Bergen, Noway has a whole lot of intrigue, from its breathtaking mountains and fjords to its brightly colored homes, photogenic harbor, and fresh seafood.
Bergen is an easy and convenient city to navigate and I was able to experience the best things to do in Bergen within a limited time frame which I share with you below!
12 Best Bergen Attractions
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Bergen is the second-largest populated city in Norway which lies on the southwest coast. In 2017 I had the pleasure of spending 3 days exploring Bergen and to this day the magic of those few days hasn’t left me.
While the thought of its ever-gloomy forecast and chilly weather may deter you from planning a visit to Bergen, don’t let it!
Our first two days were unusually warm and sunny and our Airbnb host had told us, you haven’t seen Bergen until you’ve seen Bergen in the rain, she actually hoped for it to rain before we left! She was totally right about that.
On our last evening before the sun began to set it started to shower in thin sheets of rain. At first, I was annoyed because my feet were starting to get wet and my jacket wasn’t thick enough to prevent the chill from creeping in.
Then, moments later, the mood of Bergen completely transformed and I knew exactly what she was talking about. A calm and rainy golden hour was the best way to end our 3 days in Bergen!
Below I’ve listed my 12 personal favorite Bergen attractions and I think you might just be planning your trip to Bergen sooner than later!
1. Take the scenic train from Oslo to Bergen
For starters on this list of the best things to do in Bergen, let’s talk about one of the best ways to reach Bergen – by train! The most scenic train ride in all of Norway just so happens to be the journey from Oslo to Bergen.
Now, this is super convenient because typically the most affordable international flights all go to Oslo so you can explore Oslo for a couple of days first before taking the train west to Bergen.
The train journey from Oslo to Bergen on the Scenic Bergen Rainway is 496 kilometers (308 miles) and takes around 7 hours, give or take.
The cost of a ticket is around 300 to 1,000 NOK ($30 to $100 USD) each way depending on the day of the week and time of year.
2. Take a fjord cruise
Being that Bergen is closely located to several fjord access points it’s not a surprise that a fjord cruise is by far one of the top Bergen attractions.
During my time in Bergen went on a full-day (11 hours) fjord and waterfall tour and it was such a breathtaking experience, one I will never forget.
My exact tour visited Hardangerfjord and the Vøringsfossen Waterfall.
While the day was long and we were fully exhausted by the end we were able to see never-ending views from the bus (I loved the panoramic windows!), ship, and on foot at the scenic viewpoints.
Unfortunately, this experience is a lot more pricey now (January of 2023) than it was when I went in 2017 but if you can afford to do it it’s something I would highly recommend and the fact that it’s a private tour makes it way more personal!
It would definitely be a Norway bucket list experience and those are priceless, right?
Otherwise, you can take a way more affordable option and book this fjord cruise by itself without the extra stops. It will still be an amazing experience and is more than half the price of the private fjord and waterfall tour.
This particular cruise is only 3 hours so you will still have most of your day left for other activities. Transport to the meeting point isn’t included but it is centrally located at the Bergen Fish Market so it’s very easy to get there from most places in Bergen as there is a nice public light rail and bus system.
I recommend booking online in advance if you want to secure your preferred date and time.
3. See the mighty Vøringsfossen Waterfall
Vøringsfossen Waterfall is one of the most famous and most visited in all of Norway! One of the main reasons for its popularity is how easy it is to view it.
It stands at 163 meters (535 ft) and flows into the Måbødalen Valley below.
There are a few different ways to experience this waterfall for yourself. You can drive to the viewpoint, hike to the base of the falls, or book a guided tour.
We chose a guided tour like this one where this waterfall was one of our stops after going on a fjord cruise but there are also waterfall-only tours like this Norway in A Day Tour for just 2150 NOK ($220 USD) that takes you via bus to Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall, Hardanger fjord viewpoint, Hardanger Bridge (which is Norway’s longest suspension bridge), a Norwegian Nature Center, Vøringsfossen, and the beautiful municipality of Voss.
Note: The Norway in A Day Tour does not include a cruise through Hardangerfjord, it only stops at the viewpoints off the side of the road. If you want the cruise included with Vøringsfossen you would need to book this Full Day Hardanger Fjord Cruise Tour instead.
If you want to drive yourself head to the Vøringsfossen Utsiktspunkt (parking lot/viewing station) where there is a nice scenic overlook. There are even a couple of places on the sides where you can plop your feet over the edge like I did!
A new addition was made in 2020, an epic 99-stair bridge that crosses over Vøringsfossen – I’m jealous that it wasn’t there yet when I visited, it looks like a perfect view! I’m sure looking down at the surge below would also be breathtaking.
Facilities here are a public bathroom, a souvenir shop, a Norwegian Nature Centre Hardanger, a cafe, and Fossli Hotel. They do close during the winter but you can visit the viewpoint at your own risk.
4. Hike Mt Ulriken
One thing I love about Bergen is how accessible gorgeous hiking trails overlooking the city and sea are. That means hiking is definitely one of the top things to do in Bergen!
Mt Ulriken and Mt Fløyen are the two most popular mountains in Bergen.
Our Airbnb hosts favored Mount Ulriken and hike it almost every single day after getting off of work – if there’s one thing I learned about the Norweigian people it’s that they love to be active!
We took their recommendation and opted for the short Mount Ulriken Hike. The views from the top were breathtaking!
There is a cable car there and we chose to take it up for 210 NOK ($21 USD) and hike back down as we were limited on time but you could also choose to hike Ulriken up and come down on the cable car or hike it both ways.
Back at the cable car platform, there is a restaurant, a zipline, and off to one side a jungle gym and an obstacle course that is suitable for both adults and kids.
