Long before planning our trip to Scandinavia, I had seen and heard about Bergen Norway. I was captivated by the images that all look like scenes from a fairytale. Often, when I plan trips, I wonder if it will be as I imagine. Or, in this case, as beautiful.
Bergen Norway is a stunning as I imagined, it’s breathtakingly beautiful even in the colder months. I might go as far as to say it is more divine than I dreamed.
If you are planning a trip to Scandinavia, Bergen Norway should be on your list of must-visit places. It should be your priority. If you can only pick one place, choose Bergen Norway. You will not regret it.
Where is Bergen Norway?
Located on Norway’s southwestern coast. Seven mountains and various fjords surround Bergen. One fjord, Sognefjord, is the country’s longest and deepest.
Isn’t Norway Expensive?
Before we dive into the details, let’s talk a little about the costs. The first thing you hear when people talk about Norway is how expensive it is. It’s a fact; it is costly. Norway consistently ranks in all lists as one of the top ten places with the highest quality of living. Having a high standard of life is not cheap, and taxes are high.
Regardless, this is not the most expensive place we’ve visited, not even close. For example, Dubai was astronomically expensive, and Australia was up there. My point is this, Norway is costly, it’s not a third world country, and it is beyond worth splurging.
Lastly, I’m going to share all our costs, and you’ll be surprised. We spent almost three weeks in Scandinavia, and it was more affordable than you think.
How To Get To Bergen Norway
Realistically there are four main ways to get there.
- Fly in from Oslo
- Drive from Oslo or another city
- Cruise into Bergen on a primary cruise line
- Take the train from Oslo or another city
There are other methods like charter a plane, fly your plane in, but the above four are the most common and accessible routes. I have not personally cruised in, but I know many who have and cruising is an excellent option if you are not comfortable arranging all the plans yourself. Just remember, even if you opt to cruise you still have to get to Norway.
- We started our trip by flying from Orlando, Florida, to Oslo direct. Flights cost us $209.90 per person (x 2 $419.80), $45 per bag (x2 $90) = Total of $509.80
- From Oslo, we took the train to Bergen. Specifically, because this train ride is hailed as the most beautiful train ride in Europe.
- The train cost us $46 per person = Total of $92 one way. You can buy tickets here.
- We took a cab from the train station to our hotel. FYI, there are tons of taxi cabs at the train station. The cab cost us about $12 and change.
Something you need to know about getting to your hotel: if like me, you run your logistics you will probably take a cab. Many of the hotels in Bergen are chains. We stayed at the Magic Hotel Korskirken, and it turns out Magic Hotel is a brand, and there are a few in Bergen. We ended up at the wrong one on the first try. Be sure that you have studied the map and know where your hotel is located. Most importantly have the printed directions on hand.
Where to Stay in Bergen Norway
Almost all hotels and chains are Norwegian. There is no Marriot, there is no Hilton, and there is no IHG. The only non-Norwegian chains in Bergen are Clarion and Radisson. And, all hotels are woven into the town’s historic buildings. There is no juggernaut standalone modern buildings. I appreciate this; it maintains the historical splendor.
There are a plethora of choices — an unusually large number of hotels for such a small city.
We stayed at the Magic Hotel Korskirken. I chose this hotel because it was 2 minutes away from the water, included breakfast, has excellent reviews, and has space like beds! Yes, space like as in from a scene from Startrek.
It cost us $464.40 for four nights which included breakfast. Seriously, this a deal and I’ve seen it for as little as $99. If you book via Hotels.com your 10th night will also be free.
I would stay here again in a heartbeat. You navigate through the charming cobbled streets to get to this gem, and you walk through the square that has the Ludvig Holberg Statue. Once inside, you enter via a shared doorway to a grocery store. At first, I thought this was odd, but it was a bonus. We had everything we could need and then some. Imagine waking up needing Asprin, boom run downstairs and you are all set.
