Bergen

For other places with the same name, see Bergen (disambiguation).
View from Mount Fløyen

Bergen is the second largest city in Norway and the most popular gateway to the fjords of West Norway. The city is renowned for its great location amidst mountains, fjords and the ocean. Steep mountains and highlands within the city offers excellent hiking opportunities. Having fostered many of Norway's greatest bands and artists, the city is also famous for its cultural life and underground/indie music scene. Bergen's unpredictable weather adds to its quirky, unmistakable charm. Bergen was Norway's main city for centuries, and many patritotic inhabitants believe it still is.

Understand

History

Founded around 1070 AD, Bergen quickly evolved into one of the most important cities in Norway. It was the country's administrative capital from the early 1200s until 1299, and the largest city in Scandinavia. Bergen was one of the most important bureau cities of the Hanseatic League, interconnecting continental Europe with the northern and coastal parts of Norway, thus becoming a central spot for the vending of stockfish and the commercial hot spot in Norway. It was the largest city in Norway until the 1830s and has a long maritime history in shipping and finance.

The city still has relics of its Hanseatic heyday, most notably the old harbor of Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bergen has been ravaged by several fires; the most recent major fire took place in 1917, a fire which destroyed most of the buildings in what is today the central parts of the city center, centered around the large square Torgallmenningen.

While few mediveal buildings remain, the historical centre of Bergen is along the eastern shore of the harbour, notably Bryggen (the Wharf), the fortress and the two key churches (Mariakirken/St Marys and Korskirken/Holy cross church). The pattern of settlement is largely unchanged for almost 1,000 years, including Øvregaten/Lille Øvregate − one of Norway's oldest streets.

Geography

White wooden houses, one of Bergen's trademarks

Bergen is located far west in Norway, sheltered from the North Sea only by a number of islands. It is situated along latitude 60 degrees north, as Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Saint Petersburg and Anchorage. The city is the most hilly and mountainous in Norway. The city center is surrounded by a group of mountains and peaks known as the Seven Mountains, a defining characteristic which has given the city its name (berg is an old Norse word for mountain). The geographic conditions of the city are very visible; limited space to build on made it necessary in the 19th century that new city blocks be built on the steep slopes of mount Fløyen

Except for the dense city center, which made up the entire city before 1916, Bergen is the least dense of the four largest cities in Norway. Most of the settlement inside the very wide city borders is concentrated in the western part of the municipality. The rest of the municipality is made up of mountains, as well as some farmland and smaller settlements.

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 4 4 6 10 13 16 18 18 15 11 7 5
Nightly lows (°C) 2 1 2 5 8 11 13 13 11 7 4 2
Precipitation (mm) 190 152 170 114 106 132 148 190 283 271 259 235

The best site for weather forecasts in English is yr.no
Most useful accessory in Bergen.

Due to the city's location relatively far north, close to the northern sea and surrounded by mountains, special weather conditions occur, resulting in approximately 240 days with precipitation a year and a mean temperature of 7.6 °C (45.7 °F). In January 2007, a record of 85 rainy days in a row was set. Still, local people claim there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. An annual mean at close to 8 °C, with even January on average above 0 °C, makes Bergen the warmest city in Norway. Frost just below 0°C and some snow occurs between December and February, but temperatures colder than -10 °C are very rare. Temperatures above 30 °C are also extremely rare.

For the rest of us, the trick is obviously to choose the time of visit with caution. The infamous rain should not keep visitors away in summer, because when the sun breaks through after a rainy day, hardly any city twinkles and glows like Bergen. If you catch the city on a sunny day, you will find an incredible atmosphere as citizens really know how to appreciate nice weather. City planners have probably had this in mind the latest years, resulting in the creation of open spaces, parks, flowers and lawns that are scattered all over downtown.

July has the highest mean temperature, 14.3 °C (57.7 °F), with August, 14.1 °C (57.4 °F) following close behind. May is usually the month with the least precipitation. Considering the number of local events this month, May is probably the best time to visit Bergen, with the summer months of June, July and August almost as good. April is also a relatively dry month, although cooler than the summer months. These averages are merely indications as weather is famously unpredictable and rain does not appear in any regular pattern.

Culture

Grieghallen - the home of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

Bergen is one of the most important cultural centers in Norway. The city is the home of the Bergen International Festival, Nattjazz and Bergenfest, festivals of international renown within their genres. The local symphony orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded in 1786. It is one of the world's oldest orchestral institutions. Bergen was the home of Norway's great composer, Edvard Grieg. Henrik Ibsen, the famous playwright, started his career in Bergen as manager of Den Nationale Scene.

