If you are looking for a walk that gives you history, scenery, and beautiful streets but also avoids the hustle and bustle of Bryggen during tourist season, then walking around Nordnes may be the walk for you!
Nordnes is the peninsula that divides the Bergen harbour into two.
Nordnes is divided into two parts: the wealthy merchants side and the lower middle class side. The first half of the walk is through the wealthy side, and as we cross over the park, we arrive at the lower middle class side. Walking through these narrow streets, it’s easy to believe that Nordnes was one of the most densely populated areas in Bergen; more densely populated than Hong Kong.
- Difficulty: Intermediate / Nordnes has a big hill in the middle, and we will be walking up and down it, including steps.
- Food/drink breaks: Strandgaten has some coffee shops and supermarkets, but most of Nordnes is suburb, so nowhere to stop for food/drink
- Toilet breaks: Not available on this walk. Some hotels close to the start.
- Estimated time: Allow at least 2 hours for the walk
- As you can see from the map, we go in a big circle. If you are getting tired or need to cut the tour short, it’s easy to cut across and skip part of the walk.
This little house sure sticks out, huh? Well, that was somewhat the intention. Muren was built in 1562 as the home of the Danish lord Erik Rosenkrantz, who was in charge over at the Bergen Fortress. He also wanted to have the biggest and best house in Bergen, which Muren was for some time.
Notice the soapstone around the edges of the building; that comes from the remains of an old monastery, the Munkeliv monastery. We’ll talk about that later.
Today Muren is no longer a house; it is a raincoat store and it also has a museum for the Buekorps inside.
Walk up to the street on the right calledStrandgaten
Strandgaten is the main street for Nordnes, and it used to be comprised of wooden buildings until the great fire of 1916, which destroyed much of this area. Still, some of the brick buildings from before 1916 remain.
Today it has lots of local shops, including a supermarket and yarn store.
Make your way to Strandgaten 68
Strandgaten 68 is the best example of a wealthy merchants house on Strandgaten. It was the home of H.C. Krohn, Hans Krohn, who was born in Bergen in 1742. He was a well-off guy, being married four times and having twelve children, though only four survived him. His older brother was Danckert Krohn, who became the wealthiest man in Bergen and build a centre of the less fortunate (which is today near the leprosy museum). Hans Krohn owned ships, trading rooms, fishing villages, and more.
Lets head behind the house to get a full sense of what a wealthy merchants home looked like.
Just next to the building you’ll see a narrow alley with a lamp above it. Walk down that narrow alley and make a right at the gate.
At the back of the house, you can how see that it wasn’t fully built in brick, but wood! Also, notice the cellar to the left. On it, you’ll see the initials ‘CCK’. This refers to Christopher Christian Kramer, who was a German merchant who took Norwegian citizenship. After the fire of 1756, he built the cellar and put his initials over it. He ran a wine business and a farmers trading business. His son in law was Hans Krohn.
The University of Bergen has some excellent information and photographs of the building. Click here to view them.
Take the stairs to the right of the cellar. Notice how the cellar has hooks on the roof for lifting barrels up to the second floor.
Once you reach the top of the stairs, you are in a carpark.
This carpark wasn’t always a carpark (no, Hans Krohn didn’t need space to park a Tesla back then). Rather, this was his garden. It was common for the wealthiest merchants to have a garden and workshop out the back. However, as times changed, so did this plot. No trace of the garden remains.
Walk to the street behind the carpark and take a right.
We are now walking along the street Lille Markeveien, where you can see some nice examples of 19th century homes. This street was rebuilt after a fire in 1830, and numbers 23 and 25 are examples of large homes from the era. Number 28 is considered to be Bergen’s (and possibly Norway’s first apartment building, with six apartments.
You will see this big yellow building with a tower. What is it? We’ll talk about that later!
Walk to the end of the street and look at the building to the left
Cort PiilsMauet & Amalie Skram’s Home
We are now on Cort Piilsmauet. First off, ‘mauet’ is a word that’s only really used in Bergen, and it refers to this type of narrow alley you are seeing now.
Cort Piilsmauet is one of the oldest streets in Bergen, dating back to the Middle Ages. It is named after Cort Piils, a Hanseatic merchant who worked at Bryggen in the 1580s, but eventually settled near this alley.
Cort Piilsmauet 1 was the home of the author Amalie Skram while she was a child (walk onto the alley to see a plaque with her name on). What’s interesting about this house is its appearance; it’s clad in iron plates, which was a short-lived fire prevention method in Bergen that was introduced after the fire of 1830 ran through Nordnes. It’s rare to see it today.
