Bergen is a picture-perfect town tucked into a reach of Norway’s iconic fjords. While it can be rainy, it’s still got lots to offer, and we had no trouble filling our 36 hours there. Here’s what we got up to, from fjord cruising to mountain climbing to delicious food, and something special that I have earmarked for next time.
Tour the Old Town
Bergen’s Old Town of Bryggen is built around the harbour and its most notable buildings are the colourful wooden warehouses that stretch along the northern side. These were the province of the Hanseatic League merchants from the fifteenth century, whose territory stretched from Belgium and northern Germany right up the Baltic to Finland. The warehouses were filled with goods and behind them were the merchants’ quarters. We had a wander through the narrow alleys between the buildings, trying not to slip in the wet! Bergen is one of the rainiest spots in Europe, although this has unfortunately not prevented the warehouses from being damaged by fire several times. The current buildings mostly date from around 1702 or later, although they have been rebuilt in the older style. There are cute little craft shops tucked inside lots of the warehouses, with everything from delicate jewellery to carpets – just like the old days!
We also visited the fort and had fun clambering up the steep steps before surveying the town from our vantage point – which was admittedly significantly lower than Fløibanen, our next activity! Looking north-east along the coastline reminded me of Wellington in New Zealand, with houses perched between the steep hills and the sea. Thankfully there were no gale-force winds about!
Ride the Fløibanen into the clouds
Tucked behind the main buildings circling the port is the Fløibanen station for the funicular that ascends Mount Fløyen. Thoroughly modern (unlike its San Sebastian equivalent!) it rises up the side of the mountain in almost no time, glass sides giving glimpses of the view that awaits. Once at the top you can almost reach out to touch the clouds as they speed by. When we caught it, we were escaping a heavy rain storm, and were faintly hopeful that we might get some sort of views a bit later. We retired to the cafe for afternoon tea – it’s important to keep your sugar levels up! – and kept a sharp eye on the scene outside. Sure enough, the rain stopped and the mist began to lift, eventually proceeding to even offer some splashes of sunshine on the town below.
Cruise the Fjords
Our fjord cruise down Ostfjord was only a taster, but I loved the beauty and tranquility of the fjords, which Norway is of course well known for. There are many ways to explore them, from big boats to tiny kayaks, and I would say that it’s a must when you visit Bergen.
Munch on Delicious Seafood
Consider this a specialised ‘Eating My Way Around‘ – but I made sure I had a lot of seafood-based meals in Bergen and was rewarded every time! The highlight was undoubtedly the incredible Norwegian tapas we had at Bryggen Tracteursted – evidenced by the fact that I only managed to snap the above solitary picture during the meal. As we had a larger group, the friendly waitress recommended we order one of ‘most things’ and that is exactly what we proceeded to do. Trays full of fresh and smoked salmon, meats, three types of herring, salad and meatballs swiftly followed, to our absolute delight. A must visit in Bergen!
We also had a quick look around the central fish market, which had loads of lunch options, and enjoyed delicious fresh sushi at Sumo – yum!
Wander Around a Mini Fjord
Bergen’s main streets are by no means jam-packed, but for an extra piece of calm, take a stroll around Lille Lungegård. While you might think it’s your standard gorgeous artificial lake with beautiful flower beds and a nice water feature, in fact it was once part of a fjord that gradually became enclosed as the town developed on all sides. And also very pretty!
Hike into the Hills
Due to the weather and our short stay, we didn’t have time to do one of the many hikes around Bergen, which was a shame. Melanie Fontaine has some great suggestions on her blog after living there, and next time I’ll definitely be pulling on my walking boots to make the most of them!
Be Stunned by the Sunset
I’d like to think all sunsets in Bergen are this incredible – it’s certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen. The golden light made the buildings glow and set the sky afire – magical!
Have you visited Bergen? Would you like to?