Before we kick things off, let me just say a massive thank you to both Visit Bergen and Visit Norway for making this trip possible – you’re all a gang of Bobby Dazzlers.
Anyway – what a brilliant bloody city! Bergen was without a doubt, one of my favourite holidays to date.
It was very cold and sometimes rather wet, but these usually adverse conditions added to Bergen’s charm.
That might seem a bit odd to hear but trust me on this, this place is nothing like anywhere you’ve been before.
Bergen: A brief history
Bergen once was a vitally important seaport and to this day, there are still remnants of this rich history – the most impressive of which being the wooden buildings of Bryggen, which is actually a Unesco world heritage site.
It is known as the gateway to the ‘fjords’ and ‘Norway’s second city’, due to it being surrounded by seven hills, seven fjords and also being Norway’s second biggest city. Creative nicknames aren’t they?
Fast forward to the present day and Bergen still clings to its heritage and there is a real sense of pride floating round this place. Their port is still Norway’s busiest and they have expanded their international business to lots of industries like subsea technology, higher education and tourism (handy for yours truly).
Getting to Bergen is pretty easy. Most big cities fly directly there, but if they don’t, usually it’s only one quick change.
I changed at Stavangar on the way there and Inverness on the way back. In total it was about 3 hours flight time each way, not bad in my book.
Most airports offer places to chill out and plug your laptop in so you can crack on with some work or watch some Game of Thrones as you wait. I did a bit of blog work and had a read of a book and my travel was over in a flash.
Once you arrive at Bergen’s snazzy airport, you can either get the Flybussen or the Light rail into the city centre (or to any of the stops before that if you’re staying a bit outside the centre). Compared to Norway’s rather expensive costs on everything, the public transport is actually really cheap. It cost the equivalent of about £3 to get the rail into town.
From there, you can simply walk to wherever you need to go – everything is close enough together that there os virtually no need for Ubers or taxis.
Where to stay
We stayed in the Clarion Collection Havnekontoret, one of the swankiest gaffs in Norway and let me tell you – it did not disappoint.
Upon walking in, you are greeted with a little welcome kit, a ‘guest of honour’ card for the city and a naughty little view of the Bergen Harbour. I genuinely had a serious case of imposter syndrome here, it was too good to be true!
My favourite part of the hotel (simply because I’m a fat glutton) was that there was complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner. The meals were different each night and were Scandinavian themed – it was unbelievable. So much so that we didn’t even eat out once.
There was a gym in the basement too, complete with weights, cardio equipment and a sauna! This would be ideal for those coming on a bit of a longer stay but as we were only there for the weekend, I didn’t need to use it.
The hotel was located pretty much smack-bang in the centre of Bergen. We were right next to the tram stop, we had the harbour right in front of us and Bryggen to the side. Everything in Bergen is pretty close together but the Clarion just makes things a million times easier.
One thing that I’ve never seen in a hotel before was a viewing tower. If you ask for a special key from reception, you can climb a big spiral staircase to one of the most unique hotel experiences out there. This viewing tower offers stunning views of the rolling hills, mountains, harbour and basically the entirety of Bergen.
I’m a big fan of the details, which is why the Clarion gets a 10/10 from me. They excelled here. When you walk into your room, there’s a little welcome hamper, bath robs, sliders, rituals toiletries – the works basically. Never has the saying “you get what you pay for” been more true.
The hotel was absolutely unbelievable. If you’re considering coming to Bergen, this should be the only place you book. The location, transport links, rooms, views, gym, food – the list goes on, this place is all you need.
Things to do
Despite having a small town feel, Bergen is one of Norway’s largest cities and thus, there is so much to see and do during your stay.
Here’s my top picks.
This was the first thing we did upon arrival and it didn’t disappoint. The first thing you think of when you think of Bergen is this.
The quaint little buildings, the wooden sidewalk – it’s amazing. It was literally like being in some sort of movie – can’t recommend this one enough.
Fløyen / Fløibanen
I’ve grouped these together as they’re basically the same. Fløyen is the huge mountain of Bergen that offers ridiculous views for miles and miles. There’s also lots to do up at the top too.
You can either walk to the top or get the Fløibanen, which is the tram-thing that takes you up through to the top of Fløyen. This is an experience in itself and offers loads of cool photo opps and is great for those who don’t fancy the walk up to the top.
You can also get it back down if you don’t fancy the descent either. You can walk up and down via a path however if you fancy it – it should take about an hour each way.
One thing that Bergen does exceptionally well is museums. There are museums for basically everything. I’m not sure of the exact figure but the number of museums was definitely in double figures.
We went to the KODE museum which was brilliant. They had loads of different exhibitions on which were really interesting – not to mention #aesthetic.
Bergen has a famous fish market that is definitely worth a walk through even if you’re not hungry. But that wasn’t the market I went for.
The christmas markets were in full swing as it was the beginning of December and they were absolutely fantastic. Loads of different stalls selling all sorts of Christmas-related wares were vying for out attention and hard earned dosh.
We managed to avoid actually buying anything somehow but the hundreds of scoff options and festive tat on offer tested our willpower to the maximum.
The next couple of things are definitely worth a look if you have the time. Unfortunately we didn’t but they are very highly rated:
The world’s largest gingerbread town
Food & Drink
We didn’t actually go out for food or drink once during our weekend in Bergen.
Of course, there were coffee and pastry trips but in terms of actual meals out, we kept that to the hotel as it was just too nice to pass up.
There are loads of options for cool bars and restaurants still but we figured it would just be best to save ourselves £150+ per night and go with the free, lovely food of the Clarion.
You should however, definitely go and sample their local delights. We went to a cafe called BarBarista which was completely different to the norm.
With mad ornaments, dolls, bits and bobs hanging from the ceiling and walls, it was hard not to get lost in its unique magic. I had a chilli chocolate latte concoction which was unreal. I was tempted to go back for another but the £8 price tag made me think twice about being a glutton again.
There are tons of these unique, quirky little experiences dotted round Bergen. Half the fun of the whole experiences is just getting lost in the side streets and coming across amazing places like this.
So, the rest.
If we hadn’t have only brought hand luggage, we may may have ended up coming back with a lot more than we went with.
Bergen is full of brilliant shops that cater to all manner of interests but mostly their fashion and homeware stuff. This gear is off-the-charts cool and really lives up to the ‘Nordic style’ stereotype – in a good way.
The people are really friendly too, with basically everyone being able to speak brilliant English. This however, was the holiday that tipped me over the edge and made me want to take up a foreign language. I just found it baffling how basically 100% of a population could speak two languages fluently – I felt like a FRAUD.
Thus, 2019 is the year I get my act together – I may even learn Norwegian!
Everything is walking distance. There’s no need for cabs or Ubers really as you can get everywhere in 20 minutes max walking.
I mean, you could moonwalk around if you wanted but that’s the only other transport option you’d need.
Bergen. What a brilliant city. Completely unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. If you’re looking for somewhere that will blow your mind every few minutes, this is the place for you.
If you just want to go and drink beer, shout at people and trash your hotel, maybe you should stick to Zante.