Around 2000, a number of artists from the rhythmic music scene in Bergen gained international fame. In the domestic press, this became known as the Bergen Wave. Musicians and bands with roots in Bergen include Annie, Burzum, Enslaved, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Erlend Øye, Kings of Convenience, Röyksopp, Sondre Lerche, and Datarock. Bergen still has a thriving underground/indie music scene.

In recent years, a number of great international artists have visited Bergen, including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Muse, Bruce Springsteen, Depeche Mode, Kent and Mark Knopfler. And in the summer of 2011 several artists including Roxette, Mastodon, Avenged Sevenfold, Suzanne Vega, Bob Dylan, Kaizers Orchestra, Kanye West and Rihanna appeared.

Research and education

Bergen is home to important institutions of research and education: The University of Bergen, the College of Applied Sciences, and the Norwegian School of Economics. Even before these institutions were created important work were done in Bergen. Armauer Hansen in 1873 discovered that leprosy was caused by a bacteria, a major breakthrough in medical sciences that laid the foundation for modern epidemiology and was also a major input to microbiology. Fridtjof Nansen, the great explorer, humanitarian and diplomat, made his first contribution to the novel science of neuroanatomy when he worked at Bergen Museum. Vilhelm Bjerknes and the Bergen school of Meteorology developed the basis for modern weather forecasting.

Get in

By plane

Bergen Airport Flesland (IATA: BGO) is located 19 km south of the city. The main international airports with flights to Bergen are Copenhagen, London, and Amsterdam. There are also flights from various cities in the United Kingdom (such as Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen); Prague, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, various cities in Spain, and some other airports. There are also a number of domestic flights, such as Oslo, Trondheim, Stavanger, Tromsø, Kristiansand and Sandefjord, connecting Bergen to additional international airports. A flight ticket from the capital Oslo to Bergen usually costs around kr 300-400. The main carriers in Norway are SAS and the low cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle. The Dutch KLM has flights to Amsterdam, Lufthansa to Frankfurt. The smallest airports in Norway are usually served by Widerøe.

Flybussen departs from right outside the terminal building. Flybussen makes frequent stops and the journey downtown takes about 30–40 minutes. Adult tickets are kr 100, return ticket kr 170 (discounts for children, students and senior citizens apply). Buy your ticket before boarding to save kr 10, either online, from a machine or from a ticket vendor.

Taxis are also available but they cost much more (kr 300-350 on weekdays to downtown, more at night and at the weekend).

There are some local buses occasionally going to and from the airport (see the Get around by bus-section for more information on local buses). They have limited space for luggage, take longer and you have to change buses on your way downtown, but the ticket is only kr 50 (kr 35 if bought in advance - there is no ticket machine on the Airport, but Narvessen store at the airport sells them). If you don't mind a little exercise, you can also walk 2km to Birkelandsskiftet terminal station, from which buses 50E, 51 and 53 can be taken to Bergen city center. Please consult the Skyss travel planer beforehand, because the busses are not that frequent (expect two busses per hour in the mornings and evenings of weekdays and one bus per hour on weekends).

The car rental companies AVIS, Budget, Hertz, Europcar and National all have offices at Bergen Airport Flesland. Located in the terminal building, by the exit, most of them are open 7AM–9PM on weekdays. Opening hours in the weekend are limited, but some of the companies will offer 24 hours rental if you make a reservation.

By train

Bergen line runs through high mountains

Bergen is served by a railway line which runs from Oslo through Hønefoss. Bergen is the last station and there is only one station in the city (in addition one station in Arna suburb). The railway line is operated by the Norwegian State Railways. The journey takes about seven hours and gives you beautiful views, especially for the last three hours across the plateau and down towards Voss and Bergen. When passing Geilo, you will cross over a high mountain plateau and then travel downwards through some of the best scenery in Norway. If you buy your ticket online well in advance, fares may be as low as kr. 199 for a one-way ticket. For an additional fee of kr. 90, you may upgrade your ticket to NSB Komfort, the equivalent of first class, with slightly better seats and free coffee and tea. If you want to make more out of your journey, get a window seat on one of the most recent upgraded trains (they're quite stylish and have power outlets by every seat) on the left hand side (this will give you the best view). The railway station is located east of the city centre, close to the bus station and the Bygarasjen garage.

Universal access is a priority to the Norwegian State Railways. Book your ticket on the phone or buy it at the train station at least a day in advance to inform staff if you have any special needs. You will have the same offers as are available online. Most trains are equipped with lifts or ramps and handicap toilets. Wheelchairs can be secured on board. For the seeing impaired, there are tactile lines in the larger stations. Staff will assist you in the station. If you need an assistant and can provide documentation, you and your traveling companion will get a 50% discount off the full ticket price.

