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The Edvard Grieg Museum (and Love Story) Cast a Beautiful Spell

Suddenly a mist fell from my eyes and I knew the way I had to take.

So said Norway’s most famous composer, Edvard Grieg, when it struck him that Norwegian folk music – even the simple melody of a cow maiden calling for her cows – could inspire his own classical pieces.

And we know the way you should take when you visit Bergen, Norway.

To the Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen!

Edvard Grieg Museum
You can listen to concerts at the Edvard Grieg Museum

Edvard Grieg Museum

Both petite with shocks of silver hair, Edvard and his wife Nina were nicknamed “The Two Trolls on Troll Hill.”

They whiled away their summers in a lovely Victorian “villa” in the village of Troldhaugen, just outside Bergen.

grieg concert at troldhaugen
Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina were both musically talented

Today, their home is a museum.

A stunning glass-and-concrete concert hall with a grass roof has also recently been built on the grounds.

And one of the best things to do in Bergen is visit the Edvard Grieg Museum at lunchtime and listen to a lovely Grieg concert too.

Lunchtime concert at Grieg House

We dare you not to be entranced by the music!

We listened to a beautiful Grieg recital by Torleif Torgersen (one of Norway’s top concert pianists), who played on stage in front of an expansive window looking out over a serene lake.

His fingers danced up and down the keys as fast as the leaves fluttered in trees behind the glass.

As he played “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” – a joyous piece Grieg wrote as a gift for his wife on their silver wedding anniversary – shivers ran up and down our spines.

Concert Hall at the Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen
What a beautiful concert hall! This is the setting for the Grieg concert we listened to

Edvard Grieg biography (and the Edvard-and-Nina love story)

Before you sit down for the Grieg concert at Troldhaugen, you’ll get a chance to tour Edvard and Nina’s home.

So let’s back up and talk a little about the man who composed the music you’ll hear, the woman he fell passionately in love with, and the house they built.

Edvard was born to a well-off musical family in 1843.

grieg concert at troldhaugen
Edvard Grieg is probably Norway’s most famous composer

His mother was the most sought after piano teacher in Bergen, and he started composing at an early age.

Edvard’s cousin, Nina, was a celebrated soprano with a lovely singing voice.

They fell in love and got engaged in 1865.

For an engagement present, he gave her four songs with lyrics by his good friend Hans Christian Andersen, including the most famous, Jeg Elsker Dig (“I Love You”).

They married in 1867 and settled in Oslo.

A year later, Edvard had his first musical breakthrough. Then in 1876, he wrote the music to Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, which catapulted him to fame.

Statue of Edvard Grieg by the concert hall at the Edvard Grieg Museum
This statue of Edvard Grieg is found by the new concert hall

But tragedy also befell the young couple.

Their beloved daughter, Alexandra, died of meningitis at the age of one, and they never had any more children.

Throughout his life, Edvard also battled respiratory problems from a collapsed left lung caused by pleurisy and TB, which he contracted as a young man.

Grief, illness and even adultery all took their toll, and Edvard and Nina also separated for a time during the early years of their marriage, reconciling in 1884.

Grieg Villa: At home with nature

The pale yellow Edvard Grieg House in Troldhaugen
This pale yellow house that Edvard Grieg built was the summer home where he and Nina lived for 22 years

Their pale yellow villa in Troldhaugen was built between 1884 and 1885.

Edvard took a personal interest in its construction and added many of his own design ideas, calling it his “best opus so far.”

He referred to it as a “villa,” though it doesn’t sprawl the way villas sometime do – it actually looks more like a peaceful country home.

grieg concert at troldhaugen
The main reception rooms look pretty much the same as they did when Edvard and Nina lived here

Tall and narrow, the two-storey wood home was built in typical Norwegian style but with higher ceilings.

Much bigger windows were also installed to bring the light in and allow for better views of the lake and gardens outside.

Grieg House Bergen
The light-filled parlor looks over a pretty garden and to the lake

But with only a wood stove for heat, the house wasn’t practical to live in during the winter. So after two years, the couple decided it would be their summer home, and in the winter months, they toured Europe giving concerts.

Edvard would invite friends they met in Europe to visit them in summer, saying “Come! You’ll be inspired by the nature of Troldhaugen!

grieg concert at troldhaugen
Edvard and Nina playing the piano in their home

And they did come!

Composers, artists, other musical friends. They drank, laughed and played music.

In the living room, there’s the original Steinway upright piano friends gave the couple on their silver wedding anniversary as a surprise gift.

One of the most delightful parts of their home is the small composer’s hut.

