A UNESCO World Heritage city, Bergen in winter is an amazing destination. It’s got it all from views, to sledding, to great food. Check out our best things to do in Bergen!
Looking for a weekend getaway from Germany, we decided to see what Bergen in winter would be like. If we had gone in summer, we would have done a road trip, but winter’s another story. It’s the second largest city in Norway, but Bergen 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. We found tons of things to do, most of which can be done throughout the year! I know it’s a little crazy to go north for a city break in winter, but when you live in Germany Jim and I figured why not?
Here’s what you’ll find in this article:
Bergen in Winter – No Better Time to Go!
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We weren’t sure where to go. We had to choose between the Lofoten Islands, Tromso, or Bergen and we decided on the latter, where we wanted to experience this cruise-port town off-season and find the best things to do in the city. As an added bonus, Jim discovered the tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl here. He booked a training voyage with them and loved every minute of it. Yes, some things are closed down, but we spent three full days there and even though it wasn’t summer we had a blast. It just proves the point that Norway is the right place to go anytime.
When is the Best Time to Visit Bergen?
You guessed it, winter! Winter is the best time because it’s a very wet climate. This means that it rains or snows over 300 days per year. Who wants to trek around in the rain? Snow is much more fun and pretty. All you have to do is bundle up a little more and get into the wintry spirit! I would say, you should definitely visit this gorgeous Norwegian city during December, January, or February.
And don’t worry, it’s not so cold that you can’t get out and do things. Here is our graph on the average winter temperatures in Bergen.
What to Pack for Winter in Bergen
The reason to go to Bergen is to have an opportunity to play in the snow. Snow gear is so important if you are playing in the snow, but it’s also important just for walking around and enjoying the sights. It’s important to cocoon or layer your clothes, because outside is cold, but you’ll be spending plenty of time inside as well.
Jim and I take our snow pants with us when we are planning on being outside in a cooler climate, because they are drier and of course warmer. We can stay outside much longer with them, and this becomes important when you are at a festival, parade, or other winter celebration.
Here’s some clothing we recommend you bring for any winter trip:
Hiking Boots – We love a hiking boot with Thinsulate and good tread. Tread is important so you don’t slip on the ice, and of course the wintry lining, so you can keep warm. We like these ones for men and women. I don’t know about you, but if my feet are warm, I’m warm.
Jackets – Most people have a winter jacket, but I think it’s important to cover your bottom, so a longer coat. It helps so much when you are sitting down on a bench outside. Also, to have a hood is good. I rarely use it, but if it’s windy and rainy or slushy I will take it out and cover my hat. It just seems to make it that much better.
What are the Best Things to See and Do in Bergen in Winter?
Bergen in winter is cold and snowy. It feels like a proper winter, a winter where you can warm up with a hot cocoa after sledding. Bergen is the perfect weekend getaway for anywhere that’s just cold and gray with no snow.
*Free or discounted with the Bergen City Card.
1. Walking around Bryggen
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. Visit the Hanseatic Museum
* 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. Bergen has an excellent public transport system of buses and trams that are easy to use, clean, and comfortable. You can also use 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. Enjoy The Aquarium
*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. Eat a Local Snack
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. Take an Art Walk
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 Bergen Fjords Winter 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. Visit the Kode
*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. Keep Warm at a Coffee Shop
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. Take in the Views
*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. Enjoy the Floibanen
*Ride 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. Marvel at the Sunset
*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. Enjoy the Fisheries Museum
*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.
Pro Tip: Norway is one of the most expensive countries to visit, so we recommend you buy the Bergen Card which will save you money on museum entrances, activities, and even give you a discount on those must-do fjord tours.
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. Order a Local Drink
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 Fresh 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. Get up on the Mountain
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. Try a New Sport
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. Take a Look Back at History
*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. Wander among some traditional buildings
*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. Learn about Runes
*Gawk at one of the largest collections of rune sticks while learning about the history of Bergen at the Bryggen Museum.
23. Get lost
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. Try out a new kind of hotel
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!
Bergen Attractions Map
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Getting to Bergen
There are many ways to reach Bergen, both in summer and winter. You can arrive by air, car, ferry, or cruise boat.
If you are like us, you just want to fly in for a quick 3 days in Bergen, and experience some true winter weather, complete with sledding. You can take any number of flights from around Europe directly into Bergen.
The airport is located 15 kilometers outside the city, but there is a bus that runs frequently for all scheduled flights. It is located outside the arrivals hall, and you can buy advanced tickets saving you 20 NOK and having to worry about cash on arrival. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the city center.
Bergen is situated right on the coast, and its port is open all year round. There are high-speed ferries as well as cruise boats that dock there year-round. With the beauty of the Norwegian fjords, arriving by boat is just beautiful. You can book your tickets here at Direct Ferry.
In summer, a road trip through Norway is stunning, and to keep costs down a little you can camp everywhere. However, gas can be expensive and the distance, although breath-takingly beautiful, can be long. It takes about 7.5 hours to drive to Bergen from Oslo.
Bergen is the perfect place to spend a few days. Whether you visit in winter as we did, or any other time of year, you will find plenty of wonderful things to do. We loved the old world heritage parts of the city, along with the many museums and restaurants we found, but the most fun was taking the funicular up the mountain! We love traveling in Norway and really have done a fair bit. We loved Stavanger, Lista, Sogndals-Strand, and Bygdoy where the Oslo museums are.
Thanks to VisitBergen.com who provided it to us. Do I think the card is worth it, even in winter? We did all the things ourselves, and any cost associated with it were either free or discounted thanks to the card. Of course, all our opinions are our own.
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