The 15 best things to do in Bergen
Norway’s second city has plenty to offer the curious traveler, from world-class gastronomy to cosy coffee shops, historic sights to cool art museums.
Whether you’re visiting with friends, your other half or as a family with little ones, Bergen is packed with exciting sightseeing and makes a great base from which to explore the Norway’s natural attractions on the southwest coast.
Find out what should definitely be on your Bergen bucket list with our top tips on things to see and do when visiting this picture-perfect place.
Tip: Book your trip with Norwegian and earn CashPoints on your flight to Bergen and your hotel. And don’t forget, you’ll earn CashPoints when booking your excursions and activities through GetYourGuide.
Note: Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the availability of the activities could be affected. Remember to check current travel restrictions before booking travel.
1. Stroll around colourful Bryggen
Bergen’s old Hanseatic wharf is the stuff of postcards. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the very first buildings of Bergen, and has been an important part of the city for hundreds of years.
The Hanseatic League established their office there in the 12th century, gradually acquiring ownership of Bryggen and controlling the trade in stockfish. Despite being ravaged by several fires over the centuries, Bryggen’s picturesque wooden buildings have been rebuilt to appear as they did after the great fire of 1702, even using the same structure plan and construction techniques.
Nowadays, the narrow alleyways which lie between the slim, iconic buildings hold a hidden world of textile and crafters’ shops, artists’ galleries and jewellers’ workshops ready to explore.
2. Visit the Hanseatic Museum
To get a better idea of what life was like at Bryggen when it was one of Europe’s most important trading hubs, then a visit to the Hanseatic Museum is a must.
You’ll learn about how the guild of German trading merchants went about their lives in unmarried celibacy for as long as they stayed in the area, and find out more about the great fire of 1702.
Tip: Bergen is renowned for its excessive yearly rainfall, so if you find yourself in the city on one of the 239 days wet days of the year, then a museum visit or two is the best plan. Take a look at our other tips on what to do in Bergen on a rainy day.
3. Get to know Grieg at Troldhaugen
Another museum not to be missed when visiting Bergen is Troldhaugen, otherwise known as the Grieg Museum. This is where Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg spent the last 22 years of his life with his wife, Nina. Their beautiful home is now a museum, which contains treasures like Grieg’s Steinway piano.
In the garden, you can see Grieg’s composer’s cabin, his grave, and a concert hall which is practically camouflaged to those crossing the nearby footbridge by an impressive grass roof.
4. Ride the Fløibanen Funicular up Mount Fløyen
Bergen is surrounded by seven mountains and one of the best things to do, especially on a nice day, is head up to Mount Fløyen on the Fløibanen funicular.
Situated about 320 metres above sea level, Mount Fløyen provides spectacular views of Bergen and the nearby fjords. At the top, there are plenty of stunning hiking routes, with levels ranging from easy to experienced, plus nature trails for those visiting Bergen with kids.
The little ones can also play in the nearby Troll Forest and the nature playground, complete with a zipline.
Tip: Once back down to the funicular’s ground station, take a break at Lille Kaffekompaniet. This is Bergen’s oldest coffee shop and is conveniently located on a quaint side street just behind the Fløibanen exit.
5. Take a hike on Mount Ulriken
If you’re more of an experienced hiker, then the trail from Mount Fløyen to Mount Ulriken, Bergen’s highest mountain, is a good option. The walk takes around 4-6 hours and stretches across mainly flat, open terrain featuring some incredible views.
You can also choose to hike up Mount Ulriken itself or take the Ulriksbanen cable car to the top (reopening summer 2021).
6. Taste Bergen’s history at the Fish Market
One of the most popular city centre attractions in Bergen is the Fish Market. Its charming location right on the fjord, combined with its history dating back to the 1200s, plus its extraordinary array of produce from fresh fish to local farm food, flowers and plants, makes it one of Norway’s most visited outdoor markets.
The market used to be found right next to Bryggen and has always been an important trading place in Bergen. Even fishermen who lived outside the city would row into the Fish Market to sell their catch of the day before returning home.
Today the Fish Market is a great place to soak in the bustling atmosphere of the heart of Bergen and sample some local delicacies from one of the many stalls or restaurants.
7. Go back in time at the Old Bergen Museum
The open-air Old Bergen Museum, or Gamle Bergen Museum, gives you a taste of what life was like in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries in Bergen, and is a great place to check out when visiting Bergen with kids.
The reconstructed town consists of 55 wooden houses, and wandering through the streets you can meet masters and servants from the past, peek into windows, walk into exhibitions and attend theatre shows.
8. See amazing art at the KODE Museums
Bergen is home to some of Norway’s most famous art galleries. KODE consists of four buildings around the city centre, each offering something different.
You can see masterpieces by the likes of Edvard Munch, Nikolai Astrup and Pablo Picasso, and visit the unique ‘Silver Treasure’ exhibition, among others.
