The city of Bergen was founded in 1070. The area of the present Bryggen constitutes the oldest part of the city. Around 1360 a Kontor of the Hanseatic League was established there, now documented in a museum. As the town developed into an important trading centre, the wharfs were improved. The buildings of Bryggen were gradually taken over by the Hanseatic merchants. The warehouses were filled with goods, particularly fish from northern Norway, and cereal from Europe.
Throughout history, Bergen has experienced many fires, since, traditionally, most houses were made from wood. This was also the case for Bryggen, and as of today, around a quarter dates back to the time after 1702, when the older wharfside warehouses and administrative buildings burned down. The rest predominantly consists of younger structures, although there are some stone cellars that date back to the 15th century.
Parts of Bryggen were destroyed in a fire in 1955. This enabled a thirteen-year archaeological excavation to take place, revealing amongst other things the hitherto unimagined wealth of day-to-day runic inscriptions known as the Bryggen inscriptions. This area was used for the construction of Bryggen museum containing archeological remains, plus some old-style wooden houses, these being the six leftmost houses on the panoramic picture below. Controversially, a brick hotel was also raised on the premises, which is seen behind these six houses.
Today, Bryggen houses tourist, souvenir, and gift shops, in addition to restaurants, pubs and museums.