Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City?

In this destination trip report, we will visit the city of Bergen in Norway.

Arrival

After a long day of flying from Baku, Azerbaijan I finally arrived back in the country where I began this epic trip: Norway. It was close to midnight when I finally arrived at my hotel for the next two nights.

Being tired after three consecutive flights from Baku to Paris, Paris to Amsterdam, and finally Amsterdam to Bergen, I decided to sleep in immediately in order to be fit the following day for a full day of sightseeing around town.

Exploring Bergen

Unfortunately, the weather was lousy I woke up in the early morning the next day, with dark clouds looming in the sky and sleet falling down. I had no choice but to dress up warmly in my winter jacket and to set off regardless as I only had a single day to explore the city.

Bergen has a long history. It was once as a very important trade port and part of the Hanseatic League, bringing wealth and money to the Norwegian shores. For many years, the city was more important than Oslo, which only overtook Bergen in population size during the 1830s.

Bergen is still considered as one of Norway’s most important city’s, being an important centre for shipping, finance, industry, the offshore petroleum industry and of course tourism. The local university also brings lots of life and culture into the city.

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Cold and cloudy weather over the Bryggen waterfront of Bergen. ©Paliparan

Bryggen

The most historic area of Bergen is Bryggen, which translates to ‘the docks’. This is the area in which you can find the old Hanseatic trade houses and wharves where sailors and merchants from all over Europe mingled and where most commerce took place.

Goods were stored here too, in particular stockfish from Northern Norway before it was shipped off to destinations elsewhere in Europe. In return, the Hanseatic League’s merchants brought goods like cereal to Bergen as throughout history Norway has never been a large breadbasket (the lack of farmland is even considered as one of the major reasons why the Vikings set off on their raids and conquests).

The wharf area of Bryggen makes for an unique place to wander around and it is no surprise that it has been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

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The Bryggen waterfront. ©Paliparan
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Exploring the backstreets of Bryggen with its lovely wooden houses. ©Paliparan
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The old Hanseatic quarter of Bryggen. ©Paliparan
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Exploring the wooden houses of Bryggen. ©Paliparan
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Exploring the wooden houses of Bryggen. ©Paliparan

Fortress

Next to the wharf area overlooking the entrance of the harbour are the remnants of a stone fortress which guarded the city. Called the Bergenhus, the castle is one of the best preserved stone fortifications in all of Norway.

It’s masterpiece is Haakon’s Hall, a Medieval stone hall which was the centerpiece of the fortress. It was used as a royal hall when King Haakon ruled over Norway in the 13th Century, using Bergen as its capital.

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Haakon’s Hall at the Bergenhus Fortress. ©Paliparan

Harbour

Being a major Norwegian port, it is of course great fun to stroll around the harbour of Bergen and to watch the ships. The waterfront is lined with several (expensive) souvenir shops and restaurants.

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Walking around Bergen’s waterfront. ©Paliparan
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Bergen waterfront. ©Paliparan
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Walking around the cobblestoned streets of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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Enjoying a coffee and a pastry in a cafe to warm up again. ©Paliparan

City centre

After a quick stop in a cafe to warm up with some coffee and a cinnamon pastry, I ventured out again and walked in the direction of the commercial city centre of Bergen The streets in this part of town are lined with shops and department stores catering more to the locals than to tourists.

Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city with a population of 278,121 inhabitants. Even though this might not seem like a lot to people from other countries, Bergen does ‘feel’ quite a bit larger than its population alone suggests. Being an important regional hub and an education and business centre, the city definitely has a big town feel to it and has all the shops and facilities you might need.

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The city centre of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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The city centre of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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Disused railway tracks of the old tram network. ©Paliparan
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Church tower with thick fog rolling down the mountains. ©Paliparan
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A small park in the city centre of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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West Norway Museum of Decorative Art. ©Paliparan
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Bergen city centre. ©Paliparan
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Walking towards the Johanneskirken (St. John’s Church). ©Paliparan
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The red-brick Johanneskirken (St. John’s Church). ©Paliparan
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A view over the city centre from the Johanneskirken. ©Paliparan

Bergen old town

Perhaps the nicest part of Bergen is the old town area of Vågsbunnen and the hillside residential area located directly behind it. This area is full of gorgeous wooden houses and twisty cobblestone streets sneaking up onto Fløyen Mountain. The higher you get, the better the views over Bergen become.

It is well worth to just randomly wander through these atmospheric streets and to soak up the vibe. There are a couple of inviting cafes in this part of town too.

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Walking through the old town of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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Vågsbunnen. ©Paliparan
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How cute are these wooden houses! ©Paliparan
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From Våggsbunnen, the residential area sneaks up on Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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The higher you get, the better the views over Bergen become. ©Paliparan
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View over the city centre and harbour of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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Weird house on the top of the hill. ©Paliparan
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Twisty Vetrlidsallmenningen street. ©Paliparan
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Some people decided to give the trees sweaters for the cold Norwegian winter! ©Paliparan

Lunch

After the beautiful walk through this lovely part of Bergen I headed back down towards the waterfront. As it was around lunchtime and I was getting quite peckish, I went to the fish market for some dinner.

