We visited the beautiful city of Bergen for three days in early June. To our good fortune, the weather was quite pleasant during our entire stay. While it was still a bit chilly at times, the sun was out almost always (literally) and there was no rain or cold wind.
We traveled to and from Bergen by train; the train journey was long but flights to Bergen were expensive and we were on a tight budget. So, we took the night train to Bergen and the day train on our way back. I wanted to take the day train one way because the train line between Oslo and Bergen, also known as ‘The Bergen Railway’, is in itself a tourist attraction. And the train journey certainly didn’t disappoint. It was all just so beautiful, especially the stretch where the train passes through the glaciers around Finse, the highest Norwegian railway station at an altitude of 1222 m. So much snow all around and that too in summer! So beautiful! What’s more, I got the NSB (Norwegian State Railways) Minipris tickets which cost just 750 NOK round-trip per person. For how much I had heard about Norway being an extremely expensive country, this seemed like an excellent price to start with.
Since I planned the trip kinda last-minute, it was impossible to find affordable hotel accommodation. I turned instead to Airbnb and it was awesome! So, we stayed with a Norwegian family in their villa. The house was located opposite to a small fjord and we had a beautiful view during our morning coffee and evening dinner. Our host was lovely and let us use the kitchen, living room and dining table freely. The villa wasn’t in the city center; it took at least 15 minutes by bus from city center. But then, Norway is just so beautiful; even for those 15 minutes, you have the fjords – mountains and water – throughout. When you get such a treat to the eyes, you can’t quite complain about the house being away from city center. The Airbnb accommodation cost around 200 NOK per person per night which was at least one-third the price I would have had to pay for a hotel room.
Now to what we actually did do in the three days that we were in Bergen:
Day 1: We arrived in Bergen pretty early in the morning. We had breakfast at central station and then walked to the city center to buy ‘Bergen Cards’ from the tourist office. Empowered with the right to travel freely in Bergen’s public transport (thanks to the Bergen card), we took a bus to our accommodation, dropped off our luggage, freshened up and went back to the city center. We first went to Bryggen, the lovely old hanseatic treasure well-preserved in Bergen to this day. The colorful wooden houses of Bryggen by the water make for a picturesque sight. Strolling around the Bryggen area led us to Bryggens museum. It is a small museum but gives you a fair bit of information about the history of Bryggen and the importance of Bergen as a trading center in the hanseatic era. We were finished with the museum by lunchtime.
After some yummy lunch and quality time at a friend’s place, we headed to Mt. Fløyen. A ride in the Fløibanen funicular took us to the summit. The view of Bergen from the top of Mt. Fløyen was magnificent and the weather even better than the city with the sun shining bright and strong. We took a walk around atop Mt. Fløyen and reached Skomakerdiket lake which was the closest lake from the funicular station. The lake and surrounding area was so serene, quiet and beautiful.
Day 2: We took the Norway in a Nutshell day trip from Bergen to Bergen via Voss, Gudvangen, Flåm and Myrdal. In a nutshell, the trip involved a train journey from Bergen to Voss on the Bergen railway, a bus journey from Voss to Gudvangen, a cruise from Gudvangen to Flåm, a train journey from Flåm to Myrdal on ‘The Flåm Railway’ and finally another train journey from Myrdal to Bergen on the Bergen railway. And all through the trip, you pass through amazingly lovely sights and hardly ever are you not surrounded by fjords. The details of this trip could be another blog post in itself, so I will not dive into the details here. But just as anyone who has taken any of the Norway in a Nutshell trips would tell, I too totally recommend this for a complete fjord experience. Undoubtedly, the Norway in a Nutshell trip was the highlight of our travel to Norway.
Day 3: On our final day in Bergen, we were on our way to the Bergen Aquarium when we came across the sightseeing train ‘Bergens Expressen’. Even though I have seen road trains in other cities before, I had never taken a ride in them. This time though, we decided to give it a try. It was a nice little ride that takes you some meters up Mt. Fløyen before making a circular route back to the Fish Market area via Bryggen, all the while enriching our knowledge about the history of the city. I wouldn’t say it’s a must do in Bergen but if you have some extra time on your hands and a Bergen Card with you that gives a discount on Bergens Expressen, then why not!
When we were done with our unplanned ride in the sightseeing train, we took the long (but according to locals, very short!) walk from the Fish Market to the Bergen Aquarium. We were just in time for the sea-lion show. It was the first time that I saw a sea-lion show and I absolutely loved it! It was so much fun to see the sea-lions wave at us and perform many other stunning maneuvers like spinning, somersaulting and even giving their trainers a kiss! After the sea-lion show, we took a walk around inside and looked at the many different species of under-water creatures they had. It was a pretty nice collection considering that the aquarium wasn’t all that big. When we were done with taking a stroll, it was time for seal-feeding. At the time we visited the Bergen Aquarium, they had only one seal. We expected the seal-feeding to be a straightforward process where they offered the seal some food and the seal ate. But the nice surprise was that even the seal-feeding show came with a fair bit of stunt-performance by the seal like waving and spinning. Far lower energy level than the sea-lions but exciting to watch nevertheless.
After the aquarium, we had a quick lunch and headed to Mt. Ulriken, the highest in Bergen. We took the cable cars to go up and down the mountain. Unfortunately, the weather was not exactly ideal when we were at the top. It was raining and a bit cold too. The view however was spectacular; we were so much higher than Mt. Fløyen! I would say Mt. Fløyen had a great view of the Bergen city while Mt. Ulriken had a breathtaking view of the fjords all around. Just mind-blowing! Due to the bad weather, we didn’t hike around much but there were well-marked hiking trails which would be fun to explore on a good-weather day, I’m sure.
We were back in town from Mt. Ulriken earlier than we had anticipated. Luckily for us, the charming city of Bergen was celebrating The 36th International Hanseatic Days right when we were there. There was so much going on in the city – singing, dancing, bands playing music, sailors demonstrating how to make a strong rope that can withstand the rough conditions at sea and many different stalls set up by other hanseatic cities. We had a relaxed evening as we soaked in the celebration of the hanseatic history of the city. It was just a perfect way to end the trip.