One of the most popular attractions in Bergen is the Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen, and rightly so: this charming house provides an incredible insight into the life of the famous composer, and you can fully immerse yourself in his music.
Located 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Bergen, it may seem a little daunting to reach. Most tour companies do include a visit to the museum, as do most cruise ships. For independent travellers, it’s possible to join a tour or explore on your own.
A lot of people also don’t fully realise who Edvard Grieg is or why the museum is so important. I get those people a lot in my groups, but normally once we start exploring the museum or attend the lunchtime concert, their mind has totally changed! Even if you aren’t Grieg’s biggest fan, the museum is a lovely place to visit and essential when in Bergen.
For this guide, I’m going to focus on what you see and what you can do. I’ve included an overview of the highlights of the museum, but if you are just interested in the practicalities you can skip to the bottom of the article. My goal is to help you make the most of Troldhaugen!
The Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen
- The Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen
- Edvard Grieg, Norway’s Most Famous Composer
- The Home in Bergen: Troldhaugen
- What to See at Troldhaugen
- The Path to Troldhaugen
- The Main Building
- The Concert Hall
- The House
- The Entry Hall
- The First Room: The Memory Room
- Dining Room
- The Sitting Room
- Outdoor Attractions
- Visiting the Museum
- Enjoy your visit!
Edvard Grieg, Norway’s Most Famous Composer
Even if you don’t know the name Edvard Grieg, you certainly know his music.
Everyone knows this one!
I think it’s important to know that when you think of Edvard Grieg, you don’t try to compare him to the masters like Mozart or Beethoven. Grieg isn’t that internationally renowned. What’s important about Edvard Grieg is that his music has become part of the Norwegian identity. Whenever Norwegians want to depict something as part of their culture or identity, Grieg’s music plays in the background. When you listen to his music, you see Norwegian fjords, mountains and nature.
I’m going to do a separate article about who Edvard Grieg was, but for now, here’s a little summary.
An overview of Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg was born on the Nordnes Peninsula in 1843, and he quickly developed a natural talent for the piano. When he was a child, the famous Norwegian violinist Ole Bull (who I’ll also cover in more depth soon) heard him play, and actively encouraged that he study in Leipzig at the conservatory, which he did. After finishing his studies in Leipzig, Grieg moved to Copenhagen – the only place in the Nordics with a real active arts scene. While in Copenhagen he met Norwegian composers and artists, including Bull, and became influenced by the national romantic movement occurring in Norway at the time. He decided to move back home.
“Then came my stay in Copenhagen, where in contact with Nordic art and Nordic artists, in the study of Nordic sagas and Nordic folk life, I learned to know and find myself.”Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg’s music became almost instantly famous due to the way he blended European trends with Norwegian folk music.
“To paint in music Norwegian nature, Norwegian folk music, Norwegian history and Norwegian folk poetry appears to me to be the sphere where I can achieve something.”Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg became a major success when he started working with Henrik Ibsen to write music for the stage play Peer Gynt. The play debuted in Oslo on the 24th of February 1876 and became an immediate success. Grieg published the work for Peer Gynt in 1888 and 1893, and the two Peer Gynt suites are among the most played orchestral pieces in the world.
Edvard Grieg passed away in 1907 of chronic exhaustion. he was 64 years old.
The Home in Bergen: Troldhaugen
The plan to build a house in Bergen came around the time Grieg was working as a conductor for the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra between 1880-1882. He and his wife, Nina Grieg, had developed a close relationship with Frants and Marie Beyer and they started considering building a house together. After the Grieg’s left Bergen, the Beyer’s built their own home in the countryside.
Originally, they had planned to build a second home on the same plot of land, but they quickly realised that it would be too crowded. The Griegs purchased a neighbouring plot of the land from a farmer for 2,300 NOK. Frants (who was a lawyer) drew up the contract, which ensured the farmer would not sell any adjoining property without informing the Griegs, and that he would prevent sheep from grazing on the property.
When it came to designing the villa, Edvard and Nina wanted it to resemble a simple Norwegian farmhouse. They also travelled a lot around Europe, so they were also inspired by Victorian architecture, which was trendy at the time. The house was designed by Schak Bull, Edvard’s cousin.
