An Insider’s Guide to Bergen, Norway: Uncover Local Charms and Hidden Gems

Aerial view of Bergen, Norway

An Insider’s Guide to Bergen, Norway: Uncover Local Charms and Hidden Gems

Aerial view of Bergen, Norway

Known for its small-town charm, vibrant architecture and rich heritage, Bergen, Norway is a popular destination for tourists and adventure seekers. Located on the country’s western coast, the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site is known as the gateway to Norway’s stunning fjords.

No matter which season you plan to visit Bergen, there’s lots to see and do, like touring one of the many historic museums, enjoying delicious local food, and discovering the city’s unique hidden gems.

With so many things to do in Bergen, where do you start? Well, of course, here— you’re in the right place!

In this article, you’ll learn about Bergen, Norway’s history, culture and top attractions. I’ll also share my recommendations on the best places to stay and eat delicious Norwegian delicacies. Plus, you’ll get day trip ideas outside Bergen and tips on making your way around this charming Norwegian city.

Let’s explore Bergen, Norway!


Pål standing in a small street in Bergen, Norway

Hi, I’m Pål. Your official tour guide for Bergen, Norway and beyond!

Bergen’s beginnings to modern times

At its origin, Bergen (once named Bjørgvin) was a medieval trading post, exporting dry cod fish and furs while importing grain and manufactured goods. The city, founded by King Olaf III Haraldsson in 1070, was Norway’s capital during the 12th and 13th centuries.

Today, Bergen is second to Oslo as the largest city in Norway, with a population of 269,548 in 2024 (compared to Oslo’s population of 717,710). A thriving Bergen continues to be one of the most important ports on the west coast of Norway. The city’s economy is backed by commerce in fishing, shipbuilding, oil, gas and related industries.

What is Bergen best known for today? With attractions like the Bryggen Wharf (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Bergenhus Fortress, and the iconic Fish Market, Bergen is a hub for lively culture, arts, food, and indoor and outdoor activities.


Colorful homes in Bryggen.

Bryggen in Bergen, Norway, is known for its unique, colorful homes.


Things to do in Bergen

As you explore all the things to do in Bergen, be sure to pack the proper clothing and gear (Bergen is known for its rainy climate). There are 200-240 days with some precipitation each year

It’s not unusual to have a rainy morning followed by a sunny afternoon (or all sun in the summer months). I recommend packing a rain jacket, warm layers, and the appropriate gear!

Visitors to Bergen enjoy easy access to hiking trails and scenic viewpoints, such as Fløyen, one of seven mountains surrounding the city.

Ride the funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen for an incredible city view. Trails are available for hiking both ways, up and down the mountain. You can also take the funicular to the top and hike down with the locals.


View from the top at the Fløibanen funicular.

What a view—from the Fløibanen funicular!


This “city mountain” is home to a fun Troll Forest, nature trails, and lake Skomakerdiket. And you get an incredible view of Vågen (the bay of Bergen) from the top! From Easter to fall, you can even spot friendly goats roaming around! 


Three mountain goats in Bergen, Norway.

Don’t forget to say hello to the friendly goats!

Other things to do in Bergen:

  • Skostredet Street: Just a 3-minute walk from the fish market, this charming street is home to retro shopping (second-hand shops), lively restaurants and historic buildings.
  • Bryggen: A UNESCO-listed site, this historic harbor district features colorful wooden houses and was once the residence of the powerful Hanseatic League. While walking through town, don’t miss the Bryggen Museum, which is home to archaeological finds from the area and offers daily guided tours.
  • Totempel: Located in Nordnes Park, the Totempel is a 10-meter (33-foot) sculpture celebrating Bergen’s 900th anniversary as a city. The traditional sculpture, a gift from Bergen’s sister city, Seattle, WA, is the work of woodcarver Duane Pasco. Come with me as I visit the sculpture in my Bergen: Hidden Gems YouTube episode!
  • Maritime Museum: Perfect for a rainy day, the Maritime Museum houses full-sized boats and artifacts from Norway’s history as a seafaring nation. Enjoy a daily guided tour and film, The Viking Burial, about a Viking-age ship found buried in Western Norway.
  • Leprosy Museum: Another great rainy day activity, this unique 15th-century museum was a medieval hospital for European leprosy patients. You’ll learn about leprosy’s impact on Norway and the significant research that put Bergen on the map.
  • Bergenhus Fortress: Built around 1700, the Bergenhus Fortress is a stunning complex that hosts museums, concerts, events and festivals. Admission to the fortress area is free; however, paid admission is required to enter Haakon’s Hall, the Rosenkrantz Medieval Tower and special events.
  • Walking Tour: Explore Bergen on foot with an inspiring walking tour led by a local guide. Learn about the city’s colorful centuries-long history while exploring top sites, like the old fire station and St Mary’s Church.
  • Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour: Spend the day touring Bergen and its popular attractions, like the Bergen Aquarium, The National Stage, The City Park and many more.