By car

For more details see: Driving in Norway

If arriving in Bergen by car, you will be better off not taking your car into the city center unless you know exactly where you're going, as most streets are one-way or do not allow cars at all (only buses and taxis), read more in the Get around section. Parking is generally forbidden (unless explicitly permitted) downtown inside zone 1, and restricted outside zone 1.

Generally, you will find that many roads in rural areas, even the highways between the cities, are partly narrow and slow. There are no motorways except a few kilometers around the city, most main roads (E16, road 7) are two lane undivided and limited to 80 km/h (50 mph). Even if some people drive very fast, you should mind the speed limits (usually 80 km/h) and drive according to the conditions. In the mountains, help can be hours away. Furthermore, you will find traffic controls and police in unmarked cars nearly everywhere. Fines are very high. Do also keep in mind that to avoid dangerous situations, it's a very good idea stop and let faster going traffic pass you. Except in and around Bergen, traffic is generally very light, although there may be some traffic on road 7 during summer vacation and around weekends.

Road E16 from Oslo and Voss makes a circle from Arna through Aasane where it joins E39 on a motorway to the centre (northern approach). At Sandviken the wide road continues through a long tunnel towards the southern city in order to avoid the centre, while those heading for the centre can either exit at Sandviken or just after the tunnel. The southern approach (E39) comes from the Halhjem ferry dock at Os and arrives downtown just before the long tunnel. Find a good parking, and use legs or public transport inside the centre.

From Oslo and Eastern Norway

The trip from Oslo to Bergen takes between seven and nine hours, depending on the route, the driving conditions and whether you choose to make any stops on the way. Be prepared to add some hours driving time in the winter - and remember that the daylight will be scarce for many months. All routes Oslo to Bergen run through mountain passes. It might be a good idea to use two days on the tour in the winter if you're not accustomed to these conditions. A 12 or even 14 hour drive on icy, dark roads in bad weather is not very nice. Keep in mind that many roads in Norway are often of narrow and slow due to relatively low traffic and difficult weather conditions.

Road 7 (Rv7) passing Vøringsfossen waterfall.

If you plan to cross the mountains (for instance by driving from Oslo to Bergen) in the winter season, it is imperative that you are prepared for the journey. The conditions are harsh. Always keep a full tank of fuel, and keep warm clothes, food and drink in the car. Make sure your tires are good enough and suited for winter conditions (studded or non-studded winter tires; "all-year" tires are not good enough), and that you have sufficient skills for driving in snowy and cold conditions. Roads are often closed on short notice due to weather conditions. For advice on conditions and closed roads, call 175 in Norway or check the online road reports (in Norwegian only) from the Norwegian State road authorities. Remember that not all parts of the country have cellular phone coverage.

From Western Norway

By bus

Nor-Way express bus heading for Bergen.

Via the network of NOR-WAY Bussekspress, Bergen is accessible by direct links from all of South Norway. Bus is usually the cheapest way to travel, but can take some time. The national buses are very comfortable, but not suitable for people using wheelchairs. Schedules and fares are available online, and it is also possible to pre-book. Booking may be required on some routes. The bus station is conveniently located just a few minutes walk from the city center. The terminal for long distance buses is situated on the rear side of the station.

By boat

Hurtigruten docking at Bryggen in the very centre of Bergen

There are fast boat services from several communities north of Bergen. Because these passenger ferries stop at various small towns on the way there, you get a great view of the coast and its islands. Fjord1 runs ferries north of Bergen, Norled runs services south of Bergen. The boat terminal is on the Nordnes peninsula in the city center. Service from/to Stavanger has been discontinued.

Bergen is the southern terminus for Hurtigruten, a week-long passenger ship route with stops along Norway's coast all the way to Kirkenes in the far north of Norway. Ålesund can be reached overnight, and Trondheim will take one full day and two nights. The terminal is located at Nøstet. The Hurtigruten ships are accessible with a wheelchair.

There are car ferries which run to and from Hirtshals in northern Denmark, operated by Fjordline. The terminal is the Skoltegrunn pier, some hundred meters beyond Bryggen.

