Although much smaller than Oslo, Bergen is just as, if not even more, interesting to visit than Oslo. The scenery surrounding the city is fantastic. Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains, multiple peninsulas and islands, fjords, and the North sea.
It is not a budget-friendly city, so if you’re visiting Bergen, be ready to spend some money. From supermarkets to cafes and restaurants, everything is pricey. You will pay for a cup of coffee double what you would pay in Berlin or Vienna. Hostels and hotels are also more expensive than in many places, but it is truly worth visiting.
You can get to Bergen by car or a bus from Oslo, and the scenic drive is 7 hours long. The other more efficient option is to fly. The flight is less than one hour long, and there are about 20 flights between these two cities every day.
Bergen is a university city and very alive during the winter months, so you will never get bored here. Even if it’s much more colorful during summer, I think it is especially beautiful in winter, when snow falls on red and orange buildings in the city center.
Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf
The waterfront in Bergen is also known as Tyskebryggen, and it has been protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site since 1979. It consists of colorful wooden buildings that are nowadays used as shops, restaurants, cafes, and other commercial purposes. Bryggen is located on the eastern side of the Vågen harbor and gives you amazing views of the sea.
Bryggen was where the first Bergen settlement was built in 1070. The first dock was constructed in the 1100s, and since then the city has had several faces. Today’s buildings were built much later, mostly in the 1700s or later. Like many wooden cities in their history, Bergen also had many fires and had to be rebuilt multiple times.
Hanseatic merchants were the main owners of these buildings, and even to this day when you walk around Bryggen, you have a feeling that no time has passed since the 14th century when they first opened their shops here. The most notable houses here are Bellgården, Svensgården, Enhjørningsgården, Bredsgården, Bugården, and Engelgården. The oldest and tallest building is St. Mary’s church.
The best photos here you can take from the waterfront because once you go in between buildings the space is small and narrow and you can take photos only with a wide-angle lens. If you want to buy souvenirs, Bryggen is the best place for that, you will find several stores with handcrafted sculptures and items. Leave the souvenirs for the last day of your trips, so you know how much money is in your budget left for souvenirs.
While passing by the museum building I saw the sign for the city museum and thought maybe something is interesting inside. It was much more interesting than I expected, with amazing exhibits of the city’s history, including archeological artifacts and locations. You can see the everyday items from first settlers, you can see their weapons, clothes, cutlery, and so much more.
Part of the museum is an archeological excavation from the 1950s and 60s which helps us understand the Middle Ages better. You will see the building remains up close, and if you go on a guided tour it will be an opportunity for you to learn more about Norwegian history. Tickets to the museum are 160 NOK, and children under 18 are free.
Gamle Bergen Museum
Gamle Bergen Museum, also known as Old Bergen Museum, is an open-air museum and park open year-round. It is located 2 km from the city center, and you can walk to get there. The museum consists of around 50 buildings that reconstruct the old town. The buildings date back to the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
In the 1800s Bergen was the biggest wooden city in Europe, and it is still a great place to experience this kind of atmosphere. The open-air museum has not only authentic houses and buildings but also actors in costumes presenting us with the past centuries.
The museum was opened in 1946, and the center of the museum was the house called Estero. All the other buildings were brought here from other locations, mostly from the city center. This way those buildings were saved from being torn down in the center, they were reconstructed, and now they are the main tourist attraction. Tickets to the museum are 120 NOK for adults, and free for kids under 18 years old.
Sandviken Sjøbad, Old Bergen Sea Bath
When visiting the Old Bergen Museum, stop by this popular thermal spring, where locals and some tourists come almost daily for a bath. There is a beach nearby, as well as a diving board and a diving tower, a BBQ area, and a lawn for picnicking and sunbathing.
The entrance to Sandviken Sjøbad is free, and one way of reaching it is through the museum. If you haven’t swam in the North Sea before, don’t be surprised that the water is much colder than in the Mediterranean, but you can still swim and have fun.
Sandvik Batteriet is a small hike and great viewpoint, located between the Old Bergen Museum and the city center. The monument of Sandvik Batteriet is located 182 meters above sea level, and it is dedicated to Norway’s national coat of arms with the inscription: “I want to protect my country – the Neutrality Guard 1.8.1914 ” – and at the top – ” 7.6.1905 “.
The area used to be a fortification, but there is nothing left except for that monument after World War II. to hike there you should follow the trail from Sandviken hospital or the north end of Fjellveien. You will arrive at the edge of the mountain from where you will have a breathtaking view of the city.
