Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city, but with a population of less than 200,000, it is not nearly as well-known as Oslo. However, its stunning location on the fjords makes it a beautiful spot to travel to and a common jumping-off point for those going on fjord cruises farther north. Below, find everything you need to know about what to do in Bergen, Norway for one perfect day.
You’ll love Bergen if you like history, hiking or harbors, as it has lots of all three. And hopefully, you don’t mind the rain, as you’ll be nearly assured of seeing some on your trip here. Below are tips for spending a perfect day in Bergen, but I predict that you’ll like it so much that one day won’t be enough!
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Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city but still the perfect size to easily explore on foot in one day. There is lots to see, so get up bright and early to be one of the first people in line for the Fløibanen funicular that heads up the mountain. (Seriously, when you see the line of people waiting later in the day you’ll be glad you went early!)
What to do in Bergen, Norway
Best Bergen Fjords View
A 6-minute panoramic ride will take you to the top of Fløyen. A round trip ticket is 90 KRN (~$10-15 US). Or, if you really want to earn your breakfast, you can walk up to the top, passing through narrow streets and staircases on an hour-long hike. Once you’ve made it to the top, pose for a picture with the breathtaking backdrop of fjords and islands. After your photo op, enjoy the view a little longer by grabbing breakfast and sitting outside the Fløien Folkerestaurant, a cafe, and restaurant.
Enjoy the Beautiful Outdoors
After breakfast, explore the top of the mountain by taking a short walk to the hiking trails, where you’ll feel like you’ve left the city far behind. There are a number of fun surprises here, including lots of tree stump trolls. Kids and (cough) yours truly will also enjoy the huge wooden playground and low ropes course that snake through the woods. This is one of the many free activities available, which also include canoe rentals on Skomakerdiket lake.
Take a Break for Norweigan Waffles
Take one last look at the view and make your way back down on the funicular for a light lunch. Waffles are not actually eaten for breakfast in Norway, but as a snack or treat. Waffle House –no relation to the popular US chain–is a small but popular cafe serving up some creative combinations of fruit and candy-topped waffles. Did I mention they are heart-shaped?
History in Bryggen
With your tummy full and heart happy, continue a few blocks west into the Bryggen neighborhood. Bergen originated in Bryggen, and some of the original wooden buildings, 62 in fact, still stand, making this an important UNESCO World Heritage site. Starting in 1360 the German Hanseatic Trading League set up headquarters in Bryggen.
The history of these naval traders’ society and way of life is fascinating. You can explore some of Bryggen’s buildings on your own, but for full access and interesting stories take a guided tour. The starting point is the Bryggens Museum–Bergen City Museum which also includes archaeological excavations from the first settlement.
Shopping and Strolling
After your tour, duck into the lively souvenir shops that now inhabit Bryggen’s original buildings. The famous Norwegian wool sweaters are a popular purchase, along with Viking helmets and plastic weapons for the kids. To get a truly unique souvenir, however, visit the Norske Bunader store.
Norwegians and many tourists with Norwegian descent come here to buy a Bunad, the traditional Norwegian outfits from the 1800s that have seen a resurgence in popularity lately. Even if you aren’t willing to drop $1000 on a traditional Norwegian outfit, it’s a treat to see the beautiful needlework and craftsmanship.
Wander over past a small lake to the Festplassen, a park and green area. In the summer, if you are lucky, there will be live music here, and in the winter you’ll find the site of the twinkling Christmas Market. The University of Bergen is right in this area and has some interesting buildings to see.
Dining and Evening Entertainment
It’s dinner time, and being in Bergen means you’re going to have some great seafood. There are many restaurants near the wharf, but the best and cheapest option is to eat right at the outdoor fish market. Here your meal is on display and you can point to what you’d like to have cooked up for you. The paper plates and tables are nothing fancy, but they are just feet from the water, and you can’t have a more authentically Bergen experience.
If you are looking for a fancier option, you can combine a seafood dinner with a half-hour boat cruise to the Cornelius Seafood Restaurant out of town in a tranquil setting. Alternatively, have an early dinner in Bergen and take a three-hour evening fjord cruise. In summer the sun sets very late here, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your cruise on the water and the beauty of Bergen’s natural setting.
- Bergen is known as the gateway to Norway’s fjord country. Many cruises start here on their way into the fjords or farther north.
- Bring your umbrella. Bergen is alleged to be the rainiest city in Europe.
- Bergen was THE place to be in the 1300s. The Hanseatic League made this city extremely important for trading.
- Cod is king. Bergen made its money trading this fish.
- No one actually eats lutefisk. I both disappointed and reassured to hear from a local that only a few people over the age of 50 actually eat this slimy but classic Norwegian dish.
When to visit
Bergen has a mild, wet climate all year round. Fall and winter are the rainiest and May and June the driest. Bergen is crowded with tourists in July and August, but these months are also the warmest, although you’ll still need a jacket.
Where to stay
Bergen is relatively small and walkable, so almost any hotel you choose will be centrally located. Hotel Bergen Børs is a fashionable choice located in the old stock exchange building and only a block from the fish market. Up the hill from Bryggen the Stolen and Eidemarken neighborhoods have many options for Air BnBs. This is a good choice for travelers looking for something quiet and more traditional.
Bergen’s airport is an easy taxi or bus ride from the city and is served by many international airlines. Many people visit Bergen as part of a cruise to Norway. If coming from Oslo, you can also take the popular scenic train that makes a number of stops that are of interest to tourists. However you get there, Bergen is the perfect city to experience the best of Norway.
Recommended Travel Resources
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads.
- Transport: AirfareWatchDog and Skyscanner (Best Sites to Research Flight Prices)
- Accommodation: Hotels.com and Orbitz
- Airbnb, Sign up here for a $40 credit.
- Top Bergen Hotel Reviews: TripAdvisor
- How to Pack for 2 Weeks in Europe (in one suitcase)
- Cheap Flights to Europe with Condor Airlines
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Kristin is an educator and explorer, teaching French, Spanish, Social Studies and ESL in international and US schools. Her ever-present wanderlust has taken her to live in cities that start with M (Madison, Minneapolis, and Montpellier, France) and countries that start with S (Spain, Switzerland, and Singapore). She is currently based in Madison, WI and always planning her next adventure. Find her here on Instagram.