Family Vacations to Bergen, Norway

Family Overview: Bergen, Norway
Bergen's Old World charm captivates adults and children (Photodisc)

Bergen serves as the gateway to Norway's southwestern fjords, but before you explore those scenic waterways, linger through the town. The 900-year-old seaside city was one of Norway's most important during the Middle Ages. Bergen's manageable size, plus its historic wooden buildings, fish market, and picturesque harbor offer a unique Old World charm for kids and adults.

The harbor is the heart of the city. At the dockside Fisketorget (Fish Market), watch vendors cut and weigh fresh-caught salmon, monkfish, herring, and cod. For an impromptu lunch, try the boiled shrimp, smoked salmon sandwiches, fish cakes, and other takeaway treats. In the fruit section nearby, baskets brim with cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and other luscious Nordic fruit and flowers bloom in baskets along the wharf.

In 1360, the Hanseatic League, a trading partnership of German city states, established offices in Bergen along the harbor, building wooden houses with steep, peaked roofs. Although destroyed by fire several times since the 14th century, Bergen, with its cranberry, rust, and other colorful structures, was rebuilt at various times. A symbol of Norway as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the area's wooden warehouses once held tons of dried codfish for export. Now the structures house art galleries, linen shops, boutiques, and cafes.

Take young kids interested in animals to the Akvariet (Bergen Aquarium). Along with 60 tanks of sea life, seal training shows, and penguin feedings, the facility showcases monkeys, snakes, and crocodiles in its rainforest exhibit. Kids enamored with ships may like the collection of models, including the Viking vessels, displayed at the Bergens Sjøfartsmuseum (Bergen Maritime Museum), located on the campus of the University of Bergen.

Two popular places, while informative for adults, should only be considered with older children. One is Gamle Bergen (Old Bergen Museum), a collection of about forty 18th- and 19th-century houses. Despite the occasional appearance of a costumed interpreter, the ersatz town is not very exciting. While viewing wooden sideboards and other period furnishings, a guide offers tidbits on Norwegian life. Troldhaugen, the hillside home of noted Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, lies in a beautiful country setting. But unless you can time your visit to include a recital of Grieg's music in the 200-seat concert hall on the property, kids will probably be bored just looking at scores and photographs.

For a great city views, take a cable car ride to the region's mountaintops. The Fløibanen Funicular goes to the summit of Mount Fløien and the Ulriksbanen cable car leads to the top of nearly twice as high Mount Ulriken for views of fjords and the coast. There are hiking trails at both peaks.

From Bergen take a day trip or overnight to visit the Sognefjord or the Hardanger Fjords. Voss, a part of the Hardangerford region, kicks up the adventure by offering whitewater rafting, paragliding, horseback riding, and even rappelling down waterfalls.

Tip: The Bergen Card includes admission to many attractions as well as transportation on buses.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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