If there is one city you should visit in Norway, Bergen is our pick. And once you see all of the amazing things to do in Bergen, you’ll agree!
I’ll never forget driving into the town center of Bergen for the first time. Seeing the colorful buildings of Bryggen lining the waterfront surrounded by the seven mountains contributed to that tingling of wanderlust that nipped at my consciousness. Bergen was our first stop in Scandinavia and it made quite the impression. Its beauty, history, and location
We spent four days in Bergen, Norway, and found it was just enough time to take advantage of all the top tourist attractions, and then some!
Top Things to do in Bergen, Norway
Colorful buildings, old-world architecture, and a mountainous backdrop made for picture-perfect views. For outdoor lovers, Bergen has it all. It’s a city surrounded by seven mountains and the Norwegian Fjords. It’s a rite of passage for residents to hike all seven mountains in one day, but visitors can easily summit two mountains in one day. Urlikan Mountain and Mount Fløyen can either be summited by hiking to the top or taking the cable car or trolley. They have something for everyone.
So are you ready to explore Bergen, let’s look at all the most popular things to see and do!
A good way to get acquainted with the city is to Bergen Hop-on-Hop-off tour. Explore Norway’s second-largest city with stops at the top tourist attractions. There are 13 stops in total that you can stop and explore including the Hanseatic Museum the Edward Grieg Museum, The old Bergen Exchange, and the Mount Floyen Funicular. It’s a great introduction to the city’s top attractions.
1. Explore the Streets of Bryggen
The first place you should visit in Bergen is the historic center of Bryggen. Bryggen is a fairytale village of historic wooden houses lining the waterfront. This historic quarter of Bergen is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with good reason. It is also the best place to begin to explore Bergen.
We made a base at Clarion Havnekontoret Bergen on the wharf on the opposite side of the bay looking towards Bryggen. Because of our location, we were within walking distance from everywhere we took a walking tour to Bryggen to explore this picturesque World Heritage Site and learn of its Hanseatic History.
Bryggen is one of the oldest port cities in Northern Europe and it has been impeccably restored. 62 wooden houses remain intact giving visitors a glimpse into the world of the Hanseatic League’s trading empire that ruled this area from the 14th to the mid-16th century
While the buildings are beautiful to look at, the history is even more fascinating. The wharf is open to the public and can be entered for free. The buildings of Bryggen have seen many fires since its establishment in 1070, but much of the old town has survived since the 1700s. It’s a beautiful walk through the narrow streets taking you instantly back in time to the moment you stepped foot on the old wharf.
This highly rated walking tour let’s you discover Bergen with a local guide as you weave your way through the historic town and find hidden gems. We always love taking a walking tour when we arrive at a new city to get the inside scoop of the top attractions.
2. Hanseatic Museum
There is a reason that Bryggen is one of the star attractions in Beren, there is so much to see in this little corner of the city. We started our tour of Bryggen at the Hanseatic Museum where we learned about the Hanseatic culture. The Hanseatic League ran Bryggen in the Middle Ages and was a thriving merchant society and the town became an important trading center.
At the moment the Hanseatic Museum is being restored but it has been moved and you can still get a glimpse into it. Restoration is to be completed in 2024. The building dates back to 1704 and restoration is taking place to restore the wooden foundation.
You can visit the temporary museum at the assembly halls of the Hanseatic merchants at Bryggen. You’ll see the cookhouses, exhibitions and a medieval ruin.
Get directions on Google MapsFor an in-depth tour of the Hanseatic History book a walking tour with Get Your Guide. Free cancellation with 24 hours and last-minute bookings!
3. Fløibanen Funicular to Mount Fløyen
If you are only in Bergen for a short time, you must at least take the funicular up to Mount Fløyen. The base of the funicular is located right downtown and you will be at the top of the mountain in twelve minutes.
This offers another beautiful view of Bergen and here there are also hiking trails to take you to one of the other seven mountains surrounding the city. It’s a lovely afternoon sitting at the top, looking over the Norwegian Sea and sipping a coffee on the outdoor patio. Don’t forget to look for the resident mountain goats.
Make sure you walk along the path or to the bottom of the terraced steps to enjoy watching cut mountain goats scampering and munching on grass and leaves. Going to the top of this mountain is by far one of the top attractions in Bergen and it is not to be missed.
4. Urliken Cable Car – Urlikan Mountain
We had heard that sunset up Ulriken Mountain was the best place to see the city, so we made our way to the cable car for incredible panoramic views of Bergen. When we got to the top, we were amazed at the number of locals that had hiked up instead of taking the cable car.
You can take a local bus, but with limited time, we caught the tourist bus to the base of the mountain. It’s faster but more expensive. Everyone speaks perfect English in Norway, so it was easy to ask the driver for information. He even showed us where to purchase tickets for the cable car at the kiosk once we arrived at the base of the mountain.
If we had gotten to the mountain earlier, we would have definitely taken advantage of the endless hiking trails. We were told that we could hike all the way to the funicular closer to the city in a few short hours.
