10 Must-See Attractions in Bergen

Time yet again to dole out mad props (or is it prøps) to another superb city in Scandinavia. Bergen, the exquisite European Capital of Culture in 2000 (one of nine that year) and venerable “Second City” of Norway suffers, like many other Nordic destinations, from a lack of mainstream attention. This is my humble opinion. To be blunt, most of my friends and family want to go to Spain, France, Australia, and the Caribbean. I hear very few concrete plans made in favor of Sweden, Finland, and Norway for example.

Oh, I know. When given the opportunity, everyone lauds Nordic Europe’s gorgeous scenery, progressive spirit, civic pride, and culture. But do they take it a step beyond and head to this pre-eminent part of the continent, outside of perhaps Copenhagen and Stockholm? The simple fact is that Spain alone, with some 60 million international arrivals every year, lures way more tourists than Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland put together. Is climate a factor? Of course. But Scandinavia can do better. Right now, the majority of tourists to the region either come from nations within Scandinavia or from nearby Germany.

So here’s to Bergen. Gateway to the fjords and a spectacular city with these ten must-see attractions.

10. Grieg Hall

Edvard Grieg is the most famous person to ever come out of Bergen (sincere apology to ornithologist Leonhard Hess Stejneger). The composer/musician and genius behind In the Hall of the Mountain King was at the helm of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from 1880 to 1882. The orchestra’s superb home is Grieg Hall.

9. Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Bergen Art Museum is simply one of the best fine arts museums in Nordic Europe. The permanent collection includes some great works by landscape master Johan Christian Claussen Dahl and Edvard Munch.

8. Fløibanen

Bergen’s famous funicular, the Fløibanen, is by far the most popular attraction in Norway. More than one million people take the 8 minute ride up Fløyen mountain every year. The subsequent views of the city are remarkable and the summit is the perfect place for a winter or summer afternoon stroll.

7. Brann Stadion

Since 1919, Brann Stadion has been home to SK Brann, Bergen’s top football club. Ardent supporters are known as Bataljonen (The Battalion) and fill the 17,824 seat stadium to capacity for each Norwegian Premier League home contest. The opportunity to catch a game here is a real, authentic Bergen experience.

6. Troldhaugen

Troldhaugen is the beautiful former home of composer Edvard Grieg. Built by his cousin, the eminent architect Schak Bull, the house and sanctuary are now a superlative museum.

5. Bergenhus Fortress

With portions that date back to the early 13th century, Bergenhus Fortress is one of the most vital medieval landmarks in all of Norway. The immense complex is accessible via Bergen harbor.

4. Strandgaten

This busy central commercial thoroughfare is home to some of Bergen’s best architectural landmarks, shops, hotels, and restaurants.

3. Gamlehaugen

Gamlehaugen is a noble Scottish Baronial style estate built at the turn of the last century. Since 1927, the beautiful mansion has been the official residence of the Norwegian royal family in Bergen.

2. Torgallmenningen

Bergen’s principal square is a handsome, open pedestrian area with wonderful views of the contiguous countryside. A superb civic nerve center in the terrific city.

1. Bryggen

One of the foremost UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway, Bryggen is a network of incredible Hanseatic wharf landmarks that date back as far back as the 15th century. Many important archaeological finds from the area are now on display in the Bryggens Museum nearby, while the area itself is full of attractive pubs, shops, and restaurants.

10 Must-See Attractions in Malmö

Malmö is Sweden’s third most populous city after the capital, Stockholm, and beautiful Gothenburg. The metropolis of over 600,000 people sits across the Öresund Strait from Denmark and Copenhagen. Thus, the Danish capital and Malmö have a distinct and special relationship. The Öresund region itself is home to just under 4 million people.

Since July 2, 2000, Copenhagen and Malmö have been bound together by the spectacular Öresund Bridge. The road and rail span and tunnel broke records in Europe upon completion and is one of Scandinavia’s unequivocal architectural marvels of the new millennium. The structure not only serves as a vital connection between two nations and two large urban areas, it also joins mainland Europe with Nordic Europe. As a result, the Öresund Bridge is of paramount importance to Malmö. With the advent of the remarkable Strait project, new light was shed on the Swedish city, with myriad unforeseen economic impacts as a result. Spin-off tourism and new home owners from Copenhagen, new foreign investment and a new brand of international visitor have all come over the last decade.

The truth is that the city has always been a superb destination, bridge or not. But hey, now that the Öresund Strait is navigable by car and high-speed rail, there is no excuse. So give Malmö a try and check out ten must-see attractions in the capital of Skåne County.

10. Turning Torso

With the construction of the extraordinary Öresund Bridge has come a bevy of other avant-garde industrial and commercial design projects. Malmö’s most famous skyline attraction is one such prominent example. The Turning Torso is the brainchild of Santiago Calatrava Valls, the brilliant architect behind such indelible landmarks as the Auditorio de Tenerife, Milwaukee Art Museum and Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia. The contorting skyscraper is the tallest residential tower in the European Union.

9. Davidshallstorg

Many of Malmö’s most handsome attractions hinge on a network of old streets and squares that hail from the city’s Hanseatic days. Other landmarks, like the superb Davidshallstorg, are more recent urban addenda. The lovely square is ground zero in Malmö for posh restaurants, chic cafés, hipster clothes, and designer shops.

