Some places stay with you for eternity, others for just a moment—I’m happy to say that Bergen, Norway falls into the former category for me. Let’s face it — it’s a magical place.
I remember arriving in Bergen late one evening in June and walking along its harbor toward my hotel to find the sun still quite a ways from setting. The light belied the hour of the day; the warm mood of people contradicted the profound chill my Texan skin felt in the air.
While it’s true, in hindsight, that my instant love for Bergen was as much to do with its beauty as the fact that it wasn’t stifling and gray like Oslo, Europe’s supposedly wettest city is a constant source of sunshine as I look back on my travels—and not just because my three days in Bergen transpired without a single drop of rain.
Where to Stay in Bergen
Like most of Norway, Bergen is incredibly expensive, but it also provides a good value, especially on its array of excellent hotels. Whether you splurge on a suite at Thon Hotel Ronsenkrantz, choose a moderate room at the sensible Scandic Byparken, you’ll get quality commensurate with the quantity of Norwegian Krone you spend.
Day One: Midnight (ish) at Fløyen
I’m going to go ahead and assumed, based on how cramped many Norway itineraries tend to be, that you’ll arrive to Bergen at least mid-way through your first day (That, and the near-impossibility that your hotel will let you check in early!). If you arrive before about 4 p.m., set your things down quickly and explore Fisketorget, Bergen’s fish market, as you walk along the shores of Vågen Harbor.
There’s much more to see here (magnificent maritime scenes and huge boats are only the beginning), but as the sun begins to set toward the sea, head slightly north and east from there water, until you reach the terminal station of the Fløibanen funicular railway, which will take you to the Fløyen viewpoint. It’s a perfect spot for sunset anytime of the year, but especially around June 21, when the light goes out at the auspicious hour of 11:11 p.m.
TIP: Get free use of the Fløibanen, and free or discounted admission to many of the attractions I mention in this article, when you purhcae the Bergen Card!
Day Two: If I Could Turn Back Time
One top Bergen destination you’ll almost certainly pass as you walk along the harbor is Bryggen, a long row of colorful wooden buildings that calls to mind 14th-century Norwegian architecture (although they’re newer than that—they had to be re-built following a fire in 1702). A UNECO World Heritage site, Bryggen is one of many places in Bergen to explore history, with other popular options nearby being Bergenhus Fortress and the Hanseatic Museum.
Just south of downtown, on the other hand, sits the Bergen Museum, which is divided into two collections: natural history and cultural history.
I recommend walking here, weather-permitting, which not only allows you to take in the gorgeousness of Bergen’s cityscape, but also affords you time to relax in two city parks: Byparken, which is on the way, and Nygårdsparken, which sits just beyond.
Feeling hungry? Marg & Bein, which sits near the Bergen Museum, is delicious.
Day Three: Fjords and Waterfalls 101
Bergen itself sits in a fjord, but it would be a shame to come to the west coast of Norway and not take a boat through one of Norway’s most picturesque fjords, many of which are within day-trip distance of the city.
Depending on whether you have only three days in Bergen or have some more wiggle room in your schedule, you have two options for seeing fjords from Bergen. The easiest one (550 NOK, or about $65 per person as of January 2017) starts near Bergen’s fish market and explores the stunning Osterfjorden for about four hours during the day.
An alternative option, either if you have more than three days in Bergen or if you simply don’t need to sight-see on your third day, is to do a marathon, all-day tour known as Norway in a Nutshell (although you don’t need to organize it through the company).
The default package tour spotlights not only the stunning Aurlandsfjord, but also the historical Flåm Railway, the charming mountain station of Myrdal and the scenic fjord town of Gudvangen.
The Bottom Line
You probably won’t get as lucky as I did, weather-wise, when you travel to Europe’s rainiest city, but you’re sure to enjoy it just as much.
Three days in Bergen is the perfect amount of time to explore its beautiful cityscape and rich history, as well as some of the stunning scenery around it, whether you combine this with a larger Norway trip, or simply enjoy a longer weekend in more rural areas.