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Bergen – so much more than the fjord capital of Norway

Bergen has the second largest population in Norway after the capital, Oslo.

It’s located between two of the country’s most famous fjords (the Sognefjord and the Hardangerfjord), giving it the nickname “Norway’s fjord capital“.

Bergen’s second nickname – “the city of seven hills” – is due to the seven hills surrounding it. Among these is Fløyen, which is known for its funicular railway and panoramic view of the city.

Its third nickname is less flattering: “Norway’s rainiest town“. With over 200 days of rain per year, Bergen is one of the rainiest places in the country. On average, Bergen gets 2.5 meters of rain per year, which is 4 times more than Paris. When we discussed the weather with one of the locals, she had an ambiguous turn of phrase: “You guys are lucky! Getting to experience nice weather in Bergen is like winning at scratch cards. It happens, but only sometimes!” Is this one of the reasons why Bergen is twinned with Seattle – another city with a rainy reputation?

Even though it’s first and foremost known as the starting point for exploring the Norwegian fjords, Bergen is definitely worth a visit for its many landmarks, and most notably for its Hanseatic history.

We were able to enjoy a few sunny days to explore the city, bathed in beautiful Nordic summer light. Here are our favorite discoveries from our trip (some of which are also among Bergen’s must-see sights).

Our favorite discoveries in Bergen

• The harbor and the historical Bryggen

Bryggen, located along the old harbor, is Bergen’s historical neighborhood. From the 14th to the 16th century, the city was a trading post for the Hanseatic league. The docks of Bryggen, which are a UNESCO World Heritage site, are a vestige of that era. The current appearance of the 62 colorful buildings is close to what the neighborhood looked like when was rebuilt in the medieval style, after the fire of 1702. Today, these perfectly maintained wooden houses are home to museums, shops, a hotel, and restaurants (whose outside seating fills up instantly as soon as the sun comes out in summer).

Our recommendations :

Enter by the alley (by the Bellgården passage) that leads through the wooden façades and out to an open square lined with artists’ workshops, cafés, galleries, and little shops.

Walk along the waterfront from Bergenhus fortress towards the open-air market and indoor fish market (“Fisketorget”). After exploring the indoor market, take in the view from the dock (right in front of the market hall), which has a very photogenic perspective of Bryggen and the houses on the hillside in the background.

› Bryggen attracts a large number of visitors. We recommend a morning visit if you want a calmer environment to explore in.

• Fløibanen

The funicular railway (“Fløibanen”) will take you to the top of Mount Fløyen, one of Bergen’s seven hills, in a matter of minutes.

The panoramic terrace (“Fløytrappen”), at an altitude of 320 m above sea level, offers an incomparable view over all of Bergen and the surrounding fjords.

Our recommendations:

Take the funicular to the top and walk back down (wear good shoes) if the trails aren’t too muddy. If you’re fit and sporty, you can also walk to the top.

The funicular railway is one of Bergen’s must-see sights. Book your ticket beforehand on the Fløibanen website to avoid waiting in line. 

› Try spotting the harbor, the fish market, Bryggen, and Bergenhus fortress from the viewing platform…

If you want to see the city from a different point of view, you can also climb the highest hill in town –Mount Ulriken – on foot (if you’re the courageous type), or by cable car.

• The cobbled streets in the old city center

Explore the cobbled streets (start near the Fløibanen ticket office) for a nice, calm walk, away from the most touristy parts of town. This collection of quaint (mostly white) little houses, adorned with flowers and Norwegian flags, makes for a peaceful atmosphere.

Nordnes park

Nordnes public park can be found on a peninsula overlooking port of Bergen. This shaded park is the perfect place for a walk along the water, a swim in the fjord (in the summer), or just a relaxing break. We actually sat on a bench there for a long while, watching the boats sail by through the harbor.

Nordnes park is also home to the Bergen aquarium, as well as a totem pole, which was given as a gift by the city of Seattle for Bergen’s 900th anniversary in 1970.

Ideas for day trips from Bergen

We tried out two excursions from Bergen:

• Explore the Sognefjord

This excursion includes a fjord cruise and a train trip (most notably on the spectacular Flåm railway)

The Sognefjord is about 170 km north of Bergen. At 1308 m deep and 204 km long, this is the deepest and longest fjord in Norway (the second longest in the world).

Sognefjord in a nutshell offers a day-long round trip from Bergen to explore the Sognefjord. Start your day by sailing on the fjord. Watch breathtaking, grand landscapes glide by – little red houses perched on rocky islets, steep cliffs, and crystalline waterfalls.

The cruise will bring you to the charming port of Flåm, nestled at the end of the fjord.

The trip then continues by train, on the legendary Flåm line, which is one of the steepest railway lines in the world. The train twists and turns through spectacular mountain landscapes, stopping for a few minutes at the famous Kjosfossen waterfall.

For the final leg of the trip, you change trains at Myrdal and head back to Bergen.

The round trip can also be made the other way around – starting with the train and ending with the cruise.

› Duration (cruise and train trip): all day

› From mid-May to late September

• Dinner cruise

A high-speed cruise followed by dinner at hotel restaurant on a fishing island

You depart from Bergen harbor in the late afternoon, sailing between the islands dotted along the fjord, out to the fishing village of Bekkjarvik, on the Atlantic coast. Dinner is then served in an elegant hotel restaurant, where the dishes are prepared by the staff of a Norwegian Bocuse d’Or-winning chef. Expect to share your table with other cruise passengers.

After dinner, take a walk around the marina, before getting back on the boat and returning to Bergen as the sun sets.

› Duration (cruise round trip and dinner): 6 hours

› From May to September, Thursday and Friday evenings

14 replies on “Bergen – so much more than the fjord capital of Norway”

Thanks Lyssy! It should definitely go on your bucket list, there’s so much to see! Have you seen our Oslo article as well? It’s Stephanie’s home town, so we know it very well ^^

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This was such a joyous post to read and brought back so many memories of my time in Bergen in 2019. I had many of the same experiences that you have listed here and was also blessed with incredible weather. Bergen is such a gem of Scandinavia!

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