Walk down Cort Piilsmauet and take a left. You are now back on Strandgaten. Head to the end of the street, where’ll you’ll arrive at Holbergsallmenningen.
Holbergsallmenningen is a great example of an allmenningen, a purposely built firebreak to prevent fire jumping across to the other side of the street. You’ll notice lots of streets in Bergen end in ‘allmenningen’; they are firebreaks!
Holbergsallmenningen was laid out in 1686 after a great fire, and it managed to protect the area in Bergen’s largest fire in history in 1702.
The street is named after Ludvig Holberg, a writer, historian and playwright from Bergen who moved to Copenhagen when he was five.
Walk to the top-right of Holbergsallmenningen and take a right into the street called Ytre Markevein
This street is easily one of my favourites in Bergen, and hopefully you can see why. The locals here have fought off development for decades, and now this street gives us the best look at what Nordnes used to look like. This street hasn’t had a fire for 200 years, so many of these houses are from the 18th and 19th century. Back then, this was where the lower class lived, and this is evident from the smaller plots; think back to Strandgaten 68, which had a cellar and garden out the back. These ones have no such luxuries.
There are so many great photos of Ytre Markeveien available on the University of Bergen website, and I encourage you to browse through them. Click here.
Walk along Ytre Markeveien until you reach Claus Ockensmauet on the right.
This alley is named after Claus Ocken (1685-1757), who came from Holstein and became Bergen’s first harbour bailiff between the years 1735-1754.
Walk down Claus Ockensmauet until you reach a courtyard at the back. Note: if steep hills aren’t your thing, it’s icy or it’s raining, consider skipping this part and continue along Ytre Markeveien.
The rebuilding of Nordnes
Standing in this courtyard, you get a real feel of how Nordnes has been reconstructed over the past few decades. But not all of this has been by choice; during the Second World War this area was not just bombed but also an explosion on Bergen harbour (near the fortress) heavily damaged this region, and many of the old homes were lost.
As we walk along the courtyard, to the left we’ll have the old homes that have survived, and to the right we have a new building that was built after the war.
Walk along the courtyard to the left until you reach a grand white house on Nykirkesmauet.
This alley is named after Nykirken, or the New Church, which we’ll be seeing soon.
But this house in front of us is rather grand. It was built in 1765 by master smith Johan Gotfried Rudolph, and it has a grand portal in the classicist style from around 1800.
Walk up Nykirkesmauet and arrive back at Ytre Markeveien. Walk along the street, admire these gorgeous homes, and at the end of the street you reach Nykirkesallmenningen.
This ‘allmenningen’ was constructed after the fire of 1756. The left side has residential housing from the 1950s and 1960s, whereas the right side has wooden houses with brick facades that were built around 1800. These houses were for officials associated with the church:
- Number 11 was for the church notary Jacob Reinersten
- Number 13 was for the parish dean Philip Fleischer
- Number 15 was for verger Peter Røsler
Walk down Nykirkesallmenningen to Nykirken (the big white church)
Nykirken ‘The new Church’
Nykirken was originally built in 1621 as the first church on Nordnes for the locals. It was built over the former Archbishop’s Palace, and it’s still possible to see bits of it inside the church.
Nykirken has changed throughout history; burning in 1623, 1756, 1800 and after the explosion in 1944, which is when the tower was added (look at the pictures above to compare)
Today it is possible to visit Nykirken, and if you do be sure to find the ruins of the Archbishop’s Palace!
Now it’s time to go for a bit of a walk. Continue down Strandgaten for 5-10 minutes and notice how new this area is; a lot of this had to be rebuilt after the 1944 explosion. Note that in 2019 they are placing cobblestone on the road and with that there are a lot of roadworks which may disrupt the walking path.
We cross over Tollbodallmenningen, and to the right is the Custom’s House.
This street was added after a fire in 1756 and it is named after the customs house, which is the big white building on the right.
The first customs building was placed here in 1561 as a way to prevent smuggling out of the harbour. There was a big smuggling attempt on the harbour in 1733, when the merchants got 150 to take part. The customs officers heard the sound of the boats, and went to investigate. They discovered 3-4 large vessels. The smugglers threw rocks and used iron rods as weapons at the customs officers, who then called on soldiers at the fortress. The soldiers shot at the smugglers, but the smugglers were still able to get away.
The building had to be rebuilt after the fire of 1756. On the ground floor are warehouses and apartments, and the upper floor has an office and living room. After the explosion of 1944, the building had to be heavily restored.