Our room was big by anyone’s European standards and super modern. Plush bedding, a fancy state of the art bathroom – we were all set. Check out our space bed and the views of Bergen Norway:
The breakfast was amazing. You can pick from continental delights or order a custom cooked breakfast. Make sure when you select a hotel you go for one that includes breakfast as it will offset some of your costs.
Almost all hotels and restaurants double as nightclubs after 10 or 11 pm. What starts as a quaint sleepy harbor city becomes a hip and trendy bouncing location. The transformation is fun to watch and did not affect us. Sure, we could hear the music while returning to our room, but once we were situated, we were undisturbed.
If you are concerned about the nightlife which is only at the weekend, consider choosing a hotel that is further away from the center or pick one with no bar or club.
Bergen Norway is somewhere that we will revisit and without hesitation and we will stay again at the Magic Hotel Korskirken.
Bergen Norway Weather
There is no coming around the fact that Bergen gets a lot of rain and can be cold. I’m a firm believer that the weather should not dictate any trip. Pack according and have layers and the weather will not impact your fun!
- The rainy season is January through March and then August through December.
- Typically, the warmest month is July.
- Typically, the coldest month is January.
- September is the wettest month.
- May is the driest month.
Dressing for the Weather
Look, people ask me all the time why we go to cold locations, and how do we enjoy it? First of all, it’s a mindset. Secondly, we live in Florida, the natural melting state of America. I enjoy some sun, but I don’t need to vacation in it.
So how do you enjoy the colder weather? Simple, dress appropriately, and be prepared. Do I mean to dress like the Michelin Man in puffy coats and duck boots? No, not at all. You can wear standard attire so long as you have the right undergarments and I don’t mean lingerie!
Standard pack for us is long thermal wear followed with thermal waterproof socks. If your feet are warm and dry half, the battle is over. I wore a light raincoat throughout our trip to Bergen Norway, but I had layers underneath.
We also make a point to keep our heads warm, much like feet if you keep your head warm you are halfway there. Don’t waste a ton of money on things you do not need. Invest in the accessories that you can use time and time again under your regular clothing:
Things to Do in Bergen Norway
You will never forget your first view or feel of Bergen. It’s precisely as depicted in every article. Colorful, waterfront buildings are oozing with charm. It feels as imagined. Misty fog staging the harbor and the crisp fresh air chill reminding you that you are in a Nordic land. It rivals many European cities with charm. It’s become one of my favorites.
The Colorful Buildings of Bergen Norway
Even if you’re not familiar with Bergen Norway, chances are you’ve seen a picture of the reconstructed Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen (the docks). Since 1979, the Bryggens are a World Heritage Site. A series of crooked wooden structures that line the eastern side of the Vågen harbor. Today, Bryggen houses museums, shops, restaurants, and pubs.
As soon as you see these buildings, you know where you are. What’s unique about the buildings of Bryggen is that fires, dating back to 1070 have tormented them. They have been restored time and time again. Touring them is a passage of rite if you are in Bergen. You would be foolish not to. This said it’s all about the architecture and history. These buildings remind me of the Shambles in York, England.
One thing you really must do is weave in and out of them. Don’t merely walk the harbor front. Behind each building is another and there are some unusual structures to take in. Take a look at these beauties hidden behind the water facing buildings:
Touring the Fjords of Bergen Norway
Perhaps the most common reason people wander to this region of the world. Bergen in particular because this is the starting point of a famous tour called “Norway in a Nutshell.”
Norway in a Nutshell
A famous tour that is all over the Internet and comes up in any search. If you start to research travel to Norway, you will come across this. If you decide to take this tour you will experience:
- The scenic Bergen Railway
- Bus trip through beautiful scenery
- Fjord cruise on the magnificent Aurlandsfjord and the narrow Nærøyfjord
- The breathtaking Flåm Railway
- The scenic Bergen Railway, Myrdal – Oslo/Bergen
This day trip starts at $195 per person. I don’t think it’s worth that and you can arrange all these legs for yourself. From what I have read, it’s also a long and rushed itinerary.
