Bergen, the second largest city in Norway, doesn’t feel like a city at all. It has the homey feeling of a small town, where everyone waves or says “hi” to you each time they see you. A UNESCO World Heritage city, Bergen is a town of Hanseatic League fame, and it still retains that fisherman flavor. I know it’s a little crazy to go north for a city break in winter, but Jim and I figured why not? We wanted to experience this cruise port town off-season and find the best things to do in Bergen. Yes, some things are closed down, but we spent three full days there using the Bergen City Card thanks to VisitBergen.com who provided it to us. Do I think the card is worth it, even in winter? The short answer is yes. Below we’ve come up with 25 things for a couple or family to do during the winter, and almost all of them that have a cost associated with it were either free or discounted thanks to the card.
- Take a walk around the UNESCO inscribed port area (pictured above). The old wooden houses dating back to the 1900s are a warren of artisan workshops and boutiques that will have you shopping and gawking at handmade treasures for hours.
2.* Bergen’s history is very colorful, just like its buildings, so you will want to go to our favorite museum and learn more about Bryggen and the Hanseatic League, as well as plenty of information on cod at the Hanseatic Museum.
3. *Take public transportation. Not only does it get you to some of the farther flung sights, but it will warm up your cold feet after pounding the pavement for awhile. This is the Beffin boat which ferries folks across the harbor. It’s been running since 1896, and the skipper even let Jim drive for a few minutes.
4.* And since your taking the Beffin boat, walk up the hill and visit the aquarium where you can laugh at penguins and marvel at how smart sea lions are as well as learn about fish from the area and around the world.
5. When you have worked up an appetite, you’ll want to try out some local fare. This sausage stand, the Trekroneren, was recommended to us by a local so you know we were heading straight there. Johannes told us to try the Voss sausage, but I couldn’t find it on the menu. It’s so local that they don’t list it, and then tourists never order it. We tried that and the reindeer sausage and loved them both.
6. Go on a scavenger hunt looking at all of the interesting sculptures in the city. I loved this one, because like any hardy fisherman, he was working long and hard even in the winter!
7. *Take a fjord boat tour. Even in winter the boats go out every day, wending through the islets and fjords to bring you to some stunning views. We took the Rodne Fjord Tour in the afternoon, which took us out on the water through sunset. It was amazingly beautiful.
8.* Gawk at art at the Kode. The Kode has four buildings of art from the beginnings of Bergen to present. We enjoyed the Munch exhibits, as well as some of the temporary exhibits.
9. Warm up your hands and insides with a good cup of coffee as you plan all the things you can do in this gorgeous city. It was cold while we were there, hovering a little under freezing all weekend, so we spent our fair share of time warming up with a good cup of coffee or for Jim, green tea.
10. Go sledding! Everywhere we looked the stores were selling sleds and people were pulling their kids on them or had a “rump-slider” hooked to their backpacks while walking around town.
11.* Get high and take some amazing photos of the harbor. The best place to do this is the Rosenkrantz Tower* or the St. Mary’s Church* tower, and if you are lucky you can even listen to an organ concert while you are there.
12.* Take the Floibanen funicular for a great view of the city and some wonderful hiking trails. The trail is lit at night so you can even hike, sled, or ski in the evening.
13.* We went up the funicular and watched the sunset from Mount Floyen. They do have a small shop that has a hot chocolate and coffee machine which we desperately needed as we wanted photos throughout the time of the sun setting, going through a multitude of colors over about one and a half hours.
14.* Learn all about fishing in Bergen at the Fisheries Museum. This museum is perfect for families with kids as the exhibits are fun and interactive. There was even a huge crab to climb on, but you’ll be happy to know that I restrained myself.
15. Take a walk in Byparken. This park, complete with pond and chilly ducks, is right in the center of town. I enjoyed playing the built in xylophone and Jim took the opportunity to search for a geo-cache.
16. Try some local tipple, akvavit (or aquavit), a Scandinavian drink that has a strong taste of cumin. Let me tell you, if you get chilled, this will immediately warm up your insides.
17. Eat fish! It’s the main food and product of Bergen so you can’t go home without trying some freshly caught fish. The Fish Market in the downtown area is the perfect place to try all kinds of local fish, and they provide heat lamps and blankets to keep you nice and cozy whether you are there for lunch or dinner.
18. Take the Ulriken cable car up to the highest mountain in Bergen. Enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee in the winter or a nice cold beer in the spring, summer, and fall.
19. Snowshoe, cross-country ski, or just hike. From Ulriken there are plenty of trail heads. One of the most popular is the 13 km. trail to Mount Floyen.
20.* Have a seat on a wooden bench in the Schotsteune where back in Hanseatic days it was the only place to have a fire, thus a kitchen. It’s technically part of the Hanseatic Museum, but it’s located nearer to the church and the fortress.
21.* And while you are on this side of town, check out Hakkon’s Hall* and the Rosenkratz Tower*, taking in the lives of both the royal and the not so royal.
22.* Gawk at one of the largest collections of rune sticks while learning about the history of Bergen at the Bryggen Museum.
23. Get lost in the myriad of steep and curvy alleyways as you meander the neighborhoods and streets of this quaint city.
24. Enjoy the light! Whether you are visiting Bergen in winter or summer there is beautiful light. This is the moon still glowing over the city as the sun rises on a chilly January morning.
25. Save on dinner costs if you stay at the Thon Hotel. We stayed at this wonderful and comfy hotel which was situated right in the center of town. What we loved most was the food here. Not only did they serve one of the best breakfasts, with plenty of hot options, each morning, but they also serve a dinner snack each night…for free! Check out prices and availability of one of the best hotels in Bergen.
*Free or discounted with the Bergen Card.
Have you been to Bergen? Can you add to our list of things to do?
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