Most travelers in the know will tell you that a trip to Norway is a once-in-a-lifetime must. Its wild, unpopulated beauty is incomparably stunning, while its urban life emanates culture, kindness, and forward-thinking.Come feast your eyes on the breathtaking spectacle that is Norway.
If you are making your way out to Norway, chances are that you are going to stop by the country’s second-biggest city, Bergen. Famous for its shopping in the old town district, a rising dining scene (although it’s always pricey to eat out in Norway), and unforgettable outdoor outfitters to appease any wild-eyed travelers’ needs, Bergen is a must-go to an already must-go country.
Unfortunately, Norway is also crazy expensive. The cost of all these activities can quickly add up, and lead to quick subtractions in your bank account. We got the solution to your problem here. here is a curated list of the top 7 free activities to do while in Bergen, so you can enjoy what the city and area has to offer without having to take out that second mortgage. From aesthetic points of interests that require no admission fee to historical attractions, there’s loads to do without breaking the bank.
1. Wander and weave through the alleyways of historic Bergen Bryggen
Bergen’s Bryggen (Norwegian for ‘wharf’) is the most identifiable and historically fascinating section of the city. This Old Town was founded around 1070 and flourished over the next several hundred years due to a profitable fishing industry; that is, until a series of fires burned down the vast majority of the old buildings, with the final fire in 1955, leaving the last remaining structures that are still around today.
The area was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 1979, providing travelers with well-preserved centuries-old wooden buildings to wander in and through, filling the imagination with what it might have been like to live and work in them several hundred years ago.
Although there are a number of fascinating boutique shops and restaurants occupying the internal spaces of the Norwegian wood buildings, the tiny alleyways that crisscross and weave between the structures are a reflection into a bygone era. The sides of the buildings bulge with hundreds of years of history resting on their shoulders (often requiring rudimentary poles just to keep them standing), while the wood itself creaks of memories long gone. It’s a rare opportunity to be able to walk through such old wooden buildings and is an opportunity that should not be missed while in Bergen.
Don't miss out the view at night!
2. Bergenhus Fort - Have a picnic in the ruins of an ancient fort
The Bergenhus Fort dates as far back as the 12th century, although the remaining buildings and ruins most likely originated between the 16th and 19th centuries. Either way, the fort is open to the public and provides a great opportunity to soak in Norway’s past and take advantage of some great views of the harbor. On the property of the fort, tours are offered and there is a museum, with separate fees, but it is totally free to walk around the ramparts and enjoy the beautiful park that has taken over the majority of the inside of the compound.
While walking around, you can see replicas of cannons pointing emphatically into the harbor that has been the lifeline of this area for thousands of years, walk alongside the ruins of walls long gone (walls that presumably housed artillery and soldiers), and marvel at the Rosenkrantz tower which operated as both a dungeon and house for the governor in years past.
Of particular note is the old gothic Haakon’s Hall, which was built in the middle of the 13th century. You can walk around the medieval building, marveling at the ancient architecture. Bring a pack lunch, the park is a lovely area to sit and soak up the fresh Norwegian air.
3. Take a stroll around Festplassen Park
Bergen’s Festplassen Park provides the perfect serene reprieve from your city travels. Situated in the center of the city, the park is a short walk from just about anywhere you might be in town. It’s the perfect place to rest, enjoy a picnic, or just absorb your surroundings.
There are some interesting sights here, including bronze statues that often adorn clothes appropriate for the season, interactive sculptures (including a playable xylophone), and a duck-filled lake. This is a popular place for locals to just hang out, so people-watching can be quite fun as well.
4. Take in the sights (and smells) of Bergen’s famous fish market
Bergen’s Fish Market is one of the largest and most visited markets in the world. It may sound kind of odd, the idea of hanging around a fish market during your travels, and maybe even odder popping up on a list of free things to do in Norway, but it is a fascinating insight into the Norwegian way of life. If you’ve got the time and money, the market itself is a great way to taste the ocean fares that Norway has to offer, but on the more economical side of things to do, show up early, before the market to watch the fishermen bring in their catches.
There’s no character quite like the Norwegian fisherman. Just watching them bring in their haul in the wee hours of the morning is a sight in itself. I highly recommend striking up a conversation with one of these characters, to get a feel of a way of life that has characterized the country for thousands of years (prior to the 20th century, Norway was populated almost solely by small fishing villages). The market does cut back its hours and remain indoors during winter, so to get the full experience, summer is the recommended time of year to visit.
5. Free art in the streets
Why pay expensive admissions to a premium art gallery when some of the best urban art exists in the streets, literally? Europe has had a flourishing street art scene for decades now, and Norway holds its own. To be frank, I was a little impressed—I never considered Bergen to be big in the tagging scene, but there are some well-done pieces all throughout the city. If you weave in and out of the narrow streets and alleyways that jut out of Kong Oscars gate, you’ll see the most prolific and impressive graffiti art in town.
6. Take a stroll through Nordnes Park
Located right beside the Bergen Aquarium is the Nordnes Park, which is open to the public. Take a stroll through the park and enjoy the natural splendor on display.
Nord means North, Nes means Headland!
See if you can spot the Totem pole, a gift from Seattle, Washington, Bergen’s sister city.
7. Hike along the Fjellveien (Mountain Way)
Hailed as one of the easiest hiking paths with its flat incline, the Fjellveien is perfect for stretching your legs and getting out to breath in some fresh air.
The perfect place to walk off the sumptuous lunch.
If you are up for a challenge, the path leads to the top of the Sandviken Mountain (Sandviksfjellet), Mount Floyen, Mount Rundemanen, and Mount Blaamanden. You can always head back when the sun sets in order to take in the sights and sounds of Bergen’s Bryggen at night.
Do Bergen on the cheap - your wallet will thank you!
The city of Bergen will provide you with some of the best travel experiences Norway has to offer; between its picturesque locale nestled in lush mountains, the countless opportunities to take an excursion deep into the famous Norwegian fjords, and one of the best locations to eat, drink, and listen to live music, Bergen has it all. But if you find these things taking their toll on your wallet, don’t worry, there are plenty of free things to do as well. For those who want history and architecture, there’s walking down the alleyways of Bergen’s historic Bryggen area, or for those who are in the mood for something a little more modern, there’s the surprisingly well-done street art throughout the city. And the best part—these things are all free!
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