28 November 2022
A city for lovers of all things beautiful
Situated on the southwestern coast of Norway, Bergen is best known for its easy access to some of the country’s most dramatic landscapes, including a picturesque harbour, lush hills, and rugged coastline dotted with charming islands. At 445 km², Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, but despite its size, the place is home to less than 300,000 people, so look forward to escaping the crowds that plague other European cities! Whether you’re a lover of art or a thrill seeker, Bergen’s incredible diversity of landscapes - both natural and man made - offers up an abundance of things to do. Whether you choose to spend an afternoon hiking Mount Ulriken or explore KODE’s art galleries, it doesn’t take long to see why so many have found inspiration and soul-stirring gratification in this incredible city.
With 200 days of rainfall per year, Bergen is one of the rainiest cities in Europe - and proud to be! Despite the rain, Bergen manages to be an incredibly lively student city, where super hip rainwear reigns supreme. City-dwellers in Bergen are no strangers to indoor fun, resulting in a thriving arts and culture scene. Pass the time at one of the city’s many top-notch museums, hunt for street art, book a ticket to hear one of the world’s oldest orchestras, or search for your own muse on a bike ride to the countryside villa of Norway’s most famous composer, Edvard Grieg.
This is a city made for outdoor enthusiasts and lovers of all things beautiful - whether that’s art or nature. So, if that sounds like you, Bergen is the place to go!
What makes Bergen, Bergen?
1. It's the Seven Hills City
Known as the city of seven mountains, Bergen embodies all things beautiful. Set along the banks of the fjord-laden west coast of Norway, and surrounded by towering mountains, Bergen is straight out of a fairy tale. This is a place where natural beauty thrives, filled with hiking trails that offer jaw-dropping scenic views over the city, harbour and surrounding fjords.
With seven mountains to choose from, hikers are spoiled for choice in Bergen. Forming part of the city’s stunning backdrop, Fløyen Mountain is perhaps the easiest to visit from downtown Bergen. Simply take the Fløibanen funicular from the city centre to travel 320m up to the top of the mountain. From there, enjoy hiking trails that span the mountaintop, explore the lake on a canoe or simply hike the trail back to downtown Bergen.
At 643 metres high, Ulriken stands proudly as the region’s tallest mountain. One of Bergen’s best-known features, you can easily access the top using the gondol to take in spectacular views over Bergen. If you’re in the mood for a challenge, check out the local favourite: Vidden. Spanning between Fløyen and Ulriken across a mountain plateau, this is a 6-hour hike that requires proper hiking gear and food. It’s an incredible way to take in all that Bergen’s mountains have to offer.
Fun fact: Bergen is known as the city of the seven mountains, but locals argue which seven they are, for the city is surrounded by peaks. It was playwright Ludvig Holberg who gave the city its nickname, after being inspired by the seven hills of Rome.
2. It’s the gateway to the fjords
Perfectly situated between the two biggest fjords in Norway, the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord, Bergen is the best starting point from which to experience the most magnificent fjord landscapes. Narrow fjords, glaciers, lush mountain scenery, beautiful islands and spectacular waterfalls make this place a real dream come true. One look at the incredible vistas Bergen has to offer make it clear why this place is so lovingly named the heart of the fjords.
Take a journey to Nærøyfjorden - the wildest and most beautiful branch of the Sognefjord. Voted the world’s most unspoiled tourist destination by National Geographic, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to sheer, snow-topped mountains, waterfalls and idyllic farms clinging to the mountainsides. At 17km long and with its narrowest point being only 250m wide, the passage through Nærøyfjord is one of the most dramatic fjord trips in Europe. Steep mountains tower over the fjord, cut through with hanging valleys and cascading waterfalls, making this fjord perhaps the most outstanding natural attraction in Norway.
Adrenaline junkies will have a blast exploring the Hardangerfjord fjord region - where beauty and thrills come together for the most incredible experiences. Prepare for jaw-dropping sights as you venture out on the Norwegian Scenic Route Hardangervidda, which will take you to some truly impressive vistas. This is a place whose beauty is too immense to capture; you need to see, feel, and smell it for yourself. Discover the Vøringsfossen waterfall as you step out on a viewpoint that hangs above one of the deepest canyons in Norway. Feel the power of the cascading water, as the rushing sound drowns out everything else and the mist sprays your face. Challenge yourself to some world-class hikes, including the challenging ascent to the top of Trolltunga - a 10-14km uphill stretch up to the mountain’s peak, where you’ll find the most incredible vistas. Test your bravery with a glacial hike across the mighty Folgefonna, led by the skilled Folgefonni Glacier Team. Enjoy the unique sight of mystical blue ice underfoot and the turquoise fjord that seems to stretch to the edge of the world as you soak up some knowledge about the natural forces responsible for the deep crevasses and changes in the glacier.
Fun fact: Ranging between 250m and 1km wide, the Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe
3. The colourful wooden architecture
If there’s one thing Bergen is known for, it’s the city’s incredible architectural jewels, scattered amongst rows and rows of colourful wooden houses with triangular gables, cobbled streets and flowers everywhere. This is a place whose architectural heritage is unlike anything else you’ll find in the Nordics. The beauty and romance of Bergen stands unparalleled and almost every street corner unveils a new treasure.
