Whenever people tell me they want to visit Norway and ask for some tips I tell them to fly into Bergen. I mean, it’s a beautiful city with access to the fjords, so what’s more to ask for?
According to everyone who responded to me: the best things to do in Bergen.
Oh right, if I’m telling everyone to fly to Bergen maybe should be telling them what to actually do while there. Whoops, sorry guys!
So last week I made a special stop in Bergen on my road trip along Norway’s scenic coast to help decide the very best things to do in Norway’s second largest city. And was it as beautiful as I ever? Yes. Did it give me all those warm and fuzzy feelings I love so much? Sort of.
I mean, sure it did (and it also made me feel wet and cold – people do say Bergen is Europe’s rainiest city). But mostly it made me feel a whole lot of hate. Because I get jealous like that. Okay fine, by hate I really mean love. Maybe…
1. Driving through Bergen’s totally confusing tunnels
No, they’re not hard to navigate – in fact Bergen is a really easy city to drive through. But tunnels are meant to be claustrophobic and depressing, so I don’t really get why the tunnels around Bergen all have white walls and dark ceilings that look a whole lot like the night sky.
Are you trying to fool me into thinking I’m driving through a whitewashed Mediterranean town on a dark night instead of deep into a mountainside? Because if you are, Bergen, it’s working.
2. That unpredictable Bergen weather
Just when you grumpily decide that Bergen has the worst weather ever and you should just leave, the sun will poke its head out and locals will magically appear in sundresses carrying picnic baskets. And then it starts to pour again except, hang on a second, because the sun is already back. I can’t keep up with you, Bergen.
3. People in Bergen speak Norwegian like it’s French
Um, Norwegian isn’t supposed to be sexy, stop it! Or at least teach me how, because right now there is nothing attractive about my Norwegian accent.
4. It’s Christmas, always
Um, it’s summer, Bergen, stop making me feel like cozying up with a cup peppermint hot chocolate and a Bing Crosby record, okay?
But seriously, something about all the lit up shops and outdoor cafés with heaters and wooly blankets (because, lol Norway) totally gives me a bit of a Christmastime high. Is it too early to bake krumkaker?
5. Bryggen must be Norwegian for bragging
It’s like Bergen is saying “you think I’m beautiful now, check out how stunning I was hundreds of years ago.” We get it Bergen, you’ve got the pretty genes.
But seriously, you cannot visit Bergen without taking a walk through Bryggen – it’s not allowed!
6. All those cute wooden houses
Excuse me, Bergen, aren’t you supposed to be a city?
I don’t know if it’s all the wooden houses and cobbled streets, the views over the water, or simply all the green grass and trees poking out into the city, but Bergen does not feel like a big city to me at all.
If you’re looking for some good things to do in Bergen, my top pick would actually just be to wander around downtown. It’s so pretty!
And if you really want to get to know the city, consider exploring with a local!
Bergen locals are very proud of their city and I’ll admit my friends from Bergen have shown me how to fall in love with it. So if you really want to get to know the city, consider booking a customizable private tour for a few hours – they’re surprisingly affordable and will give you a unique perspective on Bergen. Click here for prices and availability
7. Forget your favorite chain restaurant or shop
Okay, I’m pretty sure Bergen has all the usual city chains. BUT it also has all sorts of independent shops and restaurants – um didn’t all major cities everywhere do away with those? Get with the program, Bergen.
So instead of paying 5 million kroner for a gross burger at Fridays, I found myself seated at a cute little seaside restaurant digging into a delicious and totally affordable (for Norway – it was 95 kr) plate of fish and chips. So much for that big city experience.
8. It has all the prettiest fjords
So selfish, Bergen.
In a country where fjords and mountains can make getting around a little tricky, Bergen is really lucky. It has an international airport that can welcome you from anywhere in the world, and some of Norway’s most beautiful views are just a short bus ride away. It’s not really fair.
Read more about visiting the fjords from Bergen here
9. Bergen doesn’t even try to be modest
Hello, Bergen, haven’t you heard of janteloven?!