The house has a base area of approx. 100m2 and is three floors. The basement has a flower room, wine cellar, larder and storage. There were two entrances on the ground floor: a kitchen entrance and the main entrance. On the top floor are the main bedroom, a guest bedroom, two walk-in wardrobes, and the stairs to the tower. There was no running water or toilet facilities; these facilities are in the small neighbouring building. The Grieg’s had to pump water to the kitchen from their well.
The decorations and furnishings reflect a combination of the Grieg’s desire for simplicity, Norwegian tradition, and personal taste. The interior has simple wooden panelling and unpainted wooden floors. There are also plenty of windows as the Grieg’s wanted to experience their natural surroundings from inside the house.
Troldhaugen was expensive to build; it cost around 12,500 NOK, or about the equivalent of 10 sizeable incomes. Grieg had received financial support from his music publisher so they could afford some extravagances, but Grieg was often quoted saying “this concert will pay for the windows of the basement!”
Life at Troldhaugen
The building was completed in 1885, and Edvard and Nina lived there when they were home in summer. They did spend a couple of winters there, but the harsh weather and isolation were too much. Still, Edvard had a great love for the place and they would always return for the summer. It was always an event when they arrived in the spring, and guests would come from near and afar. Edvard was able to cultivate his close friendship with Frants Beyer on walks and fishing trips; the two had a flag system so they could call each other!
After Edvard passed away in 1907, Nina continued to return to the house in the summer. Often friends and family would join her so the house felt less lonely. During the first few years after his death, Nina ran something of a summer academy at Troldhaugen; inspiring composers would come to the villa to write music, and established composers would visit to help understand Grieg’s music.
Grieg’s music publisher in Germany had been Nina’s main source of income, but when World War I began contact was severed. She had planned to donate Troldhaugen to the municipality, but they declined the offer. At the age of 74, Nina saw selling Troldhaugen as her only option. The most valuable objects were placed for safekeeping at the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bergen Museum of Art, and the West Norway Museum of Decorative Art. Everything else was sold off at auction. In 1918, the house was sold to Joachim Grieg, a relative of Edvard Grieg.
Many people in Bergen wanted to turn Troldhaugen into a memorial. A few years after purchasing the villa, Joachim Grieg had documents drawn up giving Troldhaugen to the municipality. The condition was that Troldhaugen was to be used “for purposes in harmony with Edvard Grieg’s intentions and worthy of Troldhaugen’s traditions.” The municipality accepted the gift and established a committee that would restore the villa and collect the objects. They had Nina’s approval.
Re-creating the home
For the next 10 years, the committee worked to collect the objects that had been auctioned off and had the objects that were in safekeeping returned. They wanted to re-create the Grieg home, putting everything back in its place. One of the most important returns was the composer’s hut, which was shipped back from the Folk Museum in Oslo.
Troldhaugen opened to the public in 1928 and was an instant success. Nina was there on opening day. She brought the Moscheles edition of Beethoven’s sonatas that Edvard used as a seat. She took it down to the composer’s hut and placed it on his piano seat.
The last time Nina visited Troldhaugen was when the Norwegian Radio recorded a concert there in 1932. Nina listened to the music of her husband as she sat on the sofa under her family portraits. Afterwards, she shared some thoughts with the audience, about how Edvard’s music took form at Troldhaugen. Nina passed away three years later.
The property has been expanded since it first opened; the concert hall, Troldsalen, opened in 1985 with the Norwegian royal family attending, and then in 1995 a museum building was added.
Now it’s time for you to visit Troldhaugen.
What to See at Troldhaugen
The Path to Troldhaugen
When you first arrive at the property, you will be about 400m away from the main museum building. To get there, you walk along the same unpaved road the Grieg’s took when they returned home. Along the way, you’ll see beautiful twisted beech trees, the old house that belonged to the farmer who owned the land, and a massive villa built by shipbroker Alexander Grieg in 1917.
Before reaching the main museum building, you’ll see Gunnar Torvund’s Grieg monument ‘Open 1’. It was unveiled by King Harald when the museum building opened in 1995.
The Main Building
The main building has the ticket counter, cafe, shop & a film room. I really recommend the film room – it’s a hit with my groups – as it plays a 25-minute movie of Edvard Grieg’s ‘greatest hits’ with images of Norway as the background.
