Beautiful Bergen was on my bucket list for a long time. So I was very excited when I finally got to visit! Ideally, you should spend at least three days here, but if you only have one day in Bergen, read on to discover what to see and do to make the most of your one day here.
Bergen was founded in the 11th century, and has been an important trading center for much of its existence. Till the early part of the 19th century, it was the largest city in Norway, and even served as the capital of Norway in the 13th century.
Now the second largest city in Norway, Bergen is located on its southwestern coast. Known as the “city of seven mountains” and “the gateway to the fjords,” Bergen’s location is nothing short of spectacular. Just wandering around the harbor and the town is a great way to get acquainted with Bergen’s beauty, especially if you happen to visit on a sunny day.
Here, then, is the lowdown on how to spend one amazing day in Bergen!
#1 Take the Fløibanen Funicular to the Top of Mt. Fløyen
Taking the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mt. Fløyen should be at the very top of your things to do in one day in Bergen. Mt. Fløyen is the most accessible of the seven mountains that surround the city. If you are fit, you can walk up to the top in about one hour, but the funicular ride is lovely and will save you time if you have only one day in Bergen.
The funicular takes just six or seven minutes to climb the 1,000 feet to the top. Grab a seat that lets you look back down into the city and the water as you go up. At the top, walk around the Fløytrappene, a large viewing area from where you get stunning bird’s eye views of the city.
There is a little cafe at the top where you can get a drink. Lots of walking trails start at the summit, including one that takes you down the mountain and back into Bergen. You may even get to see the famous cashmere goats of Mt. Fløyen while you are at the top!
The Fløibanen funicular has been operating since 1918, and is one of the most popular attractions in Bergen. Bergen is a popular cruise port and you might be stuck in a long line for tickets and then another long line to board, especially if you arrive after 10 a.m. and before 4 p.m. So here are some tips to help you save time on your one day in Bergen!
Tips for the Bergen funicular:
Buy your tickets online in advance, unless you plan to get a Bergen Card. You can get free or discounted rides on the funicular with the Bergen Card (see below).
Make the funicular your first activity of the day. If you can make it before 9 a.m., you will likely not encounter any lines. We arrived at 8.30 in the morning to no lines at all.
The funicular is open every day of the year. Click here for operating hours and to buy tickets. The station is right in town, a very short walk from Bryggen and the Fish Market.
Plan a visit at sunset, and stay at the top to see the lights of Bergen start twinkling at dusk. This is on my list for my next visit!
If you go: Fløibanen, Vetrlidsallmenningen 21, 5014 Bergen, Norway
#2 Bryggen: A Must-See on Your One Day in Bergen!
You’ve likely seen pictures of Bryggen on Instagram. These iconic buildings and wharf form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bryggen is so pretty that you will want to keep taking photos from every angle. My husband had to drag me away from Bryggen so we could see other parts of Bergen!
Today’s buildings are not the originals, because the wooden structures of Bryggen have been destroyed by fires over and over, most recently in the Great Fire of 1702. But the current buildings have been built to look exactly like the originals, so you still see them as they were all the way back in history.
The Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf has a long and rich history. It was a trading hub for Norway from the 10th century onward. In 1360, the Hanseatic League set up an office here, and became the dominant force in trading for four centuries to come. The League exported dried cod from Norway and imported grain from the European continent. The Germans controlled the office until the mid 1750s, when the Norwegians finally took over.
Today, the colorful facades charm visitors from all over the world. Restaurants and shops line the street. As we strolled past, I saw windows showcasing Norwegian clothing (love the colorful sweaters with the characteristic patterns!), jewelry, little Viking figurines, and dolls.
In the alleys behind Bryggen, you’ll find lots of galleries to browse, because artists, potters and jewelers have set up shop in the area. Wander up the hill and into the streets and alleys behind the wharf to see the little houses and get a true sense of historic Bergen.
If you go: Bryggen, 5003 Bergen, Norway
#3 Visit a Museum
Bergen has a ton of interesting museums, so pick the one or two that appeal to you the most, for your one day in Bergen. We explored the Hanseatic Museum and loved it. With more time, I would have loved to visit the KODE museums and the Leprosy Museum as well, they sound so interesting!
The Hanseatic Museum
The Hanseatic Museum is right in Bryggen, so it’s very convenient. It’s also a wonderful museum to visit if you want to learn more about the history of Bryggen. The building in which it is housed is one of the oldest wooden buildings here, but it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1702, just like the other buildings of Bryggen.
The Hanseatic museum depicts the way the German Hanseatic merchants lived their day-to-day lives and conducted their trading business. There are interiors furnished in the style of the 18th and 19th centuries. You’ll see a trading office and the sleeping quarters of the merchant, the journeyman and the apprentices.
If a guided tour is being offered when you visit, I highly recommend it. You will learn a lot about the history of the place and life in the Hanseatic times.
