Taking advantage of a cheap flight last February I visited Bergen in Norway.
Mountains in inverno it is a must-see destination: the city offers travelers unique perspectives and experiences that cannot be lived in other seasons of the year.
What to See and Do in Bergen in Winter
The spectacular view over Bergen in winter from the top of Mount Floyen
As far as the Norway, as well as the Sweden andIceland, can be a spectacular summer destination for travelers, I personally found it just as wonderful and enchanting even during the winter.
Bergen, Norway's second largest city, doesn't feel like a city at all: when you walk through its streets you almost have the feeling of being in one of those countries where everyone knows each other and greets each other when they meet.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bergen is the seat of the Hanseatic League, and still retains that fishing village flavor of yesteryear.
Even if it cannot be said to be a cheap city, having equipped myself with the BERGEN CARD gave me a hand not to bleed my wallet.
Then a Is it worth buying the Bergen Card even in winter?
Personally I would say yes that it is worth it because in addition to public transport that is free and unlimited with the card, many of the activities are also free or discounted.
- 1 - Bryggen
- 2 - Hanseatic Museum
- 3 - Other Museums
- 3.1 Fisheries Museum
- 3.2 KODE Art Museum
- 3.3 Edvard Grieg Museum
- 4 - Bergen Aquarium
- 5 - Norwegian Fjords Tour
- 6 - Funicolare Fløibanen
- 7 - Skiing in Myrkdalen
- 8 - Other things to do in Bergen in Winter
- 8.1 Gingerbread Town
- 8.2 Christmas market
- 8.3 Festival of Lights
- 9 - Useful Tips
- 9.1 How to get there
- 9.2 Where to sleep
- 9.3 Public transport
- 9.4 Costs
Stroll past Bryggen's famous colorful buildings
The famous Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Bryggen it is one of the main attractions not only in Bergen but also in the whole of Norway.
It is a parallel series of 58 commercial buildings called gard (tenements) and located on the old Bergen pier on the eastern side of Vågen Bay.
Bryggen is the oldest part of the city and the heart of the trade which in those days mainly concerned him stockfish coming from Northern Norway and cereals arriving from Europe: here the ships arrived and the goods were loaded, unloaded and stored in the warehouses located on the ground floor of the buildings.
In 1191 Bryggen was visited by groups of Germans and Danes who later wrote:
“There is so much of that stockfish that it cannot be counted or weighed”.
In those days, therefore, Bergen was a very important center of commerce: Germans, Danes, English and citizens from different parts of the world came here to buy fish and to sell wine and cereals.
Initially these groups arrived, traded and left, then slowly the Germans began to settle down until in 1360, the German Hanseatic League created one of its import and export offices here, dominating the trade for almost 400 years.
Destroyed several times (famous the fire of 1702 which reduced it to ashes) the Bryggen has always been rebuilt on its foundations of the XNUMXth century, which means that the area has remained substantially unchanged despite the past centuries.
Strolling through the narrow alleys and overhanging tunnels is like stepping back into the mists of time in a bygone era.
Panorama on the houses of the Bryggen on the other side of the pier
Since 1979, Bryggen has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The world heritage site includes the old Hanseatic wharf and buildings: Bryggen today is one of the best known medieval urban areas in all of Norway and is a very lively part of the local culture.
There are several attractions in the area, from the fish market (but not in winter) to the Bergenhus Fortress. Everywhere cafes, restaurants and shops have sprung up where you can buy traditional handicrafts and souvenirs of all kinds.
Visit the Hanseatic Museum
At the Hanseatic Museum in Bergen, the office and living quarters have been faithfully reproduced giving the idea of what an old house in Bryggen was like
Founded in 1872 by Johan W. Olsen, a merchant very interested in the cultural aspects of his country, the Hanseatic Museum it is based in one of the Bryggen tenements called Finnegard.
Olsen started from a solid foundation to found his museum: he was the owner of Finnegard, one of the best preserved trading houses in which, among other things, much of the furniture had remained intact.
His son Christian carried on the museum project after his father's death according to the methods of his time: the most important thing was to try to recreate the atmosphere of past times, for this reason Christian did not hesitate to add new furnishings even if in Bryggen they had never been used.
The building, rebuilt after the fire of 1702, houses two commercial houses: one the largest, has the rooms facing the sea and was called the house by the sea. The other, smaller one faces inwards and is therefore called a house on the ground.
In my opinion, the Hanseatic Museum is truly unmissable: the rooms have maintained their original dimensions and layouts and even if the objects come from different eras, the museum shows how it could have been at the time. typical house in Bryggen.