The Indoor Exhibition Highlights
In the main building, you can also find an exhibition with some items from the Grieg’s life and travels. Here are some highlights:
Edvard Grieg’s Hair
Yes, you can see Edvard Grieg’s hair in the exhibition! Before leaving to go to Leeds in 1907, Edvard went to the barber in Bergen. The barber realised Edvard was ill, and he thought this might be the last time he sees the famous composer, so he kept some of his hair. Grieg died just a few days later. The barber sold the hair to the museum, making it one of the few objects purchased by the museum.
The Unfinished Portrait of Edvard Grieg
The portrait of Edvard Grieg was done by Franz von Lenbach in Rome in 1884. Edvard wasn’t pleased with the result; he thought he looked ill. It had been done during a troubled period in Edvard’s life; he was dissatisfied with his development as a composer. The museum purchased the painting in 1987.
The Three Mascots
The three lucky mascots that accompanied Edvard everywhere were the lucky frog, the red troll and the pig with a four-leaf clover in its mouth. His favourite was the frog, which he carried in his coat pocket and would put his hand on before he performed. He always had the troll and pig on his bedside table and would say good night to them every night.
The Concert Hall
Once you leave the main building, you’ll start walking to the house. Along the way you pass the concert hall, Troldsalen, a contemporary building with a grass roof. Troldsalen was completed in 1985 and is renowned for its acoustics for chamber music. The building was designed to blend into the environment, and it looks out over the composer’s hut. There is seating for 200 people, and between May and September, it’s possible to attend a lunchtime concert there. More on that below.
Once you are standing on the bridge, the house comes into plain sight. This is one of the best places to take a photo!
To get to the entrance, you walk to the left of the house and up the stairs. I’m not going to cover every object in the house, but I’ll provide a short overview of some of the interior highlights.
The Entry Hall
Edvard Grieg on Hardangervidda
Once you enter through the door, straight ahead you will see a hand-coloured image of Edvard Grieg relaxing on the Hardangervidda Plateau.
The First Room: The Memory Room
The ‘memory room’ was originally the kitchen. When the Bergen Festival began in 1953, Sigmund Torsteinson, the first director of Troldhaugen, wanted to give visitors a richer experience of Edvard Grieg. So, they turned the kitchen into a memory room. The room has been filled with objects that belonged to Troldhaugen and provide an insight into the Grieg’s life. Here are some highlights.
The Vigeland Bust
The bust of Edvard Grieg was made by the famous Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, whose name you will know if you’ve been to Oslo. When Edvard saw the finished bust he said:
“Vigeland has made a bust of me. Not bad, not very good, I think, but if I had to choose – would say good rather than bad.”Edvard Grieg
The Servants Room
It was common in a house this large to have servants. During this period, it was very rare for servants to get their own room. In fact, servants would typically sleep on the kitchen counters!
Edvard Grieg & Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Photo
In this photograph, we see that Grieg was a short man – only 1.52m tall! (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). You can see them standing on the very bridge you just crossed to come to the house; the photo was taken on 15 June 1903, Grieg’s 60th birthday. You can see that Edvard is standing closer to the camera to hide his height, but he is also holding out his coat to hide his sunken posture; when Edvard was 16, his lung collapsed after a severe case of tuberculosis.
Hans Christian Anderson Bust
The famous Danish author knew Edvard Grieg; they met in Copenhagen when Anderson was an old man and Edvard had just moved there. Hans Christian Anderson gave encouragement and support to Edvard and his Danish composer colleagues when they started Euterpe, a contemporary music association in Copenhagen. Grieg’s romances include several poems by Anderson, and the most well-known is his engagement gift to Nina, Melodies of the Heart Opus 5, including Two Brown Eyes and I Love But Thee.
Famous Fiddle Players
Just before you enter the dining room, you pass a photo of Torgeir Augundson, the fiddler from Telemark known as ‘The Miller’s Lad’. Below that is a picture of the famous fiddler Ole Bull. At the bottom is a xylograph of Edvard Grieg. It was made when he was 25 years old, around the time he composed Piano Concerto in A minor – the piece that was his first major success.
The dining room is completely authentic, with all the original furniture. You can also see the original ceiling height in this room.
Objects From Hardanger
The tablecloth on the dining table is woven in the traditional Hardanger design. The two beautiful beer bowls on the cabinet are also from the region. The Grieg’s received the one with the floral decorations on the occasion of their silver wedding anniversary from a friend in Lofthus, where Edvard had a composer’s hut. The Viking Ship-shaped one (ship shaped? Try saying that over and over) was designed by well-known carver Lars Kinsarvik, also from around Lofthus.