Get around

Orientation

Downtown Bergen is compact and easy to walk for most visitors. Most sights and hotels are located within few minutes walk within downtown. While the very centre is located on a relatively flat piece of land, there are hills in virtually every direction out of the centre so heading downhill usually leads to centre. The main square is the east/west Torgallmenningen, a pedestrian zone. The Nordnes peninsula points north from the very centre, on the eastern side is the Vaagen, a small bay and once Bergens main harbour, lined on the eastern side by Bryggen and the Fortress. Overall navigation is generally easy as the summits and the bay provides clear indication of general direction, Mt Ulriken is a key landmark for large parts of the city, while downtown St John’s Church (Johanneskirken) with characteristic red brick and green roof is another landmark. The sturdy theater building at the top of Ole Bulls place is also a point to note. Precise navigation through many irregular streets may still be challenging. Navigation by car can be equally difficult because of hills, narrow streets and many one way streets, what seems close on the map may in fact be a long drive.

Bergen is idiosyncratic in many ways, including layout and names of streets:

In addition there is a handful of specific names without generic suffixes like “−gate”, for instance Bryggen (“the Wharf”), Strangehagen (“Strange's garden”, a street), Klosteret (“the Monastery”, a square), Georgernes Verft (“Georges' Shipyard”, a street), Marken, Engen (“the Meadow”, a square), Arbeiderboligen (“Workers' residence”).

On foot

Within the city center, walking is the best way to get around. You can walk across the downtown in 20 minutes in any direction. The most central streets of the city are relatively flat and generally have a good accessibility for the disabled, sidewalks have rounded corners to allow access by wheelchair. The characteristic alleys and narrow streets (often with stairs rather than ordinary streets) on the slopes are however not available by wheelchair and may be difficult to walk for the disabled. The most important pedestrian crossings have sound signals and are indicated by tactile paving. They are also accessible with a wheelchair. Although cobble stone is a popular material in the streets, it is rarely used in pedestrian areas. A map with more information on this subject is available from the municipality's website.

By bus

Schedules

Bus schedules can be a bit difficult to understand. Ask a local or a bus driver; both will usually be able and happy to assist you. There are information desks at the bus station and off Torgalmenningen providing information on all local bus and train lines free of charge. Calling 177 will also put you in contact with the information center (if you call from a cell phone, be sure to ask for the information center for Hordaland county, as this is a national service).

Schedules and outline maps of the services are available online from the Skyss website together with an online travel planner. There are schedule and travel planner apps available for Android and iOS mobile phones and tablets. Printed schedules can be picked up from any bus, but are only available in Norwegian.

For a few major stops, the bus may have a fixed departure time, and will not leave before schedule. At other stops though, a bus may leave a few minutes ahead of schedule. During periods of high traffic, the bus may be several minutes late. Rush hour traffic is sometimes accounted for in the schedule by greater time allowances, but busy Saturday shopping is often not.

Fares

Tickets can be bought from the driver, from ticket machines at major stops, from many grocery and conveniences stores, from the information desks at the bus station and off Torgalmenningen, or via the "Skyss billett" app for iOS and Android (available free of charge on Google Play and the App Store).

The driver only accepts cash payment. Tickets are more expensive when bought from the driver.

If you purchase your ticket in advance, you will be given a receipt and a grey card that is actually your ticket. The ticket must be validated when you enter a bus by holding it close to the electronic card reader until you get a green light. Tickets purchased via the apps do not require validation.

The following ticket options are available (prices listed apply to adults and only for travels within Bergen municipality and Straume on Sotra, Kleppestø on Askøy, and Søfteland in Os):

At night, only special (and expensive!) night tickets are valid.

Senior citizens (67 years or older), children (15 years or younger) and disabled persons are entitled to discounts on all tickets. Students are entitled to discounts only on season tickets.

One child (between the ages of 4 and 15) can travel free of charge together with an adult travelling on an single ticket. Children under the age of four travel free of charge.

Groups of ten or more get a discount on single journeys.

A person accompanying a disabled person who can present a companion/escort card travels free of charge on single tickets. The companion/escort must present the companion/escort card to the driver when embarking or in the event of a ticket inspection. The companion/escort does not need a separate ticket.

If you are caught without a valid ticket or fare card, you will be kicked off the bus and get a stiff fine. Controls are common and performed by both uniformed and plain-clothes personnel.

Fare cards in the form of the electronic "Skysskort" can be obtained at the customer service desks at the bus station and off Torgallmenningen.

Lines and services

Regular bus services operate throughout the day, major trunk routes running through downtown run with a 20-minute frequency or better. In the suburbs, there are smaller lines, generally operating from a local terminal, with less frequent services. There are not so many buses between the city centre and the southern neighbourhoods of Fana and Ytrebygda, instead the light rail runs from the city centre to the regional terminal at Nesttun, where feeder buses bring passengers onwards.