You can also visit the Schøtstuene around the corner, the assembly halls where heat was allowed (heat/fire was not allowed in the other Bryggen buildings because of the risk of fire: ironic, because Bryggen still burned down more than once!). Hot meals were served in the assembly halls. There are three meeting rooms and a kitchen.
If you go: Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene, Finnegården 1A, 5003 Bergen, Norway
KODE Art Museum and Composers’ Homes
KODE is a cluster of museum buildings housing an enormous collection of art and design. Given that you are in Bergen only for one day, you might want to pick just one or two buildings to visit. KODE 3 and KODE 4, which contain permanent exhibits by Norwegian artists, sound amazing.
KODE 3 houses Rasmus Meyer’s collection and includes a wonderful collection of works by Edvard Munch. In fact, the KODE museums house the second largest collection of Munch works in the world, including a pen-and-ink version of Scream, my favorite Munch work. Guided tours of the Munch exhibit are offered in July and August. KODE 3 also includes works by other Norwegian greats such as J. C. Dahl.
KODE 4 contains the works of another popular Norwegian artist, Nikolai Astrup. It also houses a variety of works by other Norwegian artists as well as greats from other countries.
Housed in St. George’s Hospital, one of three Bergen hospitals that served a large number of leprosy patients in the second half of the 19th century, the Leprosy Museum is a poignant place to visit. It documents the personal tragedies of thousands stricken by the disease, as well as the sterling work done by the Norwegians in the field of leprosy research and treatment. Did you know that the leprosy bacterium was discovered by a Norwegian physician, Gerhard Hansen, and is also called Hansen’s Disease?
There is an herb garden here that is open to the public when the museum is open.
If you go: Leprosy Museum, Kong Oscars gate 59, 5017 Bergen, Norway
#4 Browse Fisketorget, Bergen’s famous fish market
As much a scenic and historical attraction as a market selling fish, fruit and vegetables, Bergen’s Fish Market is located right around the corner from the Bryggen wharf. A fish market has been operating in Bergen since the 1200s! The fish market has been the traditional marketplace where fisherfolk and farmers offered their wares to the residents of Bergen, both on land at the harbor and on boats pulled up to the harbor.
We walked the market in the morning and saw fresh fish, berries, and lots of vegetables and other fruit for sale. At lunch and later in the day, the market functions more as a food court and as a market for canned and dried fish.
It gets crowded once the stalls begin to serve meals. However, once you get seated, it is a fun place to people watch and to see the boats in the harbor and lovely buildings all around.
If you love seafood, stop at the Fish Market and pick out whatever you fancy, to be cooked on the spot and served to you in a few minutes. Be warned though, like everything else in Norway, the seafood is pricey!
If you go: Fisketorget, Torget 5, 5014 Bergen, Norway
#5 Wander the streets around the harbor and behind Bryggen
Just wandering around the beautiful town is one of the most fun things you can do in Bergen. If you walk up the hill along the alleyways behind Bryggen, you will see lots of wooden houses in beautiful colors.
We also wandered the streets behind the funicular station, and then made our way around the harbor to the opposite side of the water for another view of pretty Bryggen.
If you walk in the other direction from Bryggen, towards the cruise port, you will pass by Bergenhus Fortress, one of the oldest fortresses in Norway. It includes structures built all the way from the 13th century to World War II times. Today, the fortress is used for concerts and public feasts. If you pop in, don’t miss Haakon’s Hall: it is stunning!
With more time…
All of the activities above are within walking distance of Bryggen, and if you have just one day in Bergen, it makes sense to stay in this area. However, if you’re up for taking the bus/light rail, or you have more time, you can see more of Bergen’s attractions:
Visit the Fantoft Stave Church
You can’t leave Norway without seeing a stave church. Made of wood, the unique appearance of a stave church is a magnet for photographers.
The Fantoft Stave Church was built originally in a place called Fortun un Sogn in the year 1150. In 1883, it was brought piece by piece to Bergen to save it from being demolished as part of a movement in northwestern Europe to replace stave churches. The original burnt down in 1992, but it was replaced by an exact replica, so it’s still worth visiting.
You have to take the Light Rail from the city center to get to the Fantoft Stave Church. From the drop-off at the Fantoft station, it’s about a ten-minute walk to get to the church. Or you can take a bus from the city center.
If you go: Fantoft Stave Church, Fantoftvegen 38, 5072 Bergen, Norway
Visit Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg’s home
If you love classical music, you’ve heard of Edvard Grieg, the Norwegian composer and pianist. His home outside Bergen, where he lived and composed his music, is located in the midst of nature, with the garden overlooking a fjord. Troldhaugen is now a museum, and concerts are held at a hall in this location all through summer. A guided tour through the property will greatly enhance your experience!