Take in Bergen's train station, which dates back to 1913. Designed according to the popular Northern European trends of the time, the station mixes a more heavyset Medieval-inspired style with the modernist jugendstil (Art Nouveau). The result is a main hall where the heavy stone walls are offset by the elegant roof and glass windows which show off the station’s most precious asset: its view to the mountains.
Perhaps Bergen’s most beautiful buildings, the Bryggen waterfront dates back as far as 1070. Once the centre of the Hanseatic League’s trading, Bryggen has a somewhat dejected history of numerous fires that has seen the buildings decay over the centuries. But years of careful restoration have earned it the proud status of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and today Bergen’s Bryggen is as picturesque as ever.
Discover the magnificent Holmefjordboden, one of the city’s protected buildings and the blueprint for many of Bergen’s quayside buildings. Rising dramatically out of the water, its image reflected on the surface, Holmefjordboden’s huge doors open out straight onto the water - a throwback to a time when this was one of the most important fish storehouses in the city. Back then, buildings had to be close to the water so that their huge doors could open straight onto the boats that would ship the goods onwards. An incredible work of timber architecture, Holmefjordboden served to keep fish from the North Sea dry while it matured. Today, it stands as a reminder of Bergen’s exporting history.
Fun fact: As surprising as it may be, the seemingly small city of Bergen was the largest in all of the Nordic countries for centuries - all the way up until the 1830s!
4. It’s famous for its great nightlife
Bergen is lucky enough to boast not just immense natural beauty, but a diversity of entertainment including a large number of bars, clubs, and after-dark revelry. This culturally vibrant city boasts an incredible underground music scene, with some of Norway's most beloved musicians coming from Bergen. Bergen nightlife has something for everyone, but if you’re wondering where to go, here are some of our top picks:
Apollon: Choose from a number of local beers or sip on a coffee while perusing one of Norway's oldest record stores. Here, you can find everything from metal to classic rock, in every formate from CDs to vinyl. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a live show!
Dyvekes Vinkjeller: If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, this wine bar has a nice outdoor terrace that both visitors and locals love in the months with warmer weather in Norway. Away from the tourist crowds, this makes for a wonderfully charming night out, featuring a medieval-looking wine cellar year-round and very cozy and historic basement from the 1300s—don't miss going downstairs!
Fincken: If you’re wondering about the LGBTQ+ scene in Bergen, we’ve got exactly the place. Going strong since 1992, this is the oldest gay bar in Bergen. Enjoy themed evenings like tropical reggae, diva nights and hip hop nights at this lively bar with friendly staff. The venue is open Wednesday through Saturday, but make sure to check what the age limit is before you head out - it varies depending on the day!
Magic Ice Bar: For a once-in-a-lifetime nightlife experience, check out this ice art gallery featuring sculptures made from ice and snow, music, and LED lights. The staff will provide a winter poncho and gloves to keep warm, and you will receive a free drink on arrival, served in an ice glass. All ages are welcome.
No Stress: If you’re looking for a relaxed cocktail bar, away from the booming music and club atmosphere - don’t stress. Located right in the heart of Bergen, this cosy bar offers a large variety of drinks. Check out some of their more unique menu items, including chilli cocktails!
Good to know: 61 buildings in Bryggen are a part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
5. It’s artsy!
As a country, Norway is a must-see destination for street art, with Bergen undoubtedly placed at the centre of the conversation. The city is home to high-caliber pieces from top artists like Dolk, AFK, and TEG, who pop up constantly in Skostredet, Nygårdshøyden, and around Sentralbadet, a public swimming pool that is being rebuilt into a culture centre.
Bergen is known for its artistic strength. Among others the city has been the home of famous composers such as the classical composers Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull. In modern times Bergen is proud to be the birth town of the musical giants, Alan Walker and Kygo.
Check out KODE - one of the largest art, craft, design and music museums in all of Scandinavia, spread out through the city of Bergen in traditional exhibition spaces (KODE 1, 2, 3 and 4) and in the homes of three Norwegian composers, including Troldhaugen, the late-19th century home of composer Edvard Grieg. Here visitors can tour the composer’s villa, which include Grieg’s “composer’s hut” where he worked on his music, the Troldsalen performance space and the gravesite of Edvard and his wife Nina.
The KODE collections house nearly 50,000 objects ranging from paintings and sketches to videos and musical instruments, and each exhibition space offers an entirely different experience. If you’re running short on time, be sure to check out what’s on in each space so that you can choose where to spend your time.
Fun fact: Edvard Grieg spent his adult life composing music from his home at Troldhaugen (now a popular museum). Kygo grew up in the same neighbourhood. Although a hundred years apart, both have been inspired by the view of the idyllic Nordåsvannet Lake when creating music.
Good to know
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. While incidents in Bergen are incredibly rare, 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.
Women travelling alone should feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).
If you go hiking, always bring water and sunscreen. Be sure to check the weather before you go as well.
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.
Organised scams aren’t common in Bergen, however, if you’re worried about getting ripped off you can read about common travel scams to avoid here.
If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for police, 110 for fire, and 113 for ambulance services.
Cash is NOT King in Norway, so make sure to bring your card with you!
Unless a shop proudly displays the word ‘søndagsåpent’, it will likely be closed on a Sunday!
Bergen is an incredibly vibrant city that is home to, not just the most beautiful natural sights (which I’m a total sucker for!), but also a charming art scene to rival even Berlin’s! Away from the crowds of other artsy cities like Berlin, Bergen offers all the artistic inspiration with none of the stress.