Frescohallen: Enjoy your next meal with artistic, historical surroundings at Norway’s most beautiful restaurant
By Celina Tran | Photos: Frescohallen
Seek out ‘Norway’s most beautiful restaurant’ for your next culinary adventure! Based in Bergen, a city on the country’s west coast, Frescohallen elevates the dining experience to the next level through locally sourced, yet internationally inspired food, historical surroundings, and exceptional artworks.
In the historical Norwegian ‘City of the Seven Mountains’, stands a building that housed Norway’s first – and for a while its only – stock exchange, namely Bergen Børs. Today, the iconic building is home to Bergen Børs Hotel and its restaurant, Frescohallen, all designed by Swedish architecture studio Claesson Koivisto Rune.
“Just seeing Frescohallen is a spectacular experience in itself. Along with the hotel, Frescohallen is a meeting place for locals and international travellers from all over, so once you enter the room, you’ll notice this buzzing, continental feeling oozing through the air,” says Yngve Hansen, the brand and concept manager at De Bergenske and earlier general manager at Bergen Børs Hotel.
Even the most blasé art fanatics and travellers are awed by the restaurant’s appearance. As its name indicates, Frescohallen is a hall full of frescoes painted by modernist Norwegian artist Axel Revold in 1921-23. Today, when guests dine at Frescohallen, they can enjoy the artwork Varebytte that portrays Bergen’s, Norway’s and the world’s important trade history, as well as award-winning state-of-the-art façade lighting and historical architecture.
“Everything from the interior to the menu is built around the frescoes and Bergen’s history,” says Hansen. “Our chairs are based on the coins used back in the day, the carpets are specially made – everything in the room is connected to tell a story.”
Most of those who have graced Frescohallen, from the locals of Bergen to Hollywood stars like Johnny Depp, will agree that the dining goes beyond the culinary experience, with Norwegian paper Dagens Næringsliv even calling it “Norway’s most beautiful restaurant.”
Local food and entertainment in beautiful surroundings
As a part of the Bergen Børs Hotel, Frescohallen serves three meals a day, for both hotel guests and outside visitors. The food is locally sourced, presenting the best of Bergen with a hint of continental inspiration.
“Naturally we’re going to show off the excellent Norwegian fish in our meals. Bergen’s a coastal city, so if you try any of our pescatarian meals at lunch, you know they’re as fresh as can be,” says Hansen.
In the searing August heat, guests can enjoy also their high-quality light lunches at what Hansen calls Bergen’s most beautiful outdoor seating. Later, after soaking up the sun and the best of the city, he recommends ending the evening by experiencing the spectacular dinner service at Frescohallen.
“I would recommend the spicy lobster pasta, salmon or any shellfish dishes,” says Hansen. “We also have fresh salads and an extensive wine list that goes very well with the dishes.” He adds that the restaurant’s bartenders have exceptional knowledge and skill: “in addition to making fantastic drinks, they can make excellent recommendations for your meal,” he says. “When you eat with us, you can expect excellent service and knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions about the food and history of Frescohallen.”
For liquor enthusiasts, Frescohallen also offers different gin-tasting experiences courtesy of Stig Bareksten, and a cocktail safari where you’re introduced to the basics of cocktail mixing.
“We also host different events every month – everything from classical music and jazz concerts to DJ sets,” says Hansen. “We want to become a meeting place and culinary space for people of different backgrounds and age groups – everyone’s welcome here.”
A history like no other
From its establishment in 1862, Bergen Børs served as Norway’s only stock exchange, and Frescohallen was where money was exchanged for financial securities. Later, the whole building became a bank – an era still evident in the hotel section where old offices and vaults have been turned into suites.
“The infamous frescoes were only painted after World War I. Norwegian Artist Axel Revold had returned from his studies under Matisse in Paris and was tasked with painting three different walls inside Frescohallen – Nordlandsveggen, Bergensveggen, and Verdensveggen,” says Hansen.
Each wall portrays different parts of local and international trade history, which have been very important to Bergen’s own history as a previous bureau city in the Hanseatic League – a medieval confederation of merchant guilds and market towns.
Frescohallen’s purpose continued during World War II, when it became the place ration papers were handed out. “It’s a tremendous building with plenty of history,” says Hansen. “Later, Frescohallen became a food hall. In 2017, the hotel was offered the building, which we of course gladly accepted. Thanks to both Frescohallen and the Michelin-starred Bare Restaurant on the third floor, Bergen Børs Hotel is now a culinary destination.”
Bergen Børs Hotell immediately knew that they wanted to turn Frescohallen into a continental bar and restaurant where they could showcase local excellence and materials while drawing inspiration from all the world’s corners. Furthermore, they wanted to give a new purpose to the hall’s magnificent architecture and art. The frescoes were restored for the first time since World War II, custom-made furniture and rugs were ordered, and Zenisk was hired to install beautiful award-winning interior lighting to help tell the building’s story.
“Frescohallen has truly never looked more beautiful. The dramatic lighting on the walls is incredible, and just entering the room is such a special experience. We’re very proud to have given the room the restoration and life it deserves, and are excited to show it off to even more visitors,” says Hansen.
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