Most major lines operate seven days a week, including all holidays (usually a regular Sunday schedule with a few exceptions), but some of the lesser lines may have little or no service in the weekends. During the school vacation (mid-June to mid-August), buses are less frequent, so make sure you have an updated bus schedule. On Christmas Eve (December 24), there are no buses after about 4PM. On Constitution Day (May 17), the parades and celebrations shut down the downtown streets, though buses do run to and from downtown, they will generally not run through downtown on that day.

After about 1AM, regular bus services cease to run. In the weekends, there are a few night bus lines available. Tickets are more expensive than on the regular lines (kr. 60 within city limits), and travel passes can not be used.

Accessibilty

The process of replacing old buses with newer ones accessible for people using wheelchairs is ongoing. Most buses on central lines have low floors and a built-in ramp. On the new buses, that are now a majority, the stops are announced on a display. The bus driver will usually be able to assist you in English, if required.

By light rail

Light rail ("Bybanen") downtown terminal.

A light rail line runs between the city centre and southwards towards Nesttun. This is the primary means of public transportation to southern parts of Bergen. The line passes the railway station, the bus station, Brann soccer stadium and the student homes at Fantoft along the route. The line operates from 6AM to 1AM, seven days a week, generally with a 10-minute frequency (a bit more often during rush hours, 15-minute frequency on Saturday mornings, 30-minute frequency on Sunday mornings). The entire journey takes about 25 minutes.

Night lines operate all Friday and Saturday night with departures every 30 minutes.

You need to buy your ticket from the ticket machine at the station before you board. Apart from that, the ticket and fare card system is the same as for buses, see the Get around by bus section for more details. It's possible to change from bus to light rail and from light rail to bus within the time of validity of a ticket. Tickets for the night lines must be bought on board. Fare cards can not be used. The price is 60 kr.

The light rail is accessible with a wheelchair. All stops are announced and displays also show the name of the next stop.

By car

It is an expressed goal of both local and national authorities to reduce car traffic in the city center. Thus, the speed limit downtown is very low, and most streets are one-way streets. If you plan on getting from one part of downtown to another, walking is often faster then driving, even for locals who know their way around. Furthermore, parking in the streets is reserved for the handicapped and for residents with a special permit with only a very few exceptions. If you plan to drive to the city center from outside of it, unless you have any special needs, park your car in a garage, such as Bygarasjen (very large, at the bus station) and Klostergarasjen (at Nøstet, northern downtown), Bygarasjen being the cheaper. There are also several smaller (and more expensive) garages around town. If you take the chance to bring your car further downtown, be sure to read all signs – most streets are one-way streets and some are for buses and taxis only.

To park in a spot reserved for the disabled, you need a standard European "blue badge", a special parking permit (generally, handicapped parking permits from most countries will be accepted). It must be placed on the inside of your car's front window, clearly visible from the outside.

The municipal parking authorities provide a brochure with some information on the general rules of parking along with a map of parking spots, including parking spots for the disabled.

Driving in the area outside the city center is quite convenient, with expressways going in most directions. The roads are well sign-posted, but a map will probably come in handy anyway. Mind the speed limits; traffic controls are common and fines are stiff. Do also keep in mind that a lot of the roads are toll roads. All toll stations are automated. When approaching one, keep driving and do not slow down. A photograph of your license plates will be taken, and you will receive an invoice per mail. During rush hours (7:30AM-9AM and 3PM-5PM) traffic is jammed many places, but it's nothing compared to larger cities in Europe.

Between 1 November and 31 March, the use of studded tires is legal. Within Bergen municipality, you have to pay a fee to use such tires. You can pay at automated payment stations on the main roads into Bergen (Norwegian: oblatautomat), Statoil gas stations or by visiting the municipal parking authorities in Bygarasjen or Vincens Lunges gate 3 (directly south of the railway station).

By taxi

Taxis are generally expensive in Norway. Throughout Bergen, there are a number of taxi stalls where taxis are parked waiting for customers. During the day, taxis will usually not pick up customers nearer than 300 metres from the stalls, except when called to an address. During the night in the weekends, taxi queues can be very long (up to one hour), and all customers are therefore required to go to the stalls. It is possible to order taxis to addresses also at this time of the week, but you shouldn't really expect the taxi to arrive.

The places where the taxis are stationed changes from time to time because of renovation of the city streets, but usually you will find them at the bus station, the railway station, Festplassen, Ole Bulls plass, Torget and in Torggaten and Vetrlidsalmenning. Look for signs saying "Taxi". Some taxi stalls are only open during the night, and vice versa. Information about this is printed on a separate sign below the taxi sign. If no taxis are available at the taxi stall, call 07000 (Bergen Taxi), 08000 (Norgestaxi), +47 55 70 00 00 (Taxi 1) or +47 55 70 80 90 (Bryggen Taxi). Note that there is usually a fee associated with calling a taxi. Taxis may also be ordered in advance by calling one of these numbers, which is recommended if you have the possibility.