Detour: Walk down part the customs house and out into the carpark. If it’s a clear day you’ll get amazing views of Bergen!
Continue walking along Strandgaten for one more block. On the right, you’ll see a collection of wooden buildings.
These buildings give us the best look at what the Norwegian trading part of town would’ve looked like in the 18th century. We know the Hanseatic merchants dominated Bryggen, but it was on this side that the Norwegians traded. It’s crazy to imagine that from where we started until here, this whole waterfront would’ve looked just like this.
Most of these buildings were built in the late 18th century, and some have since been converted into apartments.
This area is now protected, though three buildings were moved to Gamle Bergen.
The Norwegian nobleman Peter Tordenskjold lived here during his visits to Bergen.
Detour: You can walk around Sliberget and get some great views out to the Bergen fjord.
Walk to the end of Strandgaten. You’ll see a big skyscraper building in front of you, which is the Institute for Marine Research. From here, you have two options: take the walk around the Nordnes Park, or skip it and go to the Witches Memorial, which is on your left near the aquarium.
Nordnes Park is a beautiful park that sits at the tip of the peninsula. As you walk around it, you’ll get excellent views of the fjord.
At the peak of the park there is a totem pole, which was a gift from Bergen’s sister city Seattle. Also from the peak, you can see the German bunker Bruno and the Damsgård Manor (see image below).
Continuing around the park, you pass the Nordnes Baths, a public pool area that’s very popular in the summer, and then you head up to the Witches Memorial.
The witches memorial sits on top of a well-known execution site, and states that 350 women were accused of witchcraft and burnt at the stake. One of the most famous is Anne Pedersdatter Beyer, who was an important woman in bergen in the 16th century. She was also the widow to priest Absalon Beyer. She was given the death penalty for sorcery and was burnt at Nordnes in 1590. It’s quite uncommon for a woman of her position to be accused of witchcraft, so it’s believed that people just, kinda, didn’t like her. Witches were normally women from lower classes, or the Sami (see Vardø for more information).
Just behind the witches memorial is the Bergen Aquarium, which has been here since the 1960s. This can be a nice detour!
Look across the street at this big brick building.
Sailor’s Poor House
The sailor’s poor house was established in the 16th century and run by nuns. After the Reformation, however, it had to rely on the city for support. This building is quite new (was built in 1896) because they had moved it from its original location near the Bergen Cathedral to here. Today it is a retirement home for anyone, not just sailors. The building was designed by famous architect Schack Bull and is inspired by German romanticism.
Continue walking along the street to the right of the Sailor’s Poor House, called “Haugeveien”. On the right, you’ll pass a big, white building. That’s an upper secondary school called the “Bergen Health and Social College”, though it was originally built in 1900 as a school for seafarers. Look across the street to see ‘Observatoriegaten’
Observatoriegaten is named after, well, the Bergen Observatory! Yes, Bergen had an observatory for a short period of time in the 1800s that performed astronomical observations. The building was torn down to provide space for the white upper secondary school across the street.
It’s not necessary to take a detour into Observatoriegaten, it just has an interesting background. Continue along Haugeveien until you arrive at a yellow building with brick stripes on the right.
Nordnes School was built at the beginning of the 20th century and quickly became overcrowded. As many as 1800 children attended the school, and they could not attend at once. The richer kids would come in the morning, and the poorer kids in the evening (they had to work in the mornings).
The school didn’t quieten down until the 1960s when people started to move out of Nordnes.
Walk just past Nordnes School to that big fortress.
Frederiksberg Fortress was built in 1666 after a battle between the British and the Dutch on Bergen Harbour. It has never been used as a fortress; from the early 20th century it was used as a fire station, but this closed down in 1926.
Today Frederiksberg is a nice park. If the gate is open, head on in. When I walked past in March it was closed for restoration.
Just after Frederiksberg is a street that goes downhill called ‘Galgebakken’.
See that statue of the woman? Well, this hill was another one of Bergen’s execution sites, and there was a gallow here (galge=gallow).
It’s believed that this was the most widely used execution site in Norway, and many criminals were executed here in front of the locals. Their heads were even buried under Galgebakken. Women accused of witchcraft were also burnt here; it’s believed this is where Anne Pedersdotter Beyer was burnt. The last decapitation was Jens Amundsen Fenstad in 1825, who was convicted of counterfeiting coins. Forty years later, that photo on the left was taken.
Time to walk down Galgebakken. With its dark history, it’s clear to see why this was a lower middle class area. You’ll also start to see shipyards and warehouses on the waterfront, which is where many of these people worked.
