It has become a bit of an annual tradition for me and a friend to go and visit our mutual Swedish friend from university. Last year we made a change from our usual trip to Copenhagen and Lund, and went to Stockholm and Gothenburg before heading off to Norway to explore. We spent 5 days in Bergen exploring the natural wonders that Norway has to offer.
It was our first time in Norway, which is rightfully known for its breathtaking landscapes and fjords. We took a coach from Gothenburg to Oslo and had a few hours in the city before getting the 6 hour NSB train to Bergen. It is thought to be one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe. Here are a couple of snapshots of the views we got:
Day 1 -Exploring Bryggen, Bergen’s Charming Old Town
Our first day in Bergen was for exploring the (very wet) city centre and the quaint old town, Bryggen. Bryggen is a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 13th century. Bryggen’s trademark colourful wooden houses were rebuilt in 1702 after being destroyed in a fire. You can walk through some of the historic buildings in the centre of Bergen. Learn more about the history of Bryggen and tour some of the buildings in the Hanseatic Museum.
We also visited the tourist centre, which has plenty of experiences to offer if you want to explore the surrounding fjords or glaciers.
Day 2 – Hiking on Mount Fløyen
Part of what makes Bergen so unique and appealing a destination is that it’s the perfect mix of city and nature. You can have your adventure holiday hiking in mountains only a stones throw from all the bustle and convenience of the city. And with plenty of tours to see the fjords and go glacier hiking, there’s plenty of adventure to choose from.
The city of Bergen is surrounded by 7 mountains: Ulriken, Fløyen, Løvstakken, Damsgårdsfjellet, Sandviksfjellet, Lyderhorn and Rundemanen. Mount Ulriken is the highest of the group at 643 meters and can be reached via cable car. Mount Fløyen is one of the most popular and the one that’s most easily accessible from the city centre. We spent day 2 here exploring and getting lost in nature.
Getting to Mount Fløyen
You can hike up Fløyen, but we opted to take the Fløibanen funicular railway up to the top. The station is located right in the city centre, next to Bryggen. It only takes 6 minutes to get up to the top, stopping a few times in residential areas with pretty houses. The tickets can be bought online or at the station. You can find prices (varies depending on the season) and ticket buying info here. Given Norway is known for being expensive, it’s a lot more reasonable than funicular prices I’ve paid in other places.
When you get to the top, there’s a gift shop, a restaurant and a troll forest (why not, Nordic countries love their trolls). There is also a large observation deck where you can get a great view of Bergen from above depending on the weather. It was pretty wet and cloudy when went but still well worth it. If you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of the 6 famous billy goats (cutely named the Fløyen Boys) that live on the mountain for part of the year! They spend the summer on the mountain and are taken to a nearby island for the winter months.
If you’re visiting Bergen during the season you can hire bikes to explore the forest on top of Fløyen, amongst other activities. You can even go sledding up there in the winter. It was off season when we visited so we just had a bit of a hike through the forest and got lost, making our way back to the funicular just before dark. It was one of the highlights of my trip and a really nice active day out.
Having never visited a Nordic forest before, it was quite magical. I felt like I’d stepped into a fantasy wonderland for the day. Whilst struggling to hike up a particularly steep climb paved with loose stones in my Timberlands (I am not a seasoned hiker if you hadn’t guessed already) I was suddenly joined by a Norwegian hiking group. Speeding ahead like they were on an escalator in their grip-less trainers, encouragingly yelling for me to “Kom Igjen” (“come on”). Albeit peer pressure, it did the trick and I made it to the top of the climb; the views were worth it.
Day 3 – Chill day in the city
The third day was a pretty chilled day wondering around Bergen. We ate a delicious lunch at Pygmalion Økocafe & Galleri, which has veggie & vegan options. This was followed by a drink at a cute little coffee shop, and an essential cinnamon roll at Godt Brød Vestre Torgayten.
We then went to a Bergen International Film Festival showing of ‘Girl’, a Belgian film about a young transgender girl who aspires to be a ballerina, at Bergen Kino. It’s an annual festival running around September/October time every year exhibiting a wide range of documentaries, foreign language films, independent films. The largest festival of its kind in Norway, BIFF was established in 2000 to mark Bergen being the European Capital of Culture.
We finished off the day with ramen and a wander round Bergen Kunsthall, a small modern art gallery that’s open late into the evening.
Day 4 – Fjord Cruise
We went on a fjord cruise today, which meant a very early start and a coach from Bergen bus station to the boarding point. This was followed by a relaxed, scenic cruise through Hardangerfjord, the second largest fjord in Norway. Hardangerfjord is home to the iconic Troltunga cliff, Vøringfossen waterfall and Hardangervidda National Park.
The view was breathtaking…literally. I chose to keep getting out of my cosy seat inside to climb the (dangerously slippery) stairs up to the top of the boat to take pictures and got frozen numb by the wind. It was exhilarating to sail past glaciers and idyllic, colourful Norwegian villages with the wind in your face. I’d never seen landscapes quite like this before. When I wasn’t braving the elements for the gram, there was another, lower observation point or panoramic views from inside the warm ship.
We spent some time at Norsk Naturesenter to learn about the history of region’s people, wildlife and glaciers. The museum visit includes a cinematic video of the region.
After that we made a stop at the stunning Vøringfossen waterfall (an extra we decided to add on when buying the cruise from the tourist centre). It actually started snowing there and my phone died because it was so cold.
There is a long walkway there that’s good for taking pictures. If you’re brave enough, there’s a part of it that overhangs the cliff and has little holes that you can see down to the waterfall below you. The novelty of being in such a beautiful place must have gotten to me because I’m scared of heights (or falling really) and stood over it, snapping pictures of the water thundering down into the cavern below.
Due to a over a year passing and my faulty memory, I can’t remember the exact Fjord tour we booked. I have however found a few different links with various price options for you as guidance if you prefer to book online or review your options.
I found Visit Bergen to have the best array of tours with different price ranges, with fjord tours starting from the equivalent of £37.
https://www.getyourguide.co.uk/bergen-l1132/bergen-sightseeing-fjord-cruise-t224835/ – This seems to be a decent budget option, although based around the city and Bergen Fjord
Norway in a Nutshell – This is a very popular selection of tours but can be on the pricier side and considered overrated by some. The original Norway in a Nutshell tour consists of Flam railway tickets and a cruise along Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. If you opt to go from Oslo, it will also include the scenic train journey from Oslo to Bergen. They do however offer a Hardanger in a nutshell option that is the closest I’ve seen to what we experienced and includes an excursion to Vøringfossen.
Day 5 – Packing up and saying goodbye to Bergen
The last day, before heading home the next morning on an early flight, was dedicated to cleaning our Airbnb, a visit to the science museum, and a nice dinner Asian fusion restaurant Soya with views of Bryggen. This was a lovely way to round off a great 5 days in Bergen and I hope to return in the future!
Notes & Tips
If you’re planning to spend 5 days or more in Bergen, you may need to use public transport whilst you’re there. I recommend downloading the Skyss app, where you can get multiple day tickets on your phone. We made use of this to get transport to the airport on our way back home. It was also useful to get in and out of the centre from our Airbnb, which was a bit further out.
Thank You for Reading!
That’s it for my guide to spending 5 days in Bergen. I’d love to hear your feedback and whether you’ve visited Bergen or if Norway is on your list; let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this you might like my posts about the Ultimate Iceland Winter Bucket-list my summer train journey through the Swiss Alps.