While Scandinavia is often saddled with arctic stereotypes, many of its cities boast Seattle-esque temperatures. In fact, in Bergen, Norway, summertime temperatures average about 70 degrees. These modest climes – along with the nearby waters – make it easy for fishermen to return to shore much of the year with bounteous catches of seafood from the North Sea. And where does all that delicious seafood land? Well, at the Fisketorget (fish market), of course. With a history that dates back more than seven centuries, the Bergen fish market offers both a walk through time and a taste of the finest seafood of the north.
History and overview of the Bergen fish market
Believe it or not, this anchor of Bergen first took shape in the 13th century, when fishmongers and other merchants sought a place to gather – both to sell their wares and to gab about the day. It was so successful as a commercial outpost that immigrant Germans ended up dominating many of the most profitable spots.
It was only a matter of time until the locals (peacefully) rebelled, insisting that the square be moved. The powers that be agreed and the square moved to another waterfront location in the city. This sparked a construction boom, resulting in a new city hall, several new buildings, and renewed commercial and communal interest in the “town square.” Sadly, multiple fires wreaked havoc on the area in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the town always rebuilt the area and “mongering” returned.
Today, the fish market is operated by the city of Bergen and includes dozens of merchants, two restaurants, and scores of daily shoppers. Plus, with views of the bobbing boats in the distance, the North Sea beyond, and the hilly green of the surrounding country, it truly is a remarkable stop in Scandinavia.
What to see and buy
First stop: the Fisketorget, or fish market, itself, which features close to a dozen fishmongers with their day’s catches on display. There are numerous kinds, but you’ll likely find plenty of plump halibut, cod, haddock, turbot – even salmon and mackerel. If you plan on cooking a meal later, pick up about 6 ounces for each person who’ll be eating and look for flesh that is plump with vivid color. Darker, mushy flesh and glossy eyes are indicators that the fish is not fresh, so be sure to avoid these catches.
One of the great things about the Bergen fish market is that it’s complemented by a farmers’ market, offering all the goodies you need to make a full meal – breads, cheeses, veggies, and various hand-crafted items like honey and jam. (Pro tip: Be sure to pick up some local cheese while you’re here. We love the popular Gjetost, a brown cheese that gets its color from the caramelization of the goat milk sugar during the production heating process.)
If you’re feeling peckish and need a bite while you’re at the market, you can either pick up a snack as you shop or enjoy a sit-down experience at one of two onsite restaurants: Fish Me and Fjellskal. The former has a more Asian bent (featuring sushi, among other fish-centric dishes) while the latter is more typically Scandinavian, offering a dockside perch for your caviar and wine-tinged meal.
If you need a place to light or just want to enjoy the surroundings on a pleasant day, you can head a few blocks inland to the city park or wander around downtown and visit some of the nearby shops. Bergen is not a sprawling metropolis, so it’s easy to catch the sites and major landmarks on foot.
Oh, and if all this sea life has you pining for some boat time, book a fjord tour with one of a half dozen or so local companies, all of which are reputable and give you several hours in glorious Scandinavian waters.
General visitor information
The Bergen fish market is open every day, though hours are more limited in the winter months. Still, you should have no problems finding a day to drop by – rain or shine. Also, public toilets are available on the square and are operable by credit card, so you don’t have to worry about fumbling for Kroner.
For more information on the Bergen fish market, including hours, events, and news, visit Bergen’s city website.