What to do in Bergen: The ultimate Bergen city guide
Our “What to do in Bergen” city guide will help you make the most of your upcoming visit. It is so very easy to fall in love with Bergen, even when it is raining, which it does, on average, 240 days of the year. Little wonder locals rarely leave home without a rain jacket and umbrella. And visitors learn the importance of both quickly enough.
Whether you are arriving in Bergen at the end (or the start!) of a Norway in a Nutshell adventure, using Bergen as a jumping off point to board a Hurtigruten cruise, or perhaps road-tripping through the fjords on your own, you really do want to plan at least an extra 48 hours into your itinerary to experience a taste of what this international city has to offer.
Although it is Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen really is full of small-town charm and atmosphere, begging to be explored.
From Bryggen, the colorful Hanseatic wharf and UNESCO World Heritage site that has become a familiar symbol of Bergen’s cultural history, to nearby fjords and mountains. From music and arts festivals to a vibrant city nightlife. From winding back streets encouraging you to sneak a peek and get lost to green spaces and trails with views, Bergen indeed has something for everyone.
After a recent visit, we can easily vouch for the fact that Bergen truly is one of the most magical cities in Europe.
To help you plan and make the most of your visit, read the following Bergen travel tips in our Bergen city guide:
Bergen Travel Resources
Tourist information – Bergen
Visit Norway www.visitnorway.com/en/
Visit Bergen www.visitbergen.com/en/
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Click here to download the official Visitors Map to Bergen.
- Click here to find the nearest public toilet in downtown Bergen
Useful apps – Norway
- Visit Norway – The official travel app for Visit Norway (iPhone or Android) provides basic information about nearby businesses and attractions when you are in Norway.
- Norway Lights – Visit Norway has created a relatively useful and user-friendly northern lights forecast app that will boost your chances of seeing this spectacular phenomenon.
Language basics – Norwegian
Learning at least a few key phrases of the local language will be helpful, even if the locals do speak a lot of your mother tongue, as they do in Norway. There are so many apps, websites, language programs and other resources, so do a little exploring before you go. Here is one for Norwegian:
Arrival/Departure – Bergen
Flights (Flesland Airport/BGO) – Flying into and out of Bergen’s airport is easy as the airport is served by numerous international and domestic airlines including: SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe, Air Baltic, KLM, DAT, British Airways and Lufthansa. If you want to get directly to the fjords, consider this as a jumping-off point.
Airport bus (Flybussen) — Flybussen runs efficient bus transport to and from airports in many major cities, including Bergen. Getting to and from Flesland Airport on the bus is convenient. The ride takes 30-minutes (longer during rush hour) and departs every 15 minutes on weekdays from the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, the Radisson Blu Hotel Norge and the bus station. One-way cost as of this writing was NOK 90.
Train (NSB) – Think of Norway train lines somewhat like an x-y axis – one major line goes north-south, and another goes east-west, both with a few offshoots or onward connections to, say, Sweden. Click here to download a PDF NSB map. Once you know this, it’s easier to get around. The Bergen main station, Bergensbanen, has several departures/arrivals daily on the east-west Oslo-Bergen route, considered one of the most beautiful in the world. We took it from Oslo to Bergen on an early winter day and can confirm that the route is certainly gorgeous, not to mention convenient and affordable.
Countrywide transit (Ruteinfo Norge) — Use this incredibly useful site to find transportation of any kind (boat/ferry, train, bus, plane) outside (or inside) Bergen’s Hordaland county.
Ferry services — Shipping and ferry services are Bergen’s connection to the outside world as well as much of Norway. You will arrive or depart from here by ferry for part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, if you choose that version. And this is also where the well-known Hurtigruten (the Coastal Express) ferry tours depart daily for trips up to Kirkenes in the far north (stopping in numerous Norwegian coastal towns and villages along the way). Here are some website links:
- To and From: Balestrand, Flåm, Sogndal (Fjord1 Fylkesbaatane) fjord1.no.
- To and From: Bodø, Florø, Hammerfest, Harstad, Kirkenes, Kristiansand, Molde, Tromsø, Trondheim, Vardø, Ålesund (Hurtigruten) hurtigruten.no.
- To and From: Leirvik (Stord) norled.no
- To and From: Rosendal (Rødne) rodne.no.
Getting Around Bergen
Local/county transportation (Skyss) — Skyss organizes almost all public transport in the Hordaland county, including bus or the Bergen light rail. Bergen and even some of the nearby magnificent west Norwegian fjords are accessible via Skyss. For example, Skyss will take you to, Troldhaugen (Edvard Grieg’s home), Fantoft Stave Church, Old Bergen, Lysøen Island, Voss, the Hardangerfjord or the Aurlandsfjord. Tickets can be purchased at a Skyss ticket machine or on board the bus. Trips are free with a valid Bergen Card.
City discount cards – Bergen Card
The Bergen Card (available for purchase from the Tourist Information office, Radisson Blu and other locations) is worth purchasing IF you plan your time and museum/attraction visits well. Many museums and historical sites are free with the Bergen Card, as is riding the bus and light rail lines in the city. Discounts are also available at many restaurants and attractions (discounts range from 10 percent to as much as 100 percent, depending on the season, so check Bergen Card details).
