Gamlehaugen is the King’s official residence in Bergen. Owned by the state and managed by western Norway regional office of the Directorate of Public Construction and Property, the building is at the disposal of the King.
The property is located outside the centre of Bergen near Troldhaugen, home of renowned Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. It was purchased by shipowner and statesman Christian Michelsen in 1898, and the construction of his private residence was completed around the turn of the century.
Christian Michelsen served as Norway’s prime minister during the turbulent time in 1905 when the Storting voted to dissolve the union between Norway and Sweden and Prince Carl of Denmark was elected king of Norway. Following the death of Christian Michelsen in 1925, a nationwide fundraising campaign was launched to establish a trust for the preservation of Gamlehaugen. The property was then acquired by the state.
Gamlehaugen was designed in 1899 by the architect Jens Zetlitz Monrad Kielland, who was educated in Germany and influenced by late medieval architecture. The building combined the qualities of a fortress and a castle, evoking associations with buildings from two very different regions: the many 16th century castles found in the Loire Valley in France, and the high-towered royal fortresses of Scotland. While Kielland did not copy these buildings, he adopted their architectural principles and added modern details from the Art Nouveau style of his day.
Visitors who enter Gamlehaugen with French and Scottish architecture in mind will likely be struck by the great contrast between what the exterior leads them to expect and what the interior holds. For when visitors enter the grand two-storey hall flanked by the main staircase, they find themselves not in Scotland or France, but in the Norway envisioned at the turn of the century – a Norway that had recaptured the glory of its medieval greatness.
The contrast between the exterior and interior is sustained throughout the rest of the building. The decoration and furnishings are reminiscent of an aristocratic castle, featuring Rococo and Neo-Renaissance furniture as well as Dutch Baroque and Neo-Baroque styles. The building also contains among other things a music room, library and winter garden.
Gamlehaugen is framed by a beautiful English-landscaped park, adorned with a lush, varied selection of shrubbery, flowers and trees. The park is open to the public and is a popular recreational area used for swimming and walking.
The state rooms on the ground floor are open to the public during the summer months. One of the rooms available for viewing is Christen Michelsen’s office, containing a unique collection of the former prime minister’s memorabilia from 1905.