This blog has seen a lot of comments from people telling me that they visited Oslo and were really disappointed. I even recently got an email from someone telling me that they booked a weekend in Trondheim after seeing photos of the city on my blog and they hated it.
Now, Oslo and Trondheim are both great cities well loved by Norwegians, and each has a lot to offer visitors. The problem? They don’t necessarily fit the image of Norway in so many people’s imaginations. Bergen on the other hand, with its towering mountains and views over turquoise fjords, is a total crowd pleaser. It’s almost obnoxiously “Norwegian.”
So if you only have a chance to see one place in Norway, take a trip to Bergen.
10. I don’t live in Bergen
But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.
Guys, you know how this story ends. Once again the 90s teen movie gets life right, because of course the thing I hate most about Bergen is that I just really, really love it and want it in my life forever.
BONUS: Bergen has the best hotels
Okay, I added this one after so many of you asked for my accommodation tips for Bergen. Check out my complete guide to Bergen accommodation here: the best hotels in Bergen for any budget.
Haha before opening this I was trying to think about the things I hated from my year living in Bergen. Weather was obviously number one but I couldn’t think of much else except the pollution problem they have (which is Europe’s worst). I just found it so utterly charming and soooo quintessential Norwegian. I was relieved to see how ironic you were being on here because I could only come up with two things myself lol!
I agree that people go to Oslo and are disappointed. I was when I first visited from Bergen. And then I moved to Oslo and realized that Bergen was perfect for traveling and Oslo was perfect for living for me personally. I rarely tell people to visit Oslo without going to Bergen first 🙂
I have to disagree on Bergensk though- I found it SOO unpleasant on my ears. I think it is because they mash words together. When I finally moved to Oslo and heard the main dialect I remember thinking “Oh my gosh I am actually fluent in the language!!” But I also find Swedish difficult on the ears, so I am probably one of a kind 🙂
Some of my favorite things about Bergen are: fjords fjords fjords, fresh caught fish, hiking opportunities, sitting in a candlelit cafe in the middle of winter with a coffee, watching Varg Veum as they are all filmed there (weird one, I know…but such good crime films), the day trips from there up and down the coast, etc etc etc. I could go on and on. I can’t wait to take my boyfriend there someday. He visited me in Oslo but has no idea there is a whole different world of Norway out there! Maybe we can all meet in Bergen and fly to Svalbard together one of these days 😉
PS: Sorry I always leave stupidly long comments.
“obnoxiously Norwegian” Hahaha, love it! Bergen looks like my kinda place for sure.
I’m rather gutted that we ended up avoiding cities like they were plague-infested on our trip because I feel like I’ve totally missed out. (Chris hates driving the truckcamper into cities).
The thing I most hate about Bergen is that you can no longer sail into it by ferry from Shetland. If you still could then I’d be seeing a heck of a lot of it! Gah! It would be on our winter commute to Swedish Lapland!
Before reading your post, I saw your title and I like ‘Huh, you don’t like Bergen?’ – You little trickster 😉
Your photos are insanely good. I want to know your photography secrets Silvia!
Boy, have you been to Bergen now! I had been wondering…
Brilliant! And I totally didn’t even get the reference until right at the end (doh!), even though I happen to really love that movie, too :P.
You’ve just gone and got me all excited now though, cos I’m going to be visiting Bergen at the end of the year! I can’t wait to walk along those streets, admiring those beautiful buildings, while sipping on peppermint hot chocolate…. *swoon*
So great ! I just discovered your blog and I love your way of writing. Keep it up 🙂
I’ll be reading in from now on as I just moved to Bergen (I’m kind of ‘hating’ it already 😉 )
It’s nice to read through your blog and see how you experienced moving ! Wish I had discovered it earlier !
Beautiful! I’m convinced, time to visit!
