Bergen, known as the "Gateway to the Fjords," is Norway's second-largest city. But with only about 260,000 inhabitants, it projects the warmth and accessibility of a much smaller community. The Gulf Stream softens the weather there, and the winters are mild with little snow.
Shrouded in history, the city's streets are flanked with centuries-old churches and quaint shops and homes connected by a labyrinth of backyard pathways. Two picturesque and inviting landmarks make orientation easy: the wharf area and the museum-surrounded ornamental lake and parklands are within ten minutes from each other by foot. Most of Bergen proper's attractions and activities also lie within a short walk of those points, as does the main cruise pier.
The nearly endless hours of summer sunlight seem to lend an unhurried quality to the pace of Bergen daily life-- but interestingly, this is a port that sees cruise passengers during all four seasons, thanks to the year-round itineraries offered by Hurtigruten. Most residents are patient and helpful to a fault, and tourists are almost always made to feel welcome. With great dining, art, historical and natural assets, and decent shopping, Bergen has something for everyone. Keep in mind, however, that Norway residents are paid high wages, and the cost of living is high as a result, which means visitors might be in for some sticker shock.
Bergen is a clean, friendly, accessible seaside town, rich in history and art, and it's easily navigated on foot or by public transport. But the city is also a jumping-off point for a wide range of longer-term pursuits for those who have more time to explore it while visiting independently.