Bergen is the charming gateway to the fjords – It’s worth a pit-stop!

bergen guide things to do should i visit how long to stay norway

The city of Bergen was our second stop on our 3 week trip of Norway, visiting for 2 days in summer. This UNESCO world heritage town has history as a fishing and trading village, and it is now the entrance point for many to venture into Norway’s famous fjords. The old town itself is very picturesque, with the colourful wooden houses dotted in a ‘chaotic-but-organized’ fashion up the side of the hill. The chirping of sea gulls serenades you as you wander the cobbled streets. There’s numerous postcard views and Ky definitely took his fair share of photos.

This little guide give insight insight into some of the parts we enjoyed in Bergen. Our brief stop wasn’t enough to ‘see everything’ but in 2 days we definitely got a ‘good feel’ of the town. While we ended up covering a decent amount of ground during our stay, we treated Bergen as our ‘recharge’ before a period of hiking and day trips. Therefore, we passed on a few of the ‘top things to do’ in Bergen due to the time commitment, and the tourists. We hope this little guide helps to inform your travels in Norway, and gives insight into what to do in Bergen.

Enjoy the colourful houses and streets of Bergen

Everywhere you walked in Bergen, especially the old town and nearby suburbs, you find the wooden houses painted vibrant colours, or a crisp white. Additionally, at the entrance way, in the front gardens, or along the streets were an array of beautiful flowers. We were impressed by how many of these houses had flower pots or arrangements. It seemed like a joint approach from all the neighbours to contributed to making the streets as picturesque as possible. Definitely walk the old town, and don’t just stick to the main street. Head up to the pathways above the main street, including some of the prettiest streets in Bergen around Ovre Blekeveien, Weisenbergsmauet, Fjellgaten and more in that area. We also found the street ‘Marken’ to be picturesque, and lined with cute shops and restaurants.

Enjoy the history and uniqueness of the Byrggen

Bryggen is the historic harbour district in Bergen, offering a captivating blend of medieval charm and history. Established in the 12th century, this UNESCO World Heritage site features 62 wooden buildings with narrow passages, showcasing the enduring spirit and rich history of one of Northern Europe’s oldest port cities. The Bryggen buildings have been burnt down by fire and rebuilt many times, and you can see the haphazard nature of these buildings including some where are on angles. While this was one of the most touristic things to do in Bergen, it is worth a walk through. The Bryggen is free to enter, open from 9am-4pm, and filled with little boutiques. Go early to beat the tourist bus crowds. Hot tip: the best view of the Byrggen is actually from the opposite side of the harbour. We recommend you walk around after you have explored to get your ‘postcard photo’ without the tourists.

The Bergen Old Town is charming

Filled with an array of tiny wooden houses, the old town is very picturesque. The town is filled with little boutiques, antiques, coffee shops (see below), restaurants and more. The painted wooden houses that adorn the town and dot the hillside of Bergen can sometimes feel a little too ‘perfect’ to be real. It definitely has a postcard view feel, and as mentioned above, there’s flowers and colour everywhere. However, Bergen was definitely touristic, and if you want to beat some of the tourists, we would advised to wander early, or later in the day. Additionally, heading a few streets up or out from the main town will give you great views, but without as many of the crowds. Wander down the little alleys, venture to the view points, check out the little parks.. there’s not shortage of places to wander in Bergen.

The Coffee in Bergen is great!

We loved a good coffee town, and Bergen is no different. While we didn’t have a chance to try all of the cafe’s in our short stay, here’s a few good coffee shops in Bergen that we recommend based upon our sampling!

  • Det Lille Kaffekompaniet: Located in the heart of the old town down a picturesque street, it’s a must for coffee lovers in Bergen. If the weather permits, aim to sit on the street.
  • Blom: Our favourite coffee in Bergen was this little shop located in the more ‘locals’ area around 10minutes walk from the old town.
  • Kaffemiejonen: Another good coffee in the old town that’s worth checking out!
  • Bergen Coffee Roasters: The one that got away. Highly recommended to us, however it’s 20 minutes walk from the old town, and we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to sample it during this visit.

Enjoy the best views of Bergen:

Bergen is a cute town situated on the fjords, and at the base of the mountains. This means you can easily climb a little bit and get good views, or climb a lot and get excellent views. We checked out a few lovely view points, and there’s a lot more we didn’t get a chance to make it up to during out visit.

  • Mirador Skansen Bataljon: This view point is a 5-10 minute walk through pretty old town streets up to a godo view of Bergen. It’s the best ‘easy to reach’ view in the city.
  • The Harbour opposite Bryggen: Walk around through the fish market and Mathallen to get the best ‘view’ of the historic Bryggen harbour. It’s the best spot for a ‘postcard’ photo.
  • Floyen Panorama: This is one of the best views in Bergen. Reached either with a hike (see below) or the Fløibanen funicular which costs 180NOK and is a unique experience (but gets busy with tourists).