See it on Google MapsHow to Get there: Catch the tourist bus from the center of Bergen. You can also hike to the top from Bergen or take the local bus.
5. Ziplining and Paragliding from Urlikan
If you have time and are looking for something thrilling to do in Bergen, there is a zipline that takes you over the mountain vista from the top of Urlikan. And paragliders were soaring overhead for sunset.
As the final zipliners finished their rides and the last of the paragliders soared overhead, we took in the splendid view, feeling grateful to begin our trip in spectacular fashion.
6. Visit KODE Museums
Bergen has an excellent museum district and the top museum in Bergen is the complex of Kode Museums. What makes it unique is it not only houses art, but it is also a collection of composers’ homes. KODE is one of Scandinavia’s largest museums for art, design, and music. It is made up of four museums, KODE 1, 2, 3 and 4.
There are four different museums displaying everything from modern art to furniture, music and arts and crafts. KODE is located right in the city center and is a must to visit.
Simply browsing the exteriors is interesting enough but definitely make sure to go inside to see the masterpieces from the likes of Dahl, Astrup and Munch.
Kode 1 opened in 1896 and is the museum of craft and design. If you want to have something to eat there is the restaurant Bien Centro as well.
Kode 2 houses temporary exhibitions and was completed in 1978. It also has a huge bookstore on architecture and design.
Kode 3 is the star attraction of the Kode Museums (in our opinion) It houses the collection by Edvard Munch and the Golden Age of Norwegian Art. Kode 3 opened in 1924 and has many historic artifacts from the Bergen area.
Kode 4 at the moment is closed for renovations until further notice. There isn’t an update on when it will open.
7. Celebrate Edvard Munch
We weren’t going to visit Bergen without seeing Edvard Munch. If museums are your thing, then hold onto your hat because you just hit the jackpot. Bergen Kode number 3 has one of the largest and most important Munch collections in the world.
If you don’t know him, Munch is famous for his painting “The Scream”. There are four versions of The Scream around the world. Three are located in Norway, while one is owned by a private collector and one of them is right here in Bergen. Bergen has his pen and ink version which is very unique to see.
Even if you are not a museum lover, there is something quite exciting to see an original work of art like The Scream. It was the main reason we visited the Kode Museums and while seeing The Scream was exciting, we enjoyed the entire experience. Make sure to at least go inside Kode 3.
8. Composer Edvard Grieg Museum – Troldhaugen
After spending two days in Bergen on our own, we joined our tour group for a trip to Troldhaugen where the famous composer Edvard Grieg spent his days writing music. I must confess that my knowledge of composers doesn’t extend much beyond Bach and Beethoven. But I was curious when our guide Derek told us Grieg was Norway’s most famous composer and wanted to learn more.
When you visit Bergen, make sure to put this countryside museum on your list. It was fascinating. The museum was the former house and property of Edvard Grieg where he wrote and composed his music. The tour takes you through his home and also outside to his sanctuary where all the magic happened.
One of the more unique things to do in Bergen is to attend a concert in the concert hall of the museum. Every day during the summer months, live music is performed in its concert hall playing chamber music and music from the composer. You can check out the schedule here.
Edvard Grieg was more famous than Strauss
To give you an idea of how popular he was in his day, Edvard Grieg was offered $20,000 USD to perform in America. He had terrible seasickness, so he turned it down and they replaced him with Strauss who was only paid $6,000. If you would like to listen to some Grieg you can check out some of his music here.
Check location on Google Maps. You can take public transportation out to Troldhaugen but the Bergen City Card offers free transportation and entrance to museums in Bergen. You can purchase 24, 48 or 72 hour passes. More details here. (free cancellation up to 24 hours notice)
9. Old Bergen Museum
Located just a few km outside of town the Old Bergen Museum is a collection of 40 wooden houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. It is Europe’s largest wooden city. Step back in time as actors dressed in historical costumes reenact what life was like. There’s also a lovely park to go to for a stroll.
10. Explore the Fish Market
Norwegian culture was built on fishing and Bergen’s fish market is one of Norway’s most popular. If you don’t embrace the fish culture, you’ll be missing a lot of what makes Norway tick. The Bergen fish market dates back to the 1200s and today merchants still sell their fresh catch of the day as they have for centuries. The market lines the waterfront and is worth strolling through to check out the dried cod hanging from the fluorescent lights.
One of the most popular things to do in Bergen is to grab a meal at The Fish Market. With patios lining the waterfront, the Fish Market has an excellent atmosphere for dinner. Add its fresh and delicious seafood and you have a memorable moment in Norway’s most beautiful city. My preferred choice was the bucket of muscles.
11. Bergenhus Fortress
Located on the waterfront, the Bergenhus Fortress is a historic castle. Dating back to the 1500s, it is one of the best-preserved stone forts in the country. There are rotating exhibits inside the fortress and it is free to enter. It has a long military history with it constantly being maintained from the 1500s to 1700. In 1665, a great battle was fought here between the British and Dutch with Bergen supporting the Dutch during the Battle of Vågen.
In World War II the Germans used it as their headquarters. Its roof was destroyed in an explosion but it was restored after the war.
