4 Days in Bergen, Norway (Episode 26)
In this episode, we discussed our four-day excursion to Bergen, Norway. Bergen is Norway's second biggest city with a population of around 265,000. It's an "under the radar" city, so we thought we'd check it out before returning to our apartment in Prague from a visit home in New York! We were both pleasantly surprised by what we found in Bergen.
In this episode, we talked about our trip to Bergen and what we did there, including things like:
- Why we went to Bergen, Norway and not another more well-known place, like Oslo
- Lille Lungegårdsvannet-- the first view we saw in Bergen and how it made us fall in love with Bergen right away
- Walking around Bergen, which can be brutal with all of the hills, plus the frigid cold in winter, but rewarding with its views!
- What the Bergen Card is and why it's vital for seeing the sights in Bergen
- The fjord cruise experience, our discount, and why it was one of the best things we've ever done! Yes-- ever!
- Some must-try foods in Bergen, like fish cakes, fish soup, and reindeer sausage, and where to get them
- How expensive Bergen, Norway really is (yup, it's nightmare-ishly expensive)
- The Bryggen (traditional and adorable homes on the water)
- Riding a funicular up Mount Fløyen and admiring panoramic views of the city
- Why traveling around the city on a Sunday is brutal, especially when you have a full bladder and need a bus to get to civilization and toilets!
- Gamlehaugen castle and why we think it would be much better viewed in summer than in winter
- Where to find the most picturesque traditional homes in Bergen
- Public transportation and how easy it is
- The aquarium and why the walk there from the center was one of our favorite strolls of all time
And much more! If you'd like to learn more about our trip to Bergen, Norway and see pictures, just scroll down to the blog post for more!
Wine: Torre de Rejas - Tempranillo (Spain)
Why Bergen, Norway?
We went to Bergen for pretty much one reason: the flight deals. We discovered on Skyscanner and on Norwegian Air's site that Norwegian Air had a spectacular deal going on. Actually, they had numerous! They had tons of cheap flight from top cities in the US (New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and more) to Europe, especially the UK and Norway. From New York to Bergen, Norway, we booked two one-way flights for $130 each! That was an amazing deal we just couldn't say no to.
Fun fact: we also saw flights for even cheaper to Bergen just a couple of weeks later: $90 each! Unreal.
Oh, and we were traveling from our hometowns in New York to our apartments in Prague, Czech Republic. We thought we'd squeeze a little pitstop and extra trip in the middle. So, we did!
We arrived at 9:30 AM after flying for around 7 hours. After going through immigration etc., we took the lightrail, basically their tram/trolley/above-ground subway, from the airport to the closest stop to our AirBNB. One ride cost 37 NOK, or just under $5 USD. Quite pricey for one tram ride!
Eventually, we got to our stop and struggled with the AirBNB host's directions. We ended up getting lost, then luckily used Matt's pre-downloaded offline Google Maps of Bergen. Lifesaver!
After walking around for about an hour uphill and in the frigid cold, we eventually found our AirBNB, which had an incredible view of the city.
(8:53) After settling in, we needed to answer to our tummies' grumblings. We walked back down the mountain to the grocery store to get some food, like canned fish (because it's so popular there), eggs, cheese, and other odds and ends. We brought that back to our AirBNB (yes, we struggled going up the mountain once again) and ate.
(11:00) Then, we walked to the lightrail (yep, back down the mountain!) and went to the city center to explore a bit. We stopped for some espresso since we were jetlagged. Then, we walked around the center, specifically around the lake there called Lille Lungegårdsvannet. The surprise view of snow-capped mountains and colorful buildings there threw us aback-- and we were delighted to see it, jetlag and all.
After walking around a while in a zombie-like state, we hopped on a bus recommended by our AirBNB host to get back to our AirBNB.
(13:28) We ended up exploring a majority of the sights Bergen has to offer on this day. We woke up early and hopped on one of the buses into the city center. We got off at Lille Lungegårdsvannet once again, admired the view a bit, and walked a couple of blocks to the Tourist Information Center.
There, we bought two things: Bergen Cards and tickets for a Fjord Cruise. Bergen Cards are these handy cards that you can purchase (24, 48, or 72 hours), which then give you discounts on all sorts of things in the city, like free public transportation, a free funicular ride up Mount Fløyen, 20% off of a Fjord Cruise, free or discounted museums, a free or discounted ticket to the Aquarium (depending on the time of year), and other random little stuff. We bought the 48 hour cards for 280 NOK ($35 USD) each.
