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Top insider tips

Norway’s second largest city is known for its UNESCO listed Hanseatic wharf, lively music scene, cool street art, and gastronomical dining adventures. At the same time, you get the intimate atmosphere of a cute village, and seven mountains within hiking distance.

Find out how to spend the weekend in true Bergen style: cultural Friday, Saturday with the locals and urban Sunday walks.

Cultural Friday

“Bergen is like a combination of a city and a village, and you’re always close to nature. The city centre is so compact that you can walk to most places in 15 minutes, but there’s still a vibrant culture life and everything from historical sights to Michelin restaurants”. 

Fredrik Saroea, musician.

Portrait of Fredrik Saroea

Saroea’s tips for cultural experiences in Bergen

Historic highlights: Bergen’s history goes back to the Middle Ages. The Bryggen wharf, for example, has secured a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. St. Mary’s Church goes back to the 12th century.

Art: KODE and Bergen Kunsthall manage some of Norway’s main venues for contemporary art. Bergen is also the place to go for one of the largest collections of works by Edvard Munch. If you like art exhibitions, check out the galleries Tag Team Studio, Kunstgarasjen, and Visningsrommet USF.

Theatre and dance: Outside the theatre The National Stage, there’s a statue of the world-famous playwright Henrik Ibsen, who was the theatre director back in the day. Most plays are performed in Norwegian, though, so you may prefere a dance performance with Carte Blanche, the Norwegian National Company of Contemporary Dance.

The sound of music: Bergen has a vibrant music scene. A few examples of local heroes who have made it abroad are Kygo, Alan Walker, Sigrid, and Aurora. The city arranges a whole bunch of music festivals every year. One of the best known is Bergen International Festival, which presents art in all its guises: music, theatre, dance, opera, and visual arts. On the island of Lysøen you can visit eccentric violinist and composer Ole Bull’s home from 1873. Built with onion domes and elaborate ornamentals, he called it his “little Alhambra”. You can also visit Troldhaugen, where composer Edvard Grieg lived. If you prefer live music, you’re spoilt for choice with everything from rock and metal at Røkeriet and indie at Landmark to jazz at Sardinen and the Philharmonic Orchestra in the Grieghallen. For a perfect mix of club music and art, Østre is a hot tip.

Food and drink: Great coffee and good vibes go together at places like Colonialen, Kaigaten Kaffebar, Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, Blom, Kaffemisjonen, Smakverket, Plassen, and Amalies Hage at Bergen Public Library. There is no shortage of trendy bars either: A few safe bets are Tipla Cocktail Bar, Apollon Platebar, Legal, Muskedunder, HEM, Lampemannen Bar, Tennis, the wine bar Don Pippo, and Colonialen Matbar. A few favourite hangouts for food are Bare Vestland, located in an intimate basement in the middle of town, Allmuen at Torgalmenningen and last but not least, Marg & Bein in the university area Nygårdshøyden.

Top-notch restaurants: For an outstanding gastronomic experience, check out the Michelin restaurant BARE, Lysverket, Colonialen 44, and 1877. They all take pride in creating divine meals based on local ingredients.

While you’re here: The green area Nygårdsparken, Bergen botanical garden, and the natural history collections at the University Museum of Bergen are all worth a visit. Also, find out what’s on in Bergen.

Saturday with the locals

“In Bergen, you can experience a bustling city square one moment and enjoy a tranquil mountain the next. But the most unique thing about Bergen is the people. As we often say here, “I’m not from Norway, I’m from Bergen”.

Tina Bertelsen, food and drink aficionado

Portrait of Tina Bertelsen

Bertelsen’s tips for a Saturday with the locals in Bergen

On a sunny day: Everyone knows that Bergen doesn’t have the most reliable weather. So when the sun comes out on a Saturday, it’s best to make the most of it in the city centre. This includes any or all of the following, regardless of the season and ideally all at once: lunch, beer, and ice cream. But bring your brolly, just in case!

Explore charming neighbourhoods: Bergen is full of cute wooden buildings and cobbled streets. The most visited districts are Bryggen, Nøstet, and Klosteret. A lovely area is Indre Sandviken, with charming alleys, street art, and old houses. Try a waffle with Norwegian brown cheese at the kitsch but homely Bar Barista in Øvregaten, which is full of interesting old trinkets. In the evenings, the owner often plays music from his extensive vinyl collection. Stop at Bod 24, located in an old storage room in Sandviken, for a tasty lunch – especially recommended when you can sit outdoors on the pier. Close by you’ll find the friendly and down-to-earth water hole Dr. Wiesener. They are also well-known for their “raspeballer”, traditional Norwegian potato dumplings.