Galgebakken turns into Strangehagen. Take the steps down to Nedre Strangehagen. From here’s you’ll see Bergen’s culture centre, USF. There’s a really nice restaurant and outdoor seating area if you want to stop for lunch. Otherwise, this building houses a cinema and concert venue. It’s inside an old sardine factory.
We are now walking along Nedre Strangehagen, which is left after the stairs
This is a well preserved area with good examples of lower middle class homes from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Walking along the street:
Nedre Strangehagen 10 (the little yellow house)
This is a great example of what lower middle class homes looked like in the 18th century. The house was build around 1780, and the dormer resting on pillars was added at the start of the 19th century. This is exactly how the house looked 200 years ago. Today, this house is considered one of the oldest homes in Nordnes.
Think the house looks really simple? Well, it went up for sale a couple years ago and we got to see what it looks like inside. Click here to see what it looks like inside. The house was sold for 2.9 million.
There’s some more information on the house here.
Nedre Strangehagen 8-2
This are all well preserved homes from the 18th century, though they have been restored. Number 8 was built in the mid 19th century.
Continue along Nedre Strangehagen until you reach the alley ‘Strangebakken’.
This street is named after the Strange Foundation (which we’ll see later), but for some time it was known as ‘Tyskemauet’ or the ‘German Alley’ because some Germans lived here in the 19th century.
At the top of Strangebakken we have arrived at Kloseret. Walk to the right where the park (and statue) is.
This park is over the site of the Munkeliv Monastery, which was built some time around the early 12th century. Benedictine Monks lived here initially, but in 1426 the Order of the Holy Birgitta moved in. Archeological excavations show that the monastery was probably rebuilt around this time. The monastery was the oldest and probably the wealthiest in Norway.
The monastery became subject to many political differences over the years and was occasionally burnt down. In 1455, Olav Nilssøn was the king’s governor in Bergen and tried to make the Hanseatic merhcants pay taxes, but rather than complay, the Hanseatics got Olav fired. Olav retaliated by attacking Hanseatic ships, so the Germans chased him to Munkeliv and burnt the monastery down, killing him and the bishop.
The monastery was lived in until the Reformation in 1537.
Notice the red/orange building just behind the park.
School for the Poor
This is the ‘Bethlehem School for the Poor’, which was built in 1742 for Bergen’s lower classes. It was built around a time that education had become a necessity in order to understand, and live by, the Bible. The school was known as the ‘Green School’ because the students wore clothes with green colours. The conditions of the school were different to other schools in Bergen – the lower class parents wanted to put their kids to work rather than school. Truency from school was punished with fines, which is something the parents didn’t mind doing because they’d still make money from their kids working.
There were few books here and no recess; when recess was introduced in 1861, kids got a two-minute break twice a day. But it was a good school with well educated teachers, and one of the teachers here wrote the first modern reading book for school children.
The school closed in 1870 and now it’s the Hordaland Art Centre.
Continue along to the right where the big carpark is.
Kloseret (The Abbey) is named after Munkeliv Monastery. The houses have been build throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. A lot of them (especially the ones in the photo above) now have brick exteriors, which is a fire prevention method. But don’t be fooled; these are actually wooden buildings
- Number 22 is a well preserved example of an 18th century house for a wealthy citizen, probably for the shoemaker Wilhelm Schierenbeck.
- Klosteret 2 (the big pink building) is now the Nordnes Community Centre, but it was built in the 18th century as a wealthy merchant’s house belong to the Krohn family.
Continue to the other end of Klosteret and stop near the big yellow wooden building on the right.
This building is the ‘Stranges Stiftelse’ (Strange’s Almshouse), which goes back to 1609 when councillor Strange Jørgenssønn established the almshouses. The current building was built in 1751. The layout is very similar to St. Jørgens Hospital, the Leprosy hospital near the train station.
Stranges Stiftelse was a retirement home until the 1970s, and now it is used by the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments, Bergen division. You’ll see some photos of the building on the windows, but you can also go inside during office hours.
Across the street, we find another yellow building; the one we saw earlier in the day.
Corps de garde
Corps de Garde was built in 1794 over the site of ‘Bell Hill’, a place where a bell was used to summon a group of the towns guards.
When the first professional fire brigade was introduced to Bergen in 1886, they made Corps de Garde their first fire station, but it wasn’t the best place for a fire station – there was no tower on the building at the time. The building that we see today wasn’t built until 1886. Just a couple decades later, in 1904, the Corps de Garde was made redundant. Since 1926, the building has been used as a residence for the priest in Nykirken parish.
Just across the street from the Corps de Garde is a small alley called Knøsesmauet. That’s where we are going!
This alley has been voted the prettiest street in Bergen, and it’s easy to see why. Many of the houses are from the 1700s, and it gives us great insight into what Nordnes would’ve looked like from that period.
The name comes from Johan Kees, who owned property here in the mid-17th century.
Many of these homes would’ve been for the lower middle class. Walk down to the end of the street, and as you go down pay attention to:
- Number 8 (the blue one): Probably unchanged since the 1700s
- Skottegaten: we cross this street halfway down. This whole area would’ve been gardens, but as Nordnes grew, the gardens disappeared and apartment buildings were placed here.
- Number 32: Also original from the 1700s
At the end of Knøsmauet, turn left onto St. Hanstredet
St. Hansstredet is a picturesque street made up of lower middle class homes. The name comes from JonsKlosteret (Jons Monastery), which used to stand here. A church that stood next to the monastery was Jonskirken, often called St. Hans Church.
Halfway through St. Hansstredet, take a look into Mitzelsmauet.
This picturesque alley is named after the sea captain Peter Mitzel. Nearby (across the street) is Ross-smauet, which is named after Frants Ross, the skipper on the armed merchant ship St. France. Together with Peter Mitzel, they sailed to Lisbon in 1672 to load salt, but were attacked by ships from Algiers and fled after 8 hours of battle.
Back on St. Hansstredet, follow it to the end, where you arrive at Vestre Murallmenningen. Continue across the street onto Nøstegaten and walk up to the colourful wooden buildings.
The Brothels of Bergen
These brothels were founded by Johan Duckwitz, who took citizenship in Bergen as an innkeeper and started theHotel de Parie at Nordnes with his wife, Oline Ducwitz. Soon, they were able to start ‘The West Indies’ (number 43) and ‘The Four Lions’, both of them brothels.
The West Indies became the city’s most famous brothel. Interestingly, for a few years the building was used as a mosque for Bergen’s Muslim community. Today, the building has a Hanseatic logo at the top. Why? I haven’t figured it out. The Hanseatics made use of brothels in Bergen, but there were plenty close to Bryggen. If anyone knows, let me know!
The whole street of Nøstegaten (which runs into Nordnes) is believed to have the oldest continuously preserved series of wooden buildings in Norway, with many buildings here dating back to 1601. Numbers 39-45 are believed to be the oldest, though as you can see from the photos, they have been heavily restored. Also, judging from the picture to the left, there used to be wooden buildings on the other side, but they have since been cleared to make way for the road.
Across the street is the Hurtigruten terminal.
After these buildings is the big street Håkonsgaten. Follow it for a few minutes. You’ll pass the Scandic City Bergen, and just after the hotel is a white building on the left.
Bergen’s First Theatre
In 1850, Ole Bull found the Norwegian Theatre with the idea that plays would be spoken Norwegian and not Danish, and it became the first theatre in Norway to do so. The first play was Holberg’s comedy Den Vægelsindede.
They performed in the old comedy theatre, which was built in 1800. Sadly, it was bombed during the Second World War. Note that the nearby street is ‘Komediebakken’, named after it.
Today, the cinema stands in its place. Out the front you’ll see a plaque outlining the bombing from WWII.
Just after the theatre is Magnus Barfots Gate. Take a left. As you’re walking along the street, notice on the lefthand side…
Throughout Norway you’ll find these memorials to Jews who were sent to concentration camps during the Second World War. The plaques are placed outside where they lived.
This one is for Isak Leib Marianson, who was born in Russia in 1889 and came to Norway in 1913 where he settled as a merchant. Iask was arrested on the 28th of June 1941 and eventually transported to Auschwitz, where he was killed on the 17th of February 1942.
There’s a fantastic website for these plaques: https://www.snublestein.no/
Continue along Magnus Barfots Gate until you reach the end of the street.
The tour ends at the National Theatre, which was built in 1909 after the old theatre had become too small.
Just down from the theatre is the main street Torgallmenningen, which will take you back to the starting point of this tour.
- Bergen’s Wooden Architecture: This book focuses more on the architecture of the buildings, but is a great resource for older places in Bergen
- Bergen: Streets Broad and Narrow: This book looks more at the dark side in Bergen’s history, and goes into more detail about some of Nordnes’ historical places
- Marcus.uib.no: This website is where I found the historical images, and is a great resource. I strongly recommend exploring it!