For many travelers, Bergen is often nothing more than a convenient stopover on the way to Norway’s famous fjords. However, this ancient coastal city is an unassuming treasure that’s packed with history, culture, cuisine and captivating neighbourhoods that won’t fail to charm. Here are 10 of the best things to do in the beguiling city of Bergen.
The incredibly engrossing and well-designed museum filled with interactive displays is a true find for history, culture and Viking buffs alike. It offers a captivating window into the city’s (and Northern Europe’s) medieval history. Next to the historic Bryggen district, this museum offers an enlivening journey through time. It showcases a vast collection of archaeological finds and artifacts that showcase Bergen’s past. Visitors can check out the amazingly well-preserved remains of medieval buildings, ceramics, tools, and everyday objects that once belonged to the city’s residents.
Yes, it’s true that Bryggen is on every must-do list of Bergen but there’s a reason for its popularity. Bergen is one of the oldest port cities in northern Europe and the charm of its historic Bryggen Wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage site, can’t be overstated. The waterfront is lined with bright wooden buildings dating back to the Hanseatic period (14th to the mid-16th century). While certainly touristy, it’s equally atmospheric and interesting, and the scenic backdrop of the surrounding mountains adds an enchanting dimension to this historic jewel.
Fløyen and the Fløibanen funicular
Not only is Bergen blessed with a photogenic harbor, it’s also surrounded by no less than seven mountains. Make your way to the top of one of them — Mount Fløyen — via the Fløibanen funicular and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping panoramas that will take your breath away. There are also easily walkable hiking trails, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant at the summit.
There are really two fish markets in Bergen. Just steps apart, each one has its own unique personality and offerings. The indoor fish market is conveniently located under the (incredibly helpful and informative) Bergen tourist center and is open all year long, whereas the outdoor one is closed during the winter. Whichever one you frequent you’ll find the freshest seafood imaginable. As one vendor said, “anything fresher than this is still swimming!” Definitely try the salmon, king crab, and other local specialties.
While the fish market gets all the press, the city also boasts a vibrant seasonal farmers’ market (check tourist office for details about opening hours) that captures the essence of Bergen’s rich culinary heritage. Set near the outdoor fish market, you’ll find a tantalizing selection of local meat, produce and traditional Norwegian fare like freshly caught seafood, plump berries, artisanal cheeses, and homemade preserves. You’ll also find some hand-made crafts as well. Be sure to try a delicious lapper (a Norwegian pancake) with jam.
When in Bergen, you’ll be tempted to stay near the waterfront or head to the mountain tops to do some hiking, but do yourself a favor and set aside at least half a day to wander in and out of Bergen’s labyrinthine streets, where every corner unveils hidden surprises. While there’s no end of lovely areas, if Bergen ever had a contest for the most charming neighborhood, Nordnes would likely be the undisputed winner. This evocative, centuries-old residential area is filled with quaint wooden houses and pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets that wind there way along a peninsula that extends into the Bergen harbor.
KODE Art Museums is a collection of four distinct art museums in the city center, along with three famous composer’s residences – Troldhaugen, Siljustøl, and Lysøen, located just outside Bergen. This extraordinary ensemble is one of the largest art and cultural collections in Northern Europe. Visitors will discover an extensive array of Norwegian and international artworks, spanning various genres and historical periods, including works of renowned artists like Edvard Munch, Nikolai Astrup, and J.C. Dahl, to name a few.
Hotel Bergen Børs, a splendid historical gem, is a quintessential Bergen destination where tradition meets modernity. Located in a spectacular former stock exchange building, this hotel seamlessly combines the grandeur of the past with contemporary comfort. Notably, it’s home to two exceptional dining experiences that you should try. At FRESCOHALLEN, you can relish all-day dining in a setting adorned with breathtaking frescos by Axel Revold. The restaurant and bar concept, opened in May 2022, has rapidly become a Bergen hotspot. And for an exquisite culinary adventure, visit BARE Restaurant, where Nordic and Japanese ingredients are skillfully combined, with an emphasis on locally sourced seafood and exclusive ingredients like Wagyu beef and Sturgeon caviar.
Engen Restaurant highlights Bergen’s commitment to gastronomic excellence. Set within a charming historic building, it offers a unique dining experience that seamlessly blends tradition with innovation. Engen Restaurant is known for its focus on using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, which result in a menu that reflects the very essence of Norwegian cuisine. Guests can savor a delectable array of dishes, from freshly caught seafood to mouthwatering meat options, all expertly prepared and beautifully presented. (Whatever you do, request a side of creamed corn. Trust me. It was the best corn dish I’ve ever tasted.)
Hotel Norge by Scandic is a luxurious hotel located in central Bergen. It features an elegant Scandinavian aesthetic and a welcoming ambiance. Rooms come complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, many of which offer lovely views of Byparken city park. The hotel also houses a first-rate spa and a pool. The award-winning Nova restaurant is renowned for serving one of the city’s most exceptional and varied breakfasts. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, you’ll want to treat yourself to breakfast here at least once.