Walking through the peaceful, quaint neighbourhoods of Bergen can make it difficult to remember that you’re living in the 21st century. This lovely city on the west coast of Norway is surrounded by seven mountains and the tributary waters of the North Sea. No matter where you go, there is always something magnificent to look at and many things to do in Bergen.
History suggests that Bergen may have started as a trading post somewhere in the early eleventh century. However, tradition says King Olav Kyrre founded the city in 1070. Regardless of which account you believe, the city was the capital of Norway during the thirteenth century and, by the eighteenth century, was one of the most influential trading posts in the country.
Today’s Bergen is known around the world for aquaculture and its petroleum industry. It is also a major player in tourism, shipping, and finance. You might want to visit Bergen as a single destination or take a Scandinavian cruise that includes the city as one of its ports of call. You’ll find plenty of things to do in Bergen regardless of how long you stay.
Ride to the top of Mount Fløien
One of the most popular things to do in Bergen is to take the Funicular cable car to the top of Mount Fløien. From the top, you will get a view of the city and surrounding region like none other. Both up and back you’ll have the pleasure of riding in the only cable car of its kind in Scandinavia. Cars run every 30 minutes from 7.30am to 10am, then every 15 minutes until 7pm. Between 7pm and closing at 11pm, they are back down to 30 minutes. The cable car runs daily from 2 January through until 30 December, only closed on the last two days of the year. Prices vary according to the season.
Meander Through Old Town
Once you have seen Bergen from the top of Mount Fløien, you’ll want to meander through the neighbourhoods of Old Town. Work your way through narrow alleys that double as residential streets winding around in so many directions. Make a few turns and you will find yourself in a small shopping district consisting of all kinds of family-run operations. You can roam by yourself or take one of the many professionally guided tours running in the area. If you go it alone, it’s free.
Check out the Hanseatic Museum
Norway is a country that is rich in history, and no city may be richer than Bergen. The Hanseatic Museum offers a guided tour through the city’s Hanseatic history complete with information explaining the region’s Danish influence, the unique dialect of Norwegian spoken in Bergen, and the great fire of 1702 that destroyed almost every building in town. Incidentally, the Hanseatic Museum was built out of the rubble of that fire. Admission is NOK 70.00 for adults 16 and over, everyone else is free. The museum is open daily from May through September and Tuesday through Sunday the rest of the year.
Visit the Bergenhus Fortress
If you like medieval castles, there are a few of them to visit when looking for things to do in Bergen. The first one I recommend is Bergenhus Fortress. This impressive structure has existed in some form since the mid-thirteenth century. It is located right at the entrance of the city, and it’s one of the oldest and best-preserved castles and the country. The castle complex consists of multiple buildings, including the impressive Haakon’s Hall and Rosenkrantz Tower. The castle is open to the public daily from 6.30am until 11pm. Prices vary according to the season.
The Fish Market Is Incredible
If you are looking for tasty things to do in Bergen and you like seafood, you absolutely must stop by the city’s Fish Market. The best day to be there is Saturday (because that’s when the locals join the tourists), but any day is a good day. The Fish Market is an outdoor venue right in the middle of the city between the mountains and the fjords. You will find all sorts of fish, oysters, crabs and shrimp. And if you’re not a fan of fish, no worries. There are also booths selling fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, and hand-crafted items made by the locals. You might even find a local painter willing to do your portrait. The market is open daily from 7am until 8pm. However, winter weather does affect operating hours.
Shop at the Bryggen
The Bryggen is a series of old wooden buildings on the city’s waterfront that may have originally been built as warehouses. They have been transformed and re-purposed multiple times over the centuries; today most of them are individual shops, restaurants and galleries. This neighbourhood is so important to the history of Bergen, and Norway, that it is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is another one of those things to do in Bergen that is absolutely free if you just want to walk around and admire the buildings. Of course, you can also shop.
Get Your Science On
Visiting a science museum may not be something you normally do on holiday but make an exception when you visit Bergen. The VilVite Bergen Science Centre is one of the most exciting venues of its kind in Europe. It is full of hands-on exhibits, including the incredible G-Force ride that will spin you around and teach you about centrifugal force at the same time. The museum includes 3D films and exciting science shows, a Project Fantasy for kids, and a number of interactive exhibits that will teach you things about science you never knew. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 9am to 3pm and 10am to 5pm on weekends. It is closed on Monday.
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- Bergen by Night: I, Pssmidi [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Funicular: By Svein-Magne Tunli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29898595
- Bergen Old Town: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bushmonkey10443
- Hanseatic Museum: By Nina Aldin Thune (no:Bilde:Hanseat.mus.jpg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Bergenhus Fortress: By Concierge.2C (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 no (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/no/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Bergen Fish Market: By PrevinNK at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
- Bryggen: By Flickr user: Jenni Douglas Edinburgh, Scotland, UK http://www.flickr.com/people/jenni40947/ [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
- Science Museum: Av SinWin – Eget verk, Offentlig eiendom, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2927831