Created in the 11th century, settled by the Hanseatic league in the 14th and updated during the late renaissance, the pretty stretch of buildings is the symbol of Bergen, a UNESCO site and an unfailingly charming tourist trap.
The result is a fascinating area of boarded canyons and dripping clearings, filled with shops and confused tourists.
Bergen was an outlier, far away from the north coast of the continental mass. Still, its sea wealth and northern location made it a valuable outpost, and it became a major Hanseatic port. The Bryggen kontor, or enclave, was established in 1360, mainly to trade in Atlantic fish (which was brought to the south) and southern grains (which the people of Norway had a difficult time growing). As a Hanseatic settlement, it was excused from local rulership and laws. The traders mostly kept to themselves.
In Bergen, like in most Hanseatic enclaves, the trading center was a compact and well-guarded compound close to the docks. These mini-towns consisted of the trader's houses, storerooms and shops, all enclosing open courtyards where markets were held and goods were unloaded. Today, there are high-price hair salons and antique stores, souvenir shops, art galleries and clothing boutiques scattered along the wooden walls. They all have a quaint, nordic softness to them; frayed wool and well-worn wood, moose-heads hung on the walls, bold paints and grey skies overhead. The courtyards are of well-rounded cobblestones. The shop-proprietors are Norwegian now - not German - and generally they trade in tourism.