Bergen is Norway’s 2nd largest city and is in Hordaland on the west coast. It doesn’t feel like a big city…more like a charming town surrounded by majestic mountains and striking fjords. I was immediately smitten with Bergen upon exiting the train station. After hiking Trolltunga, I needed to unwind and relax, so I didn’t attempt to frantically visit every tourist destination like a good American tourist. Here’s a few suggestions of things to do in Bergen, Norway to maximize your time and minimize your stress.
If the day is clear, get your bum up to Mt. Fløyen. The light is best in the morning. You can hike or take the funicular, depending on your energy level and time constraints. If you take the funicular, try to get a spot in the front facing down the mountain for incredible views the entire ride up! Once at the top, marvel at the incredible views of an idyllic town, supposedly the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen. There is a forest and hiking trails here that I didn’t do (did I mention I just hiked the day before?) that supposedly lead to a pretty lake. They offer mountain bike rental and there is also a place to get a drink. Hell yes!
Here’s a short video featuring Bergen and the Fjords. The beginning shows the views from the funicular to Mt. Floyen.
The coastal town of Bergen, established around 1070 AD, was a major trading center. This colorful section of Bergen at the wharf known as Bryggen (literally meaning “dock”) is the original city and is now a Unesco Heritage Site. It is iconic with its distinctly shaped buildings.
Roaming around Bryggen, stopping in the shops, cafes and galleries is a popular activity. I especially loved these narrow passages between buildings. Not sure why…I just liked them! It made me feel like I was in a Viking village.
Do you see the size of those crab legs!? Those are truly the King of Crabs. I definitely indulged in some of those!
Since the 1200’s this market has been a meeting place for fishermen and merchants. This outdoor market close to the wharf sells seafood, fruit and vegetables as well as other Norwegian items.
This is the perfect spot to have lunch or
second lunch some snacks. Not going to mince words…I gorged myself. I ate here about ten times in two days. Seriously. Ok maybe I’m exaggerating but every time I passed by, I saw something I wanted to try. Once I ate outside at the stalls, which have cozy places to sit complete with blankets on the chairs and warming lamps…which I needed in August! You can also eat inside the Fish Market at a more traditional sit-down style restaurant. I highly recommend the traditional Norwegian fish stew (pictured above). Pictured below is a flight of caviar, because…why not have caviar and wine at lunch? Not too shabby for a rainy day!
It was a gorgeous day and as I was strolling around the wharf digesting my crab legs, fish cakes, fish stew, etc, I saw a boat with an old Norwegian captain hanging out with a sign saying “free ride to Fisheries Museum”. Of course I had to ask for details. The Fisheries Museum was a twenty-minute boat ride away and there was shuttle that would bring me back. Free boat ride? Well, Ok! I was the only one and had the boat to myself. This pic is me on the back of the boat with my go pro trying not fall off!
The museum is adorable. It would be fun for kids. I say this because I had a blast and I basically have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old boy. It’s in a warehouse and features a short movie showing the lives and history of Norwegian fisherman. There are fun interactive exhibits and one even shows you what you would look like as a fish. You’re going to have to beg me for the pic of me as an octopus! Learn more about the Fiskerimuseum here.
This large complex of four buildings is centrally located near the lake. One ticket is good for all four buildings. Showing works from Munch, Picasso and many others I can’t pronounce, this is a great activity for a rainy day or any day really! Admission for adults is NOK 100. Read here for more information.
After hiking Trolltunga, saying I was in pain is an understatement. I was lucky to be walking! I found a place called Bergen Bodyworks that had a last-minute opening with a therapist named Oddveig who rocked my world. Forget Swedish massages. I’m going to start requesting a Norwegian massage!
My AirBNB had no hairdryer…I needed some help. After strolling around with a latte, I found a hair salon in my neighborhood and the owner/stylist was able to take me right away. Of course, like all Norwegians he spoke perfect English but it turned out he was from Chile. Since I’m from Miami, he was excited to have someone to speak Spanish too (even though I’m terrible at it). I had the best time with him, drinking coffee and chatting while it rained outside. I highly recommend a stop here! MG Frisor Salon
I wanted to experience Norwegian fare and after asking around I discovered a little place called Pingvinen. This means “Penguin”. The restaurant has nothing to do with penguins but is very popular. I had to wait a bit to be seated in this small cozy restaurant, but the staff were friendly and attentive. I ended up sitting next to some Italians and we all tasted each other’s food. Everything was delicious and what I would describe as Norwegian comfort food. I had a fish cake thing with pasta in it. My Italian companion had fish mixed with creamy mashed potatoes. I’m not doing the food justice by describing it but it was tasty! I would have eaten here again if I had another day.
For information on more places to eat, the Culture Trip is a great resource.
I stayed close to this central city square and shopping district. I felt like a local in this neighborhood in a cute apartment I rented on AirBnb. Everything was in walking distance. The restaurants, the hair salon, the train station, Mt. Floyen, The Fish Market and of course, Bryggen Wharf, which is enchanting at night.
I would be remiss to talk about things to do in Bergen and leave out the fact that this is the ideal base for enjoying some of the spectacular nature that Norway offers. You can do one day fjord trips or see fjords as you are en route to Oslo. You can also combine seeing fjords with hiking some of Norway’s most Instagrammed mountains including Trolltunga, Kjerag and Preikestolen. I included a link about how to hike Trolltunga above and here you can read more about seeing the fjords.
I enjoyed every minute of my short stay in Bergen whether it was rain or shine. I would definitely not miss this quaint and beautiful city if you are in the region!
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