Bergen, historically Bjørgvin, is a city and municipality in Hordaland on the west coast of Norway. At the end of the first quarter of 2016, the municipality’s population was 278,121, and the Bergen metropolitan region has about 420,000 inhabitants. Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway. The municipality covers 465 square kilometres (180 sq mi) and is on the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen.
The city centre and northern neighbourhoods are on Byfjorden, ‚the city fjord‘, and the city is surrounded by mountains; Bergen is known as the ‚city of seven mountains‘. Many of the extra-municipal suburbs are on islands. Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland, and consists of eight boroughs – Arna, Bergenhus, Fana, Fyllingsdalen, Laksevåg, Ytrebygda, Årstad, and Åsane.
Trading in Bergen may have started as early as the 1020s. According to tradition, the city was founded in 1070 by king Olav Kyrre and was named Bjørgvin, ‚the green meadow among the mountains‘. It served as Norway’s capital in the 13th century, and from the end of the 13th century became a bureau city of the Hanseatic League. Until 1789, Bergen enjoyed exclusive rights to mediate trade between Northern Norway and abroad and it was the largest city in Norway until the 1830s when it was surpassed by the capital, Christiania (now known as Oslo). What remains of the quays, Bryggen, is a World Heritage Site. The city was hit by numerous fires over the years. The Bergen School of Meteorology was developed at the Geophysical Institute beginning in 1917, the Norwegian School of Economics was founded in 1936, and the University of Bergen in 1946. From 1831 to 1972, Bergen was its own county. In 1972 the municipality absorbed four surrounding municipalities and became a part of Hordaland county.
The city is an international centre for aquaculture, shipping, offshore petroleum industry and subsea technology, and a national centre for higher education, media, tourism and finance. Bergen Port is Norway’s busiest in terms of both freight and passengers with over 300 cruise ship calls a year bringing nearly a half a million passengers to Bergen, a number that has doubled in 10 years. Almost half of the passengers are German or British. The city’s main football team is SK Brann and the city’s unique tradition is the buekorps. Natives speak a distinct dialect, known as ‚Bergensk‘. The city features Bergen Airport, Flesland, Bergen Light Rail, and is the terminus of the Bergen Line. Four large bridges connect Bergen to its suburban municipalities.
Bergen has a mild winter climate, though with a lot of precipitation. During December – March, the temperature difference between Bergen and Oslo can be up to 30 degrees Celsius, despite the fact that both cities are at approximately 60 degrees North. The Gulf Stream keeps the sea relatively warm, considering the latitude, and the mountains protect the city from cold winds from the north, north-east and east.
Source: Statistics Norway. Note: The municipalities of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg and Åsane were merged with Bergen 1 January 1972.
The city of Bergen was traditionally thought to have been founded by king Olav Kyrre, son of Harald Hardråde in 1070 AD, four years after the Viking Age ended with the Battle of Hastings. Modern research has, however, discovered that a trading settlement was already established during the 1020s or 1030s.
Bergen gradually assumed the function of capital of Norway in the early 13th century, as the first city where a rudimentary central administration was established. The city’s cathedral was the site of the first royal coronation in Norway in the 1150s, and continued to host royal coronations throughout the 13th century.
Bergenhus fortress dates from 1240s and guards the entrance to the harbour in Bergen. The functions of the capital city were lost to Oslo during the reign of King Haakon V (1299-1319).
In the middle of the 14th century, North German merchants who had already been present in substantial numbers since the 13th century, founded one of the four Kontore of the Hanseatic League at Bryggen in Bergen.
The principal export traded from Bergen was dried cod from the northern Norwegian coast, which started around 1100. The city was granted monopoly with regard to trade from the north of Norway, by King Håkon Håkonsson (1217-1263). Stockfish was the main reason that the city became one of North Europe’s largest centres for trade at the time. By the late 14th century, Bergen had established itself as the centre of the trade in Norway. The Hanseatic merchants lived in their own separate quarter of town, where Middle Low German was used, enjoying exclusive rights to trade with the northern fishermen who each summer sailed to Bergen. Today, Bergen’s old quayside, Bryggen, is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Hieronymus Scholeus’s impression of Bergen. The drawing was made in about 1580 and was published in an atlas with drawings of many different cities (Civitaes orbis terrarum).
In 1349, the Black Death was inadvertently brought to Norway by the crew of an English ship arriving in Bergen. In the 15th century, the city was attacked several times by the Victual Brothers, and in 1429 they succeeded in burning the royal castle and much of the city. In 1665, the city’s harbour was the site of the Battle of Vågen, where an English naval flotilla attacked a Dutch merchant and treasure fleet supported by the city’s garrison.
Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, Bergen remained one of the largest cities in Scandinavia, and was Norway’s biggest city until the 1830s, when the capital city of Oslo became the largest. From around 1600, the Hanseatic dominance of the city’s trade gradually declined in favour of Norwegian merchants (often of Hanseatic ancestry), and in the 1750s, the Hanseatic Kontor finally closed. Bergen retained its monopoly of trade with Northern Norway until 1789.
An historic photochrom of Bergen near the end of the 19th century. Visible are Domkirken in the bottom left side, Korskirken in the middle, the bay (Vågen) with its many boats and the Bergenhus Fortress to the right of the opening of Vågen.
The Bergen stock exchange, Bergen børs, was established in 1813.
Bergen was separated from Hordaland as a county of its own in 1831. It was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The rural municipality of Bergen landdistrikt was merged with Bergen on 1 January 1877. The rural municipality of Årstad was merged with Bergen on 1 July 1915. The rural municipalities of Arna, Fana, Laksevåg, and Åsane were merged with Bergen on 1 January 1972. The city lost its status as a separate county on the same date. Bergen is now a municipality in Norway, in the county of Hordaland.