Pål showing the colorful houses in Bryggen - Bergen, Norway

There’s no shortage of things to do in Bergen!


Bergen’s thriving arts and culture scene

Each year, Bergen hosts 60 different festivals and concerts, including the Bergen International Festival—one of Northern Europe’s largest, with more than 200 events, including music, ballet, opera and dance.

Bergenfest, an annual open-air live music festival, is also a must-do for music lovers!

The Grieghallen, named in honor of composer Edvard Grieg, is home to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts concerts, theatre, dances and shows in its stunning 1,500-seat concert hall.

At Kode Bergen, you can tour historical and contemporary art exhibitions, including artifacts, paintings and handicrafts. Just a 10-minute drive away, step back in time at the Old Bergen Museum, a living history museum that details everyday life over a century ago!


Kode Museum in Bergen, Norway

Tour historical and contemporary art museums at Kode Bergen.


Outdoor places to visit in Bergen

Surrounded by seven mountains, Bergen has picturesque natural beauty and offers plenty of unique outdoor activities.

Both locals and visitors enjoy hiking trails, like the popular Vidden Trail between Mt. Fløyen and Mt. Ulriken. I recommend a hike at Stoltzekleiven, which I feature in my YouTube episode, Bergen: Hidden Gems and Iconic Landmarks, below.


Keep in mind the hike at Stoltzekleiven is slightly strenuous and includes a steep paved trail with over 700 steps. I recommend bringing a bar of Freia milk chocolate for an energy boost along the way! For a more leisurely hike, Mt Fløyen is the way to go. 

As we say in Norway, “Ut på tur, aldri sur!” (Out on a hike, never grumpy!)

City Sauna offers a scenic cruise with a state-of-the-art sauna aboard for a luxurious and relaxing time. Enjoy their unique floating sauna experience while breathing in the fresh mountain air and taking a refreshing dip in the sea!


Other outdoor adventures include:


Where to stay and eat in Bergen

No matter your budget, there are plenty of places to stay and eat in Bergen. And, as your guide on all things Norway, I have recommendations for you!


Places to stay in Bergen, Norway

  • Budget-friendly:
    • CityBox Hotel is a contemporary and comfortable option near Bergen’s city center.
  • Mid-range: 
    • Hotel Oleanna is a boutique hotel located in central Bergen. 
    • Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz offers guests a large breakfast and is located just behind the UNESCO-listed Bryggen historic harbor district.
    • Klosterhagen Hotel sits in a charming neighborhood and offers free afternoon waffles!
  • High-end: 
    • Opus XVI Hotel is a luxurious Edvard Grieg Heritage Hotel in central Bergen. 
    • Bergen Børs Hotel is housed in a stock exchange building dating back to 1862. The hotel provides guests easy access to central Bergen’s best shops, restaurants and the funicular. 
    • Hôtel Charmante is a 1920s Parisian-style boutique hotel on Skostredet Street and near the Fish Market. Guests enjoy an à la carte breakfast.


What to eat in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is all about seafood, so don’t miss the iconic fish market, a bustling and vibrant hub near the waterfront. Here, you’ll find a diverse selection of fish, shellfish and other delicacies, like king crab, a Norwegian rekesmørbrød (open-face sandwich) or fish and chips.

Trekroneren Hot Dog Stand is a local kiosk that’s been around since the hot dog cost 3 NOK (.28 USD!). You’ll find a selection of unique hot dogs, like the reindeer hot dog topped with lingonberry jam, fried onions and mustard. Delicious!


