Two of Bergen's top attractions, Bryggen and the fish market, are free. Take a stroll around the Hanseatic Wharf of Bryggen, which features on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Bryggen dates back to the Middle-Ages and has been a lively and important part of the city for centuries. Or check out the seafood on display at the fish market (fisketorget), Norway's best known outdoor market, where you will find fresh supplies of king crab, cod roe, whale meat and smoked salmon (among other wares on display). Open daily from 7 am to 7 pm in summer (June to August), Mon-Sat 7 am to 4 pm rest of the year.
Remember also that most museums in Bergen are free for children. They sometimes arrange free events too – contact individual museums for further information. Between mid-June and mid-August, and during other school holidays, there is also a daily treasure hunt organised at Fløyen. You can get a map, in English, from the Fløybanen's ticket window.
The Buekorps Museum, which retraces the history of Bergen's famous Boys Brigades, is also free, but please note that this museum is only open at weekends (and closed in summer from mid-July to mid-August).
Parks and gardens
If it’s a nice sunny day, why not spend some time in one of Bergen’s parks and gardens? Nordnesparken is a lovely park at the end of the Nordnes peninsula, where you will find Bergen’s famous aquarium and an open-air swimming pool (fee). A green oasis offering great views of the fjord, it’s a short walk from the city centre.
Another option is Byparken (literally "the town park"). Located in the heart of Bergen, this is a popular park year round. A great place to chill between visits to the nearby art galleries, feed the ducks, or strike up a conversation with a local.
If you have a particular interest in plants and flowers, check out Muséhagen, the garden of the Museum of Bergen. Try to visit in the spring, when the garden is in full bloom, and at its best. Here you will see magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons, and different kinds of tulips, among other things.
A bit further from the centre, in Milde (23 kilometres south of Bergen), the Arboretum and Botanical Garden boasts 5,000 plants from all over the world, including Norway's largest collection of roses and the largest collection of rhododendrons in Scandinavia. There is also a Heather Garden, a Japanese Garden and an Alpine Garden. Open 24 hours a day, year round. Free admission. wheelchair access. Public transport: Bus 50E or 51 from Bergen centre to Birkelandskrysset. From there bus 53 to Milde.
Things to do
There is no better way to explore the city than on foot, so why not go for a walk? You could take in the hectic pace of life by the harbour, combine sightseeing and window shopping around Torgallmenningen, or explore the narrow streets of Old Bergen.
Or take a stroll around the Old Bergen Museum, just north of the centre. There is a charge to visit its 50 or so reconstructed houses from the 18th to the 20th century, but it is free to wander in the grounds and admire the picturesque buildings from the outside.
In summer, you can combine this with a swim in the fjord nearby, where you will find a spot with toilets and lifeguards. This is free of charge, but please note that as the water is quite deep here, it is not suitable for young children.
Later in the year you can go cross-country skiing on Mt. Fløyen and Mt. Ulriken, when there is enough snow (usually from late November until February). On Mt. Fløyen the slopes are lit up in the evenings. Or if it is cold enough go ice-skating at Lille Lungegaardsvannet, a small lake right in the city centre – bring your skates, however, as there is no rental.
A hike with a view
Want a view? The hike from Skansen up Fjellveien makes for a picturesque walk, taking you through a particularly pretty part of Bergen, with its wooden houses and small cobblestone streets, and then up the Fløyfjellet mountain to the funicular terminus, from where you will have wide open views of the city at your feet. The road is suitable for pushchairs, making this a popular option for families with young children – despite the steep incline.
For a full-day outing within easy reach of Bergen city centre, try the hike from Mt. Fløyen to Mt. Ulriken (or indeed the other way round). Vidden, the plateau between the two, is arguably the most popular stretch for day trips in the mountains surrounding Bergen. Allow five hours. You can shorten your hike by using either the Fløibanen or the Ulriksbanen at each end of the tour.
The street festivities on 17 May, Norway's National Day, include parades, music, and much flag waving, and make for a colourful spectacle. Well worth extending your stay in Bergen for if you happen to be in town around that time.
There are also free music events in Bergen throughout the year, most notably during the Bergen International Festival. Check out the tourist office's website for further info.
Last, but not least, from November onwards there are also free Christmas events in Bergen. The Festival of Lights for example, which takes place every year in late November-early December by Lille Lungegaardsvannet, has music, entertainment and fireworks, while every Sunday in the advent period a new candle is lit at Mt. Fløyen.
For more information on Bergen see visitBergen.com.
More information on travelling in Norway on a budget.