Last Updated: 2/22/23 | February 22nd, 2023
Though home to only 220,000 people, there’s a surprising amount of things to see and do in this tiny city. You can easily spend days here hiking its natural surroundings, relaxing on a fjord cruise, eating fresh seafood, and learning about its long history. I stayed three days during my visit and felt I could have stayed longer. It’s pretty, historic, and filled with a lot of tasty food options.
Bergen is a pretty big tourist destination in Norway so you sadly won’t have this city to yourself (but “busy” in Norway is a far cry from busy in London, Paris, or even Oslo).
To help you make the most of your trip, here is my list of the best things to do in Bergen:
1. Take a Free Walking Tour
The first thing I do whenever I arrive in a new place is to take a free walking tour. They’re the best way to get the lay of the land, see the main sights, and meet a local expert who can answer all my questions.
Nordic Freedom Tours organizes regular tours in English and Spanish. It covers all the highlights and will introduce you to the city. Just make sure to tip your guide at the end!
2. See the Fish Market
The Bergen Fish Market dates back to the 13th century. For centuries, it’s been the hub for local fishermen to sell their fresh fish and seafood. Fishermen from surrounding areas used to row in for the market and then paddle home the same day, and traditionally some even sold the day’s catch right from their boats. These days the market is on land, but it is still the ideal place to purchase fresh seafood as well as local berries, fruits, and veggies. The indoor section of the market began in 2012 and is open year-round (the outdoor market opens on May 1 for the summer).
If you’re looking to sample some local delicacies, there are also lots of restaurants and food stalls. Just make sure you budget yourself, as prices range from 130 NOK for an appetizer to around 290 NOK for a main dish.
Torget 5. Open Monday-Thursday from 10am-10pm, Friday-Saturday from 10am-11pm, and Sundays from 12am-9pm.
3. Visit the Maritime Museum
Bergen has depended heavily on maritime trade since its inception in the 11th century. You can spend an afternoon at this museum learning about the city’s maritime history, which spans over 2,000 years. Founded in 1914, it is one of the oldest specialized museums in Norway. The building itself is made from stone and glass with a stunning architectural design and is an easy walk from the city center. The exhibitions include full-size ships, paintings, films, artifacts, original maps, and some cannons from the 18th century.
The highlight here is the Kvalsund boat, an old Viking longship that dates to the 8th century. It was excavated in 1920. There’s also an original Halsnøy boat that dates back to somewhere between 390 and 535 CE.
Haakon Sheteligs plass 15, +47 55 54 96 00, sjofartsmuseum.museumvest.no/english/. Open June-August: Monday-Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 11am-4pm. September-May: daily 11am-3pm. Admission is 150 NOK. You can take a guided tour of the museum in English during the summer.
4. Wander Bryggen
Bryggen is the old wharf and is home to over 60 narrow, brightly colored wooden boathouses. From the 14th through the 16th centuries, Bryggen was the main hub for the Hanseatic League, a powerful merchant guild from central and northern Europe. Fun fact: its office is the only original building that’s still standing (the rest have been rebuilt in the same style).
Today, these buildings are used by various restaurants, tourist offices, and hotels. Though fires have ruined a lot of the original buildings, the area is still a beautiful place to wander. You can learn about the history of the wharf at the Bryggen Museum and the Hanseatic Museum (more on that below).
5. Explore the Botanical Garden
Bergen’s Botanical Garden was established in 1996 and covers 17 acres. It’s a nice place to grab some fresh air and relax with a book. With over 5,000 species of plants, it’s home to Norway’s largest collection of roses, as well as the largest collection of rhododendrons in Scandinavia. There are also different sections, like the Sunny Meadow (home to summer annuals), a traditional Japanese garden, and the Alpine Garden, with all kinds of alpine plants from around the world.
Mildevegen 240, +47 55 58 72 50, uib.no/arboretet. The garden is open 24 hours and admission is free.
6. Hike Mount Ulriken
Located just a few kilometers outside the city, Mount Ulriken stands 643 meters (2,100 feet) high and is the tallest of the seven mountains near Bergen. If you’re not feeling up for a hike to the top, you can take the cable car, which takes about eight minutes and costs 345 NOK round trip. At the top, you’ll get spectacular sweeping views of Bergen and the sea. There are some shorter hikes (2-3 hours long) up there as well.
If you enjoy an adrenaline rush, you can speed down the mountain on Norway’s fastest zipline. It opened in 2016 and is 300 meters long (984 feet). You need to book tickets in advance though. Tickets cost 490 NOK.
7. Explore Pepperkakebyen
The Gingerbread City, open in November and December, is the world’s biggest annual gingerbread festival. It started in 1991 and now includes over 2,000 volunteers, bakers, businesses, and schools. It is made up of hundreds of gingerbread houses, trains, cars, and ships made to resemble a wintry night scene in Bergen. If you’re here during the holiday season, don’t miss it!
Teatergaten 30-2, +47 55 55 39 39, pepperkakebyen.org. Open from mid-November until December 31. Admission is 150 NOK for adults and free for children under 12.