Another great hike that takes a little bit longer than Sandvik Batteriet is the Stoltzekleiven trail to Sandvikspilen viewpoint and Storvatnet lake. The trail is marked well and most part is covered in stones and steps with railings. You will also go through the forest, see the lakes and streams, and come out on the open hill with breathtaking views of the city.
This is one of the most popular trails in Bergen and it takes about 772 steps to get to the top. In winter or when it rains, it is not recommended to hike here because the trail can be slippery, but on a dry day, it is a moderate hike that can be enjoyed by kids and adults. Although I am not a huge fan of stairs, the view was very enjoyable and worth climbing.
A very picturesque place, I came across this fortress just before the Bryggens Museum. Bergenhus Fortress is one of the oldest fortresses preserved in Norway, and it is a cultural hub where many events are organized, especially in summer. It is a stone fortification of the entrance to Bergen harbor, and it stands out from the rest of the city because of its material and looks.
The oldest part of the fortress dates back to the 1240s, and the newest one is from World War II. In medieval times the fortress was also a royal residence in Bergen. Excavations show that there were some buildings here even earlier than 1100, but there is not enough information on that yet.
Haakon’s Hall is the most photogenic part and you should take photos here because the sun is perfectly falling on the fortress at any time of the day. Inside is the stone hall dating back to the 13th century, built by King Håkon Håkonsson.
The other tower to see is Rosenkrantz Tower, which got its present shape in the 16th century, originally built in the 13th century. Entrance to the museum is free, but it is not always open, because of the events organized by the city. It is best to check in advance if you can go in on the day you are visiting. Even if you can’t enter, the fortress is worth visiting even just for the pictures.
In the middle of the pedestrian area, you will find Bergensgalleriet, an art gallery with contemporary and street art. This is the best place to get familiar with the artists from the Bergen area. Their exhibits are constantly, and they also sell art from local artists.
You can see prints, paintings, photography, and more. The entrance is free, but you can purchase art, and they safely ship around the world. The gallery is easy to find as it is overlooking the harbor, and it is only a few steps away from Starbucks and the Tourist info center. This is not the only gallery in the city, but it is the easiest one to find for first-time visitors.
If you like sea creatures, or if you are traveling with kids, this is a place to put on the list when visiting Bergen. This is the largest aquarium in Norway and its mission is to present and preserve sea life. Here you will learn a lot about sea animals, especially if you book a guided tour or one of the educational programs.
The aquarium was opened in the 1960s and it represents the connection between Norwegians and their sea. They are a sea country that really depends on healthy waters, and they are very dedicated to protecting sea fauna. This urge to preserve nature and to spread the word about Norwegian marine life they call LæreLyst.
Some of the animals you can see here are sea lions, snakes, penguins, and much more. You can see the feedings, you can touch some of the animals, and also sign up for training sessions. Tickets are 300 NOK for adults, and 190 NOK for kids. There is a family ticket too, which includes 2 adults and 2 children for 840 NOK.
Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene
This museum shows the history of German merchants from the Hanseatic League. It is located in the center of Bryggen, in a beautiful historical building, which is best preserved of all the surrounding homes. It is called Finnegården and it was built in the 18th century.
The museum was opened in 1872, with historic artifacts from the Hanseatic period. The Hanseatic League was an influential medieval commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in northern and central Europe. The League started in Germany in the coastal towns but spread across 200 settlements in the 12th century. The league disintegrated in 1669, but the historical artifacts and the culture were left behind.
The museum has an original interior, including furniture, weapons, documents, and other items. Part of the museum is on the other location, assembly rooms and kitchen of Schøtstuene are next to St. Mary’s Church contains additional exhibits about the merchants’ community. Tickets for adults are 130 NOK, and for kids the admission is free.
Mount Fløyen, Fløyfjell
Mount Fløyen is one of the city’s mountains very popular for hiking and weekend trips. The highest point is 400 meters and on top, you will have an incredible view from the viewing platform. You can hike from the city, but you can also use the funicular Fløibanen which can take you to the height of 320 meters. The ride is only 8 minutes long, and after that, you can hike to the top or enjoy nature.
From Fløyfjellet you can continue your hike to higher peaks like Blåmannen, Rundemannen, and Sandviksfjellet. In wintertime, this is a popular sledding destination and a lot of fun for kids. The funicular is 850 meters long and it takes over a million people each year from the city center to the mountain. This scenic ride costs 100 NOK for adults if you buy a return ticket, and 50 NOK if you buy one way. For kids, the ticket is half the price of the adult ticket.
