Bergen is marketed as the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’; it’s where countless excursions to glaciers, Fjords and mountains depart from, and the ease of getting to some of Norway’s most incredible landscapes was probably the main reason we wanted to go there. The city itself is wonderful though, so it’s well worth making sure you get some time to explore if you’re using it as a base for trips into the countryside. Despite the fact that Bergen Tourist Information centre is listed as one of the top Tripadvisor ‘things to do’ there, which kind of makes it sound like there are limited activities, there’s a lot going on. (To be fair, the Tourist Information centre provides a panoramic view of the harbour and is an interesting building, so do check it out – cheeky little extra one for you there). Here are 10 things to do that are in, or very close to, the city of Bergen itself.
It would be impossible not to start with this one really, and it’s probably the defining image of the city; UNESCO world heritage site, Bryggen. The iconic row of buildings along the wharf is a must see – there are multiple restaurants, cafes and shops within the buildings but they still retain all of their old fashioned charm. Behind the front facades of the buildings are little alleyways and overhanging wooden galleries, and it truly is like stepping back in time.
Mount Floyen is one of Bergen’s top attractions, since it’s easily accessible and the top provides incredible views overlooking the city centre. There’s no need to walk up if you don’t want to; many people take the popular funicular railway that takes you from the heart of Bergen to the top of Floyen in a matter of minutes. There’s nothing special about the ride itself, but it’s got the novelty factor for sure. The top of the mountain and Fløibanen get VERY busy as the day goes on, and as well as amazing views (even in the fog!) there’s bike rental, a zipline park, mutiple walks and shops up at the peak.
Mount Ulriken is the highest of seven mountains that surround the city and is home to a mountain restaurant and plenty of walks. The best way to reach the top, unless you fancy the hike up there, is by cable car, which is an attraction in itself. Warning, though; unless you just really like the inside of cable car carriages, check how clear it is that day. We could see literally nothing from through the windows apart from mist hanging in the air – although that was okay because we weren’t there just for the ride, which brings me nicely on to the next one…
Get moving (and possibly out of breath)
The Vidden trail is a 15km hike between Mount Ulriken and Mount Floyen, and you can do it starting from either peak – walk/get the cable car/ride the funicular to the top of one of them, then hike the trail across to the other and walk/get the cable car/ride the funicular back down. I would recommend starting at Ulriken, so you get the more tricky parts of the 5 hour walk done early on. There’s also a short but challenging walk – Stoltzkleiven – which the locals run to keep fit that offers beautiful views from the top, and plenty of other hikes and walks that you can start from the city itself.
Join a tour
If you’re a fan of a guided tour, Bergen has you covered. There are no end of tours in and around the city – there are bus tours, bike tours, ferry tours, walking tours, segway tours, food tours – you name it, Bergen might well have it. The option to hop on a bus is probably one to bear in mind if you get a particularly rainy day!
As I’m vegan I feel really weird about including this one – but I expect this sort of thing will crop up time and time again in my travels from now on, so I’ll save the discussion on that for another post. Bergen is a UNESCO city of Gastronomy and the fish market is one example of the cultural, trading and culinary traditions that reflect that. It’s undoubtedly one of the main tourist attractions and is situated right on the harbour near Bryggen and next to the tourist information centre, so chances are you’ll end up in it or near it during any trip there.
Museums and galleries
As you would expect from a European City of Culture and a World Heritage City, there’s no shortage of museums and galleries. You can meet masters and servants from Bergen’s past at the open air Old Bergen museum, check out the Bryggen museum or visit others dedicated to a range of subjects – from shipping to knitting to leprosy (really). For art buffs there is a row of galleries housing both Norwegian and international collections from classical to contemporary.
Take a wander
I know, I know. I talk about walking in every travel post ever. But exploring on foot is my favourite thing to do, so I’m not going to stop anytime soon. Bergen is one of the most lovely cities for wandering in I’ve ever been to, with its distinctive colourful wooden houses and maze of pretty streets. They’re great instagram fodder and oh-so-charming.
Catch some live music
Something that we were not expecting that really struck us during our time in Bergen was how many concerts and gigs were being advertised in the city. As it turns out, Bergen is a quite the hub for music of a variety of genres, so it’s worth checking out what’s going to be on during your stay!
Two notable buildings you are likely to see in ‘things to do’ lists – Rosenkrantz Tower and Haakons Hall – are housed in Bergenhus Fortress, just along from Bryggen. Rosenkrantz tower is a renaissance monument that you can climb up, coming out onto the roof for impressive views out over the sea and city, and Hakonshallen is an imposing 750 year old building that is still used for official occasions. Each of them costs 80 NOK (£8 or thereabouts) to enter and it gets cheaper if you visit them both because you get a discount on subsequent purchases, but you can enter the fortress for free if you just want to look around and see both of them and many other buildings from the outside.
So there we have it; 10 things to do in Bergen around any trips to the wild and wonderful Norwegian countryside you might be taking. Have you been to Bergen – and if so, is there anything else I should put on my list for next time?