Better, if you are planning to head northeast to Voss or Flåm hire a car and drive. Just know you will need a couple of days. Lastly, weather conditions will challenge the tour whether you do it solo or arranged so plan accordingly.
Boat the Fjords of Bergen Norway
Several companies offer half or full-day tours of the fjords. They all start at the harbor, which is easy to access.
All tours start at $100 and go up, be prepared to spend some money here.
We booked through Viator and took the Mostraumen Fjord Cruise, which is approximately three hours long.
The fjords of Bergen Norway are stunning, exactly as you would imagine. Water so clear you can see your reflection in it. Bright green landscapes dotted with colorful wooden houses. Waterfalls and remote fishing towns around every turn.
This tour was one of the most captivating I’ve taken in a while. The vistas are charming, completely unspoiled terrain that will mesmerize you. The fjords are indeed why people tell you that Norway is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
If you can only do one tour or are only have a day, this is my number one recommendation.
I bet you think this is an odd suggestion, I know I would have I not seen it for myself. Not an ordinary Starbucks. Located near the iconic buildings of Bryggen, this Starbucks is not in a church as some will have you believe.
The building’s name (Kjøttbasaren) translated to English is “The Meat Bazaar”. Until recently the upstairs area that is now a Starbucks, was still a market for meat, fish, cheese, honey, and other artesian foods. One local Vegard Haugland shared that he’s quite sad that it is now a Starbucks. Once you see the beauty of this building you will understand why.
The Bergen Fish Market
Most fishing towns or towns that fish have a fish market of sorts. Bergen is no exception, and the Bergen Fish Market shows up in all articles and reviews. Dating back to the 1200s this fish market is one of the most visited in Norway.
I’m personally not a fish eater for the most part, so this was not epic for me, but it is worth a look. The market is on the water on the opposite side of the Bryggen buildings, and fortunately, it’s not open air. You can buy fresh fish or crustaceans here. Or, you can dine in one of the many restaurants.
Open year-round. Indulge in whale meat, caviar, or the dried cod. Assuming of course that you have the stomach for any of the above.
The Funicular Train
Located in town a five-minute walk from the harbor, the funicular railway up to Mount Fløyen is a top-rated attraction. While not as high as Mount Ulriken, Mount Fløyen provides you with magnificent views of the city below.
The train ride only takes six minutes each way. At Fløyen there is a restaurant, cafeteria, souvenir shop, and a play area.
If you are only in Bergen for a short time, this is a great way to capture one of the views.
Only in Bergen for a few days? Plan to do this when there is no rain. We tried and sure as can be, once we got on it started to rain.
Ulriken Cable Car
The Ulriken Cable car takes you to the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains – Mount Ulriken. Like all cable cars rides, this is a great way to enjoy the scenery from above. At the top of Mount Ulriken, there is a zipline and a restaurant to enjoy. Or, you can hike and explore – there are several trails. Many say that the best way to get an aerial view of the city is from the top of Mount Ulriken.
I think you all know that museums are not my thing. A long-time fan of castles, palaces, and stately homes, history is my thing, but there is something unappealing about museums for me. Regardless, many people enjoy them. Here are ten to consider while in Bergen Norway:
- Munch Museum: Art lovers prepare! This museum is home of the artwork if Edvard Munch, Norway’s national treasure and best-known artist.
- The Hanseatic Museum: This museum tells the story of Bergen’s importance within the Hanseatic League. The Hanseatic League is a network of merchants from Europe that traded here in the Bryggen area.
- KODE: In 2006, art and music museums combined as KODE a formation of four independent buildings. Combined, they house the most extensive art collection in Northern Europe. The KODE museums are said to be some of the most beautiful in Bergen.