A Fjord cruise is a 3-hour long cruise (at least, the one we took was 3 hours) through the fjords in Bergen. Because we got a 20% discount from the Bergen card, we ended up paying around 880 NOK ($112 USD) for the two of us. Quite pricey, but glad we got the Bergen card!
(15:00) Our cruise was at 2:00PM, but we were there a few hours early, so we needed to kill some time. We walked around a bit, as we did so often in Bergen. Right near the port, which is where both the tourist center and fjord cruises are, we admired the Bryggen. The Bryggen is pretty much what we'd looked forward to most, since it was the first Google Photo we'd seen for Bergen. It was adorable!
(15:58) We were mighty peckish, so we went to a sausage stand to get traditional reindeer sausage, but they were closed when we went. Bummer!
Almost all of the restaurants are impossibly expensive, we quickly discovered. They were far too expensive for us! So, while searching for a place to eat, we stopped in a McDonald's for WiFi to search for a cheap place to eat and magically found a cheap and traditional restaurant nearby!
Fish Cakes and Fish Soup
That's when we found a godsend: Søstrene Hagelin. We ate what were called "fish cakes" for about $1-$3 for each one. We got every kind they had, including bacon and cheese, original, vegetables, and more. They were delicious and hearty!
Oh, and we got some fish soup too-- one of the greatest, creamiest, and most satisfying soups of all time! It reminded us a lot of lobster bisque flavor, but it had fish balls and other delicious things in it. The fish soup was pricier that the cakes, but so worth it!
(20:12) We still had time to kill before the fjord cruise began, so we walked a few blocks away to this cafe called Cafe Aura. We got a couple of espressos at a table where we had a nice view of a cute alleyway.
After finishing our coffees, we walked around the alleyways in the area of the cafe to admire more of the adorable and colorful alleyways.
About ten minutes before our cruise began, we boarded the boat. There were two floors: the bottom deck, which was for sitting and relaxing in warmth with a snack bar and bathrooms, and the upper deck for viewing the fjords outdoors. We stayed on the lower deck until the fjords came into view (it was freezing and windy!). It was worth going on the upper deck when we did, wind, frigid cold, and all.
The fjord cruise was one of the greatest things we've ever done because we saw mother nature at her finest.
Tip for the fjord cruise: bring your own warm drinks, alcohol, and/or food. The snack bar there is pricey and it would be cheaper for you to just bring stuff with you rather than buy stuff there.
We didn't think to bring food, but luckily we had some leftover fish cakes from earlier to snack on!
(23:15) We were also a little hesitant to go on the cruise in the first place only because it was pricey, but it turned out to be completely worth it. We'd never seen fjord before and seeing them up close and personal while in the dead of winter was unlike anything we'd ever experienced. We don't regret it at all!
Going to Bergen and questioning the fjord cruise? STOP THAT AND GO DO IT.
(25:20) After stepping off our cruise boat, we walked straight to the sausage stand called Trekroneren and got some reindeer sausage-- finally! We got it with the traditional Norwegian toppings: strawberry sauce, mustard, and fried onions. Bizarre combination, right?! Bizarre as it may be, it was divine.
It came to 65 NOK ($8 USD) for just one sausage. Quite pricey, huh!?
(27:00) With our Bergen Card, we were able to ride the funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen for free! Being that the mountain awards visitors with stellar panoramic views of the city, we knew we just had to do it!
We rode the funicular up for free (normally 95 NOK or $12 USD roundtrip) and were blown away instantly by the view of the city below and other surrounding mountains. We got to the top near sunset, so we got to experience it in the day, sunset, and night. It really made us appreciate the beauty of Bergen even more!
It got very cold very quickly, so we honestly didn't stay too long. After going back down the mountain on the funicular, we went to the grocery store (again for cheap food to eat at our AirBNB), then headed back.
(30:28) Public transportation is really easy to follow and use in Bergen, which is a huge plus! It consists of the lightrail and buses, mainly, which are all relatively easy to navigate.
We never went out to eat for dinner in Bergen because it was really expensive to eat dinner out there. We would've spent at least $60-70 each on just entrees!
(31:00) We woke up a bit late, since we figured we had already explored most of Bergen the previous day. But, we knew we did want to take a long walk (about 40 minutes) from our AirBNB to the Gamlehaugen castle.
This castle, which is more of a mansion, is owned by the Norwegian royal family and is used by the king as a place to stay when he goes to visit Bergen. It's positioned right on the lake with some lovely views of a part of the city and the lake.
