The historic buildings that now famously represent the town of Bergen

Visit: Bergen, Norway

Language(s): Norwegian and English
Currency: Norwegian Krone (8.3 NOK = 1 USD)
Must-See: The Hanseatic Museum, Ulriken Mountain, the fjords

I will forewarn you: if you’re looking to be a complete tourist, this may not be the post for you. Besides being fortunate enough  to have made many friends from the countries I will be visiting over the next month, I tend to always try to travel like a local. You learn more and really get a taste for a city when you’re not hitting up the McDonald’s and staying at the Radisson. Bergen has been an excellent example of this, and therefore you’re going to get more of a local’s guide to the city here.

A view from the first train from Oslo to Myrdal
A view from the first train from Oslo to Myrdal
A view from the first train from Oslo to Myrdal
A view from the first train from Oslo to Myrdal

Let’s start with how to arrive in Bergen. It is easy and cheap to fly directly from Oslo to Bergen, especially if you’re short on time. No shame in this. The flight is around an hour. However, if you want to get breathtaking views of the Norwegian countryside and majestic fjords leading in to the city, you’ll keep reading (Hint: You want that.).

The Norwegian flag flying against the backdrop of the fjords
The Norwegian flag flying against the backdrop of the fjords
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A storm brews amongst the fjords on the ferry to Bergen

You’ll need a full travel day, because you’ll board two trains and a ferry to get there. The first train winds through evergreen forests, past golden wheat fields and even a glacier. There’s a cafe on board, too (COFFEE). Aboard the second you’ll see waterfalls and shimmering lakes and get a brief history of the railway. The ferry then goes directly through the fjords and has a deck where you can sit and watch the towering mountains above you pass by. More perks: for all of you millennials out there concerned about wifi, don’t worry because you’ll have wifi all day. Here are specific directions from Oslo to ensure that you arrive in one piece:

  1. From Oslo S (the city center stop in Oslo), you’ll board a regional train at 6:20 am towards Voss. Simply check the huge screen overhead at the train station to see which platform this train leaves from. Tickets can be purchased at the NSB website for around $100. STUDENTS (aka those of you who are under 26 and still possess your student ID in some form): choose the student option to save the monayzzzz. This applies in most of Europe on all sorts of expenses, so you’ll hear this from me again. You’re only young once. Take advantage and lessen the load on those loans, am I right?
  2. After about 6 hours, you’ll land in Myrdal.
  3. Once in Myrdal, you’ll turn directly behind you and board Flamsbana, a tourist’s dream, to Flam (this is included when you purchase the NSB train ticket to Myrdal).
  4. Once in Flam, find the British guy who sells lamb hotdogs and buy one. He’s hilarious and his dogs are the best deal you’ll find at around $8.
  5. Around 3:30 pm, a ferry will arrive at the port of Flam and whisk you away into UNESCO World Heritage fjords. These tickets can also be purchased ahead of time at the NORLED website and are around $50.
  6. After a 5 1/2 hour trip, you’ll land safely at the main harbor of Bergen, where you can take a quick walk to your lodging for the night.

Ok, so you made it. Now what? Well, it all depends on the weather. Bergen is notoriously rainy and so your itinerary should be flexible.

The hike up Ulriken Mountain
The hike up Ulriken mountain is strenuous but rewarding. Handrails will guide you up the mountain.
The view from the top of Ulriken Mountain
The view from the top of Ulriken Mountain
Norwegian pancakes with creme fraiche and jam
Norwegian pancakes with creme fraiche and jam

When the weather is decent, I suggest hiking up one of the city’s famous mountains. Hiking is totally Norwegian. Even kindergarteners make a class trip up at least one  mountain each year. Ulriken is a great option, because at the end of a strenuous hike, you’ll find the cutest cafe. To start, ask any local to guide you to the correct bus and hop on. A one-way ticket costs 30 NOK and must be paid in cash (the only cash you’ll need during your stay in Norway). You’ll hike up the rocky mountain alongside sheep and with the help of a handrail. After an hour or two, you’ll arrive at the top where you should enjoy a coffee and a Norwegian pancake with creme fraiche and jam (when in Rome, ya know?). The panoramic views can’t be beat and it provides an excellent place to warm up atop the windy peak. To descend, you can hike or you can ride in the funicular for $12. It’s fun, and in my opinion, a whole lot better than falling to your death on the slippery rocks Bergen’s rain can cause.

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Bryggen, the German town built within Bergen during the Hanseatic period
A cathedral in Bergen
A cathedral in Bergen

When the weather isn’t so nice, there’s always the Hanseatic Museum. I won’t spoil the fun for you and reveal the entire history, but Bergen was known in the day as a major office for the Hanseatic League. This league was run by the Germans and there was big business in fish around these parts. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the only example of a Hanseatic office still standing today (Hint: If you’re there during the summer, ask for my friend Idun as your guide. Tours are included in the 150 NOK entry fee, as is entry to the meeting houses and the Fishery Museum). Other great activities involve your own two feet a bit of exploring. The architecture of this place is stunning and deserves an entire day if you’ve got the time. Also, stop at Kaffemisjonen for the best coffee in Bergen.

Bergen is the perfect city to get lost in, so do it. As always, comment with questions.

Bye, Bye, Bye,

Erica

 

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2 thoughts on “Visit: Bergen, Norway

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