- Grieg Museum: Part of KODE, the Grieg Museum is Edvard Grieg’s former home. Edvard Grieg was a famous Norwegian pianist and composer. His piano is on display here.
- VilVite Science Centre: A science museum full of interactive exhibitions that let you play with theories and home of Europe’s only public G-force ride.
- Bergen’s Maritime Museum: If you have an interest in the sea or sailing this one is for you. This museum as named focuses on maritime history, but it also hosts exhibits on Vikings and WWII.
- Norwegian Fisheries Museum: Another museum for those that love the sea or fishing. This museum is describing as an interactive that explores the Norwegian fishing industry and social impacts.
- Gamle Bergen Museum: Step back in time as you explore Bergen as would have been hundreds of years ago. Several of the cities wooden houses were relocated to the Elsero. The houses have been restored, and some of the locals offer theatrical performances.
- The Cultural History Museum: Home of The Natural History Museum and The Cultural History Museum. This museum will give you an in-depth insight into all things Norwegian. For example, you can learn about religion, history, and Vikings.
- Bryggen Museum: This museum reveals many of medieval Bryggen artifacts that were found during the restorations following the 1955 fire. A medieval museum that explores the history of Bergen.
Food and Drinks
Food and drink are where the lion’s share of your budget will go, especially if you partake in adult beverages. Beer in 2019 will cost you around $10, and a cheap glass of wine will cost you approximately $12. Liquor is even more as are cocktails.
You can save some money if you stay in a hotel with breakfast. You can also eat a sandwich or snack on the go for lunch rather than eating in a restaurant. Lastly, lunch in restaurants is a lot less expensive than dinner. Consider lunch as your big meal, and you’ll save a lot. We did this once and ordered a takeaway for one night.
There are hundreds of options for food and drinks in Bergen, here are some places that we enjoyed and recommended.
Olivia – Zachariasbryggen
Shocking anyone who knows my food taste because this is an Italian restaurant/pizzeria. Don’t be put off by pizza; this is a classy joint, not a pizza hut or local mom and pop joint. Part of a Norwegian chain called Olivia, this place is fabulous!
There are a few factors that persuaded me to give this place a try. The locals recommended it. There was a massive line of locals trying to get a table which to me is a good sign. It’s on the water, and you can dine outside. Lastly, the décor is right up my alley. It’s modern and industrial inside this deceiving wooden building.
I enjoyed a delicious charcuterie along with some great wine. Brian unjudged in a handmade pizza which was more on the flatbread side. We sat outside, kept nice and toasty by the outdoor heaters. We found them too hot and had to have them turned down. In Scandinavian tradition, we covered our legs with sheepskins. I enjoyed the food, the atmosphere, and the decor.
This place is not cheap, but it’s not expensive, either. If you moderate the alcohol, it not expensive at all.
Cafe Sze Chuan
Yes, yes, it’s a Chinese place. I can’t go very far without indulging in Asian food. I especially can’t pass up Chinese food in Europe. It’s radically different and better than the American version. This place is not fancy, it’s cheap and cheerful but oh so good.
The name alone should entice you – it did us. This is a traditional pub! And, it’s a British pub – bonus! Situated across from the famous Bryggen, this pub offers fabulous views, has indoor and outdoor seating and outdoors offers up warm blankets. This pub is also inexpensive, and you can score beer here for around $7, which is very cheap.
Magic Ice Bergen
I can’t tell you enough good things about this place. Sure, some people will turn their nose up just like they do when you mention Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. It’s not “unknown” enough, attracts tourists, and likewise an experience that can be hard elsewhere. True, but you are in Scandinavia! Why would you not experience this? We had a blast here, taking in all the artwork carved from blocks of ice and drinking all kinds of drinks straight from a glass made of ice.
You buy a package on entry which includes a couple of house drinks. Naturally, we spent some time here and ended up with a tab. We were here for a few hours. According to the bartender, quite the undertaking given the temperature. But once again, it’s not about the weather, or should I say “temperature.” Wrap up; you will be fine.
