Bergen prides itself on being the ‘gateway to the fjords’ and, while there are other ‘gateways’, it’s certainly the most easily accessible option for international travellers. The city receives direct flights from around 40 locations across Europe and is well connected to its airport via handy train and shuttle bus services. Being quite central to the Norwegian fjords region, Bergen is also well positioned for day trips both north and south.
Before you book yourself on that ferry straight to the fjords, it’s worth spending some time getting to know the city. Finding a good place to eat is a great way to start.
From humble beginnings as a trade centre for fishermen, Bergen is now a UNESCO city of gastronomy. The fish market is centrally located at the end of the harbour, and it’s possible to try free samples of the more readily available catches, such as salmon and prawns, before you buy.
The range of high-quality restaurants in Bergen is quite extraordinary, but chefs aren’t the only ones whose creativity has been inspired by the city.
Bergen has spawned internationally renowned musical talent from pianists to DJs. The city hosts a number of annual major music events, including Bergenfest, Nattjazz and the Bergen International Festival, while the philharmonic orchestra performs every Thursday night, usually incorporating the works of Edvard Grieg.
The Bergen Art Museum is one of the largest in Scandinavia and showcases works from famous Norwegian painters such as Edvard Munch. Major sporting events are also frequently hosted in and around the city. It’s no surprise, then, that Bergen has been proclaimed both a European City of Culture and a World Heritage City.
A walk around the busy harbour takes in Bryggen—the old fisherman’s wharf. Built in 1702 following one of the city’s most devastating fires, a row of colourful wonky buildings stands proud as its most recognisable landmark. Venture down the narrow alleyways between them and you’ll get a real sense of what Bergen was like in the Middle Ages. Today, the buildings mainly house boutique stores selling jewellery, pottery and textiles.
Continue past Bryggen away from the city centre and you’ll discover a fortress that was once the seat of the king, while at the other end of Bryggen, the Hanseatic museum provides a glimpse of life behind the facades.
MT FLØYEN FUNICULAR
Immediately behind the harbour, and within five minutes’ walk of the city centre, you can explore steep winding alleyways and beautiful wooden houses with impressively good views. It’s also back here that you’ll find the boarding point for the Mt Fløyen funicular. One of seven mountains that surround the city, this offers panoramic views as well as a range of activities including zip lining.
While Bergen is a wonderful place to explore, its proximity to the fjords means you could barely justify visiting without venturing beyond the boundaries of the city. A round trip from Bergen through the fjords is best planned over several days, but the efficiency of the local transport links makes it possible to take day trips as well. One such trip – a tour of the outer fjords on the Solund postal boat – takes you away from the crowds via some of the most remote and picturesque settlements you will ever visit.
If you’re partial to a bargain, the Bergen Card is a city pass that gives you free or discounted transport, tours, meals and admission to a wide range of attractions.
Feeling inspired? Check out my post 10 Reasons to Visit Western Norway.