Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city and, quite possibly, its most beautiful, situated between the picturesque Seven Mountains and spectacular fjords. Here’s our guide to making the most of your time there.
In The Morning
Be wowed by the waterfront
Head straight to the brightly coloured wooden buildings that line the iconic harbour front in the medieval port of Bryggen. One of the most-photographed sites in Norway, the area can become crowded later in the day, so this distinctive waterfront is best photographed first and explored afterwards. Once you’ve snapped the perfect photo, take in the narrow alleyways, wooden homes and medieval galleries, then learn more about the city’s 900-year history at the unmissable Hanseatic Museum, housed in one of the oldest wooden buildings in Bergen.
Take in the views from above
Lines can build quickly for the funicular up Mount Fløyen, the most visited of Bergen’s Seven Mountains, so it pays to arrive before lunch. Leaving from a station just 500ft from the heart of Bryggen, the funicular whisks passengers 1,000ft up the mountain in around six minutes for breath-taking panoramic views across the city’s distinct rooftops, surrounding islands and the stunning Bergen fjord. Take a stroll at the top to savour the views or, if you’re feeling active, travel here on Princess’ Mt. Fløien funicular and hike shore excursion, which includes a three-hour guided hike through fairy tale woodland to tranquil Lake Skomakerdiket.
In The Afternoon
Work up an appetite
Roam the Bergen fish market, a jumble of stalls where fishermen have sold their catch since the 13th century. One of Norway’s most-visited outdoor markets, it’s the best spot to sample raw oysters straight from the sea, browse stalls selling everything, from flowers to fruit, and pick up local souvenirs, including hand-painted troll figures, cloudberry jam and an essential Norwegian cheese slicer. Whether you prefer paella, whale steak or a steaming plate of mussels, eating lunch at the fish market itself is a must-do, although it’s certainly not cheap. Choose a stall with tables and the fisherman will cook your lunch as you wait, for an unforgettable feast.
Take a royal tour
Built around 1240, the Bergenhus Fortress is adjacent to the market and was originally a royal palace, when Bergen was still Norway’s capital city. Now one of the most well-preserved medieval buildings in the country, a walk around the fortress takes in the 13th-century Haakon’s Hall, the peaceful grounds now used as a city park, as well as the impressive defensive tower – just be sure to watch your head climbing the very narrow staircases inside.
In The Early Evening
Call in to church
As the oldest building in Bergen, St Mary’s Church is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in all of Norway. Although only open on weekdays, the exterior and courtyard are worth a visit, even if the church itself is closed.
Head to the shops
Stroll further inland to discover a warren of paths lined with charming shops, tiny cafés and stylish boutiques. Pick up locally made knitwear at the award-winning Oleana, jewelry made from gems and crystals, including Norwegian thulite, at Bergen Steinsenter or traditional decorations at the cosy, all-year-round Christmas shop, Julehuset.