Fares are approximately the same regardless of the taxi company. All companies are regarded as reliable and safe. If several taxis are available at a taxi station, you may pick the one you want from the line.

It can be added that taxi drivers rarely expect or receive any tip.

By train

There is one local commuter train service, between downtown Bergen and the suburb of Arna in the east (schedules are available from the Norwegian State Railways' web site). If you are going to Arna, the train is by far the fastest option from downtown since the roads run around the mountains while the railway line runs straight through them; it is an eight minute train ride, running every half hour during most of the day. Tickets should be purchased beforehand in the office at the downtown station or in the machines both downtown and in Arna.

By bicycle

Getting around by bike can be difficult in Bergen. Many central streets are paved with cobblestone, and there are only a few roads with designated cycling lanes. Cycling in such lanes can even be dangerous, as car and bus traffic may cross the lane. It is however legal to cycle on the sidewalks as long as you do not disturb pedestrians. Front and rear lights are mandatory after dark. Bicycle theft and vandalism is common, so be careful where you leave your bike and always use a lock.

See

There's a number of attractions in Bergen and the surrounding areas. Surveys do, however, show that most tourists in Bergen find the atmosphere, cultural landscape and architecture more compelling than the typical sights, so pick a few things to see and spend the rest of your time in Bergen sitting down in a park or café, strolling around the city, enjoying a concert or hiking the mountains. On sunny summer days, stay downtown until late to enjoy the sunset in the north.

Panorama points

Because of its rugged landscape Bergen has an abundance of panorama points and these give an intense feeling of space, notably Mt Fløyen and Mt Ulriken served by funicular and cable car respectively but also available hiking for the sporty. At lower altitudes the Fjellveien panorama road and the highest point of Nordnes peninsula are easily available. Sandviksbatteriet just above Sandviken hospital also offers excellent panorama. The Montana residential area likewise gives a nice outlook.

Traditional wooden architecture

McDonalds in a traditional Bergen house downtown

Traditional small wooden houses, often placed in an irregular pattern around narrow streets and passages, dominated most Norwegian cities during the past centuries. Bergen is one of the few major towns where this traditional style still dominates several neighbourhoods downtown. A number of houses have also been relocated to Gamle Bergen (old Bergen) museum. Some of these are merely pockets of cute little houses between stone and concrete structures; others are wider areas of these dollhouse-like buildings. Show respect for those living there while you walk by. These areas are best seen on a relaxed stroll (although the view from Fjellveien gives a birds eye view):

Downtown

Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Bergenhus fortress

Håkonshallen

Bryggen

Bryggen
A scene at Bryggen
Museums

Nygårdshøyden and Møhlenpris (southern downtown)

The museum garden at Bergen Museum

South of the city center

Gamlehaugen
Troldhaugen

North of the city center

Gamle Bergen

West of the city center

Do

Concerts

Stage art

Den Nationale Scene

Beach-life

Hanging out by the ocean can be one of the best ways to spend a hot summer day in Bergen, although Bergen is hardly a sun and sand destination. The temperature in the ocean around Bergen is warmer than most places on the west coast because of the outer islands protecting the area from the constant flow of cooler water from the North Sea, and allowing the water to heat in smaller bays in the area. Temperatures can rise to 20 °C (68 °F) after consecutive days with good weather. The water is clean and fresh. There are sandy beaches at Arboretet at Milde (Hjellestad), Kyrkjetangen at Nordåsvannet and Helleneset, "bathing houses"/beaches at Nordnesparken and Elsero situated in Old Bergen in Sandviken. After a day hiking in the mountains, Skomakerdiket above Mount Fløyen has a sandy fresh-water beach.

Hiking

De syv fjell

Ulriken summit with the tower is a key landmark

Locals refer to de syv fjell (the seven mountains) when they talk about the mountains surrounding the city. But there's no agreement on which mountains these seven really are, as there are in fact at least nine mountains and peaks in the area. Most people do however agree that Fløyen, Ulriken, Løvstakken and Damsgårdsfjellet are among the seven, plus three out of Sandviksfjellet, Blåmanen, Rundemanen, Lyderhorn and Askøyfjellet. As locals are known to have strong opinions on most subjects, the question of which mountains to include has been up for debate in local newspapers since the morning of time. The reason for the controversy is probably that the number seven is more of a roman-inspired gimmick, and that it is impossible to distinguish some of the mountain tops from each other when in the city center, as many of them are part of the same massif.

