Bergen is picture perfect. While planning my early spring bank holiday trip (the UK has Good Friday and Easter Monday off), I knew I wanted to go somewhere I’d be less reliant on restaurants/bars/museums being open (after visiting Stockholm last year), and settled on somewhere scenic. Once I decided I wanted to spend as much of the weekend in nature as possible, Norway was an obvious contender (along with the Faroe Islands and Scotland).
Ultimately, I decided to do Norway because I’d be able to take trains/buses/boats everywhere, which meant I wouldn’t need to rent a car.
Once I settled on Norway, I started researching different places- with 5.5 days, I knew I wanted to fit in at least 2 cities. Originally, I thought I’d start in Oslo and work my way west to Bergen for the weekend.
But then, I started looking at photos of smaller fjord cities in Norway (hi Flam), and began considering staying on the west coast for my first visit.
Ultimately, I decided to fly into Bergen for three days, and then take a ferry to Stavanger for two days. Fortunately, one way flights from both London – Bergen and Stavanger – London are affordable (scored Stavanger one-way for £25!).
In the weeks leading up to our trip, I checked the weather in both cities and was nervous- rain, snow, frigid temps- I wasn’t sure how much we’d be able to do once there.
But then, like magic, a few days before we departed, the weather forecast for both cities changed drastically- sunshine, blue skies, 40s. Bergen is a gorgeous city, and would be worthy of visiting in any weather condition, but I can’t help feeling extremely lucky for how things turned out for us.
Bergen is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. If you’ve never heard of Bergen, it’s because Norway is underrepresented as one of the world’s most beautiful countries (at least in comparison to other places in Europe, like Italy and Switzerland).
And, before I get into the good stuff, what about price? Not just known for its beauty, Norway is also known for being one of the most expensive countries in the world.
Well, I’d be lying if I said we didn’t find it expensive. Our first day- we bought six beers, two kinds of cheese, and crackers from the grocery store near our Airbnb and gaped when the total came to nearly £40.
As with any trip, there are ways to keep cost down. Because we stayed in an affordable Airbnb studio apartment near Hotel Clarion Royal (£55/night, great location!), we ate breakfast at our place every morning and packed lunches for days we went hiking or on a day trip to avoid spending money on food we’d buy out of necessity rather than interest.
We also walked everywhere and didn’t visit any museums- the only tickets we bought were for the funicular to Fløibanen, and the one-way ticket down from the top of Mount Ulriken. There’s a lot of great food options in Bergen, however- when we visited during Easter, many places were closed, which made the decision to save money on food, and instead spend it on activities, like the Norway in a Nutshell tour, easier.
Regardless of how you choose to spend money in Bergen, you’re pretty much guaranteed a spectacular time. It’s that beautiful.
5 Reasons to Plan a Trip to Bergen
Known as the ‘gateway to fjords’, Bergen is situated on the ocean between two of Norway’s most beautiful fjords- Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord.
To experience the fjords, you can book a morning or afternoon cruise (~2-3 hours) through the tourism centre or do a longer day trip, like Norway in a Nutshell.
We’d been on the fence about Norway in a Nutshell- it’s expensive, and with such limited time in Bergen, we weren’t sure we wanted to commit an entire day. However, after spending one afternoon in Bergen and mapping out the remainder of our time, we realised we actually had more free time to explore than we’d initially thought, and with the weather forecast being so great, decided to splurge.
Can not recommend the tour enough. Doing a separate write-up of it soon, but the views you’ll be surrounded by all day are spectacular. After traveling from Bergen to Voss to Gudvangen, we set sail on a fjord cruise through the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord.
There’s no way to do the fjords justice- towering mountains, quaint fishing villages, water sparkling from the late afternoon sun- it’s breathtaking.
Whether you do the Norway in a Nutshell tour or opt for a shorter fjord cruise, don’t miss out on seeing this part of Norway- it’s a must-do.
Nature, Nature, Nature
Surrounded by seven mountains, there’s no shortage of natural wonder in Bergen. Blessed by truly great weather, we decided to take full advantage of the sunshine and spend a lot of time outdoors.
On our first afternoon in Bergen, we took the funicular that ascents Mount Fløyen up the side of the mountain (tickets are £9 return).
At the top, there’s a viewing platform that extends on all sides and a cafe with terrace seating. It’s a cool place to enjoy a beer while looking out at the city below. There’s also a playground for kids and a troll forest to explore.
We did the Fløibanen late afternoon, but it operates until 23:00 each night in peak season, making it the perfect place to watch the sun set.
