Kvarven Fort, Bergen’s Strategic Stronghold that Turned into a Natural Hideaway

One of the cannons at Kvarven Fort

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Throughout Europe there are hundreds, if not thousands, of defunct military facilities which date back to the world wars and beyond. Once a strategically valuable stronghold across Bergen’s ragged coastline, Kvarven Fort has played a major role in Norway’s quest to defend itself from foreign threats for more than half a century. Following years of abandonment, the now recreational site offers a fascinating glimpse of the country’s recent history as well as the area’s stunning scenery.

In the late 19th century, amid growing tensions between Sweden and Norway which at that time were part of a bi-national union, the latter sought to strengthen its defense along its long, convoluted coastline. As part of Norway’s efforts to foil any Swedish seaborne attack, a series of fortifications were erected throughout the craggy shores of Bergen metropolitan area.


Named after the promontory on which it sits, Kvarven Fort was constructed between 1895-1899 as a massive complex whose main goal was to defend the harbor of Bergen. To make the garrison a potent mean of deterrence against potential invaders, it was installed with Howitzer L/14 cannons, Chamond guns, quick-firing guns, machine guns and even a torpedo battery.


While none of the aforementioned weaponry was ever used against Sweden as the dissolution of the union took place rather peacefully, the fort was among Norway’s epicenters of World War II. As Nazi troops advanced towards Bergen in the spring of 1940, several warships made their way into the nearby waters, including the formidable Königsberg cruiser.


In the ensuing battle, a mere 300 men stationed at fort faced almost two thousand German soldiers on board multiple vessels. Despite their best efforts to launch a counterattack, the small, unprepared force in Kvarven was no match against the modern German army. Following a couple of naval skirmishes, the base was stormed by German infantry soldiers who quickly occupied the place. In the following years, until the war ended, Kvarven was manned by a German unit which modernized and expanded its premises.


As the war ended, the place became once again a Norwegian military base. That is, until 1961, when the site was closed and abandoned. In 1993, the fort and its surroundings were reopened to the wide public as a preserved cultural area. Due to its sweeping views of Byfjorden and the many coastal townlets around, it quickly became a magnet for intrepid hikers. As of today, the fort is home to the decaying remnants of the former garrison, most notably the couple of large cannons overlooking the fjord. The derelict remains of what was the region’s most prominent military asset are now covered by overgrown vegetation, reclaimed by nature with every day that passes.