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Festivals, music & art

Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most famous composer, had his home in Bergen, a fact known to classical music lovers worldwide. It’s a legacy that might overwhelm a city’s cultural offerings – but not Bergen. Grieg lovers won’t be disappointed by a visit to Norway’s second largest city, but the city’s streets also ring with folk and jazz music, while opera, contemporary theatre and dance play in its performance venues.

The Festival City
Probably the best known of the city’s events is the Bergen International Festival, the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries, with 160 events over 14 days in late May and early June. What’s most striking is the festival’s diversity: theatre, dance and opera range from works based on Wagner to Italian Renaissance music to a Baroque music jam.

The International Festival may feature many different forms of artistic expression, but Bergen’s annual NattJazz festival features just one: Jazz, eleven full days – and nights, with more than 90 concerts overall, a selection of which are free and outdoors. Contemporary music enthusiasts will also enjoy Carte Blanche, Norway's only permanent contemporary dance company which has called Bergen home since 1989.

In 2008 artists such as REM, Neil Young and Eric Clapton performed in the Bergen Region. In addition there are a number of music festivals held each year that include the Bergenfest, Borealis, Bergen International Film Festival, Hole in the Sky, Raptus and the Oktoberfest. Other major festivals include the annual Lost Weekend Festival held at Askøy, which brings together the best of pop, rock and folk in idyllic natural surroundings. Other festivals of note include the Periferifestivalen, held each year in August on the charming island of Sotra outside of Bergen.

Bergen’s Grieg Hall features stunning architecture and a performance hall with superior acoustics.
© Bergen Tourist Board/Willy Haraldsen

Classic Venues & Museums
But Bergen can be forgiven if its musical leanings are more towards Grieg’s world and other classical composers. A prime example is the Grieg in Bergen Summer Festival, with concerts offered over a 10-week season starting in June and ending in mid-August. Great music demands a great performance space, and in that respect Bergen’s Grieg Hall is second to none. The hall is home to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1765, but the concert hall also features exhibition and conference space in its striking glass building.

Not to be outdone, Bergen’s museums present a pleasing mix of internationally renowned artists and designers and Nordic talents, all combining to make Bergen’s cultural and artistic scene among the finest in Scandinavia. Troldhaugen is also a part of Bergen’s museum alliance, which includes the Siljustøl Museum, former home of composer Harald Sæverud and his wife Marie; the Lysøen Museum, consisting of the house of the Norwegian violinist Ole Bull and located the island of Lysøen in the Os municipality; Permanenten, the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art; and the Bergen Art Museum, which is one of the Nordic region’s largest art museums, with collections from the Renaissance to contemporary art, including a special exhibit in 2008 on Picasso.

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