Unfortunately it being highly expensive Norway, you need a second mortgage to pay for some fresh fish or seafood, with the cheapest dishes starting at around 50 EUR. One fish market restaurants however advertised a fish soup for a more reasonable 12 EUR, which turned out to be a tasty choice.

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After a great walk through the old town of Bergen, I headed back to the waterfront. ©Paliparan
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The Bergen fish market ©Paliparan
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A bowl of fish soup for lunch. ©Paliparan

Blue skies

When I left the fish market I was in for a big surprise. The clouds had almost completely disappeared and the lousy, rainy weather has given way to beautiful blue skies. Talk about Norway having an unpredictable sea climate!

Just like my time in the Norwegian city of Stavanger about a month earlier at the start of the trip, I was again reminded that in a single day in Norway you can experience all four seasons of the year.

Even though I loved the foggy views of the mountains and the grey winter skies did have some appeal, the colours of the wooden houses just look so much better when the sun is shining.

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After lunch, the clouds and cold weather seemed to have instantly disappeared, giving way to beautiful clear skies. ©Paliparan
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Bergen harbour. ©Paliparan
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The Bergen waterfront in the afternoon sunshine. ©Paliparan
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The wooden houses of the Bryggen waterfront. ©Paliparan
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The colourful wooden facades of the Bryggen waterfront. ©Paliparan

Fløyen funicular

One of the biggest tourist draws in Bergen is the funicular railway which brings you to the top of Mount Fløyen. As I was already planning to take the Fløibanen funicular railway up the mountain, I could not be more happy with the change of weather.

On the top of the mountain, there are sweeping views over Bergen and the surrounding area from the viewing platform located 320 metres (1,050ft) above sea level.

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The Fløibanen, which has been in operation since 1918, takes you from sea level to an altitude of 320 metres (1,050ft). ©Paliparan
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The Fløibanen funicular railway. ©Paliparan
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The viewing platform on top of Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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View from Mount Fløyen over Bergen and the surrounding fjords. ©Paliparan

Hiking

At the top of Mount Fløyen you can find a cafe, restaurant and souvenir shop – and many tourists do not venture beyond the immediate area around the mountaintop funicular station.

The funicular is however not only used by tourists but is also immensely popular with locals who embark from the mountaintop station on hikes through the nature or it being winter, on a cross country skiing tour.

There are several paths leading from the mountaintop station through the forest. Whether you embark on a long hike lasting a full day, or just plan to walk around for an hour or so, Mount Fløyen certainly is a nice escape from the city.

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At the top of the Fløibanen is a cafe and restaurant, which is also the starting point of several hiking paths through the nature. ©Paliparan
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Looking down from Mount Fløyen over the Bergen suburbs. ©Paliparan
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From the mountaintop funicular station, you can make some beautiful hikes through the forest. ©Paliparan
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Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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Hiking on Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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Hiking on Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan

Witch

On the mountaintop, some prankster apparently started a joke by placing quirky signs of a witch on some trees. When I encountered the first I thought it was a bit odd, but after looking carefully I could see at least three or four more such similar signs I started to appreciate the running gag.

If anyone know if there might be an unusual story behind these signs, please drop a line and leave a comment below as I’m highly curious about the backstory.

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A witch sign on Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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Another witch sign on Mount Fløyen. ©Paliparan
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A prankster clearly seems to have started a running gag about some witch, placing signs all over Mount Fløyen! ©Paliparan

Back down the mountain

After I took the funicular railway back down, I spend the rest of the sunlight hours aimlessly wandering around town a bit more and just soaking up the unique atmosphere and scenery.

In one street, I encountered a quirky restaurant (Roll & Rock American Diner) which had a yellow American taxi put on display in the street. As prices seemed to be relatively fair for Norway, I opted to head inside for dinner.

The restaurant had the feel of an authentic American diner, with yet another great oldtimer placed right inside the building. The hamburger which I ordered tasted great, as did the local craft beer to wash it all away.

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After the hike on Mount Fløyen, I spent the last bits of sunlight walking a bit more around Bergen to soak up the vibe. ©Paliparan
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Walking on the cobblestoned streets of Bergen. ©Paliparan
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Catching the last bits of sunlight of the day at the Bergen waterfront. ©Paliparan
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An American yellow cab and an authentic diner is not something you expect in Bergen. ©Paliparan
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The hamburger and local IPA tasted great. ©Paliparan

First Hotel Marin

After visiting a supermarket to buy a beer or two as nightcap for in the hotel, I headed back to the First Hotel Marin where I stayed for the duration of my Bergen city trip.

To give a short review of the hotel: I had mixed feelings after my stay. While I don’t have any major complaints, I found the room to be on the small side and the interior a bit dated. The double bed felt extremely narrow too.

