When people hear the word “Norway”, a few images come to mind. Crystal-smooth fjords, majestic mountains and blond Vikings with funny hats. Yet, ask them to name a place in Norway, and Oslo is the answer that comes springing forth. While Oslo may be the capital city of Norway, if Scandinavian culture and natural wonder is what you seek, Bergen is the city for you.
Come rain or shine, winter snow or summer sun, there are always things to do in Bergen, Norway!
1. Hanseatic Museum
So how did Bergen become the rich cultural center of Norway that it is today? We might find some illumination to this question in the Hanseatic Museum.
The Hanseatic Museum focuses on the German merchants from the Hanseatic league who used Bergen as one of their main ports of trade. Their presence in the area from the 14th century till the 18th century helped trade to flourish, and with it came Bergen’s growth into its status as the biggest city in Norway. Although that honour has since passed along to Oslo, there is still much worth learning about the history of Bergen, and the Hanseatic Museum will certainly add to that understanding.
The Museum features artifacts from the time of the Hanseatic League’s occupation in Bergen, as well as several mock-ups of the living situations of these German merchants. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of lives lived long-ago, and emerge to see the rest of Bergen with a deeper perspective.
The Hanseatic Museum
Address: Finnegården 1A, 5003 Bergen, Norway
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday. For 1st June - 31st August, open from 09:00 - 18:00. For 1st September - 30th September, 09:00 - 15:00
Fees: 100 NOK (~13 USD) for Adults, 80 NOK (~10 USD) for Students, free for Children under 16
Website: Hanseatic Museum
2. National Knitting Museum
You’d have a cultural obsession with knitwear if you lived in Northern Europe too. It’s no secret, Norwegians love knitting. They love knit socks, sweaters, gloves, hats, and so on. They love knitting so much that they made a National Knitting Museum.
Here, you will find exhibits walking you through the process of creating the yarn used in knitting, as well as an introduction to the history of the Museum itself, which is situated in an old knitting factory. Rest assured, they don’t just talk about knitting, but also on the production and significance of the textile industry in general in Norway.
If you find yourself longing for a piece of knitwear to call your own, the museum has got you covered. The museum shop sells socks, scarves and sweaters, all made in-house.
National Knitting Industry Museum
Address: Salhusvegen 201, Salhus
Opening Hours: Sunday - Friday. 12:00 - 17:00 Do note that operating hours fluctuate year to year, so be sure to double check on their website before visiting!
Fees: 60 NOK (~8 USD) for Adults, 30 NOK (~ 4 USD) for Students. Free for children under 16.
Website: National Museum of Knitting Industry
3. Old Voss Railway Museum
A summer attraction, the main draw of the Old Voss Railway Museum is its heritage steam railway from Garnes to Midttun. The name “Museum” is a little misleading, as there isn’t much in the way of a set exhibition hall for this particular attraction. Instead, to fully appreciate this attraction, it’s important to know the history of this railway.
This particular set of railway tracks were the first in a set meant to serve in the main train line between Voss and Bergen. It was later upgraded to a wider set of tracks so that it could serve as part of the Bergen-Oslo train line. In the 1960s, an alternative route was found, which made the snaking track from Voss to Bergen unnecessary. It was then retired.
Today, it serves as a tourist attraction, bringing people around the impractical circuitous and undeniably scenic mountains. Once a month, they even offer an exclusive 20th Century style dining service.
Old Voss Steam Railway Museum
Address: You can start your journey from the NSB’s Midttun or Garnes Station
Opening Hours: Only open on Sundays. Train departing from Garnes leaves at 11:30. Train departing from Midttun leaves at 12.30. You can find out more about the dining service by emailing them directly at gvb(at)njk.no, or calling at +47 55 91 77 80.
*Note that this train service only runs from 14th June to 13th September, and timetables change yearly. *
Fees: 180 NOK (~23 USD) for Adult Return, 90 NOK (~11.5 USD) for Children. Children under 4 ride free.