Go on a street art safari: Even though most sights in Bergen are within walking distance, a rented city bike or electric scooter is a great way to get around – for example if you plan to explore the city’s street art. Bergen has had a thriving street art scene for years, so there is a lot to see here. If you are curious about Dolk, Bergen’s answer to Banksy, you’ll find one of his works at the cinema Bergen Kino and another one behind the fence in the alley behind the live music venue Stereo. Other than that, the best areas for street art in Bergen are Nygårdshøyden, Kong Oscarsgate, and around Sentralbadet, the public swimming pool that is being rebuilt into a culture centre.

On a rainy day: If the weather is really rough, take shelter in the luxurious setting at Hotel Opus XVI for afternoon tea. It is wise to book in advance.

Try local specialties: If you only try one local dish in Bergen, make it “persetorsk” (crushed cod). It’s usually served at Christmas, but at Bien Basar you can order it any time of year. Bien Basar is located in Kjøttbasaren, an old market hall with strong historical vibes. Apart from persetorsk, you can enjoy local food with a Spanish twist in the form of “Norwegian tapas”. But there’s plenty more fish in the Bergen sea. Søstrene Hagelin offers yummy finger food in the form of heart-shaped fish cakes. More quality fish cakes and fish soup are served at Cafe-Bergen at Strandkaien. This is also a fab spot for a drink, whether you prefer a regular coffee, apple juice from Hardanger, or a beer from the local brewery. Another and slightly lesser-known gem is the gastropub Pingvinen. Expect hearty traditional Norwegian dishes such as meatballs and pickled fish. And not to forget, lush popcorn with a generous amount of melted butter!

Bars and nightclubs: For a Saturday night with the locals, Skostredet is the place to be. Travel back in time to the 1950s at Roll & Rock, an American-style diner with jukeboxes, milkshakes, cool cars, and the king himself: Elvis! Two other gems are Folk & Røvere and No Stress in Hollendergaten, a stone’s throw away from the fish market. No Stress was named Norway’s Best Bar in 2015 and is especially known for their excellent cocktails. If you get a seat by the TV, you can have fun with a round of Mario Cart on the Nintendo. Wanna dance? Silent Disco at Vaskeriet is always fun.

While you’re here: Bergen is full of culinary experiences. explore the city’s many cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Sunday city walks

“Bergen is located right in the middle of all the natural elements: sea, fjords, mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. You can even visit a glacier just a few hours away from the city centre. So there is a wealth of outdoor activities to choose from”.

Anne Gunn Rosvold, founder of Bergen Base Camp

Portrait of Anne Gunn Rosvold

Rosvold’s tips for urban Sunday walks

Stoltzekleiven: A steep but very popular paved hiking trail with just over 700 steps towards Sandviksfjellet.

Across Vidden: Vidden is the area between the city mountains Fløyen and Ulriken. The hike takes around five hours and offers wonderful fjord views on the way.

Fløyen, tour suggestion 1: If you prefer to walk on roads and gravel roads, it is nice to take the Fløybanen cable car up to Mount Fløyen, and stroll down again on the Tippetue trail.

Fløyen, tour suggestion 2: On a fine day, the path from Skomakerdiket at Fløyen and up to Fjellhytten is fantastic! From here you can either go to the left and take the gravel road back to Fløyen, or go straight ahead and see the mountain tops Blåmanen and Rundemanen on the way. Be prepared for a two to three hour hike.

Fløyen, tour suggestion 3: A favourite on a rainy day is the Skredderdalen trail that goes from Fjellveien to Fløyen on a gravel road. On wet days, this fairy-tale forest looks unusually green and the waterfall is flowing wild.

The cable car to Ulriken: (Opens again in summer 2021). At Mount Ulriken you’ll find a network of trails and the best views of the city. And you can zip line back down! To get the most out of your trip, hire a local guide.

Winter hikes: Bergen doesn’t get much snow in the winter, and many trips close to the city centre can be enjoyed most of the year. Here’s a tip if you want snow: Not many people know that you just have to make it up to Fløyen or Ulriken to see the fluffy white ​stuff. Just take the cable car up, ideally with snowshoes on your feet. If there’s enough snow, you can go tobogganing all the way from Fløyen to Fjellveien.

Historic city walk: Enjoy a pleasant stroll in steep cobbled streets among old wooden houses.

While you’re here: Bergen Base Camp has created a fun escape game based on the city’s 950 years of history. It is called Bergen GO and you can play it on your mobile phone. Other ideas for an active Sunday in Bergen include paddling, cycling, or a RIB boat trip.

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