Why start a Norwegian holiday in Bergen on the west coast? We thought it would be easier to travel from the west coast to the east and then on to Sweden without repeating ourselves and back tracking. It was also as easy to travel from Copenhagen to Bergen as it was to Oslo.
Arriving at Bergen Airport at 5:40PM, it was dark and a little rainy. We hired a taxi for the 20km, half hour trip into Bergen. Our hotel the Clarion Hotel Admiral was on the wharf opposite the historic Hanseatic Wharf. Despite the rain, we went for an evening stroll around the wharf area. The Hanseatic Wharf was lit up and very picturesque, as was the sailing ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl.
Further down the Bergenhus Fortress was also lit up. We spent around an hour walking around, before heading back to our hotel to warm up and have a hot meal at the restaurant.
The next morning, we had a huge breakfast, which was included in the cost of our stay. A very impressive array of foods available to cater for tourists and tastes from all over the world. We then took an easy 10-minute walk to the funicular (Fløibanen) for a trip to the Mt Fløyen lookout over the city. The funicular is a steep train, which goes up the side of the mountain. The trip itself is an experience. But is also an operating train, used by the local residents. In summer, it can be very busy, but as this was winter there were only a few of us on this trip, which was the first for the morning.
The views from BergenMt Fløyen are spectacular, overlooking Bergen and the harbor. There is a coffee and gift shop at the lookout but in winter opens later, so we had to do without coffee and snacks until we got back into town. Be careful of your footing in winter and early mornings. We had hiking boots on but some of the pavement was still icy and slippery underfoot. The return trip down the mountain was as great as the one coming up as you look straight down the steep train track.
At the bottom, we made our way to a nearby café and had a very welcome hot chocolate and cakes. If you really want to, there is a Starbucks and McDonald’s, but we wanted to taste something made locally and there is plenty of choice around the wharf area. Even reindeer sausages if you feel up to it.
The Bergenhus Festning (fortress) just past the Hanseatic Wharf, is a small historic castle. We spent half an hour looking around, before taking a much longer look through the shops on the wharf. Many of these sell local crafts and really are worth looking around. Even walking up to the second floor of some of them is a fun experience with creaky stairs and uneven floor boards. We found some excellent Christmas decorations that now take pride of place on our Christmas tree each year.
Also near the fortress is a small museum, with artifacts from Bergen’s past. We spent an interesting hour looking around learning about the Hanseatic League, Vikings and Runes. It is certainly worth looking at.
After having a walk around the church and Cathedral, we went to the fish market. This is marked as being world-famous, but to us just looked like a fish market. However, above it is the tourist information office. The staff were very helpful, and told us about a ginger bread house exhibit that is held in December. To get to it, we walked down some of the old historic windy streets. The exhibition was better than we expected. There were hundreds of houses, all made of ginger bread, depicting scenes from all over the world, Paris, London to name just two. Even better, they even sold ginger bread (Pepperkakebyen). Of course, we bought a few samples to take with us.
After a walk through the pedestrian mall in the centre of town, we returned to our hotel for a meal and a good night’s sleep. We had to be up early the next morning to catch the train for out Norway in a Nutshell trip.
So, what did we think of Bergen? It was great. We particularly liked the Hanseatic Wharf and the trip up the funicular. The ginger bread exhibition was also a nice surprise. Without travelling outside of the wharf area, we easily filled in a full day. We didn’t go to the aquarium, as we have seen many of these elsewhere and the fish market was nothing special.