Finding this place was a little bit of a challenge, and it’s across the other side of the harbor. About a ten-minute walk from the harbor and well worth it.
Another Italian for me but this one was in our hotel, so it made sense to eat here. As guests, you get 20% of your dining experience. The food here is excellent and offers all the traditional Italian fare. Try the mussels here; they are scrumptious! And, you must try the cappuccino martini which became my nightcap during our stay.
Note: Every Friday and Saturday at 11pm, Villa Blanca become one of Bergen’s most popular nightclubs.
Shopping in Bergen
There is no shortage of places to shop for artwork, souvenirs, Norwegian specialties, or high-end designer wears. It’s all here, and there is something for everyone. And, you must buy a Norwegian Troll. It does not have to be a tacky plastic one or a fridge magnet; they are everywhere and in all styles. I bought a classy red one made from cloth to hang on my Christmas tree.
FYI: The noun troll or troll, meaning variously fiend, demon, werewolf and giant, comes from a proto-Germanic word trullan or unknown origin. Trolls in Norway and Scandinavia are the backbone of lots of myths, fairytales and legend.
If malls are your thing, there are three:
- Bergen Storsenter
My advice is to wander the cobbled streets and explore the array of locally owned stores. Bergen is bustling with antique and thrift stores. They are all over the place, especially in by the harbor. There were a couple of places that we enjoyed:
We stumbled across this place. Being British, I can never pass up a stop into a store full of authentic goodies. PastyWorld offers up as the name implies pasties, a traditional British delight.
Additionally, they have British chips, sauces, biscuits, and so on. Let us not forget Lilt – Pineapple, and Grapefruit. Sorry, could not resist that. That’s the jingle from the ads for Lilt. And Lucozade, the heavens have opened upon us. It was worth the find for these two delights alone.
Solstrand Blomster & Interiør AS
Perhaps my favorite shop in Scandinavia. On first blush, this looks like a florist or plant shop. It’s that and then some! Inside is a treasure trove of goodies from household wares, beauty products, jewelry and while we were there Christmas ornaments!
We bought quite a lot here. Believe it or not, Brian got several rubs for his obsession with the Big Green Egg. I bought friends that collects Christmas ornaments the most unusual rustic metal hearts that are very seasonal. I also got some hand cream in here.
In addition to this being a great shop to explore, it’s beautiful inside and out. Make a point of finding this place; there is something ornate waiting for everyone.
It is also located on Hollendergaten.
What You Need to Know
- Bergen is ridiculously safe; you can wander at leisure day and night.
- There is an excellent public transportation system.
- Downtown is tiny; you can walk from one side to the other.
- You only need a car if you plan to leave the downtown area.
- The locals love Americans, something I enjoyed. If you travel, you’ll know what I mean. Often when you announce where you’re from, you get met with obvious disdain.
- Not only are Norwegians fond of American’s they are social. We got invited to join locals on many occasions. We did and learned lots about local customs and what day to day life in Bergen Norway is like beyond the tourists.
- What are the billboards with the sheep’s head advertising? Let me clear this up for you. It’s called “Smalahove.” It is a Western Norwegian traditional dish made from a sheep’s head that was originally eaten before Christmas. Lately, this has become more of a tourist attraction with travelers seeking to experience the most unusual foods.
Remember to dress for success:
Bergen Norway is as stunning as the pictures imply. It can be expensive, and it’s wet but minor details considering how magical it is. We visited in November; I did not find it overly cold or unbearable. I’ve vacationed in much colder places. No matter what season, you can enjoy all that this quaint city has to offer. Bergen provides the perfect mix of whimsical old-world charm with modern amenities, and there’s plenty to explore. Few places are on my return to list, and Bergen is one of them. I can’t wait to return to drive from Bergen to Voss, Flåm, and back.
Heck, I liked it so much I’ve spent some serious time looking into the potential of living here.
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