3 Days in Bergen, Norway: What to See and Do
After traveling to Bergen, Norway, it has absolutely become one of my new favorite cities. It is a charming city surrounded by nature, and it’s a city that truly feels like a breath of fresh air (and I mean that in the most literal sense: the air felt so clean). Honestly every corner and sight in Bergen had me completely in love. And if you are planning a trip to Bergen, this itinerary for 3 days in Bergen will help you explore the city, the beautiful fjords, and the mountains.
Bergen is located on the southwest coast of Norway and is known at “The Gateway to the Fjords” because it is so easy to travel to some of Norway’s most spectacular fjords from here. Bergen is also a UNESCO World Heritage City, so you’ll find lots of history here too.
Because Bergen is a small city, 3 days in Bergen is the perfect amount of time. It gives you 2 days to explore the city plus 1 day to take a daytrip to the surrounding fjords.
It is a truly lovely city, with history wooden clapboard buildings, mountaintop views, and kid-friendly museums. And if you are anything like us, one trip here will have you wanting to go back.
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When Is the Best Time to Visit Bergen?
The best time to visit Bergen is between May and September. There are LOTS of reasons for this:
- The weather is more pleasant.
- Daylight hours are longer.
- More attractions are open.
While I’m sure Bergen has its charm during the winter months, you will find yourself pretty constantly surrounded by darkness and many of the attractions are not open during winter months.
Getting to Bergen, Norway
The two most popular ways to get to Bergen are either via train or plane.
Many airlines in Europe have a direct flight to Bergen (there’s even a direct flight from New York!), but be aware that some of the routes are seasonal (another reason why May-September is the best time to visit). Bergen Airport is located about 16 km (10 miles) south of the city center, but it is super easy to take the light rail from the airport to the city. The light rail departs about every 10 minutes from the airport and takes about 50 minutes to reach the city center (with lots of stops on the way).
You can also take the train to Bergen. There is a direct railway from Oslo to Bergen known as the Bergen Line. It takes about 7 hours and is one of the most scenic rail routes in Europe! We took this route from Bergen to Oslo and loved it so much! The train had comfortable seats, an onboard café, and even a family car that included a children’s play area!
Getting Around Bergen
Bergen is a relatively small city, so you will be able to walk to a lot of places. However, there are some popular sites that are a bit outside the central area of the city, so you’ll definitely want to get familiar with the bus and light rail system.
Both the bus and light rail are operated by Skyss, and if you get the Bergen Card you can have unlimited access to them at no extra cost. You don’t even have to reserve a ticket. Just hop on and off as needed, and if a conductor comes to check your ticket you can show them your Bergen Card.
3 Days in Bergen Itinerary
Bergen is such a gorgeous city, and our 3 days in Bergen will include plenty of time to soak in the nature and beauty of this region of Norway. But Bergen also has plenty of museums and historic sights, so you’ll find those included here too.
If you have more than 3 days in Bergen, scroll down to the bottom where you’ll find a list of even more activities to do in Bergen!
Bergen Itinerary: Day 1
Because we’re going to assume day 1 of your 3 days in Bergen also involves you traveling into Bergen, we won’t pack today with too much. Once you get into Bergen and get settled, get out and explore though!
The first stop is Bergen’s most recognizable area: Bryggen. These wooden buildings that line the harbor were once the commercial buildings and warehouses for the harbor. Now you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants here.
When you’re visiting Bryggen, don’t just stop at the front to take pictures though. Go down the alleyways and explore all the nooks and crannies! Bryggen is a unique place because the walkways between the buildings are lined with wooden planks, and you’ll find even more beauty away from the crowds at the front of Bryggen. When we were there, they were actually in the process of restoring some of the flooring, and had each plank tagged so that it could be put back in the exact same place!
After exploring Bryggen, you can walk just a couple blocks north to take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. Purchase a ticket at the station, and then ride the funicular up to the top of the mountain.
Mount Fløyen is truly one of my favorite places in Bergen. It is absolutely gorgeous, plus has charming Scandinavian forests to explore and some easy hiking trails. The most popular things to do on Mount Fløyen is to admire the view of Bergen of course. But there is also a restaurant, several playgrounds, a troll forest, and a lake you can walk to. Also, don’t forget to look out for the mountain goats!
If you are traveling to Bergen with kids, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the playgrounds up here. They are really magical!
Honestly, we could have spent an entire day up on Fløyen, and we truly did not want to leave. This is a perfect place to end your day though, because it can get great sunsets.
Bergen Itinerary: Day 2
Day two of our Bergen itinerary is dedicated to just one activity: a day trip to see Norway’s fjords!
Norway in a Nutshell Tour
Bergen is known as the Gateway to the Fjords because it is so easy to take a day trip to visit some of the best fjords in Norway.
There are a lot of ways you can see the fjords from Bergen. There are several boat tours you can book that leave directly from Bergen’s harbor, but we highly recommend doing the Norway in a Nutshell itinerary. This is a lengthy day trip that involves trains, boats, and a bus, but it truly has the most spectacular scenery around every corner.