8. Visit KODE
The KODE Museum is one of the largest in Scandinavia for music, contemporary art, furniture, videos, historical artifacts, and crafts. It showcases a wide variety of over 40,000 objects that date back to the 1800s. The museum is located in four buildings; visitors can also visit the homes of three famous Norwegian composers (Edvard Grieg, Harald Sæverud, and Ole Bull).
Head over to KODE 1 to see the Silver Treasure, a permanent exhibition of centuries-old gold and silver objects. For temporary exhibitions and Bergen’s largest art bookstore, check out KODE 2. KODE 3, which opened in 1924, is home to works from Edvard Munch, who painted The Scream.
Rasmus Meyers allé 9, +47 53 00 97 04, kodebergen.no. Open Tuesday–Sunday (hours vary per season). Admission is 150 NOK.
9. See Bergenhus Fortress
Next to the Bergen Harbor is an imposing stone fort called the Bergenhus Fortress. It dates back to the 1260s and is one of the oldest fortresses in Norway. It encompasses Rosenkrantz Tower, a fortified tower that dates to the 16th century, and Haakon’s Hall, a former royal residence from the 13th century.
Unfortunately, a fire destroyed Haakon’s Hall and all of the interior decorations in 1944, so it is now decorated with tapestries and is mainly used for concerts and banquets. The Rosenkrantz Tower was the residence of Eirik Magnusson, the last king to hold court in Bergen. Make sure you climb the narrow stairs to the top of the tower, where you’ll get an impressive view of the surrounding area.
5003 Bergen, +47 55 54 63 87. Admission is free.
10. Visit the Leprosy Museum
Leprosy ran rampant in Europe between 1850 and 1900. With three leprosy hospitals, Bergen had the greatest concentration of lepers in all of Europe. This eye-opening museum is located inside St. George’s. Its archives belong to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme. You can take an educational tour to learn about the history, symptoms, and treatment of leprosy, as well as what the conditions were like in the hospitals during the outbreak.
Kong Oscars gate 59, +47 481 62 678. Open May–August. Admission is 140 NOK.
11. Take a Fjord Cruise
This is a spectacular way to view the fjords up close and take a relaxing break from the city. There are several different fjords around Bergen, so you can choose a tour that suits your budget and timing. The cruise to Mostraumen runs year-round and takes you deep into the Osterfjord along the Mostraumen strait. You’ll see towering mountains, sparkling waterfalls, and you might even spot seals and eagles!
You can also take a fjord cruise to Sognefjord (Norway’s longest fjord) to get up close to the gorgeous valleys and gigantic peaks. Expect to pay anywhere from 700 to 2,000 NOK per person.
12. Visit the Hanseatic Museum
One of the city’s best attractions in the historic neighborhood of Bryggen, this museum teaches visitors about the German Merchants who were members of The Hanseatic League. Created by German merchant communities throughout Europe, this economic alliance played a major role in commercial activity and trade from the 13th-15th centuries. On a visit to the museum, you can stroll through exhibits that showcase how these powerful medieval merchants lived in Bergen, trading huge amounts of fish and grain. The museum opened in 1872 and expanded in 1938 to include the assembly halls that were used by The Hanseatic League during the winter for hot meals, classrooms, courtrooms, and community gatherings.
Øvregaten 50, +47 53 00 61 10, hanseatiskemuseum.museumvest.no. Tours run daily from 11am-5pm from May-September. Closed weekdays during the winter. Tickets cost 150 NOK.
13. Ride the Funicular to Mount Fløyen
Mount Fløyen offers some of the most amazing views of Bergen and the surrounding landscapes and you can get there by riding the Fløibanen funicular. The base of the funicular is located in the city center, making it easily accessible. The funicular ride takes you from town to the top of the mountain in about 12 minutes, and once you are up there you can visit the small café with a patio that offers views of the town and the Norwegian Sea. Stroll around the terraced steps and watch for mountain goats grazing while you take in the incredible scenery. There are also some hiking trails that lead to the other seven mountains surrounding Bergen.
The funicular runs from 7:30am-11pm during the summer season from May-September. Hours vary slightly during the winter months. Round-trip tickets cost 120 NOK.
14. Explore the Old Bergen Museum
Located a few minutes outside of the city, this open-air museum features 55 wooden houses that date back to the 18th century. Actors wander throughout the cobblestone streets of this recreated village giving visitors a glimpse of what life was like in Bergen during the 1800s.
You’ll feel as though you’ve wandered back in time as you meet with servants, merchants, and lords while exploring the historic buildings. The museum is also an excellent example of historic preservation as each building was relocated and rescued from demolition (they are actually historic buildings, not replicas). There’s also a picturesque English park surrounding the mini village that offers a retreat-like setting to spend an afternoon.
Elsesro, Nyhavnsveien 4, +47 55 30 80 34, bymuseet.no/museum/gamle-bergen-museum. Open May-October. Hours vary depending on the season. Tickets cost 140 NOK.
Even though Bergen can be an expensive destination to visit, there are plenty of free and budget-friendly activities here to keep you busy. It’s a popular destination but it lives up to its reputation. I loved my visit to Bergen. I suspect you will too!
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