A guided tour from Bergen is by far the best way to visit Troldhaugen, since it’s tedious to get there using public transport. To get to Troldhaugen by public transport, take the Light Rail from the city center to the Hop station. The ride takes about 25 minutes, and Troldhaugen is a 30-minute walk from the Hop station.
Take the cable car to the top of Mt. Ulriken (or hike to the top!)
Mt. Ulriken is the tallest of the many mountains that surround Bergen. You’ll find the views from the summit simply spectacular. Take a bus from the city center to the Ulriksbanen station, and then the aerial tramway to the summit. The bus ride is about ten minutes.
If you are up for it, you can hike up to the top of Mt. Ulriken instead. Take the bus from the city center to the trailhead at Montana. At the trailhead, you will see multiple signposted trails to the top. Trails can get slippery in wet weather though, so follow safe hiking practices. The walk takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, with great views all along the way, and, of course, magnificent vistas at the top.
You can also hike from the top of Mt. Floyen to the top of Mt. Ulriken or vice versa. This is a multi-hour hike and should be done with a guide.
Old Bergen Museum
Gamle Bergen or Old Bergen is an open-air museum. It consists of about 50 wooden houses from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, many of them scavenged from Bergen. Gamle Bergen replicates what life was like in Bergen in years past, and actors in costume breathe life into the re-enactment.
The museum is about 15 minutes away by bus, and you can catch the bus either from Bryggen or the Fish Market.
Take a fjord cruise
If you are not planning to explore the fjords around Bergen separate from your visit to the city, try and fit in a fjord cruise when you are in Bergen. Multiple cruises depart from the harbor everyday. We did a cruise with Rodne Tours from Stavanger and loved it. They also offer cruises from Bergen. You can book online.
A fjord cruise in this part of Norway is a breathtaking experience. You will journey past steep mountainsides, roaring waterfalls, and beautiful green hills and islands. Picturesque little houses stand by the edge of the water, their colorful facades reflected in the blue-grey waters of the fjord. This is quintessential picture-postcard Norway.
Norway in a Nutshell
A more extensive day trip (or multi day trip), Norway in a Nutshell is a combination of extremely scenic rail, bus and boat journeys through Norway’s fjord and mountain region. Norway in a Nutshell tours are offered by many tour companies, such as Fjord Tours, and can be customized to some degree.
The Norway in a Nutshell tour can begin from Oslo, Bergen, Flam, or Voss. You can also put together your own tour using public transportation, if you are up for doing the bookings on your own. I highly recommend some variation of the journeys that make up these tours…the scenery you will see is some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world.
If you do this tour between May and September, make sure the itinerary includes the Stalheimskleiva drive with its numerous hairpin bends and waterfalls on both sides!
And after you explore Bergen, if you are looking for other places to visit in Norway, check out this comprehensive Norway travel guide!
The Bergen Card
If you plan to visit places by public transport, or enjoy several paid attractions, look into the Bergen Card! Apart from free bus and Light Rail rides, you get free or discounted admission to many attractions. Cards are available for 24, 48 or 72 hours.
To see the full list of benefits and to buy online, click here.
Where to stay in Bergen
The Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz, located just a 3-minute walk from Bryygen, is a wonderful choice. It features contemporary furnishings and a huge breakfast buffet.
The Opus XVI is a 10-minute walk from Bryggen. It’s a luxury hotel housed in a historic building. Furnishings are contemporary, and the bathrooms are stunning.
Where to eat in Bergen
To Kokker: For authentic, high quality Norwegian cuisine, head to To Kokker, located in a historical house in Bryggen. They offer a multi-course set menu if you want to sample a variety of local dishes at one meal. Their artichoke soup is delicious!
Enhjøringen: To Kokker’s sister restaurant, Enhjøringen also serves traditional Norwegian cuisine, with set meal options. Their menu is seafood-heavy, in keeping with Bergen’s location and diet.
Kitchen and Table: Located in the Clarion Hotel Admiral on the opposite side of the water from Bryggen, Food Network star chef Marcus Samuelsson’s Kitchen and Table offers a menu that combines Manhattan multicultural flavors with Scandinavian ingredients.
You’ll find lots of great cafes in Bergen for coffee and pastries. Try Kaffemisjonen for coffee and a brownie.
When to visit Bergen
Summer is a beautiful time to visit. Daytime temperatures are pleasant. The days are long, so you can cram in a lot in one day in Bergen if you visit between mid-May and early September. We visited in mid-May, and daytime temperatures were in the low 70s, perfect for exploring.
If there is a downside to visiting Bergen, it’s that it is very rainy…the rainiest city in Europe, in fact! So you have to hope that the rain gods cooperate when you visit. We were lucky not to experience a drop of rain in our time in this beautiful city, but I think that even in less than perfect weather, Bergen would remain one of my favorite European destinations.
Have you visited Bergen? If not, is it on your bucket list? Comment below to share your thoughts!
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