12. Rosenkrantz Tower
One of the more popular attractions inside the fortress is Rosenkrantz Tower. It was constructed by Erik Rosenkrantz, the governor of Bergen Castle at the time. Tours of the tower offer excellent views of the harbor and run daily on the hour taking you up the tower and to Haakon’s Hall.
Take a self-guided audio walking tour to explore the Bergen Fortress and the historic buildings and harbour of Bergen with this mp3 guide. Download and get Details here
See More Scandinavian Travel Tips
13. Bergen Maritime Museum
Another not to miss museum in Bergen is the Maritime Museum. It’s one of Norway’s oldest museums that traces the thousand-year history of Norway’s relationship with the sea. With the popularity of Vikings and the Last Kingdom, this is definitely a highlight as you will see replicas of a Viking ship and other memorabilia through the ages.
14. Leprosy Museum
There are many museums in Bergen and one of the more unique museums is the Leprosy Museum. Located in St. George’s (St Jørgen’s) Hospital the Leprosy Museums pays tribute to those who suffered from Leprosy from the 15th to 20th centuries. Between 1850 and 1900, Bergen treated the largest concentration of Leprosy patients in Europe. It is not far from the city center and admission is included in the Bergen Card. If it is raining, this is a good option for an indoor excursion.
The Bergen Card is a great way to bundle many of the top tourist attractions in Bergen into an affordable package. Details here. it includes transportation on the light rail, a fjord cruise, a Bergen city cruise, Mount Floyen Funicular, The Bergen Aquarium, Kode Museums and much more.
Day Trips from Bergen
The Norwegian Fjords have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Bergen is located in the heart of the Fjords. It is no wonder that many Scandinavian tours begin in Bergen. You can book this Fjord Tour that includes a Fjord cruise and the flam railway.
This is ultimate Norway in a Nutshell tour. It takes you through Nærøyfjord, one of the narrowest fjords in Europe that is surrounded by high mountains to Flåm. Here you’ll catch the Flåm Railway which is one of the world’s steepest railways. It’s a beautiful train journey with spectacular scenery and you will be able to hop off to take in the magnificent Kjosfossen Waterfall.
15. Fjord Cruise
Bergen is the jumping-off point for visiting Norway’s most famous fjords and if you are visiting Norway for the first time, you must make sure you take at least one cruise through its spectacular fjords. It’s from Bergen that you can take “Norway in a Nutshell” tour and be back in Bergen in time for dinner. Norway in a Nutshell was included in our Go Ahead Tour where we caught a train to Voss. We then hopped on a bus that took us through the scenic mountains en-route to Gudvangen for our trip through the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord.
The trip includes round trip transportation from Bergen with easy cancellation and last minute bookings. Details here.
It was here that we hopped on a ferry and took in the magnificent fjords towering 1800 meters above the sea. Taking in the towering gorges wet with the mist of the morning. Waving to local Norwegians that go about their daily routines in the small villages that dot this impressive landscape.
This is what Norway is all about. I could have cruised for days among these giants, but another adventure awaited on our train ride back to Bergen.
You can book Fjord tours from downtown Bergen or you can book in advance from GetYourGuide. This 11 private tour takes you to the same route that we did. Details here.
16. Flåm Railway
Our trip home ended along the Flåm Railway, the steepest railway in the world where we were treated to beautiful views of the mountains. It is considered one of the most beautiful rail trips in the world.
17. Fantoft Stave Church
Ornamental Stave Churches can be found throughout Norway and the Fantoft Stave Church is one of the most famous. Located just outside of Bergen it dates back to 1150. It was a victim of arson in 1992 and rebuilt, but it is a very good display of this architectural style. It was originally located in the Sogn district in Fortun Village but was moved to just outside Bergen.
Find it on Google Maps here. Your Bergen City Card will give you access to the Fantoft Stave Church and access to transit to get there. Details here.
Where to Stay in Bergen
The Clarion Hotel was an excellent location in Bergen especially if it is your first time in Bergen. It was also a spot with modern rooms, fine dining, and an excellent bar overlooking the port. This was our base for exploring Bergen and exploring the city we did! Check out prices on TripAdvisor or Booking.com
Other Places to Stay in Bergen
When looking for where to stay in Bergen, we recommend a hotel with a central location that is within walking distance to the city center.
Hanseatic Hotel – Located in Bryggen this is a special historic hotel that is within walking distance to the City Center. It was built within the historic Finnegaarden Trading House and has kept its historic feel with its old timber walls and historic bar. You feel as if you are staying in a part of history.
Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Bergen – Located in the historical city center of Bergen, just a few steps from Bryggen, the Fish Market and Fløibanen this is an excellent location. A cool feature is the complimentary light meal served Monday-Thursday between 6-9 PM in the lounge.
This post is in partnership with Go Ahead Tours who sponsored our trip to Scandinavia. As usual, all our opinions are our own. With more than 150 guided tours across all 7 continents, Go Ahead Tours has dedicated travel sites for both U.S. and Canadian travelers.