Other museums not to be missed
The Fiskerimuseum was set up inside an old house on the pier
One of Norway's newest and most beautiful exhibits on life along the coast and at sea. The FiskeriMuseum it is located in authentic warehouses on the wharf as old as Bryggen and provides information and exhibits collections dealing with the history of Norwegian fishing (also of the seal skins market which thank God, given the recent anti-European demonstrations, is a practice now abandoned).
The museum offers guided tours and an interactive path for children.
Inside there are also a restaurant that cooks fish and a shop where you can buy some souvenirs.
You can also rent a boat or a kayak and take a tour.
The museum is easily accessible in just 5 minutes by bus from Bryggen.
In winter, on some days, the museum has reduced hours from 11am to 15pm.
Keep this in mind if you decide to visit it!
If museums are your thing with the Code Art Museum it's like winning at the lottery.
The Kode consists of 4 buildings: kode-1, kode-2, kode-3 and kode-4. These 4 buildings together make up one of the largest art museums in northern Europe.
Today the KODE has around 43.000 objects on display, most of them coming from donations from private collectors. The collection truly includes everything from handicrafts, to musical instruments, to paintings and sculptures.
One of the examples of these very important collections is the China Collection, one of the largest existing collections of Chinese art: it contains approximately 2.500 objects of Chinese art for a period of time ranging from the early stone age to the early 20th century. century. The China Collection was entirely donated by the adventurer and general Johan Munthe.
The Silver Treasure was donated to the Museum in 2007 and contains around 600 stunning gold and silver items.
KODE-1 is the former museum of decorative arts in western Norway.
KODE-2 exhibits the Stenersen collection. Modern art, permanent and temporary exhibitions and the largest museum shop are located on the ground floor next to the café.
Kode 3 has one of the largest and most important Edvard Munch collections in the world. If you don't know who he is, Munch is famous for his painting "The Scream", you have surely seen him somewhere. There are four versions of this painting worldwide. Three are located in Norway, while one is owned by a private collector.
KODE-4 offers the largest, oldest and most permanent collection of paintings from Klee and Picasso to Miro and Dali.
The KODE Art Museum is located on the lakeshore, right in front of the park, in the center of the city.
The entrance ticket gives admission to all exhibitions at KODE 1-4 for two days.
Edvard Grieg Museum
Built on Lake Nordaas, about ten kilometers from Bergen, in 1884, the house of composer Edvard Grieg today houses the museo Troldhaugen.
This villa, about ten kilometers from Bergen, was the favorite residence of the composer who, when he was not traveling to European capitals such as London, Berlin and Prague, used to spend his summer holidays here to compose his music.
Before visiting Bergen I knew nothing about this composer: my musical knowledge did not go beyond Beethoven and Mozart.
Today I know that Grieg was so famous that he was offered $ 20.000 to perform in America. While sailing Grieg fell ill and returned to Bergen. Strauss was called as his replacement and was paid approximately $ 6.000.
The museum now houses a permanent exhibition and a café and includes the composer's villa, the shed where he took refuge to compose his music and the tomb where he and his wife rest.
Having such an important aquarium in my city, I have not personally visited it, but I have heard really good things about it.Bergen aquarium.
The aquarium is located at the end of the Nordes peninsula, reachable on foot, but also by bus or ferry.
The Bergen aquarium is made unique by its large display of marine species from the North Sea and its Gentoo penguins (which I have seen free sailing the Beagle Channel in Patagonia).
The Bergen Aquarium also has a cute, albeit small, tunnel where you walk surrounded by colorful fish, tanks with caimans and tanks that mimic tropical marine environments.
Norwegian Fjords tour to see winter in all its beauty
Fjord tour from Bergen to Mostraumen along the Osterfjord
Even in winter the boats go out every day, crossing the islets and fjords which offer spectacular views.
Among the winter tours on the fjords the tour was highly recommended to us by the visitbergen.com tourism board from Bergen to Mostraumen via the Osterfjorden, a small but truly spectacular fjord!
The cruise departs from Zachariasbryggen, right in front of Bergen's famous fish market (which isn't there in winter, but you can get a taste of it in the glass structure under the tourist information offices).
At the departure of the boat you will have a nice view of the famous Bryggen, the old town of Bergen, together with the rest of the Bergen harbor basin.
The cruise continues under Nordhordalandsbrua along the 27 kilometers of Osterfjorden in the province of Hordaland. First of all, in that deep fjord is Modalen, the second smallest municipality in Norway with about 380 inhabitants.
