The old Hanseatic city of Bergen proudly wears the nickname “Gateway to the fjords” for its supreme location close to the fjords of Western Norway. However, Bergen also boasts a proud history, a rich cultural life and an intimate urban city center, beautifully surrounded by seven mountains and several islands.
Bryggen is a historic harbor district in Bergen, one of North Europe’s oldest port cities on the west coast of Norway which was established as a center for trade by the 12th century. In 1350, the Hanseatic League established a “Hanseatic Office” in Bergen. They gradually acquired ownership of Bryggen and controlled the trade in stockfish from Northern Norway through privileges granted by the Crown. The Hanseatic League established a total of four overseas Hanseatic Offices, Bryggen being the only one preserved today.
Bryggen has been damaged by a number of fires through the centuries and has been rebuilt after every fire, closely following the previous property structure and plan as well as building techniques. Bryggen’s appearance today stems from the time after the fire in 1702. The buildings are made of wood in keeping with vernacular building traditions. The original compact medieval urban structure is preserved with its long narrow rows of buildings facing the harbor, separated by narrow wooden passages. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape and these contain sufficient elements to demonstrate how this colony of bachelor German merchants lived and worked, and illustrate the use of space in the district. A true colony, Bryggen enjoyed quasi-extraterritoriality which continued beyond the departure of the Hanseatic merchants until the creation of a Norwegian trading post in 1754, on the impetus of fishermen and ship owners of German origin. Today, Bryggen is a significant part of the historic wooden city of Bergen.