The train from Oslo is incredibly beautiful

Over our travels we’ve grown accustomed to ‘travel days’ that are often long, uneventful and at times a little stressful, but our day spent travelling from Oslo to Bergen was not one of those. In fact, the train ride itself was one of the most picturesque we’re ever experienced (and considered one of the most scenic in the world). The journey takes around 6.5hours leaving from Oslo Central Station, but with such incredible view of rugged cliffs, awe inspiring fjords and cute-as-a-postcard Norwegian townships along the way those 6 hours will practically fly by. Add to this Norwegian trainline punctuality/cleanliness and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a pretty enjoyable commute.

Tips for beating the crowds in Bergen

Be prepared, Bergen is a bit touristic. It’s for a good reason, it’s a beautiful town, and Bergen is close to a lot of great fjord regions. Due to the ability of trains to arrive from Oslo, ferries from the popular Flam, and cruise ships docking, Bergen can be quite busy with tourists during the day. Here are a couple of ways to try and ‘beat the crowds’ in Bergen:

  • Get into town early or late: Summer in Norway has exceptionally long hours, and most tours and tourists don’t enter the town until mid morning, and often leave later afternoon. This presents a few windows of time where the old town is much quieter.
  • Hike to the Floyen Panorama view point: Most of the tourists take the Fløibanen funicular up to the view point. The view is definitely worth checking out, but if you want to avoid paying, and the lines, the 30-45min hike up is a great way to connect with nature and avoid the crowds.
  • Walk beyond the main street/s: Enjoy the calmer streets only one or 2 away from the main roads. A short walk further up, or slightly out, can lead to empty streets, and these a beautiful.

Sample the best local food at Pingvinen

We can only assume that stepping foot inside this gastropub is as close as we could get to visiting a long lost Norwegian aunt for a home cooked meal. The vibe at Pingvinen is homely and warm, while the food itself was tasty and will likely be some of the best we’ll remember from Norway. Being one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, we were overall pleasantly surprised by the prices (with a main meal costing somewhere between 200-400NOK) and the meals themselves were to die for. Most of all the Fiskegrateng or ‘Fish Pie’ which will undoubtedly go down as one of Tess’s favorite travel meals (big call we know!).

Please note: due to our brief stay in Bergen, we didn’t try much more of the food in town. However, we did find an amazing bakery and a good zero waste cafe (see below)

A few other great places to consider eating at in Bergen

While we didn’t get to many other restaurants in our short stay, we did find 2 excellent additions to your list along with Pingvinen (see above) and our cafe recommendations (see above). We found a delightfully cute bakery, Solros, on the edge of the old town, which had some of the best cardomin buns we have ever tried! We also found a budget friendly and zero waste cafe called Råvarene on a cute street that is worth checking out! Try the famous Trekroneren, a local hot dog stall that sells traditional options like reindeer sausage. Mathellen is a upmarket food hall selling primarily fresh seafood which also may be worth checking out. Otherwise, be prepared for expensive food in Bergen.

Want to do more in Bergen?

Hike to the Floyen Panorama: This is a beautiful way to engage with nature, get one of the best Bergen views, and it starts on the edge of the old town. The trail has around 250m of elevation, but the path is very easy. It should take around 30-60 minutes (fitness depending). You can take the Fløibanen funicular one direction and do the hike the other. The views are excellent and there are multiple points along the way to stop, rest and take photos.

The Fløibanen funicular is a popular option to check out, costing around 180NOK return/90NOK one way (see prices here). However, get your tickets early and be prepared for busy tourist crowds.

The Ulriksbanen cable car is a top activity to do in Bergen. Taking you up to the highest of Bergen’s mountains (643m), you will be treated to exceptional views. However, this isn’t located in the main town, and you will need a bus 10-15 minutes to get to the start point. The ticket cost is around 230NOK. We would have loved to do this during our stay, but just ran out of time.

How long should you stay in Bergen?

Bergen, while beautiful, is a tiny town. Sure, there’s things to do (e.g. hikes, history, gondolas, boat tours), but overall we urge you to keep your stay here short. You can ‘see all of Bergen’ in a day, and a 2 day stay would allow you to be relaxed. However, the real beauty of Norway lies on the fjords and small hilltop towns littered in the fjord country not more and a few hours drive away. Spend 1-2 days in Bergen and use it as a gateway to the fjords!

Looking for accommodation in Bergen? Try these options..

Where we stayed: Well rated AirBNB in heart of old town.

A few other options we liked:

Or choose from the map below:


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