Bergen is my favorite city to visit in Norway. (I mean Oslo is wonderful but I like the quaintness of Bergen more.) This city is small, historic, filled with great seafood, beautiful decorated, and close to the mountains and fjords so you can get your nature fix easily.
Being a university town, this city had the cheapest food options I saw and in a country as expensive as Norway, that’s pretty important. The only downside to the city is that it rains most of the time so you rarely see the sun.
But don’t let that deter you! The city is spectacular, so much so that I would even consider moving here — something I don’t say about most cities.
This travel guide to visiting Bergen can tell you everything you need to know so you can plan the best trip possible (without breaking the bank).
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Bergen
1. Visit KODE
2. Check out Gamle Bergen
3. Walk through the Arboretum and Botanical Garden at Milde
4. Climb Rosenkrantz Tower
5. Ride the Fløibanen Funicular
Other Things to See and Do in Bergen
1. University Museum
Founded in 1825, the museum covers everything from archaeological artifacts to furniture to folk art. It’s a wonderful place to visit to get situated on the history of the region. Admission is 60 NOK ($6.60 USD) for adults and free for children.
2. Admire Fresco Hall
Painted by local artist Axel Revold in the 1920s, Fresco Hall is comprised of four colorful panels that feature illustrations of each region of the city. There is now a food hall here now so you can grab a bite to eat while you admire the intricate and detailed artwork.
3. Go on a Fjord tour
Nærøyfjorden is a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful fjords in the country. Most tours last a few hours and are a great way to spend a day. You can also tour Hardangerfjord, considered the Queen of the Norwegian Fjords. Expect to pay at least 500 NOK ($55 USD) for a tour, depending on how long it is and where you go.
4. Visit the Bergen Aquarium
For aquatic lovers and families alike, this aquarium offers Europe’s largest seal and penguin exhibits, a highly-extensive marine fauna collection, and one of Europe’s largest collections of fish and invertebrates. If you’re traveling with kids, this is a good place to spend a few educational hours. Admission is 280 NOK ($31 USD) for adults and 190 NOK ($21 USD) for children.
5. Attend the Bergen International Festival
Every year at the end of May, the Bergen International Festival offers a wide array of performing arts like music, opera, ballet, theater, and more. It’s the biggest festival of its kind in all of Scandinavia. Ticket prices vary, though there are discounts for people under 30 as well as seniors and children.
6. See the Folgefonni Glaciers
Just north of Bergen lies the Folgefonni glaciers. They are three separate glaciers that cover over 200 square kilometers. If you’re here in the winter, try to hit the slopes at one of the nearby ski resorts as you get some world-class skiing here. If you want to do a guided glacier hike, expect to pay around 850 NOK ($93.50 USD) per person for a full-day trip.
7. Hang out in Festplassen
This is a recreation park area used for various fairs, amusement parks, feast days, festivals, and more! If you are looking for something engaging, ask the local tourism office if anything is going on. Otherwise, just come to enjoy the scenery — it’s a nice place to relax in the summer with a book.
8. Hike Rundemanen Mountain
This is one of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen and host to some of the most popular hiking trails in the area. The trails here are easy-moderate and usually take between 2-3 hours, with the route to the top of Rundemanen being just 4.5 miles (7.4 kilometers) total. You’ll start the hike from behind Fløyen’s playground and follow the Blåmansveien road on the left. You’ll pass Revurtjernet Lake before arriving at Brushytten, where you’ll want to again take the trail on the left to reach the summit. At the top, you’ll be treated to spectacular views over the Hordaland Mountains, including its alpine lakes and rolling valleys. Other mountains to consider hiking are Brushytten (easy), Lyderhorn (moderate), and Ulriken (challenging).
9. Take a free walking tour
One of the best ways to experience a new city is to take a walking tour. You’ll get to learn about the history and culture from an expert. It’s how I start all my trips to a new city as I get tons of insights that aren’t in the guidebook. Nordic Freedom Tours offers daily tours in English which are a great way to start your trip. (Just remember to tip your guides!)
10. Explore Bryggen
Bryggen (“the dock”) is the historic harbor of the city – this is the area you see in most tourism ads or photography from Bergen. Many of the buildings date back to the 18th century, while some of the original cellars are from the 16th century. Today, the area is lined with colorful pubs and boutique shops selling crafts and handmade souvenirs. You’ll also find the Fish Market and the Bergenhus Fortress here. Spending some time just walking around the narrow passages, galleries, and historic houses is a fun way to spend the afternoon.