Tip: Buy a Bergen card with GetYourGuide and you’ll save money on your ticket to the KODE Museums and other Bergen attractions, as well as earn CashPoints.
9. Eat some top-notch food
Bergen is a member of UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy network, and the region has a number of internationally-renowned restaurants and world-class chefs. It’s a place for true foodies to experience some fantastic dining experiences, with first-rate ingredients from the surrounding sea and land. We recommend:
Cornelius Seafood Restaurant
Located just outside Bergen City – and easily reachable by ferry from Bryggen – this is one of Norway’s best seafood restaurants. It’s situated right on the water, providing stunning views of the fjords and mountains as you tuck into fresh clams, sea urchins, winter cod and traditional Norwegian lutefisk.
This is Bergen’s Michelin-starred eatery, with fresh ingredients from local divers, fishermen and farmers, and a menu which changes daily. For something a little more casual, try this place’s sister restaurant, BARE Vestland, which has simple, light meals made with quality ingredients.
The slick Lysverket is set within Bergen’s KODE 4 museum, and introduces diners to the past, present and future of Norwegian cuisine. Think traditional Bergen fish soup with a modern twist.
10. Explore the Bergenhus fortress
Located in the very centre of the city, Berghenhus Fortress is one of Norway’s oldest and best-preserved fortifications, which has a military history dating back to the early 1500s. It has suffered many attacks over the centuries and during the Second World War, the German occupying force used it as their western headquarters.
Today, Bergenhus Fortress is the everyday place of work for over 200 military and civilian personnel. However, most of the grounds are open to the public (for free) and there are often festivals and concerts held here.
History buffs can also enjoy the Bergenhus Fortress Museum with its range of interesting exhibitions, many of which focus on the Norwegian resistance during World War II.
11. Spend a summer’s day at Lysøen/Ole Bull Museum
If you’re a fan of magical architecture, be sure to take a trip just outside Bergen to Lysøen. Open during the summer months, the 17th century villa once belonged to Norwegian violin-virtuoso and composer Ole Bull, who transformed it into a fairy tale kingdom, complete with romantic paths, ponds and gazebos.
If it’s too rainy on your Bergen trip to take a stroll around all the grounds, you can enjoy a guided tour inside or sip a nice coffee at the on-site café.
Lysøen island itself is a perfect place for hiking with a beautiful forest, great viewpoints, and pleasant picnic areas.
12. Keep the kids entertained at VilVite
This is a fantastic option for those visiting Bergen with little ones. Vilvite Science Museum is full of child-friendly, interactive games and exhibits that’ll teach them a range of topics, from the environment to the human body.
And, providing they’re five foot or taller, they can try out Europe’s only public G-force ride. This place is great fun for kids, big and small!
Tip: If you’re heading to Bergen at Christmastime, don’t miss taking the kids to see the world’s biggest gingerbread city, Pepperkakebyen. Built every year since 1991 by volunteers, it features everything from tiny homes to landmarks.
13. Discover the Viking roots at Fantoft Stave Church
Did you know there used to be around 1,000 stave churches across Norway, but only 28 remain today? Catch a glimpse of one of these unique structures right out of Viking times at Fantoft Stave Church, just 20 minutes outside Bergen city centre.
This magnificent church was originally built in Fortun in Sogn in 1150 but was moved to Fantoft in 1883, before burning down in 1992. The structure you see today was rebuilt to appear exactly as it was before the fire, and even has the original crucifix which survived the blaze.
Tip: If you want find out more about these remarkable buildings, take a look at these 7 stunning stave churches in Norway.
14. Enjoy the beauty of Norway with a fjord tour
Bergen is surrounded by beautiful fjords and there are plenty of ways to explore them. If you’re only in town for a short time, then a 3-hour cruise leaving from the Fish Market dock is the best option for a scenic tour which includes beautiful waterfalls and a trip down the narrow Mostraumen fjord.
If you have more time to spare, then there are many tour companies offering day trips from Bergen to Sognefjord, Gudvangen, and Flåm, where you can experience the breathtaking scenery and the beauty of Norway’s natural landscapes by road, rail and water.
15. Get royal at Gamlehaugen
If you’re heading to Bergen during the summer months, then a trip outside the city to the Norwegian Royal Family’s holiday residence of Gamlehaugen should be on your to-do list. This picturesque mansion has a history which goes as far back as the Middle Ages.
Here you can stroll around the perfectly manicured grounds, visit the stables and check out the boat house. There’s also a museum on the first floor of the mansion dedicated to the first prime Minister of Norway, Christian Michelsen, where you can see how the upper classes lived at the beginning of the 19th century.
Tip: Want to live like royalty yourself? Spend a night at one of these enchanting castle hotels.
Ready to go?
If you’re planning your next trip to Bergen, then don’t forget to book your activities via GetYourGuide and earn CashPoints on each one. You’ll also earn CashPoints on car rental and hotels when booking via Norwegian Reward.