Bergen is a city in Southern Norway, on its West coast. It’s often referred to as the gateway to the fjords. This is most definitely true! It’s an ideal place to go if you’re looking to explore Norway’s fjords. It’s also a great place to visit in it’s own right! Want to know more? Come on, let’s take a tour!
Before I start, I didn’t get to visit as much as I would have liked in Bergen due to an exceptionally busy schedule that coincided with my visit. Bergen is quite compact though, so it is possible to see lots in a short space of time! You can also get a Bergen Card that will get you into lots of attractions free of charge and get you good discounts for others!
Bryggen is possibly the most famous part of Bergen. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bryggen consists of lots of wooden buildings that were built originally in the 1200s. They remained there and developed further until a massive fire in the 1700s. They were then rebuilt exactly as they had been and have remained like that ever since. Including the way they lean towards each other down the little streets!
As you wander around, you can soak up a real, unadorned, Norwegian atmosphere. There are shops, some modern, some family businesses that you can visit. I found a great little one just off a square on Bryggestredet that sold leather products made exclusively from moose leather! The owner is an older gentleman who hand makes everything personally in the shop! He is an amazing person who is exceptionally friendly!
You could literally stroll around the area all day and not get bored. It’s quite hard to describe, but there is a wonderful feeling of welcome, warmth (even if it can be freezing cold outside!) and history everywhere you go. It should really be experienced to be believed!
The Floyen is a mountain that is essentially next door to the Bryggen area. It is accessed by two methods. There is a path you can use to climb to the top (400 m above you) if you’re feeling very energetic. If not, you can take a funicular railway (the Floybanen) to the top! The handiest bit is that the station for the funicular is right in the centre of Bergen!
When you get up to the top, there is of course the view to soak up and enjoy. There’s also a few quirky bits, some of which you might miss if you don’t look for them. The large sculpture that is a few bars of music is hard to miss, but this one is my favourite. I only saw it by chance!
There’s a restaurant/cafe up there too, along with a hiking/gift shop too. As you wander around you end up seeing much more than the view you came up to see. There’s a forest to stroll through if you’re into that too. Be careful to stick to the trail though as the weather can turn quickly here.
There’s a pretty well equipped playground behind the restaurant. If you’re lucky, you might also come across a rather friendly herd of goats! How very “Sound of Music” to be high on a hill as a goat herd!
The Ulriken is another viewpoint that overlooks Bergen. It’s set further back from the sea and is higher than the Floyen at a height of 643m. It’s the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. On a clear day, you’d get an amazing view, but sadly by the time I got to it, the weather had begun to close in.
The Ulriken is a little harder to find than the Floyen. I had collected my rental car and when I followed Google Maps, I was initially directed into a residential area. The way to the top is quite cool though. It’s via cable car! Again, there is a restaurant/cafe and a gift shop (all be it a small one) up there.
It is possible to hike from the Floyen to the Ulriken. Keen hikers rather enjoy this route. There are loads of signs up to say it does take over four hours and is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. There are also reminders about the changeability of the weather. I took the next photo in the cable car on the way back down, about 10-15 minutes after the previous one. It is a mere indication of how quickly the weather does change.
The Bergenhus Festning (Fortress) is a fairly big area right down at the end of the Bryggen area. During the day the grounds of this split level site are open to the public and are free to explore. The buildings and museums however tend only to open at weekends most of the year and this increases to the weekdays too in the summer months. As I was visiting in May on a Thursday, they were all closed to the public. I did explore around the buildings and there is good information about them all!
Bergen’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea means that it is a mecca for seafood. Although there are not as many fishing vessels landing their catch directly onto the quays of Bergen any more, there is still a strong fish market in the area. It is well worth a look! There is almost every type of cold water fish you could imagine!
There are outdoor stalls that are a hive of activity, especially in the mornings and a large indoor area that has massive doors and windows that can open out fully if the weather allows. There are also loads of stalls you can get fresh fish meals and snacks at. A word of warning though, many of them use common cooking areas for all their meals, so if you have an allergy, such as shellfish, you would be best advised to avoid most of them.
The quays themselves are also a wonderful spot to stroll around. There are boats of all shapes and sizes, from fishing boats to luxury yachts and everything in between. My favourite time here was at sunset. I was so fortunate that the evening I was there was clear and bright. The sunset was stunning. Something a photo can only begin to pay tribute to.
Bergen is a beautiful spot. It’s a haven for foodies and hikers alike. To appreciate it fully, you would need two or three full days to see it effectively, more if you want to explore a little outside the city. It may be a gateway to Norway’s fjords, but in reality, it is much, much more than that! I stayed in The Hanseatic Hotel (which is two converted buildings in Bryggen). It was amazing, the rooms are luxurious, comfortable and very stylish. Definitely have a look at it if you want to stay right in the heart of Bergen!