Norwegian fjords itineraries are among the most popular in Northern Europe and the majority of them will include a visit to the country’s charming second-largest city, Bergen.
6 hours in… Bergen
A city it may be but Bergen has the atmosphere of a much smaller community, thanks in part to its most popular attraction, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. It’s a thoroughly picturesque harbour area which begs to be explored and you won’t fail to miss it thanks to its beautiful, multi-coloured buildings. A stroll through the streets is an attraction in itself and offers a fascinating look at the history of the city and its maritime heritage.
Another attraction you literally won’t be able to miss is the lofty Mount Floyen which forms a constant and dramatic backdrop to the city. It has a funicular railway which is the most popular and satisfying way to scale the summit, as it offers some fantastic views. If you feel like taking in a little more of the Norwegian mountain air with a partial climb, the train stops half way up but whatever you choose, the views at the top are nothing short of spectacular.
Other landmarks you’ll be able to enjoy on an afternoon in the city are Rosenkrantz Tower, a fascinating medieval structure which is over 800 years old and Bergenhus Fortress, which is one of the city’s oldest buildings, where you can take a walk along the walls and enjoy a stroll in the park, too.
Though it’s actually one of Bergen’s most popular attractions, the breathtaking Hardanger Fjord is best experienced if you’ve already explored the city itself and worth devoting a day to on a return visit. Of course, you could choose to see it on your first visit instead of touring the town but either way, it’s certainly a must-see.
Other attractions which are a great way to while away the hours on return visits are Bergen’s fascinating museums. The Art Museum actually consists of four buildings which sit on the shores of the picturesque Lille Lungegadsvsann Lake and is manna from Heaven for art lovers, containing works by such greats as Picasso, Munch and Miro as well as collections of historic and religious artefacts through the ages. The Edvard Grieg Museum is situated in the gifted composer and pianist’s former home, while the Leprosy Museum offers a sobering but insightful look at how the disease was treated and is housed in the city’s former leprosy hospital.
Can’t keep away?
If you love Norwegian cruises and have thus visited Bergen a number of times before, the city’s aquarium is certainly worth a look. Fittingly located on the city’s harbour, its home to all manner of aquatic life found in the North Sea and birdlife too, with seals and penguins being among the most popular residents.
A leafy park possibly isn’t the first thing which springs to mind when you think of a cruise around the Norwegian fjords but if you’re looking for somewhere new to explore in Bergen, Lille Lungegaardvannet is an oasis of calm in the centre of the city which surrounds a lake and is a great little place in which to take a break. Don’t worry about pronouncing the name when it comes to finding directions, most people will know what you mean when you ask for the park!
If the outdoors is your thing but you’ve already scaled Mt Floyen, Stoltzekleiven is another popular peak to tackle. Though the climb is relatively short it’s a steep one, so it’s important you’re equipped with the correct footwear and have at least some experience of hill or mountain walking.
Don’t even bother!
Norway is one of the more expensive countries in Europe, so make sure you don’t go for the first café or restaurant that you see and shop around. Knitwear makes for a favourite Norwegian souvenir but can prove expensive and be aware that not everything on sale is locally-sourced, so check the label and if in doubt, check with the seller – they won’t be offended.
Naturally, seafood is big business in Bergen and the famous fish market is a popular place to visit with all those with a liking for the fruit of the ocean. It’s worth noting though that not all vendors at the market are selling freshly-caught local produce, so take your time when choosing your catch.