Troldhaugen, Grieg Museum
One of the main reasons for me to visit Bergen was the Grieg Museum. Edvard Grieg’s home is located just a short hike south of the city center, and as everywhere else in Bergen, this is another very scenic path. The house was built in 1885, and it is still very well preserved and represents the composer’s life and work.
Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina lived in the house, but you can also visit the place where he worked, a small hut by the lake. Troldsalen was built later as a chamber music performance hall that can fit 200 people. In the summertime, you can listen to live concerts here. Tickets to the museum are 130 NOK for adults, and kids can enter for free.
Norway is famous for its seafood, and visiting a fish market even if you don’t buy anything is still a tourist attraction. Traditional sea industries are very important in Norway and Bergen has been one of the busiest ports in the country.
The market is located in the city center and you will see many locals buying their favorite food here. The busy market sells fish, shellfish, produce, and handmade souvenirs. The only thing that might be annoying is the smell of the fresh fish which is very strong, so be aware of that.
KODE Museum is one of the largest museums in Norway and the most important museum in Bergen. It displays art, music, and design, but also includes artists’ personal collections, homes, and external buildings in the city center. These buildings have temporary contemporary artists collections, and also permanent collections of some great Norwegian artists like Munch, JC Dahl, and Nikolai Adtrup.
With only one ticket you can see all the museums. KODE 1 houses Paul Cézanne exhibits, KODE 2 shows Arvid Pettersen, KODE 3 has permanent exhibits of Norwegian art history. KODE 4 is currently being renovated. Admission for adults is 150 NOK and for kids entrance is free. The museum has a cafe and a gift shop as well.
Fantoft Stave Church
This stunning architectural marvel was built in Fortun in Sogn in 1150. Later it was moved to Fantoft in 1883. In 1992 the horrible fire destroyed the church completely, but it was rebuilt to its original authentic structure. There were about 1000 stave churches in Norway in the past 800 years, but most of them were replaced with bigger buildings.
The stave churches are named after a specific building style where staves are the central element, same as on ships and choirs. The earliest churches include motifs from Norse mythology, like dragon heads. In the 15th and 16th century they changed and no longer were old motifs included.
To get to the church you can ride on a city bus, go on a guided tour, or drive. The drive is about 20-30 minutes long, but the walk would be too long and I don’t recommend it. Tickets to enter the church for adults are 70 NOK, and 30 for kids.
Seeing Norwegian nature is an incredible experience, and in Bergen, a quick ride from the city center will give you both, nature and spectacular views. There are multiple hiking trails to Mount Ulriken, but you can go to the top of the tallest mountain in Bergen by cable car as well. If you follow the Vidden Trail it will take you about 5 hours to reach the top. This is a perfect trail for experienced hikers.
At the top of the mountain, you will find a restaurant with delicious food. The cable car ride is just 7 minutes long, and the views are amazing from the car. Near the restaurant, there is the fastest zipline in Norway. The zipline is 300 meters long and it is a true adrenaline-busting experience.
Zipline price per person is 300 NOK. Cable car tickets for adults are 195 NOK one-way and 345 NOK return tickets. Kids pay 95 NOK one way, and 145 NOK return tickets. If you instead take a bus, adult tickets are 100 NOK for return and 50 NOK for one-way tickets, and kids pay half price.
University of Bergen Museum
Bergen University is very popular in Norway and many students choose this university over Oslo. Being a university city means a lot of activities for younger people in the city year-round, from live concerts to cultural events, bars, pubs, and restaurants. If you want to see the best places where you can go out in the evening, it is best to ask the locals.
The museum of the University has extensive art, natural, historical, and cultural collections. It includes three official collections: the Natural History Collection, the Cultural History Collection, and the Seafaring Museum. Outdoors you can also visit the gorgeous Botanical Garden that belongs to the University as well.
At The Botanical Garden, you will see the incredible Unicorn Fountain by Gustav Vigeland. You will also enjoy seeing and smelling over 5000 kinds of plants and flowers in the Norwegian Arboretum. A stroll in the park is a perfect escape from a busy city. Tickets to the museum are 150 NOK for adults, and free for children.
VilVite Bergen Science Center
VilVite Bergen Science Center has interactive exhibits interesting to everyone but especially popular among families with kids. This learning science center is not a simple museum, it has a purpose to educate visitors. Even the language barrier is not a problem, and you don’t have to speak Norwegian to enjoy the exhibition.