Van @ Snow in Tromso says
I was so close to booking a trip to Bergen in December last year but Munich was just way cheaper so we went there instead. Definitely need to visit Bergen though – it seems so much more gorgeous than what I’ve heard everyone in Tromso say about it (“it just rains there all the time” – yeah as if we got a whole lot of sunshine in Tromso…) 😉
I went to Norway in 2010 and Bergen was MY FAVORITE. We went on a fjord tour and went to Oslo. I really loved Norway in general (except you’re not kidding about how expensive it is!) but Bergen was just so awesome! We also went in the spring when they typically have super wet weather and it was just perfect and sunny the entire time. Everyone we met told us we lucked out!
Oooh that’s awesome that you loved it so much! And you were definitely incredibly lucky with the weather – it rained pretty much the entire time I was in Bergen.
Always sunny in Bergen in the spring
I love your article. I’m from Bergen and we bergensere are very proud of our city. And your title had me wonder 😂 but I love the way you write. A very bergensk way 😂😉
I’m flying into Bergen mid March—can’t wait! We’re also planning on driving to Oslo to catch a flight up to Tromso…do you have any recommendations for places to see in between Bergen and Oslo? And will the roads be okay? Any advice is appreciated! 🙂
JEFF EASTMEAD says
I like your website and your articles and writing style. Your photos are amazing. I am from Dallas Texas and have been coming to Norway every year since 2001. I stay often in Bergen as my Norwegian Friends live outside the city in Knarvik and outside Voss in Vinje – Bergen is my favorite City in the world the friendly people, fiords , 7 mountains and Bryggen are the best. I stayed last year at the new Bergen Harbour Hotel for the first time and would recommend it – everyone there is very friendly like family. I agree with all the places you list for Bergen as well. I hope everyone who visits Bergen goes to the local coffee shops, resturants and not the chains.Maybe when I come this year I will see Trondheim one of the few places in Norway I have not been to. Any recommendations what to do there would be great. Thank you
We are going to do a 10 day road trip in Norway in June 2018. Our current plan involves flying into Oslo and then driving to Bergen with a night stop in Geilo.Is the drive from Oslo to Bergen doable in a day with all the scenic stops along the way? If I don’t stay in Geilo for a night, I can spend two nights in Bergen. Thoughts? Thanks!
It’s definitely doable, if you don’t mind really long drives, especially as it will be light pretty much all the time in June. Personally I would make the drive straight through, but if you don’t like long drives or want to make longer stops then you’d be better off breaking it up.
Shree Iyer says
Perfect! It definitely won’t be non-stop for sure because we’ll be taking small breaks to see/do things on the way to Bergen. Thanks for the response. I can’t wait to get started on our Norwegian vacation in June.
You will have finished the road trip by now, but the drive Oslo-Bergen (or Bergen-Oslo in my case) Takes about nine hours or so? I mostly drive to Kristiansand for soccer tournaments and such, which takes about 11 hours over the mountain pass.
Richard Preus says
Thank you for your wonderful notes about Norway!
My wife and I will be touring Norway for 24 days and 23 nights in June and you have been most helpful. I am taking your advice and doing it all by car.
Rental car Stavanger to Trondheim
Stavanger/Ana-Sira – 3 nights
Flam – 4 nights
Bergen – 4 nights
Alseund – 4 nights
Trondheim – 2 nights
Fly Trondheim to Narvik/Harstad
Rental car Narvik/Harstad
Lofoten/Vesterallen – 3 nights
Fly Narvik/Harstad to Oslo
Rental car Oslo
Oslo – 3 nights
You mentioned two roads to take – one south from Stavanger to Ana-Sira and one north from Bergen. When you spoke of them, you referred to them as the coast roads…. but no specific road number.
What roads are you referring to?
Thank you very much,
I’m thinking of taking a Hurtigen ferry trip in July, ending in Bergen, and then I’d have about 4 or 6 days to see Bergen and around and get to my friend’s cottage which is somewhere near Lunner – by public transport I think. Could you suggest an itinerary?
I totally love your blog and am so excited to be leaving for Norway in six days! What a great combo of movie reference and insights on Bergen, got a friend in Oslo who is gonna show me around and so excited to see the land of my ancestors! 🙂