The mountains surrounding Bergen offers great hiking possibilities, and unlike most cities the first hiking trail starts downtown and no need for transport out of town. There are options for anyone from those just looking for a fifteen-minute stroll in the sun to the more adventurous interested in daytrips and steep hills. Byfjellene (lit. "the city mountains") have good networks of dirtroads and paths, usually well signposted. Good maps are available in most bookstores – look for Tur- og friluftskart Bergen (1:25 000) from the Norwegian Mapping and Cadastre Authority (Norwegian: Statens kartverk).

For advice on hiking, as well as hiking opportunities elsewhere in Norway, you should consult Bergen Turlag (Bergen Hiking Association), the local branch of Den Norske Turistforening (Norwegian Trekking Association), located in Tverrgaten 4-6. The Norwegian right to access entitles you to hike in all uncultivated areas.

Mount Fløyen

Mount Fløyen is the most central of the mountains. It is easily accessible by the funicular running from downtown, but the better fit will probably choose the 40-minutes walk up. A good compromise can be to take the funicular up and walk down. The way is well signposted, so you won't get lost. In the steep slope towards Fløyen (right above the city) there is the popular Fjellveien, a long, gentle, horizontal pedestrian road with a perfect panorama of the city. From Fjellveien, there are several alternative roads to the top.

From the top of Mount Fløyen, the 1.8 km (1.1 mi) walk in relatively flat terrain to Brushytten (lit. "the soda cabin") is ideal, if you have kids. Brushytten is a kiosk usually open on Sundays. There are several ways to get there, if you follow the signs, you're on the safe side and will walk on dirtroads all the way (easily accessible with both a wheelchair or a pram).

From Brushytten, you can walk up the hill to Mount Rundemanen and get a beautiful view. From Mount Rundemanen, a good choice for a not-so-long hike will be to walk to Sandviksfjellet, and from there down to Sandviken, where you can get on a bus or walk back to the city center. Another possibility is to cross the Vidden plateau and walk to Mount Ulriken, the highest mountain in Bergen, a hike which takes about five hours. You should be somewhat fit to take this trip, and also be prepared for bad weather. The trip across Vidden is among Norway's most popular hiking trips.

For both kids and adults, a popular activity on snowy days is to take the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen and toboggan to the city center.

Mt Fløyen and Mt Blaamanen on a crisp winter day

Fishing

The islands, fjords and lakes surrounding Bergen provide excellent conditions for both saltwater and fresh-water fishing. Fishing from fresh water lakes usually requires a local rod permit, even permition from the land owner. Pay attention to signs marking lakes used for drinking water.

Coast and deep sea fishing is free and there is no need for any license. However, no more than 15 kilos of fish fillets or fish products can be exported from Norway per person and there are some regulations concerning the minimum size of the fish. Consult the web site of The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs for more information .

Fishing in the city centre (Bryggen, Vågen, Bontelabo, Dokken) is possible, but there are some concerns about traces of mercury in white fish fillet and liver. A new report may indicate that the situation is better than expected, but a good advice is to avoid fishing in Vågen, from old ship yards and the Åstveittangen and Eidsvågen areas.

A general, very cautious advice could be not to eat liver from fish caught in areas close to the city centre - and pregnant and breast feeding women should not eat this fish at all.

Events

Buekorps

The buekorps (literally meaning archery brigade) is a tradition unique to Bergen. Formed by children and young people, these brigades have their roots back to the 19th century when kids imitated military troops performing closed order drill. The brigades parade the city streets with drummers, officers and privates carrying crossbows throughout spring, with Constitution Day being the high point. While not universally loved by the citizens, these brigades certainly add to Bergen's unique character.

Learn

Institutions of higher education in Bergen include the University of Bergen, The Norwegian School of Business and Economics, Bergen National Academy of the Arts and Bergen University College. The university is Norway's second largest and covers most areas of education, though the educations in law and in medicine are probably considered the best. The Norwegian School of Business and Economics is considered the best education within these fields in the country. All the aforementioned institutions are members of the Nordplus and Erasmus exchange programmes and offer courses in English.

Buy

Bergen has a number of shopping centers, and international chains are well represented. As prices are rather high in Norway, regular shopping is probably not the most interesting thing to do in Bergen, even if you get a VAT refund (see the Tax Free shopping section below). But if you know where to go, you can find rare and unique items, both traditional crafts and stuff made by local designers - and some other fun stuff. Keep in mind that with a very few exceptions, Bergen shuts down completely on Sundays and holidays.