On the Norway in a Nutshell tour you will leave from Bergen’s Central Station and travel through several stops. The tour includes a two hour fjord cruise along Nærøyfjord which is probably one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway. It also includes a ride on the Flåm railway, a historic train that climbs high up into the mountains and offers more breathtaking scenery.
While you can definitely buy train and bus tickets to do the tour on your own, I really recommend paying a bit more to book one of the itineraries with Norway in a Nutshell. They make sure everything is timed just perfectly for your trip. And while this is NOT a guided tour, they make it easy for you to travel through all the stops with clear directions and a packet of all the transportation tickets you will need.
This is a tour that takes ALL day. It leaves early in the morning and gets back pretty late in the evening. So be ready for a long (but definitely worth it!) day. For more tips, check out our whole post on Norway in a Nutshell!
Bergen Itinerary: Day 3
For day 3 in Bergen, we’ll be back in the city, exploring some history and going up another spectacular mountain.
Ok, yes, you went to Bryggen your first day in Bergen. But if it was crowded during your time there the first day, I highly recommend going early in the morning to explore the area before the crowds are out. The shops and restaurants probably won’t be open, but there’s something really special about wondering through the area when it is quiet.
Old Bergen Museum (Gamle Bergen)
From Bryggen, take the bus to Gamle Bergen to visit the Old Bergen Museum. This open air museum is made up of old Bergen houses that have been reconstructed to create a town that calls back to Bergen in the 1800s. You’ll find sites like the baker’s house, the sea captain’s house, the merchant’s house, and the grocery store. The idea is to show the different roles people played in the community and what day-to-day life in Bergen might have been like.
They also have historic actors demonstrating what life was like (they even put on a little skit in the town square). And the grounds of the museum are beautiful, with scenes overlooking the water.
Pro Tip: When you take the bus, get off at the Gamle Bergen stop! Google may try to have you get off one stop earlier because I think it is confused about the walkways to the museum. But wait until Gamle Bergen!
Bergen Fortress and Håkonshallen
From Gamle Bergen, take the bus back toward the center of town and get off at the Bontelabo stop to visit the Bergen Fortress.
The Bergen Fortress is a preserved fortress with several buildings and museums. You can walk around the grounds of this area and enjoy. Entrance to the grounds of the fortress is free!
One of the most popular things to see in Bergen Fortress is Håkonshallen or King Håkon’s Hall. This Royal Hall is 750 years old and was used as a residence and banquet hall, so visiting here transports you back to medieval times.
While you are at the fortress, you can also go to Rosencrantz Tower, where you can explore the labyrinth of rooms and climb the tower for views of Bergen
While entrance to Bergen Fortress is free, you will need a ticket to get into Håkonshallen and Rosencrantz Tower. And note that Håkonshallen is still used for special occasions, so may be closed.
For the late afternoon, head up to Mount Ulriken for another round of spectacular views.
Unless you are up for an hours long rigorous hike, the best way to get up Ulriken is to take the cable car, known as Ulriken643. It’s a bit outside the center of the city, so you’ll have a take a bus and then walk for about 10 minutes (a bit uphill, but not too bad) to get to the cable car station.
It’s a bit pricier to buy a ticket up Ulriken than it is for Mount Fløyen, but it is completely worth it. Mount Ulriken also has a completely different feel than Mount Fløyen too, and I think it’s really fun to get these two types of Norwegian mountains in one city. While Mount Fløyen is forested and has playgrounds and fun family areas, Mount Ulriken is more rustic and feels much more wild. It also has more amazing views of the mountains beyond Bergen: you can see mountaintop lakes in the distance, and during much of the year you can also see snow (or even be in it).
You can also do a bit of hiking up here. There are several paths you can take along this scraggy landscape. And since there aren’t any trees up here, you can’t really get lost if you are staying within the area near the cable car station.
And again, the top of this mountain is a great place to end your day as you get a view of the sunset! (Although if you are traveling in the summer, do keep in mind that the sun doesn’t really set.)
Where to Stay in Bergen
Because Bergen is such a walkable city, I think it is well worth it to stay within the city center. While you may find a better deal at a hotel near the airport or on the outskirts of the city, keep in mind that it can take 50 minutes to get from the airport to the city center by light rail, and you won’t want to do that every day of your vacation!
Here are some great hotel options for where to stay in Bergen.
- If you want a reasonably priced option in Bryggen, you can stay at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel. Prices are good and reviews are pretty solid.
- While it’s definitely a bit more of a splurge, Opux XVI is one of the highest rated hotels in Bergen.
- Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz is another highly rated hotel, and this one is located in Bryggen.
- If you are a traveling with kids, hotels in Europe can be hard to find. The Clarion Collection Hotel Havnekonteret is probably your best bet in Bergen, plus it has a great location.
Where to Eat in Bergen
There are lots of options of places to eat in Bergen! Here are a few we really loved though.
Backstube — There was a location for this Norwegian bakery chain near where we stayed and we stopped here a couple of mornings for breakfast. Definitely a great choice!