Since we went in the winter, it wasn't quite as beautiful as we thought it would be. The grounds of the castle has lots of greenery, so we think that it would be a much more fulfilling place to go in the spring and summer rather than in winter. However, we did enjoy the views a little bit anyway.
(34:28) That 40 minute uphill walk back to our AirBNB did not look enticing whatsoever, so we searched for bus stops nearby. There were a few, but they were about 10 minutes walk from the castle. Normally, that would be fine, but since it was Sunday, the buses only came once per hour. So, we ended up waiting quite a while in the freezing cold for a bus.
(35:02) Matt also had to pee so desperately that he couldn't wait for the bus and ended up peeing in a wooded area. Classy!
When we got to the center of the city after riding the bus, we noticed that almost everything was closed because it was Sunday. Damn it, Europe!
Tip: If you plan to travel around Bergen on a Sunday, be aware that most places will be closed.
(36:30) We ended up wandering around in a zombie-like state, searching desperately for affordable and yummy food. Eventually, we settled for a vegetarian/vegan place called Dwell. We got some Buddha Bowls (109 NOK or $14 USD each) and antioxidant-rich drinks (70 NOK or $9 USD each). Everything was delicious and surprisingly not impossibly expensive.
Espressos and Fish Soup (again)
After that, we realized we were still a bit hungry and low on energy. We returned to Aura and ordered some espressos with a large bowl of fish soup to share. Once again, the fish soup did not disappoint!
Then, we wandered around the alleyways once again. Since the sun was setting, we thought it was a good time to return to our AirBNB. We once again got some cheap-ish food from the grocery store and headed back to our AirBNB via bus from the center.
(39:47) Yes. Four days is far too long for Bergen, but that's just how our flights lined up. If you can, avoid staying there for four days. Two to three days is perfect.
Our final day in Bergen, Matt researched more heavily on what else we could do. He found that there is an aquarium about a 30 minute walk from the center. The aquarium itself isn't particularly special, but the walk to it is.
More Fish Cakes and Fish Soup!
We hopped on the bus to the center. Since we were starving, we stopped once again at Søstrene Hagelin for more delectable fish cakes and fish soup! It was just as good--if not better!-- than when we had it on our second day in Bergen.
The Walk to the Aquarium
(41:28) We walked towards the aquarium from the center and we were not disappointed by what we found.
We thought these homes were even more beautiful than the more popular homes in the Bryggen!
(43:14) Since we found ourselves there, we thought we'd visit the aquarium. It was, after all, free with our Bergen card! However, our Bergen card was only for 48 hours. Our time was up! So, we did something out of necessity: we changed the "26" to a "28" on the expiration date (it was later in the day on the 26th, so our cards officially expired). Oops! But, you gotta do what you gotta do!
The aquarium was quite cute (some of the exhibits were outdoors because it's so cold there!) and we enjoyed exploring that for a little over an hour or so.
(46:02) Before sunset, we walked back to the center of the city. As usual, we picked up our usual canned fish, eggs, and other nonsense from the grocery store, and went back to our AirBNB.
Our flight was at 7:30 AM, so we needed to find a way to get there. Taxis are far too expensive to get there (it would've been 400 NOK or $50 USD for a 15 minute drive!) and the lightrail/tram doesn't start up until 6:00 AM. But, of course, we needed to leave earlier than that. Luckily, there's an airport shuttle bus in Bergen that stopped right in our neighborhood! It was 90 NOK or $11 USD per person, which was much better than the taxi or possibly being late with the lightrail!
We took the bus at 5:00 AM and got to the airport with no problems. The airport was also extremely easy and quick to go through. There were hardly any people working there, either! It's mainly ran by robots!
We both really enjoyed our time in Bergen. There is a surprising amount of things to do and see in Bergen. It has so much nature and breathtaking views to feast your eyes on!
Positives: the cafes were quirky, the people were so friendly, the food was surprisingly scrumptious, WiFi is bountiful, the nature was incredible, everyone spoke English there, and the Norwegian greeting is easy to remember: "Hi!"
Negatives: the prices were insane and it was cold.
We will certainly make our way back to Norway to experience more of the country in the future! We need to see the Northern Lights!
Check out our video of our time in Bergen!
Have you been to Bergen or another city/area in Norway? What were your thoughts on Norway?
Wine: Torre de Rejas - Tempranillo (Spain)