The Silver Centerpeice
The silver centrepiece was gifted to Edvard on his 60th birthday by the city of Oslo. It’s like a modern-day Lazy Susanne, where you put food on the bowls and spin it around.
The Log Chair & Landås Estate
In the corner of the room is a log chair with carved motifs from the famous Battle of Stiklestad. Above it is a painting of the Landås Estate, a farm at the foot of Mt. Ulriken. Gesine Hagerup, Edvard’s mother, inherited it from her father, county commissioner Herman Hagerup. Edvard spent his summers as a child there.
The Sitting Room
Grieg’s Steinway Piano
The Steinway Piano is the first thing you’ll see in the room. It was a wedding gift to the Grieg’s from their friends, who snuck in the piano while the Grieg’s slept upstairs. Built in Hamburg in 1892, the piano is still used for private concerts, special occasions, and intimate concerts. Above the piano, you’ll see a painting called A Forest Scene from Vejleegnen by Danish artist Godfred Christensen, which was given to Edvard by his Danish friends on his 60th birthday.
Grieg Family Portraits
On the opposite side of the room hang family portraits from the Grieg family. The photos include a portrait of Edvard’s great grandfather, Alexander Grieg, who emigrated to Bergen from Scotland in 1770. He established a successful business exporting fish and lobster. Edvard’s father, also called Alexander, was the British consul in Bergen and the chairman of the Music Society, Musikelskabet, established in 1765. Edvard’s mother was educated as a pianist in Hamburg and was Bergen’s foremost piano teacher.
Nina Grieg Portrait
Above the bust of Bjørnson is a lovely portrait of Nina Grieg, which was completed by the artist Franz von Lench. Edvard was quite pleased with it and wrote of Franz: “it is extremely generous of him to give us this portrait, which will adorn the home of which I have always dreamed.” He dedicated his Violin Sonate No. 3 in C minor Opus 45 to Lenbach.
The Composer’s Hut
The composer’s hut is located down by the water, a few minutes walk from the house. You can look through the window (but not go in) and see where Grieg would write his music. He used the composer’s hut frequently when he stayed at Troldhaugen, and whenever he left he would leave a note on his desk saying:
“If anyone should break in here, please leave the musical scores, since they have no value to anyone except Edvard Grieg”Edvard Grieg
The hut was built in 1891 and includes a piano built by Brødrene Hals in Kristiania. A thick book lay by the piano stool, containing 32 sonatas of Ludwig von Beethoven, edited by Grieg’s piano teacher in Leipzig, Ignaz Moscheles. It provided the small composer with added height so he could reach the keyboard.
When the house was sold, the composer’s hut was moved to the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo. However, a clause was included that reserved the right to move it back to the original location at Troldhaugen should it ever be made into a museum, which happened in 1928.
The Grave Site
The gravesite is located on the other side of the hill from the composer’s hut, down by the lake. When you reach the lake, the gravesite is up on the side of the cliff. The spot was chosen by Edvard; when he was out fishing with Frants Beyer one day, the last rays of the sunset hit that spot on the rock. “There I would like to rest forever,” said Edvard. The funeral was held on 9 September 1907, and over 40,000 people came to pay their respects.
The cove where Frants Beyer’s house used to be is visible from this spot; it is no longer there but the street has been named after him.
Visiting the Museum
If you are planning on visiting Troldhaugen, I strongly recommend making the most of it. You can’t just have a quick visit to Troldhaugen; you need to do everything the museum offers. Go for walks around the cove, watch the movie in the film room, have a coffee, attend the lunch-time concert, and so on. Visiting the house along doesn’t do it justice; you have to immerse yourself in his music. That’s when Troldhaugen comes to life!
With a Group or Tour
Tour Companies & Cruise Ships
If you are visiting Bergen with a tour company or cruise ship, it is very likely they will offer a tour to Troldhaugen with a concert. Some companies have private concerts, while some attend the lunchtime concert. While the prices for cruise ships can be steep, I highly recommend doing their tours. The Troldhaugen public tour (see below) is cheaper, but you are mixed in with a lot of people and you lose the personal experience.
