ASK ME any day of the week, and I’ll tell you that Bergen, Norway, is the most beautiful city on the planet. It’s a metropolis squeezed into a glacial valley; a Viking-age port with the humble roots of fishermen; it is the gateway to the country’s iconic fjords. It’s been said that there is a completeness to where the mountains meet the sea, and if that’s true, then Bergen lacks nothing.
When I first visited a year ago, I felt an intense sense of home. These streets I had never walked, these smells my nose shouldn’t recognize, this terra incognita — it all seemed strangely familiar and comforting. But how is that possible? I have Norwegian heritage, sure, but generations back. What makes a foreign place feel like home?
And then I found my answer. I was futzing around Bryggen, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, scoping out the 14th-century merchant houses along the harbor.
Bergen is my favorite kind of city, small and beautiful in the center, on the coast, and surrounded by nature. It has everything you need – mountains, ocean, atmosphere, history, beautiful streets and friendly people. A small, hidden place burrowed within the epic nature of Norway.
At times, the nature of Norway seems never-ending. And that’s from the perspective of just one small city in the southwest. The country’s scale is incredible. It becomes truly remote in the north, and yet the south is still almost uninhabitable. For 323,802 km² of land, only 5 million people live in Norway, half the population of London. Due to the sheer and jagged layers of the landscape, with its high mountains and steep fjords, it was always difficult to build large settlements.
The result is almost untouched scenery, raw and wild, and dotted with small villages of red wooden houses beside frozen lakes.
When I was in Bergen, I stayed at Basic Hotel. It was the perfect location in the center of the city. A wonderfully comfortable break from hostel travel, the hotel was an affordable luxury.
Norway’s second city in size after Oslo, Bergen is known above all for its UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bryggen, the quayside warehouses, offices and dwellings where for centuries Hanseatic League merchants enriched themselves through the stockfish and grain trades. Today, Bergen is a popular summer cruise stop and launching point for the country’s famous western fjords.
What a surprise it is then to discover that Bergen in winter is practically tropical compared to what you expected, with the Gulf Stream bringing warmth and the city’s seven surrounding mountains blocking winds. All of which makes winter not only doable, but a great time for a visit without crowds. Here are some tips to plan ahead already for next winter.
On a stroll down the passageways between Bryggen’s handsome wooden warehouses—now mostly occupied by clothing boutiques, craft and gift shops and restaurants—the fragility of the structures is readily apparent. As a result of oxidation of the soil, they lean precipitously, and are thus continuously monitored, while their matchbox nature has historically led to numerous destructive fires.
Headed to Bergen, Norway for the first time? If so, here are all the things to do in Bergen on your first trip, along with some suggested Bergen day trips.
Surrounded by mountains and fjords and filled with colorful wooden buildings, it’s not difficult to understand why the city of Bergen is such a favorite among visitors to Norway. I mean, let’s face it: this city is pretty stunning!
Nevermind that Bergen’s weather is usually pretty wet, or that it boasts the famously high prices of Scandinavia – there’s still something undeniably charming about Bergen.
It took me three visits to Norway to finally visit Bergen, but when I did I finally understood what all the fuss was about.
If you’re visiting Bergen for the first time, here are all the things you won’t want to miss:
Things to do in Bergen on your first trip
The colorful wooden houses along Bergen’s old Hanseatic Wharf are by far the most iconic sight in the city. And it just so happens that this is the most historic part of the city, too.
Bergen is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage City and a European City of Culture so you’ll find tiny gems of museums and architecture dating as far back as the middle ages as you stroll around the streets.
After 6 days of cruising along the beautiful and rugged coasts of Norway with Hurtigruten, we finally arrived in the very beautiful City of Bergen! It was raining and cold when we arrived but the coldness was tolerable that I noticed that my hands weren’t shaking. Haha.
It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to and I am not exaggerating at all. It is unique and is blessed by such beauty that I really couldn’t fathom how wonderful and amazing our creator is. I’m being dramatic here because the world we live in is just amazing.
Our trips abroad and in the United States mean we take thousands of travel photos to remember the journeys and experiences. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2017.
It’s a cliche to say that the year flew by, but that’s certainly how we feel about 2017. We’ve been thankful for a year of amazing trips that have had us explore new countries and dig deeper in our own backyard in the US. Some of our adventures were practically impromptu while others had been on our mind for years. No matter where we go, we are always grateful for the opportunity to learn about other people and other cultures. During a year that has brought a lot of challenges and unrest, we continue to believe that travel and keeping an open mind are more important than ever.
In 2017, we flew 40,899 miles and visited 10 countries and 8 states.
Winter is one of the best seasons to vacation in Europe. Wondering where to go? We’ve got some great suggestions collected from the pros.
Traveling in Europe is amazing all year round. Since we began living in Germany, we have been able to check out the best Europe has to offer in winter, and it has become one of our favorite seasons to travel. When choosing a place to go in winter, first you have to decide what you want to do while on vacation. I like to experience snow, skiing, sledding, hot chocolate, fondue, wintery things…usually. I have to admit after a string of German gray days with no snow, I’m also ready to escape the cold and go somewhere warm, but there are not many places that are truly warm in Europe in winter.
In Norway, ancient roots and seafaring traditions create unique national fabric.
Junction City’s annual Scandinavian Festival each summer is a reminder of the northern European roots of many of our local citizens.
Although I don’t happen to share that particular lineage, as a young boy growing up on the seacoasts of New England, nothing could stir my imagination more than visions of Viking ships filled with rowdy Norsemen who, long before Columbus, explored our northeastern shores.
It took me half a lifetime to reach the land where these hearty souls originated and see those awesome ships in person — not re-creations, mind you, but the real deal, for these rough and tumble seamen were softies at heart, carefully burying their honored dead in the actual ships they sailed in, along with all their accoutrements of leadership and wealth.