11. See the Fish Market
This market dates back to the 13th century and is where you can find all sorts of fish and seafood. It’s more of a tourist attraction now so the prices are a little high. So, while it’s not the best place to eat, it’s still worth exploring and see for yourself. Arrive early to beat the crowds (especially on weekends).
Bergen Travel Costs
Hostel prices – Accommodation in Bergen is not cheap. Hostels start around 235 NOK ($26 USD) per night for a 10-person dorm (there are mostly large dorms here — including 20-person dorms). If you want a private room, prices start at 900 NOK ($99 USD) for a twin or double bed. These prices are pretty consistent year-round. Free Wi-Fi is standard and most hostels also have lockers and self-catering facilities if you want to cook your own food. Of the three hostels in the city, only one offers free breakfast (HI Bergen Hostel Montana).
Additionally, hostels here charge a 50 NOK ($5.50 USD) surcharge for linens (a stupid rule found all over the country). You can bring your own to avoid the fee. FYI, you cannot use a sleeping bag though.
Wild camping is a good budget option as it is legal (and FREE!) to camp almost anywhere in Norway. Norway has ‘Freedom to Roam’ laws (called “Allemannsretten”) that allow anyone to camp anywhere for 1 night as long as it’s not on cultivated late. You’ll need to make sure you are not camping near someone’s house, that you take all trash with you when you leave, and that you aren’t in a farmer’s field or garden. But other than that, you can pretty much pitch your tent anywhere!
If wild camping is not your thing, campgrounds are also common in the region. Many require a Camping Key Europe card which you can purchase at your campsite or online for 150 NOK ($16.50 USD). You can use the online.camping.no website to look for sites around Bergen that use the card, like Lone Camping and Bratland. Most campsites have modern facilities, including toilets and showers. Expect most plots to cost around 200 NOK ($22 USD) per night.
Budget hotel prices – A budget hotel begins around 700 NOK ($77 USD) for a basic double room. For something more comfortable (think 3-star hotel), prices start around 800 NOK ($88 USD). In the off-season, rooms start at 455 NOK ($50 USD) per night.
Shared rooms from sites like Airbnb can be found for around 200 NOK ($22 USD) per night though they are very rare here. A private room costs around 375 NOK ($41 USD) per night while a whole apartment or house costs at least 600 NOK ($66 USD) per night. You’ll have the best luck looking for an entire apartment as those seem to be the most common option.
Food – Food is expensive in Bergen. A lot of food has to be imported so anything that isn’t grown here is going to be pricey. Even street food like hot dogs cost around 25 NOK ($2.75 USD)! You can usually find “cheap” meals for 180 NOK ($20 USD) at an inexpensive restaurant. For a meal at a higher-end restaurant, expect to pay double that.
Beer at the bar costs around 80 NOK ($8.80 USD) though you can get it for less than half that price if you buy it at the store. You can usually find slices of pizza for around 30 NOK ($3.30 USD) and cheap sandwiches at cafes for around 60 NOK ($6.60 USD). For a meal at McDonald’s, expect to pay around 110 NOK ($12 USD).
Grocery shopping here is the cheapest way to eat on a budget. Expect a week’s worth of groceries to cost around 700 NOK ($77 USD) depending on your diet. That includes basic staples like rice, pasta, chicken, and some fruits/veggies.
Backpacking Bergen Suggested Budgets
On a backpacking budget, you should plan to spend between 600-735 NOK ($65-80 USD) per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying at hostel dorm, cooking all your own meals, using public transportation, and participating in free activities like hiking or taking free walking tours. If you wild camp, you can likely lower this by as much as 227 NOK ($25 USD) per day.
On a mid-range of budget of 1,240-1,515 NOK ($135-165 USD) per day, you can stay in budget hotels, eat cheap food, rent a bicycle, and visit some museums.
For a luxury budget of 3,800+ NOK ($420+ USD) per day, you can afford to stay in a four or five-star hotel, hire a rental, do guided tours, and eat out for every meal at nice restaurants. The sky is the limit here!
You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.
Bergen Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Anywhere you go in Norway is going to expensive. Bergen is no exception. There’s more cheap eats thanks to the university here but it still takes work to save money. And you won’t be able to eat or drink out a lot. Here are some tips to save money in Bergen:
- Cook your own food – Food is very, very expensive in Norway so the best thing you can do is it simply make your own meals. Go grocery shopping but skip buying lots of fresh vegetables or whole chicken fillets as they are very expensive. Minced chicken is cheaper. Kiwi and Rema 1000 are the cheapest grocery stores. Avoid eating out!!!