The Troldhaugen Tour
The museum offers its own tour of Troldhaugen, starting every day at 11am from the tourist information centre in Bergen. A bus transports you to do the house, you have a guided tour of the villa followed by some free time to explore on your own, and then you attend the 1pm lunchtime concert. You arrive back in the city centre at 2:30pm. The cost is 290 NOK per person.
The tour is great; it relieves the stress of figuring out how to get to Troldhaugen on your own and you get everything included. The price is fairly reasonable. The only downside is that they get a lot of people, so it can often feel crowded. Again, if you have the opportunity to go with another company, go for it. But I 100% recommend this tour. It’s the same as the private company/cruise tours, just with more people.
To read more about the tour, click here.
Highly recommended to book the tour in advance. To book, click here.
Time: 3.5 hours
Cost: 290 NOK per person
On Your Own
Troldhaugen is fairly easy to reach if you have a car. There is free parking at the museum, but keep in mind during summer there will be many tour buses there. Simply put “Troldhaugen” into the GPS or Google Maps.
Time: 15-20 minutes
Cost: A couple of toll booths, petrol. Parking is free.
You can take a taxi to/from Bergen, but it will cost a bit of money. Expect it to cost at least 200 NOK from the city centre one way. You can find taxis all around the city centre, but you will have to order one from the museum as there’s no taxi rank.
Time: 20 minutes
Cost: At least 200 NOK, more for ordering a taxi
Public transport is certainly possible, but be prepared to walk for 20-30 minutes through hilly suburbia. To get there, you take the Bergen Light Rail from the city centre (Byparken) to the station ‘Hop’. Follow signs to Troldhaugen from there.
Time: 45-60 minutes
Cost: 39 NOK for a public transport ticket. Machines at the Light Rail stop.
Guided Tours at the Museum
If you just want a guided tour at the villa, that is certainly possible. The museum offers free guided tours of the villa in multiple languages; you just have to ask for one when buying your ticket. However, these tours are dependent on the availability of the museum guides, so there may be quite a wait for a tour. Some languages need to be booked in advance.
See the guided tour section of their website here: http://griegmuseum.no/en/guided-tours-groups
I 100% recommend attending the lunchtime concert, but keep in mind that you should probably book it in advance.
The concerts involves a Norwegian or international pianist performing Edvard Grieg’s music on a piano for 30 minutes. Sometimes the pianists explain each piece in between or some just play for the full 30 minutes.
You can find a schedule of pianists here: http://griegmuseum.no/en/concerts/lunchtime-concerts
Summer Evening Concerts
During summer, it’s possible to attend a special concert in the evening at Troldhaugen, which is typically longer than the lunchtime concerts.
Time: 90-minute concerts starting from 6pm.
Cost: 290 NOK / 250 NOK with the Bergen Card
See the schedule of pianists here: http://griegmuseum.no/en/article/evening-recitals
The museum offers transport from the city centre. You are picked up from the tourist information centre at 4:30pm, get a tour of the villa, attend the concert at 6pm, and are back in the city by 8pm.
Time: 3.5 hours
Cost: 390 NOK pp (includes the ticket to the recital)
Learn more here: http://griegmuseum.no/en/article/evening-recitals
Of course, I should mention the souvenirs! Here’s a list of some of the items you can buy at Troldhaugen:
- The movie that plays in the film room (not region locked)
- A wide selection of CDs
- A lot of stationary
- Many books in many different languages. Most are biographies of Edvard Grieg
- Sheet music
- Grieg’s lucky frog
- Troll plush toy
The cafe has a small but good selection often including wraps, soup of the day, waffles, ice cream, coffee, tea, and cold drinks.
Just the Museum
Adult: 130 NOK
Groups: Discount on request beforehand
Students: 65 NOK
Bergen Card: 65 NOK
Children under 18: Free
KODE (Bergen’s art gallery) members: Free
Museum + Concert
Adult: 180 NOK
Students/Groups: 120 NOK
Bergen Card: 130 NOK
Children under 16: 50 NOK
Note – highly recommended to book the lunchtime concert online. Click here for the website.
Winter (1 October – 30 April): 10am – 4pm daily
Summer (1 May – 30 September): 9am – 6pm daily
Enjoy your visit!
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you the museum is worth attending. Please let me know your thoughts on the museum in the comments, or if I’ve missed anything.