Edvard needed absolute quiet to work, and the stream of visitors and the clatter from the kitchen disturbed his concentration. And so he had a composing hut built by the lake.

Edvard Grieg's composing hut
We could happily work here in Edvard’s composing hut…

With a piano, desk, wood stove, sofa, rocking chairs and a dreamy view over the lake, it must have been an idyllic place to work!

He would spend hours at a time in his composing hut, writing melody after melody.

When he left his hut, he’d leave this note on the desk:  “If anyone should break in here, please leave the musical scores, since they have no value to anyone except Edvard Grieg.”

Edvard died in 1907; his wife died 28 years later at the age of 90.

Their ashes were buried in a vault carved deep into the rock face on their property, down by the lake water.

Edvard Grieg's grave
The final resting place for Edvard and Nina Grieg…

In 1928, their Troldhaugen property was turned into a museum.

But the two Trolls on the Hill still live on today in the hearts of their Norwegian countrymen and, indeed the world, through their music.

Visiting the Grieg Museum

Opening times:

The museum is open year-round (shorter hours in winter). Guided tours of the Grieg villa operate continuously.

Lunchtime Grieg concerts:

A Grieg piano concert is offered every day in the summer months from May through to the end of September, starting at 1:00 pm and lasting 30 minutes.

Grieg Museum tour:

In summer, you can book a 3-1/2 hour tour from Bergen to the museum. It includes the 20-minute bus ride to Troldhaugen, tour of the Grieg House and lunchtime concert. Pickup is at the Bergen Tourist Information Office, located on the harbor by the Fish Market.

For more information:

See the Edvard Grieg Museum website.

Other things to do in Bergen:

Check whether buying a Bergen Card from Visit Bergen makes sense – it could, depending on what you want to see.

It offers discounts on many sightseeing attractions, including this Troldhaugen day trip from Bergen.

Where to stay in Bergen?

We stayed on in Bergen after a Baltic cruise and were very happy with the Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret on the waterfront.

Interested in a deluxe Baltic cruise to or from Bergen? Read our review of the Viking Star and “Viking Homelands” cruise

More about Grieg and Norway

You may like to read one or more of these books on the composer and/or Norway

Experience more of Europe!

Read our posts on:

Canary Islands | With misty forests, soaring volcanic cliffs and eerie cratiers, La Palma offers great hiking. (Here’s how to hike the Caldera de Taburiente on your own in a day.)

Norway | The Flam Railway is one of the world’s most beautiful train rides!

Germany | Is it possible to get a taste of Berlin in one day?

Croatia | The best time to enjoy walking the Dubrovnik city walls is just before the sun sets, they say. But, really, any time is a great time.

Estonia | Forget the map in Tallin Old Town. The jumble of cobblestone alleys and medieval merchant houses is perfect for aimless strolling – and letting your curiosity guide your feet.

Planning your next trip?

See the following helpful services:

Our Travel Resources Guide | Get airline booking tips. Discover great travel, tour and car rental companies. And find crazy useful trip planning info!

Booking.com | Score a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one.

GetYourGuide | Check out the best local guided tours and book skip-the-line tickets to attractions.

World Nomads | Never travel without insurance! World Nomads offers great coverage for adventurous travelers under 70 (including for surfing, scuba diving and bungee jumping).

Our Travel Shop | Find the best travel gear. We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.

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Edvard Grieg Museum

Photo credits: 2 to 7 and 10 to 12 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 1 Edvard Grieg Museum | Photos 8 and 9 courtesy Visit Bergen


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Becky

Thursday 2nd of February 2017

Your post are always beautiful and thought provoking! :-)

Janice and George

Thursday 2nd of February 2017

Why thank you! So kind of you to say!

Anda

Monday 16th of January 2017

I had no idea that a cow maiden calling for her cows has been the inspiration for some of Grieg's beautiful music. It must have been so nice to visit his house in Troldhaugen. He is one of my favorite composers (I particularly like his piano concerto in A minor). As for his wife, Nina, I can see what drew them so close together. They both shared a love for music and that's a strong tie right there.

george

Monday 16th of January 2017

Your post on Grieg captivated me, much as his music also does. Great photos and text that capture the spirit of this musical genius. Please keep up the wonderful travel reporting.

Janice and George

Sunday 22nd of January 2017

Thank you so much for letting us know! We're delighted you enjoyed our post on Grieg - as you say, a musical genius... And thank you for the comment on our travel reporting - it's very nice to hear such great feedback :-).

Penny Sadler

Saturday 14th of January 2017

What an interesting and lovely story. I have never heard of them before.

Janice and George

Saturday 14th of January 2017

Yes, they're most famous in Norway, but Grieg's music is lovely...