- Eat cheap – If you do decide to eat out, your cheapest options are shawarma and pizza. These meals usually cost under 100 NOK ($11 USD) and can be found all around the country.
- Couchsurf – The best way to avoid expensive hostels is to not stay there. Couchsurf or use Airbnb to rent a room or apartment so you can save your money for what is really important — sightseeing and beer!
- Camp – Free public camping laws allow you to camp in the parks and public lands for free as long as you have your own tent. You can stay for one night in an area as long as you are quiet and respectful. Make sure to leave the area as you found it! If you plan on camping a lot, make sure to get the Camping Key Europe card. It’s 150 NOK ($16.50 USD) and offers discounts to most of Norway’s campgrounds.
- Get the Bergen Card – The best way to afford all the attractions is to get a city tourism card so you can get free entry into all the attractions as well as free transportation. Using the Bergen Card, you can get unlimited travel on public transportation and free or discounted admission to most museums. The card is available in 24, 48, or 72-hour options, with prices set at 280 NOK ($31 USD), 360 NOK ($40 USD), and 430 NOK ($47 USD) respectively. Discounts are available for students, seniors, and children as well.
- Book in advance – If you can plan your transportation in advance, you can save up to 50% off the cost of your train or bus tickets if you plan to visit other cities. Buying last-minute means it’s going to be more than any budget traveler can afford, especially if you want to visit a number of destinations in Norway. Book in advance and save yourself some money!
- Stay sober – At 80 NOK ($9 USD) per drink (often more!), going out will destroy your budget. While the Norwegians love to go out and have a good time, if you are on a tight budget, skip the drinks! Better to save your money for sailing around the fjords.
- Buy your drinks at the store – If you do plan on drinking, buying your drinks at the Vinmonopolet (the state-run chain of stores that sell alcohol). You’ll save 60% or more doing this!
- Travel with friends – If you rent a car to get out of the city (which is the best way to see the surrounding areas) try to find people to join you to share costs. You can use the Couchsurfing app or just ask around in hostels to find people. This can help you save money on gas and rental prices — which can eat into your budget quickly!
Where To Stay in Bergen
Bergen only has a few hostels and they’re all pretty comfortable and sociable. These are my suggested and recommended places to stay in Bergen:
How to Get Around Bergen
Bus – Public transportation in Bergen (as with all of Norway) is efficient, reliable, and clean. Tickets are 38 NOK ($4.18 USD) for a single journey, and you can get a 24-hour pass for 100 NOK ($11 USD). A 7-day pass costs 245 NOK ($27 USD).
You need to buy your ticket in advance. If you don’t, a single-journey price is 60 NOK ($6.60 USD). Use the app Skyss Billett to get your tickets.
Free public transportation is included with the Bergen Card, which can save you money if you plan on seeing a lot of sights. See the Money-Saving Tips section for more details.
If you’re flying in, the airport bus costs 115 NOK ($12.65 USD) each way. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Taxi – Taxis are prohibitively expensive here. Rates start at 80 NOK ($8.80 USD) and are 12 NOK ($1.32 USD) per kilometer. Avoid them as they will devastate your budget!
Uber no longer exists in Norway so taxis are your only choice for short distances after the metro as closed. For longer rides, use sammevei.no. It’s a ride-sharing/carpooling app similar to BlaBlaCar and great for longer journeys.
Bicycle – Cycling is a great way to get around the city as everything is pretty compact and lots of locals bike around as well. You can find rentals for 215 NOK ($24 USD) per day. You can also rent ebikes for 690 NOK ($76 USD) per day.
When to Go to Bergen
The ideal time to visit Bergen is from June to August, when the weather is warm and the days are (really) long. The country is at its liveliest during this time, and you will find locals taking advantage of the good weather at every opportunity. The parks are always full, and there are always fun events happening around town. Temperatures are often in the 20s Celsius (60s and 70s Fahrenheit) during the summer months. Not too hot, but warm enough to swim, hike, and lounge about.
The downside to visiting then is that, since Norway has a very short summer, Bergen can get busy so be sure to book your accommodation in advance. That being said, “busy” in Bergen is a far cry from “busy” in cities like Paris, Berlin, or London (or even Oslo for that matter).