Website: Old Voss Railway Museum
4. Bergenhus Fortress Museum (Bergenhus Festning)
Much like the Old Voss Railway Museum above, the word “Museum” is a bit misleading when it comes to this particular attraction. There is little to nothing in the way of traditional exhibits, so don’t expect neat explanations on white placards here. The fortress is also composed of two main buildings, The Rosenkrantz Tower and King Haakon’s Hall. To get the full experience, it is highly recommended that you join a tour group where you will be fully informed about the history of these buildings. I mean, these buildings have dungeons! What better set-up for learning about a piece of medieval history?
For those who would rather roam the area alone, that is possible too. The only request from the museum authorities would be to remain respectful of the monument, so no excessive noise or disruptive behaviour!
Bergenhus Fortress (Bergenhus Festning)
Address: Vågen, 5003 Bergen, Norway
Opening Hours : Open daily, 06:30 - 23:00
Fees: The Fortress itself is free admission, but the surrounding museums may charge fees. Tours in English are conducted at set times by the museum authorities, for the nominal sum of 20NOK (~2.5USD), and start at 10:00 and 14:00.
Website: Bergenhus Fortress
When in Rome, do as the Romans do! When in Norway, do as the Norwegians do…which means going on at least one hike. The Stoltzekleiven is one of the most popular trails in Bergen, and it’s easy to see why. Despite its challenging steepness, it promises stunning views the higher up you go. Hiking novices fret not, for although this trail is difficult, it is also well-paved and relatively short (> 1 hour).
For a truly Norwegian experience, be sure to bring along an orange and a package of Kvikk Lunsj (a local variation on Kit-Kat) for a short snack at the top. They’re the stereotypical Norwegian hiking fare, so you’ll have something to replenish your energy while resting your tired calves at the top!
Address: Byfjellene, 5003 Bergen (You can find the start of the trail around Fjellveien 13)
6. Mount Fløyen
There are two ways to approach Mount Fløyen. Firstly, you could bundle it together with Stoltzekleiven (above) into one whole day trip. The peak of Mount Fløyen is a 40 minute trek away, and you can refer to the earlier linked website of Stoltzekleiven for directions on how to head to Mount Fløyen.
Alternatively, if you feel that hiking is not for you, you may take the famed Fløibanen funicular up to the peak of Mount Fløyen, where you have an unparalleled view of the city. Adult return tickets are 90 NOK (~11.5 USD), but you may also opt for a single ticket up the mountain and have a leisurely stroll down for half that price.
If it sweetens the deal for you in any way, goats are brought out to graze on the side of the mountain on clear summer days! They are very friendly.
Address: Fløyen, 5014 Bergen, Norway
Website: Mount Fløyen
7. Lille Lungegaardsvanet
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Located just a short walk from the city centre, the Lille Lungegaardsvanet is an octogonal lake surrounded by a sprawl of gardens. Take a slow walk around and admire the various art installations, or simply lie down in the grass and take in the relative serenity of the area.
One good thing to do around here is to roll out a mat with your friends and sit down for an afternoon picnic. Grocery stores nearby offer a relatively affordable selection of produce and ready-to-eat food (smoked Norwegian salmon anyone?), which may be a welcome break from the stifling prices of the restaurants in Bergen.
Address: Lille Lungegårdsvannet, 5016 Bergen, Norway
No article about attractions in Bergen would be complete without at least a mention of Bryggen. This UNESCO World Heritage is, on the surface, just a cluster of brightly-colored wood buildings facing the bay. The value of this attraction, however, lies in its rich history. These buildings have been burnt down and rebuilt several times in the past thousand years, but it has consistently served as a center of trade and craftsmanship.
Remember the German traders from the Hanseatic League we mentioned earlier? They occupied these buildings as center for commercial trade, and this is where they established their offices.
