Language Language

Bryggen in Bergen

In 1979 Bryggen in Bergen became one of the first two Norwegian places to be entered on the List of World Heritage sites.

Bergen was founded around the year 1000 and it is one of the oldest major trading ports of northern Europe.In the Middle Ages, Bryggen (which simply means ‘the wharf or the quayside’ in Norwegian) with its collection of traditional wooden buildings, was a busy and lively centre for international trade. Bryggen is the only trading post outside the Hanseatic Cities that has managed to preserve its original structure in the very heart of the city.

The characteristic rows of houses with their gables facing the sea are an example of a type of architecture that has existed for almost 900 years. The buildings that go to make up Bryggen were constructed in parallel rows at right angles to the front of the quay placed on one or two sides of a common passageway between the buildings. Inside the houses there was room for accommodation, for offices and for the storage space required for provisions and the international trade in dried fish.

During the first few hundred years of its existence Bryggen in Bergen was kept in Norwegian hands. The land on which the buildings have been built has always been owned by Norwegians. The first German merchants became established on the quayside in 1230. After several years with very restrictive terms the Germans were allowed special privileges which granted them the right to stay in Bergen during the winter months, the right to salvage their sunken ships and the possibility to purchase property. It was against the law for foreign shipping to sail along the coast north of Bergen, this created ideal conditions to establish Bergen as a very powerful centre for the export of goods. When the German trading cities and towns in other countries in Europe joined together to form the Hanseatic League, shortly after the Black Death in 1350, their trading position was further strengthened.

The export of dry fish and the import of corn were the most important trades. Bryggen was one of The Hanseatic League’s overseas posts together with Novogorod, Brugge and London. For more than 500 years Hanseatic methods and manner of trade were followed in Bergen. This pattern only started to come under threat when new trading towns sprang up and when steamships started to make inroads into world trading patterns and, finally, with increasing growth in the fishing industry. What is left from the time of the Hanseatic methods of town construction, inspired by both European and Norwegian building traditions, is now entered on to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

World Heritage Sites in Norway


Norges Verdensarv
Haakon VIIs gate 9
0161 Oslo

Direktør, Liv Astrid Sverdrup

+47 47 03 90 51