfect scenery in Norway.
The best place to begin taking in Bergen is at the UNESCO-listed wharf (known as Bryggen), where the timber warehouses throw their pointed reflections into the water and stand proudly below the city’s most-visited mountain, Fløyen.
Accessible by either feet or funicular, Fløyen’s hiking paths are plentiful, with lookouts providing amazing views of the city below and beyond, along with a sense of serenity that is more than a million miles away from the well-trod tourist path down by the harbour.
With seven mountains to choose from, many travellers take the bus to nearby Ulriken – the highest of them all with an altitude of 643 metres above sea level. The aerial tramway is probably the best way to reach the top, as the path is steep and jagged in parts and allows for more time to hike through the multitudinous paths. The valley, in particular, is filled with such crystal-clear silence free from even a whisper of wind that it feels like stumbling across somewhere truly undiscovered.
One local hiking enthusiast told this writer: “If you love mountains, you can stay here forever”, but the truth is that Bergen is a city with much more to offer than just nature.
Seafood lovers can feast on the fresh, daily assortment of fish – including whale, at the harbour side Fish Market. While every city has a museum, many come to visit Troldhaugen, the home of late leading Romantic composer, Bergen-born Edvard Grieg. The lemon-coloured villa with a Norwegian flag flying proudly atop the roof is today a museum which includes an exhibition centre, concert hall, and composer’s cabin and is a testament to the enduring work of a composer whose art put Norway in the spotlight.
Summer nights are when Bergen truly comes alive, however, with the chance to soak up the 24 hours of incandescent sunshine that burns optimistically through the sky. Bars and restaurants by the harbour are filled with as many locals as there are tourists, all keen to drink in the light with the same gusto that makes them keep ordering one beverage after another.
In these early hours, perhaps more than any other time of day, the real magic of Bergen is on display. Norway’s people are at their most relaxed and the city is a luminescent playground. The truly enthusiastic could even hike up to Fløyen and see how the town glows below, or search for any sign of rain clouds approaching.