8. Malmö Stadsbibliotek

Malmö’s exquisite public library is a memorable point of interest inside and out. A marvelous extension by Danish architect Henning Larsen was built between 1994 and 1999.

7. Möllevångstorget

Möllevångstorget is a multi-cultural, immigrant hub in Malmö that contrasts with swish Davidshallstorg. Come on Saturday and Sunday for the fabulous open-air market.

6. Stortorget and Lilla torg

Malmö’s Big Square and Little Square form a contiguous pedestrian nerve center in the old city and contain heritage landmarks like City Hall and Kockska Huset and numerous restaurants and bars.

5. Kungsparken and Slottsträdgården

The land on which Malmö Castle sits is the remarkable Kungsparken or King’s Park. The gorgeous Romantic English-style garden and park date back to the late 19th century. Do not miss the organic community garden, or Slottsträdgården, on-site.

4. Tekniska och Sjöfartsmuseet

Malmö’s Technical and Maritime Museum is the best place to learn about the city’s vital dual heritage. Just west of the castle, the museum has a vast repository of old planes, ships, and industrial machinery.

3. Malmöhus

Malmöhus, or Malmö Castle, was built at the behest of King Christian III of Denmark in the early 16th century and is one of the most impressive castle fortress landmarks left in Scandinavia.

2. Gamla Väster

Gamla Väster is Malmö’s premier elegant thoroughfare, with plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy.

1. Slottsparken

Malmö’s world-class city park, Slottsparken, connects with Kungsparken and the public library and contains a wide range of inherent points of interest. The best spot in the city for a stroll and picnic and pre-eminent home of the annual Malmöfestivalen.

10 Must-See Attractions in the Azores

The Atlantic Ocean Azores archipelago, though a part of Portugal, feels a world away from Lisbon or Porto. The pre-eminent capital city of Portugal in fact is more than 1,500 km away. The coast of Newfoundland, Canada is almost as close in the other direction, believe it or not. Doubtful? Just look at a map or ask a cod fisherman.

With only 250,000 people, relative remoteness from the continental coastlines is precisely the allure of the Azores. While indeed far-flung, the Autonomous Region (one of only two in Portugal, with Madeira) is a wonderful tourist destination, with rich, endemic culture, beautiful topography, mild weather, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

These ten must-see attractions help make the nine islands of the Azores worthwhile.

10. Lagoa das Sete Cidades

Lagoons and small crater lakes dot the Azores archipelago, with Lagoa das Sete Cidades on São Miguel Island one of the most superb. The lagoon is actually made up of twin freshwater volcanic lakes. Low, dense cloud cover saturates the site with a spectral, otherworldly effect.

9. Scrimshaw Museum

Scrimshaw is handiwork made out of the teeth, bones, and baleen of whales. The Azores was once a prominent domain of whalers and indeed, the legacy of the once-vibrant Atlantic Ocean industry is told on the archipelago over and over. With that in mind, the Scrimshaw Museum in Horta, on the island of Faial, is superb and inside world-famous Peter Cafe Sport too.

8. Lagoa da Fogo

The Água de Pau Massif on São Miguel Island is truly one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the Azores, if not Portugal as a whole. The nerve center volcano includes the ominous Lagoa da Fogo, or Lake of Fire, with all the inherent lava formations you can photograph.

7. Museu Carlos Machado

This wonderful ethnographic and natural history museum in a former São Miguel convent is first-rate. Exhibits pertinent to the evolution of the Azores cover sculpture, jewelry, folk art, toys, porcelain, and much, much more.

6. Corvo

The village and municipality of Corvo span the entire island of the same name. With a small area of 17 km2, Corvo is perhaps the most bucolic spot in the Azores. The island has a proud history of agriculture and fishery, both still vital to this day, and feels strongly rooted to tradition. If only we could obtain a CreativeCommons photo to show you …

5. Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture

A marvelous UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture refers to a distinctive brand of viticulture on the slopes of Ponta do Pico. As the top summit in Portugal, let alone the Azores, the volcano is supreme and dominates the island of the same name. A visit should include heritage manors, cellars and small port landmarks.

4. Furnas

São Miguel Island checks in with another must-see gem, this time in the form of nonpareil caldera thermal waters. The stratovolcano and municipal parish of Furnas is world famous for geysers and curative hot springs, courtesy of crater lake Lagoa das Furnas.

3. Flores

Flores Island is 143 km2 of sheer beauty, thanks in no small part to a vast bloom of indigenous flowers (hence the name). A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the gorgeous island also offers delicious, traditional gastronomy and quaint village landscapes. Once again, however, no CreativeCommons photo is available as of yet.

2. Cedros

A small parish in Horta, Faial Island, Cedros is home to just over 1,000 people. Culture and tradition draw many more annual visitors, however, because of superb landmarks like the Museu Etnográfico dos Cedros, Casa do Capitão, and Church of Nossa Senhora de Fátima.

1. Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo

The linchpin UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Azores, the old town of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira is extraordinary. Eminent points of interest range from the Fortaleza do Monte Brasil to the Palacio dos Bettencourts, Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Guia to the Castelo de São Sebastião.