Bergenhus Fortress- A Medieval Remanence (History & Travel Tips)


Standing proud for centuries, Bergenhus Castle is one of the best tourist spots to visit in Bergen city. The fortress is a live example of medieval splendor with its well-constructed and solid walls offering protection to the town to date. From its architecture to its historical significance, the fortress attracts thousands of tourists every year. 

To explore more about the fortress’s history and what makes it a busy tourist spot in Norway, let us have a detailed look at Bergenhus Fortress in the coming sections.

Bergenhus Fortress is one of the oldest and best-preserved fortresses in Norway.

The Bergenhus Castle upclose.
The Bergenhus Castle upclose. Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

Early Fortification of Bergenhus

The foundation of Bergenhus dates back to 1100 AD, which the historians believe is when King Olav Kyree placed the foundation of Bergenhus Fortress. The fortress area was initially known as Holmen and was the residence for the Royals of Bergen and the local  Bishop, as well as hosting a cathedral and several churches. Excavations have revealed that there also existed a Dominican monastery. The stone wall of the fortress was completed in the late 1200s, and the fortress became a strong defensive shield for Norwegian royals. 

A complete map of Bergenhuss Fortress.
A complete map of Bergenhuss Fortress. Bergenhus Festning flickr photo by Bernt Rostad shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Siege of Bergenhus 

It remained an unchallenged shield until the seventeenth century when the only siege in Bergenhus’ history took place. A large flotilla of Dutch ships pursued by English warships took refuge in the harbor of Bergen. The English launched their attack on Bergenhus Fortress but were met with strong resistance in what became known as the Battle of Vagen in history. The battle did not last for long, with the English navy soon retreating after defeat. 

Military History

Bergenhus Fortress continued to be reinforced, reaching its greatest extent around the 1700s. With the final fortification of Bergenhus, the areas of Koengen that joined Holmen and Sverresborg together were also enclosed within the walls. These ramparts were later torn down in the year 1809. 

An artistic representation of the Battle of Vagen.
An artistic representation of the Battle of Vagen. Arnold Bloem, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

During the Second World War, Bergenhus was put into service by the German forces, who used the fortress as their western headquarters. The German forces reinforced several bunkers in the center of the fortress. However, due to an unfortunate explosion near Vagen, large parts of the old buildings inside  the fortress were destroyed. 

At present, the only medieval structures remaining in Bergenhus include a medieval hall and a defensive tower. The medieval hall is known as Haakon’s Hall, which is also considered the largest secular building in Norway. The defensive tower by the sea of Bergen was built by King Magnus VI Lagabote in the 1560s. It was later expanded by Erik Rosenkreatz into a large structure known as the Rosencrantz Tower. 

The entrance to Bergenhus Fortress.
The entrance to Bergenhus Fortress. User:Sveter, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

Soon after the end of World War II, restoration of the fortress began, which was completed in the late mid-1960s. The fortress is currently under the command of the Royal Norwegian Navy. The fortress is still operational to date, with around 220 military and civilian personnel stationed at the fortress. 

Most of the fortress grounds are open for the public to visit. Occasionally, special events are held as well, including theatrical performances, rock concerts, and numerous other cultural events. The fortress is also a famous recreational site for the locals as well as tourists, with numerous cultural and other festivals held on the grounds. 

Haakon's Hall, one of the original medieval structures of Bergenhus Fortress.
Haakon’s Hall, one of the original medieval structures of Bergenhus Fortress. User:Sveter (Please credit as “Petr Šmerkl, Wikipedia” in case you use this outside WMF projects.), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Bergenhus Castle Facts

  • Bergenhus Fortress is one of the oldest and best-preserved fortresses in Norway. 
  • The fortress is also a burial site where six past kings of Norway, along with some of the Royal family members, are buried. The site of the fortress altar is marked as the memorial stone for the royals buried there. 
  • During WWII, the German forces used the fortress as their headquarters and added several reinforcements, including the construction of concrete bunkers within the fortress walls.

Visiting Bergenhus Castle – Tips and Tricks

Bergenhus Fortress lies at the very center of Bergen, which is easily accessible for the general public to visit. It is an essential part of Norwegian history and a great area to explore to find out more about the royalty and history of Norway (plus some amazing medieval architecture at Haakon’s Hall). Here is some useful information following the Bergenhus fortress. Using this information, you will be able to get around the fortress with maximum ease.

Interior view of Haakon's Hall of Bergenhus Castle.
Interior view of Haakon’s Hall. Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Bergenhus Castle?

You can easily walk up to Bergenhus Fortress from Bergen city center. If you wish to take a bus to Bergenhus, the northbound bus routes are the most feasible option since all of these routes will drop you off near the fortress. The line 4 bus is the cheapest option at  about 35-60 Kr (USD $4-7). Taking a taxi to the fortress can cost about 70-96kr (USD $8-11).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Information was checked & updated on October 29, 2023.

There is no entry fee or ticket to visit the Bergenhus Fortress grounds or the Bergenhus Fortress Museum. To visit Haakon’s Hall, entry is free for kids under 18; whereas for adults, the entrance ticket is 120 Kr ($14 USD). Entering or participating in any of the events happening around the venue, you have to pay the ticketing price, which varies according to the nature of the event.

The fortress is open for visitors all days around the week. The opening hours for a visit are from 6:30 am to 11:00 pm. You can visit the fortress any day within the open hours. Prior reservation is not necessary. But, if you wish to take a tour, you can book a reservation ahead of your visit. 

You do not need a guide to help you tour around the fortress. However, it is ideal to take a guide with you since some walls of the fortress are not guarded, and the risk of falling from high walls is present.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It can take up to an hour or two to take a complete tour around the fortress, especially if you visit the fortress museum and King Haakon’s Hall, which are adjacent to the fortress. 

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Be respectful when visiting the fortress. The fortress is a national heritage site that is free for visitors. Do not trash the place and avoid damaging the historic site. 
  • Pets are allowed in the fortress vicinity, but you have to keep them on a leash at all times. 
  • It is prohibited to film or video-graph the site without the permission of the Norwegian Defense Estates Agency. Be mindful.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Bergenhus Castle Areas

Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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