Bergen, formerly known as Bjørgvin, is the second largest city in Norway. With a population of 286,000 inhabitants, it’s a small city by global standards. It’s location on the west coast makes it an ideal spot to explore the surrounding fjords by boat, while the surrounding mountains make it a popular choice with hikers.
For those traveling in Europe, a more adventurous route to get to Bergen is to take the ferry from Hirtshals at the northern tip of Denmark, which will take you along the beautiful southwest coastline of Norway.
Bergen makes for an excellent destination both in the summer and during the winter, whether you’re exploring nature or enjoying the culture and cuisine. The city is surrounded by seven mountains and numerous fjords. In this guide, we’ll list some of the best things to do, see and eat.
Things To Do
Go On A Fjord Cruise
Bergen is famed for its fjords, and there are many beautiful fjords to explore within a short distance of the city. Some of the most popular fjords include Sognefjord, Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord. There are numerous options for exploring the fjords, including taking a ferry cruise, renting a boat, or hiking around the coastline, as well as fishing and swimming, especially in the summer months. The fjords are easily accessible by public transport or car, and you can even take a full day cruise along Bergen’s stretch of the Norwegian coastline.
Hike In The City Mountains
Norway is a sparsely populated country known for its magical landscapes and natural beauty, especially its mountains and valleys. Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, and the city itself is an excellent base to go hiking or climbing. You don’t necessarily need a guide, but it’s a good idea during the winter months. If you plan on hiking without one, be sure to have the appropriate maps as well as warm, waterproof clothing. Norway as a whole offers some breath-taking natural scenery, and the nature surrounding Bergen is no exception. For those who love fresh air, abundant trees and wide-open spaces, hiking is a great option.
Things To See
Bryggen is a Hanseatic wharf in the city with a colourful row of buildings whose origins date back to the Fourteenth Century. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and situated right on the waterfront. There’s a museum, cafes and shops, and it’s well worth a visit just for the view, especially when the sun’s out. It’ll also be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about Norway’s Viking and Medieval past.
Bergen aquarium has a fine collection of native and non-native fish and marine life, including tropical fish, penguins, crocodiles and sea lions. It could be a good option for a rainy winter’s day.
Kode Art Gallery
Kode museum and art gallery is among the largest in Scandinavia. It has exhibitions mostly on modern and contemporary art, including many live events and workshops. It’s a must for any art enthusiast wishing to learn more about Nordic modern and contemporary art in particular.
As mentioned, Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, and climbing up any of them is going to give you a stunning view of the city. Fløyen is the easiest to reach being close to the city and accessible via a funicular, which is called Fløibanen. It takes less than ten minutes to reach the top, and it can be a great starting point for a hiking trip of the other mountains, or you can head back down the mountainside by foot or funicular. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the entire city and coastline.
Things To Eat
Norwegian cuisine is known for being incredibly healthy, including lots of fresh fish and vegetables, as well as some tasty desserts. Meat dishes are popular in the country, though there are also many vegetarian and vegan options. There are lots of restaurants and cafes in Bergen offering a wide array of both Norwegian cuisine and foods from around the world. Bergen’s fish market is an excellent choice for those wishing to cook for themselves. It’s right in the city centre and as well as offering seafood and fresh vegetables there are also many handicrafts for sale.
Traditional Norwegian Fare
Fårikål is a traditional Norwegian dish that’s perfect for the winter months. It’s a rich stew made with mutton-on-the-bone, cabbage and black pepper and served in a broth with boiled potatoes. For those with a taste for seafood, Sursild is a Norwegian (and Scandinavian) favourite. It’s basically pickled herrings although there are different variations. Another fish options is Gravlaks, which is smoked salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill, typically served with potatoes and a sauce. A popular Norwegian dessert, often enjoyed around Christmas is called Fattigman, a very sweet diamond-shaped cookie sometimes containing brandy or cognac.
Vegan & Vegetarian
For vegans and vegetarians, there are plenty of options. Daily Pot is a cosy restaurant serving vegetarian soups, stews, sandwiches, salads and desserts. There are meat options too. Pygmalion is a cafe/art gallery that also hosts live music events. It has many vegetarian options and sustainably sourced foods. Dwell is also another popular choice, with lots of vegetarian dishes and desserts as well as live music events and yoga sessions.
Some other popular restaurants and eateries include Lysverket, a restaurant specializing in delicious seafood and stews, Kranen, which serves breakfast staples and street food, and Hoggorm, where you can build your own pizza or simply enjoy a drink.
Bergen: A Great City For Indoor & Outdoor Enthusiasts
Bergen is a great choice for nature lovers and those wishing to enjoy the elegant simplicity of Nordic cuisine, art, and design. While Norway is more expensive than other countries in Europe, there are ways to budget, including cooking for yourself and doing hiking tours without guides. Remember that Bergen has a Nordic oceanic climate, so expect snowy winters and quite a bit of rain throughout the year, so ensure that you’re well prepared with sturdy footwear and warm and waterproof clothing.