Baker Brun — Another popular bakery chain. You can get breakfast or lunch here. I had a sandwich from here one day and thought it was delicious.
Bryggen Tracteursted — We LOVED our authentic Norwegian meal here. This was probably one of our favorite dining experiences of our trip. Reservations recommended.
Villani — We met an American family on Mount Fløyen who had been living in Bergen for the past year and they recommended this Italian place to us on Skostredet. It was lovely! Definitely try to make a reservation, and if you don’t have one then show up well before the dinner rush.
Bergen Fish Market — You can’t go to Bergen without strolling though the fish market! Honestly, it’s kind of hard to avoid, as it is right along the harbor across from Bryggen. There’s a permanent indoor location, but during the summer you’ll also find the traditional outdoor market. You’ll find several restaurant options and kiosks you can choose to eat at.
More Things To Do in Bergen
Looking for more things to do in Bergen? Here are a few more Bergen sights and museums.
Fantoft Stave Church
If you would like to see an authentic stave church in Norway, you can see the Fantoft Stave Church near Bergen. This church has a complicated construction history, so you won’t be able to see the exact original. In 1992, it was destroyed in a fire. But it was rebuilt in 1997 and is still considered one of the few (there are only 28!) historical stave churches that remain.
If you are feeling adventurous and have some extra time in Bergen, you can go hiking! Not only can you find some great trails on Mount Fløyen, you could also spend about 5 hours hiking from Mount Fløyen to Mount Ulriken. You can also choose to hike up both mountains. These are definitely challenging hikes, but if you love an outdoor adventure they may be for you!
Norwegian Fisheries Museum
The fishing industry has of course been extremely important in Norway’s history. The Fisheries Museum brings this history to life, including exhibits on fishing’s history and current fish processing. Some of our favorites here included an entire room where you walk through a giant computer game understanding how salmon are raised and processed, an interactive exhibit that explains the history of different sea life in the ocean and how it affected the fishing industry, and of course, the game where you could fish for your own “fish.”
VilVite (Bergen Science Center)
If you are traveling with kids, the Bergen Science Center (called VilVite) is a MUST! This is basically a huge room full of interactive science experiments. You can learn about the water cycle and water power, play with sound, make giant bubbles, cycle a bike upside down, play games on a climbing rock wall, and more! All three of us truly loved the morning we spent here.
Another great option if you are traveling with kids is to head to the Bergen Aquarium. Here you’ll find sea lions, penguins, otters, and, of course, fish native to Norway. There are frequent animal presentations during the day as well.
Bryggens Museum – Bergen City Museum
Because of several fires, the buildings you see in Bryggen (the historic, Instagram-worthy line of buildings along the harbor) are not the original buildings. If you want to learn more about the history of the buildings in Bryggen, see what archeological digs have discovered, and see the foundations for some of the original buildings, head to the Bryggens Museum.
File this under things you probably didn’t expect to find in Bergen. But at one time (between 1850 and 1900) Bergen had the largest concentration of leprosy patients in Europe. See what life was like for patients in Bergen’s oldest leprosy hospital and learn more about this disease at the Leprosy Museum.
Should I Buy the Bergen Card?
The Bergen Card is a pass you can purchase for a certain amount of days that offers you free or discounted admission to local attractions as well as free transportation on the bus and light rail.
Personally, I think buying the Bergen Card is worth it! While the free admission to attractions is great (although you would have to price that out), the free public transportation is really the tipping point that makes it worth it to me. Because there are several Bergen attractions that require a bus or light rail ride, having the Bergen Card makes these trips SO easy. Just hop on and go! No need to buy or get any other ticket.
If you’re unsure if the Bergen Card is right for you, you can visit their website to see what is included and price out the attractions you plan to visit.
What to Pack for Bergen, Norway
There is one important thing to know when packing for Bergen, Norway: Bergen is the rainiest city in Europe! So you will definitely need to bring your rain gear. Depending on when you are traveling, Bergen can also be pretty chilly (especially up on those mountains!). Even during the summer, you’ll need at least a light coat or jacket some days. (Of course, check the weather forecast before you go!)
Long pants — Most days you will want long pants to wear. Most days I wore jeans.
Shorts or dresses — If you are traveling in the height of summer, bring at least one or two shorter bottom option, like shorts or a dress. (Always check the weather before you go of course!)
Top Layers — Layer your top half! You will want to bring a variety of short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, and light jackets that can be layered on top of one another.
Waterproof jacket or coat — You will definitely need a waterproof jacket or coat during your time in Bergen! If you are traveling in winter, you’ll want a warm coat. During the summer, a mid-weight rain jacket will work.
Hat — Depending on the time of year, you may want a warm hat! Even during the summer, there were days when I was very glad for my rain jacket’s hood!
Umbrella — See above. Be prepared for rain!
Waterproof shoes — I think bringing waterproof or water resistant shoes to Scandinavia is always a good idea. I wore these Allbirds Mizzles which were both warm for the chillier days and water resistant.
Good socks — Remember, you will be walking a good amount, so you want your feet to be comfortable!
Sunscreen — Even on cloudy days, you can still get sunburned!