You can try so many new things, from weather forecasts to driving an oil tanker. Try the virtual reality experience of offshore drilling and see what the biggest industry in Norway is all about. Watch the short documentaries and play with science. Tickets for adults are 190 NOK, and for kids younger than 15 they are 165 NOK on weekends. During the week tickets are a little bit cheaper.
This beautiful building is almost 900 years old, built around 1150, and dedicated to Olav the Holy, Norwegian patron saint. In its turbulent history, the church was damaged several times, mostly by fire, but it was rebuilt every time. In 1640 the current facade was built after one of the huge fires.
The Rococo interior was added by architect Christian Christie in the 1880s, and the newest organ is just over 30 years old. The church can be visited on weekdays in the summer. Off-season churches in Bergen are open only for mass and events, and not for tourists.
About half an hour drive south of Bergen you will find picturesque Lysøen Island where Lysøen mansion and the estate with the museum is located. It was home to the famous Norwegian violinist Ole Bull whose villa is like something taken out of a fairy tale.
The house is located on the island that can be reached by a shuttle boat that leaves from Lysekloster. In the summer KODE museum organizes live music events here, and they are very popular among the locals.
The villa was built in 1873, but the estate that is 7 square kilometers big also has a farmhouse from the 1600s. There are 13 km of trails around the park with picnicking tables and a beautiful gazebo where you can rest, have a snack, or read a book.
Besides the Lysøen Museum which you can visit on a guided tour, you can also explore the ruins of Lyse Abbey (Lysekloster), also known as the Monastery of Lyse. The monastery was founded in 1146 by monks from York, England, and this was the first Cistercian house in Norway.
Gamlehaugen, The Royal Residence
Built in Renaissance style, Gamlehaugen is the royal family’s Bergen residence. The castle is located just outside of Bergen and from the roof you can observe the city and enjoy the gorgeous view. Tourists can visit the castle, climb to the top, see the dungeon, and some other parts of the building. The English garden is open for visitors to explore as well.
Bergen had the largest number of lepers in Europe, and this museum tells the story of that time. You will walk through the building that was its own city within a city at that time. People with leprosy couldn’t mix with healthy people, so they had to live isolated. Tickets for adults are 120 NOK, and for kids are free.
This was not always the royal palace. Originally the castle was purchased by Christian Michelsen in 1898. He was a wealthy shipowner and later the prime minister of Norway. When he died in 1925, the national fundraising campaign was established with a mission to preserve the castle. Then it was acquired by the state and now the royals are taking care of it.
This beautiful building was built in 1899 by the architect Jens Zetlitz Monrad Kielland. He was highly influenced by late medieval architecture. The building is partially a castle and partially a fortress. The park is filled with trees and flowers, and it is one of the most beautiful parts of the estate.
Look for Bergen’s Sculptures
The city has many sculptures which are unique attractions, and you can spend some time looking for them and guessing the meaning behind each. They say that there are more than 100 sculptures just in the city center.
You can find these sculptures in parks, on the buildings, hidden in the alleys. A few of them are located in obvious locations like the statue of Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie located in front of the Museum of Natural History, or one of Ole Bull located on the square that has the same name as the famous violinist.
St Jørgen’s Hospital, The Leprosy Museum
Dating back to the 15th century, St Jørgen’s Hospital was one of the first hospitals in Norway and also one of the rare leprosy hospitals preserved to this day. It is a rare opportunity for visitors to see a hospital from this period, especially a leprosy one, so make sure to fit this museum on your list for Bergen.
The current building is from the 18th century, where Gerhard Armauer Hansen discovered the leprosy bacterium in 1873. The last two patients passed away in 1946. Today this disease is very rare and treatable, thanks to dedicated scientists and medical professionals.
Visiting Norway would not be complete without experiencing the boat tour through the fjords. Many tour operators offer those kinds of tours, and you can choose depending on your budget and the time available. This tour will take you on board a catamaran through the Osterfjord Fjord to see the mountain peaks, waterfalls, and stunning nature.
Sail down the narrow Mostraumen for three hours and enjoy impressive scenery. The audio guide is available in English and Norwegian, as well as drinks and snacks for purchase onboard. Even in summer, it can be cold on the boat so make sure to bring something warm. Also, bring binoculars and cameras to see and capture wildlife sightseeing and natural landscapes.
Bergen is one of those places you should visit in a lifetime. It is not adorable, but it is worth seeing and spending a few days in this historical port surrounded by mountains. Flying there or going by boat is the easiest way to reach the city, but driving through Norway is the best way to see the country and experience the wild nature of the North.
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