Nowadays, Bryggen is not quite the hub for commercial trade that it was in its heyday. However, it is still home to a strong community of craftsmen and artists. Don’t just come to Bryggen just for its photogenic facade, but venture further in and discover the shops sitting at its base. The goods in these shops range from the typical tourist trinkets (magnets, postcards etc), to the uniquely Norwegian (deer and fox pelts, anyone?)
Address: Bryggen, 5003 Bergen, Norway
9. Bergen Gingerbread Town (Pepperkakebyen)
Every Christmas, Bergen holds the honour of constructing and presenting the world’s biggest and grandest Gingerbread Town. The Gingerbread Town is constructed by the children of Bergen’s kindergartens, all of whom pitch in by creating mini gingerbread structures that are collected and displayed in the Pepperkakebyen. Marvel at the tiny gingerbread men, cars and buildings. Perhaps you might even gain some baking inspiration for your next Christmas celebration!
Bergen Gingerbread Town (Pepperkakebyen)
Address: Teatergaten 37, 5010 Bergen
Opening Hours: Changes from year to year, so be sure to check out their website for more information
Fees: 90 NOK (~11.5 USD) for Adults, 70 NOK (~9 USD) for Students. Free for children under 12, and those who contributed pieces to the village.
10. The Fantoft Stave Church (Fantoft Stavkirke)
There are gorgeous cathedrals and churches to be found all over Europe, so what makes this one special?
The distinction of the Fantoft Stave Church is in its unique architectural style. It cuts an imposing figure, as it is made entirely from dark wood, a defining characteristic of stave churches. Unlike most grand European churches, whose majesty comes from their luxuriant sprawl, the Fantoft Stave Church is attention-grabbing in its compact structure, steeple jabbing upward like an arrowhead.
Move indoors, and you can admire the woodwork on the interior of this church. Simply stunning. Stave churches like these are difficult to find nowadays, which adds to the special nature of the Fantoft Stavkirke.
Fantoft Stave Church (Stavkirke)
Address: Fantoftvegen 38, 5072 Bergen, Norway
Opening Hours: Every Monday - Sunday (10.30 - 18:00), but do note this attraction is only open from 15th May - 15th September, and is closed on 17th May.
Fees: 60 NOK (~8 USD) for Adults, 30 NOK (~4 USD) for Children and Students
Website: Fantoft Stave Church Stavkirke
11. Seafarer's Monument at the Galleriet (Sjømannsmonumentet)
As we’ve mentioned previously, the history of Bergen is tied to its status as a center for maritime trade. Bergen would not be Bergen without the sea. More importantly, Bergen would not be Bergen without its sailors. Hence the presence of the Seafarer’s Monument. This monument is a square fountain located in the center of the Galleriet. Each side depicts sailors in different eras of maritime trade. Originally cast in bronze, the monument’s exposure to the elements has left it quite discoloured, but the artistry of the reliefs still shines through.
You can come down specifically for this monument, or you can simply drop by and take a seat after a long day shopping in the Galleriet.
Seafarer's Monument (Sjømannsmonumentet)
Address: Togallmenningen, Bergen
12. Bergen Fish Market (Fisketorget)
Being a coastal city, it’s only natural that Bergen would have its own Fish Market. It may be no Tsukiji Fish Market, but there’s a charm to this fish market nonetheless. It’s clean, neat and organised in a way that most fish markets are not.
Don’t be fooled by this attraction’s name, there is more than seafood sold here. Depending on the season, you can find vendors hawking fresh produce, cured meats and artisanal fruit jams here too. Some of the seafood stalls also double as eateries, so you can select the exact fish you want and have it cooked on the spot! If there is but one disclaimer to be made here, it would be not to expect cheaper prices on seafood here. Unlike fish markets in many other prices, where you would expect the seafood to be somewhat cheaper than in grocery stores, prices here tend to be a bit marked up as they are targeted towards tourists.
