As it has been raining ever since she arrived in the city, a tourist stops a young boy and asks him if it always rains here. "I don't know," he replies, "I'm only thirteen." The joke isn't brilliant, but it does tell at least part of the truth. Of all the things to contend with in BERGEN, the weather is the most predictable: it rains relentlessly even in summer, and the surroundings are often shrouded with mist. But despite its dampness, Bergen is one of Norway's most enjoyable cities. Its setting – between seven hills, sheltered to the north, south and west by a series of straggling islands and fjords – is spectacular. There's plenty to see in town too, from sturdy medieval buildings to a whole series of good museums; and just outside the city limits is Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's charming old home.
More than anything else, though, it's the general flavour of the place that appeals. Although Bergen has become a major port and minor industrial centre in recent decades, it remains a laid-back, easy-going town with a nautical air. Fishing continues to underpin the local economy, and the bustling main harbour, Vågen, is still very much the focus of attention. If you stay more than a day or two – perhaps using Bergen as a base for visiting the local fjords – you'll soon discover that the city also has the region's best choice of restaurants, some impressive art galleries, and a decent nightlife.