The cable car up was very scenic and once at the top, there is actually a lot you can do besides walking out to the viewpoint. There are no defined boundaries at the top so my dad and I decided to climb around for a while to find our personal favorite place to chill out at. We even ran into some wild sheep!
You can also pick a longer day hike such as the 4.5 km hike to Turnerhytten or the 13-kilometer (8 mile) trek from Mt Ulriken to Mt Fløyen.
The Turnerhytten route is a cultural one so this hike would be most ideal if you go with a knowledgeable guide who can fill you in about the history as well as point out the native nature and notable views like the Folgefonna glacier (if clear visibility) that you will come across.
For the hike between the two mountains, you can go at it alone or you can book this private hiking tour. Your guide will help you through the sections of the trail that aren’t so clearly marked along with providing you with information on the area.
5. Check out the Bergen Fish Market
The Bergen Fish Market is one of the Bergen attractions on the harbor that you can’t afford to miss out on! Existing since the 1200s this outdoor market is not just famous for its fresh and wide variety of fish but also for fruits and vegetables from local farms.
If it isn’t practical to buy these items during your trip there are also many restaurants inside the Mathallen which is the indoor portion of the market. So sit down for lunch and while you wait, keep yourself busy people-watching.
6. See a sunset at the harbor
If there are no clouds, one of the best free things to do in Bergen is to watch the sunset at the harbor. If you’re having a late lunch or dinner at or near the Bergen Fish Market you can pair these two activities together!
I really enjoyed walking on the beautiful harbor walkway. It has a lot of great viewpoints of the bay and there are nice sculptures to look at and benches to sit on and take in the views. It was an excellent place for us to watch a magical Norwegian sunset.
7. Photograph the famous row of colorful shops
Bryggen is one of the top Bergen attractions for all visitors! If you love taking pictures of your travels, this is the money shot you have to take!
8. Shop the Bergen Square
While not one of the main Bergen attractions, Bergen Square is still a great place to go after you’ve enjoyed the harborside.
Torgallmenningen is the name of the street to walk on where you will find all the best shops, monuments, and fountains. I really liked how wide open this space was and it was a great place to leisurely spend a couple of hours during the afternoon.
9. Enjoy fresh seafood
Fresh salmon filets with minimal seasoning are one of Norway’s most popular seafood specialties. Shrimp, cod, lobster, mackerel, herring, and monkfish are some of the other popular choices to try.
I ordered cod fish and chips from one of the restaurants near the harbor and it was so delicious!
I already talked about how to photograph the old wharf of Bryggen above but I’m pretty sure that you will also want to get closer to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Right after the Viking Age, this location became very popular for trade in 1070 because it was in a convenient yet defendable area. Salt-preserved cod and corn were two of Bergen’s most valuable trades.
Trade continued for several hundred years until competition from other port cities arose. It became a World Heritage Site because of the traditional Norwegian-style buildings.
Through the years this area did suffer from several fires and the fire of 1702 nearly wiped out all of the structures so what you see there today is a result of reconstruction but the builders made sure to keep the construction methods the same.
If you visit today, you can expect to find individual businesses brimming with creativity such as artists, potters, jewelers, etc. These shops are open all year round and the owners love sharing their work with tourists and locals.
If want to learn more about Bergen’s history in more detail then going on a walking tour with a local guide is the best option. This 90-minute tour will cover its 11th century beginning to the present day. It costs 606 NOK per person ($61 USD).
11. Bergenhus Fortress
Bergenhus Fortress is one of the best things to do in Bergen for history lovers. Originating from the 13th century this medieval fortress is one of the oldest like it preserved in Norway.
It’s located toward the end of the harbor so I definitely recommend checking it out if you are nearby! Most of the grounds are open to the public and there is no charge for entry.
You’ll be able to learn more in person about how this fortress was used over the years. From withstanding the Battle of Vågen to being used by the Germans in World War II it is an important piece of Bergen’s history.
Currently, it is being used by Royal Norwegian Navy and troops are stationed inside the fortress.
12. Go for a walk in the rain
As I said in the beginning, rain is what makes Bergen, Bergen. So instead of holing yourself inside when the rain begins to fall I invite you to grab your umbrella or raincoat and continue around town or walk through the quaint neighborhoods and see how much you will come to enjoy it!
It’s also a great element to take some moody pictures.
Where to Stay in Bergen
As Bergen is one of Norway’s largest cities there is no shortage of places to stay. There are lots of nice options but finding cheap stays and hostels is quite difficult. All things considered, here are some of my suggestions.
This is one of the cheapest options you will find in Bergen but you would never guess it from its designer appearance and amenities! For just 949 NOK ($95 USD) you can get a small double room with an attached bathroom. The hotel also offers a 24-hour help desk and a restaurant serving international street food. It’s located just three tram stops from the city center.
Hotel Park Bergen – $$
This family-owned hotel located in Sentrum Bergen (close to the train station) will be such a cozy and quiet stay inside a traditional 19th-century building. Just walking through it you’ll see one-of-a-kind antiques. All rooms have different styling, a desk, and cable TV. A double bed costs 1687 NOK ($169 USD).
Opus 16 – $$$
The luxury Opus 16 is inside a building from 1876 called the Opus XVI. It’s perfect if you have an appreciation for history without sacrificing modern comforts. It’s located close to everything in the center of Bergen. According to reviews, the staff will go the extra mile to welcome you. Rooms all have robes and there is made-to-order breakfast each morning. Rooms start at 3684 NOK ($369 USD).
Final Word on Things to do in Bergen
Thanks so much for reading my guide, I’m so happy you’re here.
Bergen is a breath of fresh air, (I mean that literally and figuratively) and I hope this list of Bergen attractions will give you a head start on planning!
If you’re traveling around Europe here are some other guides to check out.