That said, the room was clean, I found the hotel staff to be very friendly and helpful, and the breakfast buffet was actually quite good. There were plenty of available options to choose from, ranging from the typical continental breakfast spreads, cold cuts and pastries to eggs and sausages for an English breakfast and even a proper waffle making machine.

Also the location of the First Hotel Marin is absolutely unbeatable as it smack bang in the middle of the city centre. For a mid-range hotel, it is quite a decent choice, although on a future trip I might instead opt for the Clarion or for a bit more upmarket hotel like the Radisson.

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My double room at the First Hotel Marin in Bergen. ©Paliparan
Full English breakfast at the First Hotel Marin. ©Paliparan

In short

Bergen is considered to be Norway’s most beautiful city and that reputation is fully deserved. With its cute wooden houses and lovely setting on a fjord surrounded by forested mountains, it sure has a scenic location too.

There is plenty to see in Bergen and you can certainly get a good grasp of the major sights and vibe of the city in a full day, although arguably two days gives you time to do everything at a more leisurely pace.

Needless to say, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Bryggen area stemming back to the times of the Hanseatic League is a must see. That said, Bergen is certainly not a city just for sightseeing only. What I liked most was to get lost in the cobblestoned streets between the wooden houses of the old town and admiring the scenic views.

Taking the Fløibanen funicular up to Mount Fløyen is therefore also a must-do activity, as the views from the top viewing platform over the city and fjords are gorgeous. As there are some great hiking and skiing opportunities on Fløyen too, it makes for a great little escape from the hustle and bustle of the city below.

Bergen therefore is a must-add destination on any Norwegian itinerary and makes a nice stand-alone city trip too if you seek a fun destination for a weekend break away.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘Siberian Shuffle – A Crazy Winter Trip Around Eurasia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Oslo Sandefjord Torp (Airbus A321)
2. A Day in the Norwegian Capital of Oslo
3. Review: Norwegian Railways Night Train Oslo-Stavanger in a Private Sleeper
4. Review: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Stavanger
5. Stavanger – A Great Norwegian City Trip Surprise
6. Review: North Sea Lounge Stavanger Airport
7. Review: KLM Cityhopper Business Class Stavanger to Amsterdam (Embraer RJ-175)
8. Guide to the Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands
9. Review: KLM Crown Lounge (Schengen) Amsterdam Airport
10. Review: Air France Business Class Amsterdam to Paris (Airbus A319)
11. Review: ‘Salon Paris’ Business Class Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2C
12. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Paris to Moscow (Airbus A320)
13. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Lounge Moscow Sheremetyevo
14. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Moscow to Irkutsk (Boeing 737-800)
15. Review: Matreshka Hotel, Irkutsk
16. Irkutsk Trip Report: Exploring the ‘Paris of Siberia’ in Winter
17. Review: Mayak Hotel, Listvyanka (Lake Baikal)
18. A Winter Trip to the Frozen Wonderland of Lake Baikal
19. Review: Ibis Irkutsk Center Hotel, Irkutsk
20. Review: Domestic Business Class Lounge Irkutsk Airport
21. Review: Aeroflot Domestic Business Class Irkutsk to Moscow (Boeing 737-800)
22. Review: Pushkin Hotel, Moscow
23. A 24 Hour Stopover in the Russian Capital of Moscow
24. Review: ‘Moscow’ and ‘Jazz’ Business Lounges Moscow Sheremetyevo Terminal D
25. Review: Aeroflot Business Class Moscow to Paris (Airbus A320)
26. Review: TAROM Business Class Paris to Bucharest (Airbus A318)
27. Review: TAROM Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
28. Review: Air France Business Class Bucharest to Paris (Airbus A320)
29. A Short Overnight Stopover in Paris
30. Review: Sheltair Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2D
31. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Paris to Baku (Airbus A320)
32. Review: Old City Hotel and Apartments, Baku, Azerbaijan 
33. Destination Baku: An Intriguing Mix Between Old and New
34. Guide: Train Travel in Azerbaijan
35. Sheki: Azerbaijan’s Most Lovely Town and Springboard to the Caucasus
36. Must Be the Ganja! A Visit to the City of Ganja in Azerbaijan
37. Review: Shah Palace Hotel, Baku, Azerbaijan
38. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Lounge Baku Airport
39. Review: Azerbaijan Airlines Business Class Baku to Paris (Airbus A320)
40. Review: Air France Business Lounge Paris CDG Terminal 2F
41. Review: KLM Business Class Paris to Amsterdam (Boeing 737)
42. Review: KLM Business Class (Boeing 737) Amsterdam to Bergen
43. Blissful Bergen – Is It Really Norway’s Most Beautiful City? (current chapter)
44. Review: Bergen to Oslo on a Norwegian Intercity Train (Bergensbanen Railway)
45. The Flamsbana Railway – From the Myrdal Mountains to the Fjord at Flam
46. Review: SAS Economy Class Oslo to Brussels (Boeing 737-600)
47. Review: Diamond Lounge Brussels Airport Pier B Non-Schengen
48. Review: TAROM Economy Class Brussels to Bucharest (Boeing 737-800)

Koen

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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