Continuing, the fjord narrows between the steep mountains defying the strong currents of the Strait of Mostraumen. We sail up under a waterfall to grab a bucket of frozen mountain water to taste before returning to Modalen and retracing the route through the magnificent landscape.
The boat is a modern catamaran with a large upper sundeck. There is also access for the disabled and you can easily bring a stroller for younger children. An onboard kiosk sells drinks, snacks and small plates at the lowest price I've found anywhere in the city: 4 euros for a coffee and a waffle with jam.
The tour lasts approximately three hours and in winter has departures twice a day, at 10.00 and 14.00.
The incredible spectacle of the Osterfjord in winter
Prices for the tour Bergen - Mostraumen:
With the Bergen Card you have a 20% discount on the ticket price.
Adult: NOK 550
Children under 4 years: FREE
Children (4-15 years old): NOK 350
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 4 children): NOK 1500
Group of 15 or more: 15% discount
Find out more about the Rodne site.
If you want to take a longer fjord tour instead, Norway in a Nutshell is by far the most popular and best-selling tour of all: in fact the combination of the fiordo Nærøyfjordand Bergen railway and famous Flåm railway makes this tour a unique experience in the world.
The tour lasts approximately 9 hours and the departure point is at the Bergen Railway.
Tips for a cruise on the winter fjords:
Try to arrive on time!
Book in advance and online and don't forget warm and windproof clothes! It is very cold, especially on the upper part of the boat, and it is very very windy especially if you are in the bow.
Don't forget your camera! The Norwegian fjords are absolutely beautiful and during the winter they are even more beautiful, it is a shame to photograph only with your mobile.
The narrow channel of Mostraumen
In these photos you have just a glimpse of the beauty you might see on a winter fjord cruise: during the night before our fjord tour, Bergen had just snowed and the fjords were covered in a soft blanket of fresh snow!
Note: Be sure to check the calendar dates for fjord cruises, especially during the Christmas and New Year period
Bergen panorama from the top of the Floibanen funicular
Looking at a city from above has always been one of my passions: you realize how the city has developed.
Bergen's best bird's-eye view is at the top of one of the seven surrounding mountains, the monte Fløyen, which can be reached in just over 5 minutes with the funicolare Fløibanen.
The idea of building a funicular dates back to 1895, but its construction had to wait until 1914. During this period the First World War broke out in Europe: the construction of the funicular, which was estimated to take one year, took much longer due to lack of materials and manpower.
The funicular opened in 1919 and has been in operation every day ever since.
The funicular takes tourists up to a height of 320 meters above the city of Bergen: from there you can see the tiny houses, boats, mountains and fjords. The view is absolutely spectacular.
Around the viewing platform above the city, there is a large network of trails through the forest.
On Mount Floyen you can walk, play, ski ...
… And we get married too!
At the information office it is possible to have a map that illustrates all the walking routes between lakes and mountain meadows.
Even in winter, Mount Fløyen is an area not to be missed, very popular: in fact, with the snow the trails are invaded by the inhabitants of Bergen. There are those who take a walk with the family, those who take the children to play with the sled, those who take a walk with their dog and those who even ski.
The paths in fact become real cross-country ski trails.
The Fløibanen starts from the center of Bergen, at the top of the Vetrlidsallmeninngen Street,
a couple of minutes walk from Bryggen pier. It is open every day from 7:30 (or 8:00 on weekends) to 23:00 and runs every 12 minutes from 10:00 to 19:00 and then every 30 minutes for the rest of the day.
In the winter months, from October to April, the funicular is free with the Bergen Card while in the summer months there is a 50% discount.
Go Skiing in Myrkdalen!
The day was not the best, but Myrkdalen is home to one of the largest ski areas in Western Norgevia
A short distance from Bergen you can spend a wonderful day skiing. The exceptional landscape of the fjord in fact creates a topography which, combined with heavy snow, makes the network of ski slopes varied and exciting.
If you prefer to ski during the winter season, there are so many options. The main ski resorts in the region are located in Voss, where you can choose between Voss Resort e Myrkdalen - Voss Fjellandsby.
There are slopes for all tastes, from advanced off-piste to safer trails for families, as well as the beautiful countryside through which numerous cross-country ski trails wind.
We got there train from Bergen. You can buy a combined train-bus-ski pass ticket which is really convenient.
The train ride takes about 1 hour and 20. You get off at Voss and a few meters from the railway there is the free bus that takes you directly to the departure of the cable cars.
