Known as the gateway to the Norwegian fjords, handsome Bergen is a lively city famed for its variety of museums and galleries, trendsetting music scene, and huge choice of eateries offering local delicacies (such as fish cakes and cinnamon buns). The city’s colorful harbor has been a hub for commerce and trade for centuries and these days Bryggen, its oldest quarter, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bergen has expanded over the centuries and is now home to nearly 300,000 residents who enjoy an excellent quality of life. Surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords, Bergen is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts but it has a thriving cultural scene too.
The European City of Culture in 2000, Bergen has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the main cultural centers of Norway. Taking place over two weeks every summer, Bergen International Festival hosts more than 200 events, from ballet to street performance, and the annual Market Day celebrates the city’s seafaring history and coast-influenced culture. The city is known for its underground music scene and frequently plays host to concerts and outdoor gigs by internationally renowned musicians.
With so many nearby natural wonders to take advantage of, hiking, cycling, sailing and swimming are popular leisure pursuits. On warm summer days, many residents enjoy meeting friends in Bryggen, sitting at pavement cafes with a beer or a coffee and pastry. Bergen is also the starting point for cycle race Tour des Fjords and hosts UlrikenOpp, an uphill mountain race.
Bergen Airport is located 11 miles (18 km) from the city center. Bergen Station is the last stop on the famous and very scenic Bergen Line, which runs some 300 miles (483 km) across Norway from Oslo. There are also express trains to Oslo and north to Voss.
Local company Skyss operates Bergen Light Rail and an extensive city bus network in the city. There are regular tram and trolleybus services to many of the outlying residential areas.
In Norway, education is compulsory for children aged six to 16, and education is free for all (including university). Bergen has a wide choice of schools, including the International School of Bergen and the Bergen Katedralskole, which runs the International Baccalaureate Program.
The city has two higher education institutions: Bergen University College, with just over 7,000 students, and Bergen National Academy of the Arts, which offers courses in disciplines such as furniture design, photography and printmaking. International master’s degrees are a popular option for expats - they are free and taught in English. These tend to be oversubscribed and bear in mind that, while they are free, the high cost of living in Norway means you will probably need to work to support yourself and your family.