Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on 15 June 1843. His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and vice consul in Bergen, and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of Edvard Hagerup. The family name, originally spelled Greig, has Scottish origins. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Grieg's great-grandfather traveled widely, settling in Norway about 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen.
Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical area. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play at the age of six. Grieg studied in several schools, including Tank's School.
In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who was a family friend; Bull's brother was married to Grieg's aunt. Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory, then directed by Ignaz Moscheles.
Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano, and enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. He disliked the discipline of the conservatory course of study. An exception was the organ, which was mandatory for piano students. In the spring of 1860, he survived a life-threatening lung disease. The following year he made his debut as a concert pianist, in Karlshamn, Sweden. In 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and held his first concert in his home town, where his programme included Beethoven's Pathétique sonata.