You can also hike from city center to Mount Fløyen, believe it takes about an hour each way.
On our second day in Bergen, we decided to hike to Mount Ulriken. We stopped at the tourism center underneath the fish market to buy return bus cards and a ticket for the cable car on our way down (we anticipated wanting to save time by only hiking one way).
You can start your hike in city centre, or if you want to shave ~45 minutes off as we did, take the 2 or 3 bus to Haukeland Hospital to start your hike. In the summer, believe the tourism centre runs an express bus directly to the cable car base. If not though, taking the local bus is easy- buy your tickets from the tourism centre, it’s much cheaper than buying them on the bus.
As a note, from Haukeland Hopsital, you could also hop on the cable car and take that directly to the top. Or, if you’re up for the challenge, spend the next ~1.5-2 hours hiking to the top of the mountain as we did. It ended up taking us just over 2 hours, but that’s because the trail was covered in ice and snow and I didn’t have on appropriate footwear (mistakenly wore trailers, ugh).
Whether you hike or take the cable car, visiting Mount Ulriken is a must-do if you have nice weather. Ulriken is the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains, so as expected, the views are incredible.
And, there’s a great restaurant at the top. We didn’t eat here- but everything looked delicious. We did have a post-hike beer at the outdoor terrace, which I can highly recommend. Lovely way to finish a hike.
On our third day, we did the Norway in a Nutshell tour (see above), and finished the day with a walk around Byparken, Bergen’s city park.
Historic Town Centre
Bergen’s Old Town, Bryggen, is built around the harbour. Chances are, if you’ve ever seen a photo of Bergen, you’re familiar with the colourful wooden warehouses that stretch along the northern side of the harbour.
These buildings were the province of the Hanseatic League (German) merchants from the fifteenth century and used to be filled with goods the merchants sold. The current buildings were rebuilt in 1702 after being damaged by fire, but were done in the same style you’d find historically.
Definitely plan on popping in them while in Bergen- there are a bunch of shops to check out- two favourites: Ting for Scandi housewares and Juleshuset, a Christmas shop. And, on the other side of the harbour, another shopping reco- Illums Bolighus, a Danish store selling some seriously chic clothing and home goods.
If you’re looking for good eats in Bergen, you’re in luck. We visited during the Easter holiday, which meant some of the top restaurants we wanted to try were closed but we still managed to have awesome meals everywhere we went.
Where to Eat
- Fisketorget: Bergen’s fish market has been in operation since 1276. Even if you’re not a seafood fan, this market is worth a visit. Norwegians love seafood, their culture was built on it. This market was near our Airbnb, so we popped in and out several times during our trip- we really enjoyed the fresh made-to-order sushi and a few of the restaurants with seafood soup
- Godt Brød: Excellent bakery, good for breakfast for dinner
- Pingvinen: Great beer selection and traditional Scandi eats
- Other places that were recommended but closed during our stay because of the holiday: Smakverket, Potetkjelleren Mat & Vin, Bergen Kaffebrenneri (pizza), Marg & Bein
Note: For some of our meals, we bought groceries and made sandwiches or cheese boards in our Airbnb to help save on costs. Norway is an expensive country, and I had a few more trips planned during the month we visited that I was trying to budget for.
Where to Drink
Drinking in Norway is expensive- there’s a country mandated tax on all alcohol. On our first day, we discovered a Norwegian ale and pear cider we loved and stocked up on both in anticipation of stores being closed over Easter.
Twice, we grabbed a drink at bars and really enjoyed-
- Henrik Øl- & Vinstove: If you’re into beer, this is a must visit- tons of Norwegian and Scandi beers on tap, plus a few local ciders
- Terminus Whisky Bar: We finished our stay in Bergen here, trying a few different Scotch whiskys
Where to Have Coffee
- Kaffemisjonen: Pretty large cafe with lots of seating, good espresso
- Det Lille Kaffekompaniet: Cute and cosy, great for an afternoon pick-me-up while wandering
- Other places that were recommended but closed during our stay because of the holiday: Nopel Bopel, Blom, BKB Vagen
Cute Streets to Wander
Bergen is adorable. The backstreets from city centre are idyllic. Literal picture perfection.
Two areas I recommend exploring to see how beautiful some of the local neighbourhoods- Steinkjelleren and Mitzells Smug. You can expect a mix of pastel and white homes with cobblestone streets, flower baskets and rustic lamplights. Heart eyes.
Have you ever visited Bergen? What was your favourite part of the trip?