Just 45 minutes drive from Bergen you can also visit the'Eikedalen Ski Center with prepared alpine slopes and kilometers of cross-country trails.
More Things to Do in Bergen in Winter
One of the best things to get to know Bergen and appreciate it in all its beauty is to get lost in its streets and discover its glimpses
In the city center of Bergen during the month of December, the scent of cloves and cinnamon wafts through the air around the public swimming pool.
Inside ahuge city of gingerbread covered in sugar it makes children and adults go crazy with joy: Bergen is said to be the largest gingerbread city in the world.
In fact, every year since the beginning of the Christmas tradition in 1991, the Bergen community comes together to build a real miniature wonderland: in November, half of Bergen's citizens give their contribution to this magical city.
Building gingerbread houses has been a pastime since the early 1800s. It is said that after the publication of the Grimm fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel", German bakers began creating candy houses decorated with gingerbread.
The city of Bergen has taken tradition to a higher level: more than 2.000 gingerbread houses, trains, cars, boats, in short, creativity is truly amazing.
The result is a fairytale city, between mountains, fjords, snow and the blue of the sea.
This year, the Christmas market in Bergen was opened for the first time. The exhibitors offer various handicrafts, handmade Christmas gifts, homemade and to eat. You can also try interesting Christmas foods from around the world.
You will find the Christmas market in Festplassen in the city center from 7 December to 23 December.
Festival of Lights
The annual opening of the Christmas season in Bergen is celebrated with the traditional Festival of Lights.
All families are invited to light their torches and, against the backdrop of a sparkling skyline, an enthusiastic crowd gathers on the shores of the city lake. Little Lungegardsvann, illuminating the city with the warm light of thousands of lighted candles.
The evening takes place between several theatrical performances and festive Christmas carols and ends with a rather spectacular fireworks display.
Useful tips for visiting Bergen in winter
How to get to Bergen
There are many ways to reach Bergen, both in summer and in winter. You can arrive by plane, by car, by ferry, or by boat cruise.
By plane: there are numerous flights from all over Europe. there are cheap flights around 100 euros return.
The airport is 15 kilometers away from the city, but there is a synchronized bus with scheduled flights.
The most convenient and fastest way is the treno Light Rail, which takes about 30 minutes to get to the city center and costs NOK 37 (free with Bergen Card).
Ferry: Bergen is located right on the coast and its port is open all year round. There are also high speed ferries such as cruise ships which dock there all year round. With the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, arriving by boat is simply beautiful.
Automotive: It takes about 7,5 hours to drive to Bergen from Oslo. Although the scenarios that you encounter must be truly spectacular, gasoline is expensive, so it is not convenient if you want to save money.
The Rooftop Bar of the Magic Hotel with a 360 view of the city of Bergen
Bergen is by no means a cheap city, in fact it is undoubtedly one of the most expensive cities I have ever been to, even more expensive than Stockholm e Reykjavik.
Fortunately I found a hotel that, in terms of quality / price ratio, is the best I have found: the Magic Hotel Solheimsviken.
Getting there is very easy: from the airport you get off at the Danmarksplass stop and walk for about 400 meters.
The Magic hotel Solheimsviken is an excellent choice for everyone: it has many rooms, from single rooms to family rooms with two communicating rooms, to real suites of the highest level with living area and a private sitting room.
The rooms are spacious and spotless, the mattress is soft and the duvets warm, but the thing I loved most about the Magic Hotel was the large windows: ask for a room on a high floor and you will wake up with a truly incredible view of the city.
The rooftop bar cooks tasty dishes in a warm and pleasant environment. Certainly the Magic Hotel is among the best choices in town.
you can read here my full review.
Given the temperatures and the high probability of snowfall, it is essential to seek shelter from the cold.
So plan your visits so that you always have some museum in which to shelter.
I adopt the technique of "I get on a bus and see where it takes me while I warm up": this tactic has two benefits: the first that does not freeze, the second that you can discover corners that you did not know existed otherwise.
Bergen has an excellent public transport system which is clean, comfortable and goes almost everywhere. You can also use Beffin's boat which has been ferrying people across the harbor since 1896.
Norway is one of the most expensive countries to visit, so my advice is to buy the Bergen Card which will save you money on museum entrances, transport and various activities including fjord tours.
Eating out in a restaurant is very expensive: € 20 for a pizza, € 8 for a beer, € 5 for a coffee. If you want to save money, you can buy your food at the supermarket or have lunch in the street food kiosks where you can easily stay around 10 euros.