The shoulder season makes for a good time to visit as well. May typically has decent weather with occasional rain, while September gives you cooler temperatures and changing leaves. You’ll beat the crowds and still be able to explore the city on foot without the weather getting in your way (too much).
Attractions begin to close around late September/early October, or at the very least reduce their hours. The days begin to get dark early in October and temperatures start dropping around this time too. However, prices also decrease, and you’re likely to find cheaper airfares and accommodations during this time. Be sure to pack layers if you plan on visiting during this time of year as it can be quite cool — even during the day.
The winter is very cold and sees a lot of snow and darkness. In the depths of the winter, you only get a few hours of light each day and temperatures plummet to below 0ºC (32ºF). The plus side of traveling during the off-season, however, is that you’ll be offered the cheapest accommodations, and fees for certain attractions are lower as well.
This is the prime time to see the northern lights or go skiing, so there is still plenty to do if you plan on visiting during the winter — you just might have to leave the city to make the most out of your trip.
How to Stay Safe in Bergen
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. In fact, it ranks 19th on the ranking of the world’s safest countries! However, in cities like Bergen it’s still good to keep an eye out for pickpockets, especially around the train stations and on public transportation. Problems are virtually non-existent but it never hurts to be aware of your surroundings. Just use common sense and you should be just fine.
Most Norwegians speak some English so you shouldn’t have any language issues in an emergency. That being said, it won’t hurt to download the Norwegian language pack to your phone so you have offline access just in case. Additionally, download an offline map of the city in case you get lost or need to explain directions to a cab driver.
Solo female travelers should feel comfortable traveling alone — even a night — here in Bergen. Taxis are quite safe and crime is rare against solo travelers. But keep your wits up and never travel alone at night if you’ve been drinking.
The tap water in Bergen is safe and clean. There is also no real risk of natural disasters or terrorism here either. Winter storms are about as bad as it gets.
At the end of the day, always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID as well. It never hurts to be prepared!
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Bergen Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
These are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Bergen. They are included here because they consistently find deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Momondo – This is my favorite booking site. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engine which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- Booking.com – The best all-around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have a no money down policy, great interface, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around Sweden, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It gives you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- EatWith – This website allows you to eat home cooked meal with locals. Locals post listings for dinner parties and specialty meals that you can sign up for. There is a fee (everyone sets their own price) but this is a great way to do something different, pick a local’s brain, and make a new friend.
Bergen Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading to Bergen, here are my suggestions for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack for your trip.
The Best Backpack for Bergen
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Bergen
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Bergen Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
This is a deep, reflective, and poignant novel set in the easternmost regions of the country. Written in 2003, the book paints a vivid picture of life after the German occupation, jumping in time to reveal the truth behind the main character’s past and the tragedies that have befallen him. In classic Scandinavian taste, it’s a touch melancholic, but nevertheless a worthwhile read. It won numerous awards and was adapted into a film in 2019.
The World of the Vikings, by Richard Hall
If you’re looking to learn about Norway’s Viking past, The World of the Vikings does a great job of constructing a historical narrative that’s easy to follow without being overly academic or boring. The book focuses on the facts and strips away some of the more romanticized stereotypes of the culture while providing lots of photos and information about the discoveries we’ve used to inform ourselves of the Viking era.
Shadow on the Mountain, by Margi Preus
This is more of a young adult read but it’s an interesting topic inspired by the true adventures of a spy during the Nazi occupation of Norway who just happens to be a teenager. Based on true events, the book captures what live was like during the occupation and how the Norwegian resistance went about its operations on a day to day basis. It’s a quick read yet insightful at the same time.
One of Us, by Åsne Seierstad
in July 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 people and injured over 300 more in what is considered the worst act of terrorism in Norway’s history. One of Us is a powerful, gripping read that paints a portrait of both the killer and his victims. This is one of the most formative events in Norwegian history and comprehending it will go a long way towards helping visitors understand the psyche of modern Norway.
The Snowman, by Jo Nesbo
This dark crime novel is the 7th in a series, however, it can certainly be read on its own. Norway — like much of Scandinavia — loves it gritty crime novels and The Snowman is one of the best. Written in 2007, it’s a suspenseful roller coaster of a novel with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat!
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to Bergen
This book shows you how to easily collect and redeem travel points so you can get free airfare and accommodation.
Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
This book features interviews with dozens of teachers and detailed information on how to land your dream job and make money overseas.
My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel experience.
Bergen Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Norway and continue planning your trip: