One of the best-preserved fortifications in the country, Bergenhus Fortress, or Bergenhus Festning in Norwegian, is a must-visit historical location during your Norway vacation. Famous as a royal residence, military seat of power and Bishop’s office, Bergenhus Fortress has a rich history spanning all the way from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Let’s learn more about Bergenhus Fortress, including where this fantastic fortress is, how to get there, the history of Bergenhus Fortress and our top travel tips to make your trip a success!
History of Bergenhus Fortress
Dating back to the 1240s, this medieval fortress once served as the royal residence of Norway, at which time Bergen was Norway’s capital.
During medieval times, the area containing Bergenhus Fortress was also home to a cathedral, monastery, several churches and the bishop’s residence. In this area, known in medieval times as ‘Holmen’, excavations have actually found building foundations dating back to before 1100.
The churches that stood on the site of Bergenhus Fortress were torn down between 1526 and 1531, in the first stage of its conversion into a purely military fortification. Throughout the 1600s, the fortress was continually reinforced, until it was completed around 1700.
There have been several notable events in Bergenhus Fortress’ history, including the Battle of Vagen in 1665, when Dutch ships sought refuge from English warships by heading to Bergen harbor, during which time Bergenhus offered strong resistance. Then, in the Second World War, Bergenhus Fortress was used by the German occupying force as a headquarters and bunker.
Nowadays, Bergen Fortress is a protected national cultural heritage site and remains one of the oldest and best-preserved stone fortifications in Norway.
Bergenhus Fortress Buildings
Two medieval buildings that form part of Bergenhus Fortress remain to this day, namely Haakon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz Tower. Ready to find out more about these different components of the famous Bergen Fortress? Let’s dive in!
This Gothic-style medieval stone hall dates back to the reign of King Hakon Hakonsson (1217-1263), at which time it was the largest building that made up Bergen’s royal residence. Due to its architectural style and the use of stone (which were both unusual in Norway at the time), it’s believed that Haakon Hall was designed by English architects, perhaps even the court architect of King Henry III of England, who was friends with King Hakon.
Throughout its history, Haakon Hall has been hit by several fires, turned into a storage facility (at the time when the entire royal residence was transformed into a military fortress), and undergone numerous restoration projects. In the 1910s, frescos and stained glass windows were added to the hall’s decorations.
In the present day, you’ll also find tapestries lining the walls of Haakon Hall, which is now administered by Bergen City Museum. Concerts, banquets and other official functions sometimes take place in Haakon Hall.
Fun fact: Haakon Hall has actually been featured in the works of several famous Norwegian poets and playwrights. For instance, Henrik Ibsen wrote a poem called ‘King Haakon’s Guildhall’ in the hall’s honor, and Henrik Wergeland also referred to the hall by name in one of his poems.
Dating back to the reign of King Magnus the Lawmender in the 1270s, Rosenkrantz Tower was part of the original Bergen Castle. The tower takes its name from the governor of Bergenhus Fortress from 1560 to 1568, Erik Rosenkrantz.
Rosenkrantz Tower is composed of dungeons, the governor’s residential rooms and space for cannons on the top floor. Throughout the 1500s, the tower was expanded and its structure was modified. Then, from the 1740s to the 1930s, the tower was used as a storage building for gunpowder. In 1966, Rosenkrantz Tower opened to the public and still serves as a popular tourist attraction in the present day.
Bergenhus Fortress Today
Did you know that over 200 people work at Bergenhus Fortress, including both military and civilian personnel? Today, Bergenhus Fortress is fully open to the public, with many visitors choosing to explore this historic fortress complex during their time in Bergen.
Bergenhus Fortress is also a popular cultural and recreational location for local people too, with many events being held here throughout the year, from concerts to theater performances and festivals.
Where is Bergenhus Fortress?
Located on the southwestern coast of Norway in the city of Bergen, Bergenhus Fortress proudly stands along Bergen harbor.
As a UNESCO World Heritage City, Bergen is home to a whole range of amazing landscapes and cultural heritage sites. Also known as the ‘capital of the fjords’, Bergen is situated in the heart of Fjord Norway, offering incredible views of the sea, mountains, fjords and surrounding islands.
As well as stunning nature, Bergen also has a thriving urban center. With a population of roughly 280,000, Bergen is actually the second-largest city in Norway, after the capital Oslo. Bergenhus Fortress is located in the middle of all this, close to both the bustling shopping district and historic harbor.
How to Get to Bergenhus Fortress
Reaching Bergenhus Fortress from the city center of Bergen is very easy, as this historical site is situated directly on the edge of the harbor close to the main urban center. Bergenhus Fortress is located 18 kilometers by car from Bergen Airport, or a 25-30 minute drive.
If you’re arriving at Bergenhus Fortress by car, it’s important to note that you won’t find a designated public parking lot at the fortress. That’s because the inner zone around Bergenhus Fortress is a car-free zone, except for certain commercial and delivery vehicles.
The nearest public parking lot is on a street called Ovre Dreggsallmenning, which is just next to the castle. Other parking options are the car park by the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel on Bryggen, or the Rosenkrantz P-hus car park on Rosenkrantzgaten, 12.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit Bergenhus Fortress?
If you’re planning a trip to Bergen, you might be wanting to plan your vacation budget and factor in admission prices to the cost of your trip. Well, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s actually free to visit Bergenhus Fortress. That’s right – you can explore this fascinating historical site without spending a dollar!
Just remember that for entrance to special events held at Bergenhus Fortress, such as concerts, performances and festivals, you may need to purchase a ticket.
Bergenhus Fortress Opening Times
Bergenhus Fortress is open all year round from 6am to 11pm Monday to Sunday. Please note that the fortress may be closed on special occasions, so it’s always recommended to double check before heading there.
Bergenhus Fortress Museum
Inspired to learn more about the fascinating Bergenhus Fortress? Located just a short 5-minute walk away from the fortress itself is a museum containing captivating exhibits all about the history of Bergenhus Fortress.
At Bergenhus Fortress Museum, you can learn about the 1665 battle at Bergen harbor, the 1940-45 resistance movement in Bergen and women’s contributions to the Norwegian Armed Forces.
Top Tips For Visiting Bergenhus Fortress
Make sure your trip to Bergenhus Fortress is the best possible experience with our top travel tips:
- There are different names for Bergenhus Fortress – An important thing to note about Bergenhus Fortress is that this famous fortification goes by many different names, including Bergen Fortress, Bergen Castle, Bergenhus Fortress and Bergenhus Festning. If you hear any of these names, keep in mind that they’re all the same place!
- Bring your camera in a waterproof case – You’ll want to bring your camera to capture the incredible views at Bergenhus Fortress for sure. We recommend protecting your photography equipment with a waterproof case because Bergen is actually considered one of the rainiest cities in Europe!
- Wear waterproof outer layers – It’s not only your electronics that need protection from the rain; shield yourself from the elements too with a waterproof coat, shoes and trousers. That way, you’ll stay cozy and dry, no matter what the weather decides to do.
- Plan your route along Norway’s coast – If you want to spend part of your vacation in Bergen, we recommend planning this stop into your Norway road trip so you can experience more of this Nordic nation’s magical landscapes and cities along the way. One of our favorite ways of discovering all Norway has to offer is renting a campervan in Norway and heading onto the open road, taking your home with you as you go – perfect!
- Walk with care – As you might imagine, some of the walls surrounding Bergenhus Fortress are very high. It’s important to make sure you walk with care when exploring the castle and especially keep a watchful eye on children.
- Check out the cultural events at Bergenhus Fortress – If you’re interested in attending one of the many fun cultural events that take place at this incredible fortress, you can find the current listings on the Begenhus Fortress Facebook page.
- There are bathrooms inside – Bathrooms are located behind the Main Guard in the inner fortress area, which are open during the Bergenhus Fortress opening hours.
Important Rules For Your Bergenhus Fortress Visit
When visiting Bergenhus Fortress, you’ll need to keep certain regulations in mind to make sure your day goes smoothly. Here are some important rules to respect during your visit to make sure Bergenhus Fortress remains a protected cultural heritage site for generations to come:
- Keep dogs on a leash at all times.
- You can walk on the lawns – just make sure to respect the grass.
- Dispose of all trash in the bins provided to ensure Bergenhus Fortress remains clean and tidy.
- Prohibited activities include consuming off-license alcohol, playing ball games, flying a drone and having a barbecue.
- Military police have authority at the fortress.
Explore Bergenhus Fortress During Your Own Norway Vacation!
Who’s ready to begin their historical tour of Bergen with an exciting trip to Bergenhus Fortress? Let’s get the ball rolling by planning out the perfect trip itinerary, making sure there’s plenty of time to explore this historical castle to your heart’s content!
We can help you out with our range of affordable and reliable motorhome rentals in Bergen, perfect for extending your Norway road trip, allowing you to travel to all the must-see Norwegian destinations. Need any more help or have any questions about your visit to Norway? Feel free to contact us to speak with our friendly team – we look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful country soon!