Places to Stay in Bergen
Certainly choices are broad, from pensions and guesthouses, to private homes/apartments or camping. If however you choose hotels, you just can’t go wrong with the Nordic Choice Hotels’ Clarion Collection brand. Rooms are comfortable, staff always friendly and helpful, and the food is simple, plentiful and delicious. Best of all, included in the price of your Clarion Collection stay is a breakfast buffet (normal at almost all hotels in Norway), afternoon tea (with pancakes or waffles, of course) and even a light evening meal that includes salads, soup, breads, cheeses, dessert and even a hot main dish. In Bergen, one choice is the Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekontoret. Use our map below that shows hotels in the Bergen area to find the best place for your stay.
Guided Tours in Bergen
Bergen City Guide – Recommended sights
Theta Museum — It was a secret room then and, for many, it still remains a secret museum and hidden room today. It is the itty-bitty Theta Museum, a minute 170-square-foot (16 square meters) low-ceiling room hidden away on an upper floor of the Bryggen wharf area in Bergen. The museum was the headquarters of the Theta Group, an important part of the Norwegian Resistance during WWII. Its hours are quite limited to plan around them to not miss this gem! Getting There: Follow the directions for Bryggen below and then find the museum hidden on the Enhjorningsgaarden in Bryggen.
Bergen Maritime Museum — The Bergen Maritime Museum presents the history of shipping, its development and importance to Bergen and Norway. We loved the museum’s vast collection of ship models – including Viking ships. Getting There: The museum is situated 150 meters from Johanneskirken (the red church), in the middle of the University campus.. Admission is NOK 50 or free with a valid Bergen Card. Address: Haakon Sheteligs plass 15, 5007 Bergen; closest bus stop: Møhlenpris.
University Museum of Bergen — Although the Natural History Museum is undergoing restoration and will not reopen until 2018, the History Museum is well worth a look, containing some of the largest cultural collections in Norway. Since it is adjacent to the Maritime Museum, time your visit to enjoy both on the same day. Admission is NOK 50, or free with a valid Bergen Card. Address: Håkon Sheteligsplass 10, 5007 Bergen.
Bryggen — This is what you likely think of when you think of Bergen. In 1360 the Hansas – a German guild of merchants – set up one of their import/export offices on Bryggen and dominated world trade for the next 400 years. Though destroyed many times by fire, each time it has been faithfully rebuilt, on top of foundations that were created in the 11th century. Now on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, Bryggen is made for wandering, slowly. Meander through narrow passageways and enjoy the myriad of tiny shops, offices and artist studios. Getting There: From the Information Center, walk around the harbor toward the brightly colored building right in front of you.
Fløibanen Funicular — Do not miss the breathtaking view from atop Mt. Floyen, 320 meters (1,050) feet above sea level). Certainly one of Norway’s most-often mentioned attractions, the Funicular runs every 15 minutes from early morning until 11 p.m. The journey lasts approximately 8 minutes up or down. We watched for Northern Lights from the summit one evening during a recent visit, though swirling mist obscured a view of the sky, but not the twinkling lights below. Admission is NOK 85 round trip or NOK 43 one-way. Bergen Card is valid for a 50% discount May 1 through September 30 and gives you a free ride the rest of the year. Address: Vetrlidsalmenning 23 A, 5014 Bergen.
Bergenhus Festning – A bit further up the road from Bryggen Historic District, take the time to visit the historic fort, Bergenhus. Here you will see the Rosenkrantz Tower, considered one of the most important renaissance monuments in Norway and, when open, offering an impressive view of Bergen. Plus, there is Hakon’s Hall, built by King Håkon Håkonsson as a royal residence and banqueting hall in the 12th century – granted you won’t need a lot of time there. Bergenhus Festning, 5003 Bergen. Admission to each is NOK 70 or free with a valid Bergen Card. Getting There: Continue walking up the road away from Bryggen with the water on your left, and you’ll soon arrive.
Hanseatic Museum — One of the best-preserved buildings in Bergen, the Hanseatic Museum shows how the German merchants from The Hanseatic League lived and worked. From 1350 to 1750 these merchants traded stockfish (chewy, dried fish) and grains from their office in Bergen. It is the only house on Bryggen that has kept its original interior. In summer, there are daily guided tours in Norwegian, German, French and English. Admission NOK 90. Address: Finnegården 1A, Bergen, 5003, Norway.
Bergen Aquarium – The Bergen Aquarium claims to house one of the largest collections of North Sea fish and invertebrates in Europe. The aquarium features indoor 60 tanks, a shark viewing tube, and two outdoor pools with seals and penguins. Cost – From March 1 to October 31, entrance runs NOK 200. A Bergen Card discounts that by 25%. The rest of the year, entrance is NOK 150 or free with a Bergen Card. Since the aquarium website is only offered in Norwegian, click here to find aquarium information on the official Tourist Information website, thankfully in English. Getting There: The aquarium is on Nordnes Peninsula, around a 20-minute walk from the fish market and Tourist Information. You can also jump on Bus 11 from the city center. Nordnesbakken 4, Bergen, 5005, Norway.
The city is made to get lost in on foot because it’s so compact and so walkable, albeit hilly. Explore narrow side streets, particularly those around the base of the funicular’s lower terminal off Lille Øvergaten. Just follow your nose. Also worth exploring is the hilly area all around Skottegaten just west of the main part of the old town and between there and the Hurtigruten terminal. Your nose and your feet will be your guides.
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