Things to do in Bergen

Must-see Bergen sights

Bergen is one of Norway’s postcard-perfect cities that puts a visit at the top of any bucket list. It sits on the west coast on the edge of the fjords in between Stavanger and Trondheim, two other popular Norwegian cities.

  1. Enjoy fab Floibanen views
  2. Appreciate Munch at KODE, Art Museums of Bergen
  3. Time travel in Old Bergen
  4. Mooch around Bryggen
  5. Delve into Bergen Aquarium
  6. Dip in and out of the museum cluster
  7. Go shopping at the fish market

Bergen is now the second-biggest city in Norway, but it somehow doesn’t feel like it, what with its relaxed, easygoing centre. With cobbled streets to explore, a lively student scene and set amongst seven rolling hills, you may well find yourself wanting to book a longer trip while browsing Bergen holiday packages.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Enjoy fab Floibanen views

For the best views in Bergen - and the best way to get them - take the Floibanen funicular. It climbs more than 300m in just 8 minutes from the centre to Floyen, high above Bergen. At the top, there are several walking routes to choose from, but if you’ve just come for the views (and if it’s not raining) then stop at one of the restaurants and sit out on the veranda to really soak up the views. You'll eye hundreds of islands, many with small hytter (wooden cabins) and a couple of sailing boats tied to jetties. All around are the mountains and hills that cradle the city.

Best for: Getting a feel of the city’s natural location.

While you’re there: The funicular runs daily, every 15-30 minutes, between 7.30am-11pm.

2. Appreciate Munch at KODE, Art Museums of Bergen

A visit to the KODE, Art Museums and Composer Homes is one of the best things to do in Bergen - and if anything, Norwegians will balk if you tell them you didn’t visit during your time in the city. The museum complex focuses on art, craft and design, with each museum - KODE 1, KODE 2, KODE 3 and KODE 4 offering something different. If you’ve only time to visit one, make it KODE 3, which displays an extensive collection of Norwegian paintings spanning the 18th to early-20th centuries, and includes several prime works by Edvard Munch and beautiful landscapes by Thomas Fearnley and J.C. Dahl.

Best for: Feeling cultured.

While you’re there: It’s not all about the Nordic countries - KODE 1 houses Norway’s largest collection of Chinese art.

3. Time travel in Old Bergen

At Elsesro, past Bergenhus and the North Sea quay, is Old Bergen (Gamle Bergen). This is one of the finest open-air museums in Scandinavia, and while you can only visit as part of a guided tour, you’ll want someone there to tell you all the details, anyway. There’s a collection of 40 wooden buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, with the interiors decorated to show all the different styles. Along the cobbled streets, guides in traditional red calf-length costumes and black shawls lead the tours, which take in the French Empire splendour of the official’s drawing room to the tiny house where the seamstress worked in the 1860s.

Best for: Stepping back in time.

While you’re there: Tours run mid-May to early September, hourly 10am-4pm.

4. Mooch around Bryggen

Bryggen is the most scenic part of Bergen; it’s probably the first images you see when you research your trip. Bryggen’s distinctive, brightly painted wooden buildings line the waterfront; these once housed the city’s merchants, but today they are UNESCO-protected and house shops, restaurants and bars. Although many of the original houses were destroyed in a fire in 1702, they still follow their original design. It’s not just about looking at it from the outside, though - check out the Hanseatic Museum, housed in an 18th-century merchant’s dwelling, and the Bryggens Museum which recreates local medieval life through imaginative exhibitions.

Best for: Picture-perfect views.

While you’re there: It’s a short stroll away from Torget, home to a famous fish market.

5. Delve into Bergen Aquarium

See the sealife from dryland at Bergen Aquarium, perfect if you’re wondering what to do in Bergen if you’re with kids or if it’s a rainy day. Based on the tip of the shoreline, the aquarium is home to the local and international; the majority of species here are Norwegian marine fauna, although there’s also exotic fish from further afield. In the tropical section, see if you can spot snakes, geckos and lesser-known insects; in total, the complex is home to 500 species, 60 aquariums, a shark tunnel and a rare-crocodile cellar.

Best for: Seeing sealife from a safe distance.

While you’re there: There’s a restaurant and gift shop on-site.

6. Dip in and out of the museum cluster

Bergen is a good walking city, and a short walk up Vest Torggate from Torgalmenningen takes you to the top of Sydneshaugen, near the site of a cluster of museums. For things to do in Bergen that also help you understand the city’s background, head first to the Natural History Museum, standing in the lush Botanic Gardens with its tropical greenhouse; next up is the Cultural History Museum, where you can learn more about stave churches and religion in Norway; and round it off with the Maritime Museum, which traces the history of this seafaring area from the Old Norse period to the present day.

Best for: Understanding Bergen from all angles.

While you’re there: The nearby university area has a clutch of beautiful merchants’ vilas from the early-20th century.

7. Go shopping at the fish market

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Torget, an appealing harbourside plaza, is home to Norway’s best fish market. Feast your eyes on the colourful displays of fish and seafood, shop for local smoked salmon, venison salami and cloudberry jam, or grab one of the delicious open sandwiches.

Best for: Gravlaks (cured salmon), lobster and klippfisk (dried cod).

While you’re there: Get there early and join the circle to watch customers chat seriously with fishermen about the day’s catch.

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