Some places stay with for eternity, others for just a moment—I’m happy to say that Bergen, Norway falls into the former category for me.
I remember arriving in Bergen late one evening in June and walking along its harbor toward my hotel to find the sun still quite a ways from setting. The light belied the hour of the day; the warm mood of people contradicted the profound chill my Texan skin felt in the air.
While it’s true, in hindsight, that my instant love for Bergen was as much to do with its beauty as the fact that it wasn’t stifling and gray like Oslo, Europe’s supposedly wettest city is a constant source of sunshine as I look back on my travels—and not just because my 3 days in Bergen transpired without a single drop of rain.
Where to Stay in Bergen
Like most of Norway, Bergen is incredibly expensive, but it also provides a good value, especially on its array of excellent hotels. Whether you live it up during your Bergen itinerary and splurge on a suite at Thon Hotel Ronsenkrantz, choose a moderate room at the sensible Scandic Byparken or scrimp and save at Bergen Hostel Montana, one of Bergen’s only budget options, you’ll get quality commensurate with the quantity of Norwegian Krone you spend.
How to Structure Your Bergen Itinerary
Day One: Midnight(ish) at Fløyen
I’m going to go ahead and assumed, based on how cramped most of my readers’ Norway itineraries tend to be, that you’ll arrive to Bergen at least mid-way through your first day (That, and the near-impossibility that your hotel will let you check in early!). If you arrive before about 4 p.m., set your things down quickly and explore Fisketorget, Bergen’s fish market, as you walk along the shores of Vågen Harbor.
There’s much more to see here (magnificent maritime scenes and huge boats are only the beginning), but as the sun begins to set toward the sea, head slightly north and east from there water, until you reach the terminal station of the Fløibanen funicular railway, which will take you to the Fløyen viewpoint. It’s a perfect spot for sunset anytime of the year, but especially around June 21, when the light goes out at the auspicious hour of 11:11 p.m.
(TIP: Get free use of the Fløibanen, and free or discounted admission to many of the attractions I mention in this article, when you purchase the Bergen Card!)
Day Two: If I Could Turn Back Time
One top Bergen destination you’ll almost certainly pass as you walk along the harbor is Bryggen, a long row of colorful wooden buildings that calls to mind 14th-century Norwegian architecture (although they’re newer than that—they had to be re-built following a fire in 1702). A UNECO World Heritage site, Bryggen is one of many places you’ll visit during your Bergen itinerary to explore history, with other popular options nearby being Bergenhus Fortress and the Hanseatic Museum.
Just south of downtown, on the other hand, sits the Bergen Museum, which is divided into two collections: natural history and cultural history. I recommend walking here, weather-permitting, which not only allows you to take in the gorgeousness of Bergen’s cityscape, but also affords you time to relax in two city parks: Byparken, which is on the way, and Nygårdsparken, which sits just beyond.
(Feeling hungry? Marg & Bein, which sits near the Bergen Museum, is pricey but delicious.)
Day Three: Fjords and Waterfalls 101
Bergen itself sits in a fjord, but it would be a shame to come to the west coast of Norway and not take a boat through one of Norway’s most picturesque fjords, many of which are within day-trip distance of the city.
Depending on whether you have only three days in Bergen or have some more wiggle room in your schedule, you have two options for seeing fjords during your Bergen itinerary. The easiest and cheapest one (550 NOK, or about $65 per person as of January 2017) starts near Bergen’s fish market and explores the stunning Osterfjorden for about four hours during the day.
An alternative option, either if you have more than 3 days in Bergen, Norway or if you simply don’t need to sightsee on your third day, is to do a marathon, all-day tour known as Norway in a Nutshell (although you don’t need to organize it through the company).
The default package tour spotlights not only the stunning Aurlandsfjord, but also the historical Flåm Railway, the charming mountain station of Myrdal and the scenic fjord town of Gudvangen. Times for each component this tour are on the right side of this page, under the heading “Round trip from Bergen via Myrdal.”
How Many Days Do You Need in Bergen?
Although this post is designed to accommodate three, you could just as easily spend 2 days in Bergen or even 4 days in Bergen. The most important thing you need to consider as you determine this is how many days in Bergen city center, and how many days you plan to spend outside it. For Bergen, what to do in 3 days is as much about what you do in the urban core as the day trips you take.
For example, if you plan to closely shadow the ideas I’ve presented for Bergen 3 days, but want to spend longer in the fjords, you might increase the length of your Bergen itinerary for four of five days. Conversely, if you just plan to stay in the city center (for example, if you’re in Bergen on business), you might just spend a day or two. Of course, as is the case in travel as well as life, this is as much a question of quality as quantity: When it comes to enjoying Bergen, how many days is arguably superfluous to how much you smiled. How many days to spend in Bergen is really up to your preference.
Other FAQ About Visiting Bergen
Is Bergen worth visiting?
Bergen is absolutely worth visiting! Even if the weather during your trip lives up to Bergen’s rainy reputation, the harbor views and the Midnight Sun (or in winter, the Northern Lights) make the journey absolutely worth it. Moreover, Bergen is the gateway to Norway’s famous fjords.
What is the best time to visit Bergen, Norway?
Most travelers visit Norway during the summer, in order to have the most sunlight to enjoy this stunning city, as well as the nearby fjords. However, if you’re chasing the Northern Lights, you’ll want to visit between about November and February, when dark skies maximize your chances of seeing the aurora.
Why is Bergen so popular?
Bergen is popular primarily because it’s the closest major city to southern Norway’s most accessible fjords. However, many visitors quickly find themselves charmed with Bergen’s ambiance and scenery, particularly if they’re lucky enough to come when it’s bright and sunny.
The Bottom Line
You probably won’t get as lucky as I did, weather-wise, when you travel to Europe’s rainiest city, but you’re sure to enjoy it just as much. 3 days in Bergen is the perfect amount of time to explore its beautiful cityscape and rich history, as well as some of the stunning scenery around it, whether you combine a Bergen itinerary with a larger Norway trip, or simply enjoy a long weekend here. Can’t decide how many days in Bergen, Norway you need? Make your Norway itinerary one for the record books when you hire me as your Travel Coach.