Address: Torget, 5014 Bergen
Opening Hours: Closed every Sunday. Opens 10:00 - 00:00.
Oh, that much-hyped Norwegian natural wonder: the fjord. Pronounced f-yord (the ‘J’ is pronounced like a 'Y’ here, I learned that the embarrassing way). Fjords are not just your typical lake or inland sea, but a specific body of water that is created by glacial melting. The fact that they tend to be located deeply inland and sandwiched between mountains means the water tends to be exceptionally still here.
The result is a beautiful glassy effect, where one can hardly tell the sky from the sea. Western Norway abounds with these mirror-like marvels, so if you’re in Bergen, there is no excuse not to take a fjord cruise and see these for yourself.
Price: from 275 USD
14. Oslo-Bergen Train Line
This activity isn’t, strictly speaking, located in Bergen. However, for those of you who might be travelling into Bergen from out of Europe, this might be a relevant tip for you! Inter-continental flights into Bergen generally feature a transit at Oslo airport anyway, but why coop yourself up in a claustrophobic airplane when you can take a comfortable, scenic train ride instead?
Enter the Oslo-Bergen Train Line. Operated by the Norwegian State Railways (NSB), this train ride has been hailed as one of the most beautiful in Europe, if not the world. A smooth 7 hour ride, we guarantee you won’t be able to take your eyes off the ever-changing landscape flashing past you. Beautiful blue skies, wooded forest and shimmering waterfalls are just a few of the things you might be able to see on this ride.
Of course, in order to see all these things, one has to take the day train, preferably in the lighter months between late Spring and early Fall. If you find yourself travelling to Bergen in winter months, the train ride may not hold as much interest to you, especially if you’re taking it out of daylight hours. If this is you, perhaps it may be of some consolation that this train ride is so lauded that Slow TV dedicated a programme to documenting the entire journey. You can watch the entire 7 hour journey here:
Oslo-Bergen Train Line
Address: You can start your journey from Bergen, Oslo, or any of the several stations in between. Check out their website for more information!
Website: Norwegian State Railway (NSB)
15. Go zip-lining from from Mt. Ulriken
Save yourself the hassle of descending Mt. Ulriken on foot by booking this zip lining experience from Adrenaline Hunter! While there are a lot of ways to get to the top of Mt. Ulriken, there’s only one way down and that’s to race across the twin peaks on this zip lining experience in Bergen mountains! The activity itself is not physically challenging but there’s some sense of reward as you battle your inner fears and finally reaching the end of the 300 meters (0.18 miles) journey. Note that there will be instructors at both ends to ensure you are safely clipped.
Zip-lining from from Mt. Ulriken
Duration: 1 hour
Price: 34 USD
16. Book a helicopter tour
Soar high above some of Norway’s best natural wonders with this incredible helicopter ride! Some of the views you’ll get to see: the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue), and three plateau glaciers in the Hardanger region that comprises the Folgefonna Glacier. The flight will last for about 150 minutes so you’ll get to make the most of it. Just don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the most popular natural landmarks in Norway! Planning to bring your family is a good idea too since the maximum capacity is for 5 people for a total of 450 kg (992 lbs). Opting for this helicopter tour is a great way to enjoy the views while beating the crowd below and at the same time feeling a sense of thrill and excitement!
Ultimate Norway helicopter tour in Bergen
Duration: 2.5 hours
Price: 4843 USD per group
At the end of the day, even if you were to skip all of the attractions we’ve mentioned thus far on this list, this is the one thing you absolutely must do: explore.
Bergen is a gorgeous city all on its own, with its charming cobblestone streets and myriad of little alleys. No guidebook or tour article will be able to cover the entirety of what’s worth seeing in this region, and we often find that the best memories from travelling come when we stray off the beaten track.
Rest assured, Bergen is a remarkably safe city, even at night. Keep your wits about you, but no reason to be paranoid. If you’re truly worried, walk with a few other people! As the Norwegians would say, “God tur!”
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