Eating a reindeer hot dog in Berge, Norway

A delicious reindeer hot dog in Bergen, Norway!


Bergen has a lot to offer the hungry traveler, and local favorites are a must-taste. Indulge in fresh king crab, scallops, seafood platters, bacalao, fish soup and the prince fish, a lightly salted cod dish with a delicious cream sauce. 

Norwegians also enjoy eating meat and dishes not commonly served in other parts of the world, such as reindeer steak, whale steak, lamb stew and moose.

On a Thursday in the city, indulge in raspeballer (komler), a boiled potato dumpling commonly served with Vossa sausage and cabbage radish on the side. They’re a popular treat on Thursdays since this was once a day of late trading, and shops had extended hours.

Opened in 1910, Bryggeloftet is Bergen’s oldest restaurant that serves excellent traditional Norwegian dishes, like pan-fried wolfish and grilled reindeer fillet. I highly recommend it!

No trip to Bergen is complete without enjoying a local favorite pastry, skillingsbolle, a Norwegian cinnamon bun loved by locals for over 500 years! You can find this treat at most cafés and bakeries in Bergen—just follow the smell of sweet dough and cinnamon!

For more of my favorite food and drink places in Bergen, check out my Bergen City Guide: Places to eat in Bergen.


Day trips: Beyond Bergen

Bergen is an ideal starting place for quite a few fun day trips. For example, you can easily set off on a majestic fjord cruise to Mostraumen from Norway’s west coast.

Norway’s most popular tour, Norway in a Nutshell®, takes you through breathtaking UNESCO-protected fjords and mountains and on scenic railways, like The Flåm and Bergen railways. 

Three ways to explore Norway:

  1. Follow my guide for do-it-yourself Norway in a Nutshell® trip planning.
  2. Buy a package tour directly from Norway in a Nutshell®.
  3. Join a fully guided tour with Get Your Guide.


Outside Bergen, the Øygarden Islets Guided Kayaking Tour is where you can experience coastal wildlife and stunning views while kayaking with friends. You might even spot an eagle or two!

Visit Troldhaugen Home of Composer Edvard Grieg, the former home of composer Edvard Grieg. It’s now a living museum with an exhibition center, a concert hall, a shop and a café.


Infographic - An insider's guide to Bergen, Norway


Public transportation: Making your way around Bergen

Public transportation is a great way to get around the city and meet the locals. Bergen has a light city rail, the Bybanen, that takes passengers from the airport to downtown.

You’ll also find local buses with routes covering pretty much all of the city. Find information and routes at You can buy tickets onboard the bus (except for the Bybanen). However, I recommend downloading the Skyss app to purchase tickets easily and at a discounted price.

To see as much of Bergen as possible, I recommend renting a city bike, which costs 69 NOK (6.46 USD) for a one-day pass. You can find city bike racks all over town—it’s the most affordable (and fun!) way to see the city.


Pål riding a City Bike in Bergen, Norway

See Bergen by bike with a city bike rental.

Over to you! Ready to visit Bergen, Norway?

We’ve covered a lot about Bergen, like:

  • Bergen’s history, culture and top attractions
  • The best places to stay and eat in Bergen
  • Day trip ideas just outside of Bergen
  • My tips on how to make your way around the city


Want a personalized day-by-day itinerary (with exclusive insider tips!) for your trip to Bergen? I’ve got you covered!

Learn about my tour planning service and how I can help you make your trip to Bergen your best adventure yet!


P.S. For more on Bergen, check out my other YouTube episode, Six Top Things to Do in Bergen. Be sure to subscribe to my channel for more episodes about traveling in and discovering beautiful Norway!


Your friend in Norway,


Pål of Norway With Pål

Pål of Norway With Pål

Norway native, veteran travel guide, sailor, filmmaker, and writer (you might have seen me in one of Rick Steves’ guidebooks!). I want to help you enjoy Norway the right way — like a local. Learn more about me.

DISCLAIMER: Products on this page may contain affiliate links, and I might make a small sum per purchase. For you this does not affect the product price, but supports me and my work, and makes me able to continue sharing my passion for Norway with you. Read the Disclaimer policy. Thank you, tusen takk!

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