Shops

Blonder og stas

Tax Free shopping

VAT (value added tax/sales tax, Norwegian: mva. (merverdiavgift) or moms. (merverdiomsetningsavgift)) is 25% for most items in Norway. It is included in the retail price, which makes the VAT content roughly 20% of the price you pay. As Norway is not a member of the European union, all foreign citizens (apart from those of Sweden, Denmark and Finland) are eligible for a refund of the VAT if the goods purchased are brought out of the country at the latest one month after the purchase. The prerequisites for such a refund is that the goods are not used or consumed, even in part, within Norway, and that you spend at least kr. 315 in a store.

Look for stores with a Global Refund/tax free flag or sticker. You need only to ask the shop assistant for a global refund check, and provide documentation of your citizenship. When leaving Norway, go to a Global Refund office with the goods, the check and your passport, and you will receive up to 19% of the sales price in cash. In Bergen, the only Global Refund office is at the airport, but there are also information desks on a couple of the ferries leaving from the city. Check the Global Refund website for more information.

Unlike in many other countries, the customs authorities are not involved in the VAT refund process in Norway.

Eat

This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Up to 130 kr
Mid-range 130–210 kr
Splurge Over 210 kr

There is a great variety of restaurants and cafes in Bergen, but you should expect to spend some time looking for the best places. In the most central parts of the city, many of the restaurants are all the same. Move a block away from the most central parts of downtown to find lower prices and better food. Kitchens usually close at 11PM at the latest.

Waiters and other restaurant staff have good wages. You are not required to leave any money to cover the service, but many people choose to tip the waiter if he or she has been helpful and nice, and if the food was good. If you choose to leave a tip, rounding up or adding about five to ten percent will be appreciated. A rule of thumb would be that the more expensive the food is, the more are you expected to leave a tip.

Keep in mind that tap water is safe to drink and (usually) free of charge. To save money, ask for tap water to drink.

Local food

Finding local food might take some effort, but there are some options. There aren't that many local dishes available at restaurants. "Norwegian" food is the food of the husmann (cottager) – nutritious and cheap, not what you usually find in a restaurant. The Bergen fish soup might be the most important, as well as raspeballer and cooked cod. If you want to get that Norwegian taste and have a gourmet meal at the same time, look for dishes that use "local" ingredients (such as reindeer, stockfish and cod) with a twist, such as Bryggen Tracteursted's filet of reindeer farced with goat cheese.

Many cafe's and restaurants serve "raspeballer" on Thursdays. Raspeballer are local potato dumplings, in Bergen usually served with bacon, sausages, salted meat from sheep, melted butter and mashed rutabaga. You can get takeaway raspeballer at Kjøttbasaren (kr. 50), cheap ones at Lido, excellent ones at Pingvinen and Bjellands Kjøkken. You can get reasonable take-away fish soup, fish-balls, "plukkfisk" and fish-gratin at Madam Bergen.

In November, December and January, traditional Christmas food is served in many restaurants. Look for "pinnekjøtt" (cured, dried and sometimes smoked meat of lamb or mutton), "lutefisk" (lit. "lye fish", dried cod prepared with lye) and "ribbe" (oven-baked pork ribs). For a very special experience, try smalahove (sheep's head). It is a traditional dish from Voss not far from Bergen.

Budget

Mid-range

Fish soup as served at Bryggeloftet & Stuene

Splurge

Drink

There is a great variety of bars, night clubs, concert venues etc. in Bergen. Night clubs are usually open from 11PM, but life never starts before 1AM. Bars opens at different hours, some can be open all day. No places are allowed to serve alcohol after 3AM, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages must cease at 3:30AM at the latest. Many places are required to close earlier. The establishments are only allowed to let people bring their drinks outside if they have been granted a special permit. A requirement to get this permit is that they have a confined space outdoors for their guests. All drinks must be indoors by 1AM. People go out all week, but Fridays and Saturdays are the best nights, Saturdays being the clear winner (most places will be a bit too crowded on Saturdays). Some clubs have a 2 for 1 policy on Wednesdays, and Sunday is usually the night for people in the industry.

Most places require that you are 20 years of age (look in the list for details) and that you can provide a valid ID, even if you are much older. Valid IDs are Norwegian bank cards, European standard driver's licenses and ID cards and passports. Drinking in public is illegal. Emptying a can in front of a police officer on a Saturday night will earn you a kr. 2500 fine. If you stroll through a park a bit outside the city center on a sunny day you will still see a lot of people having a beer or a glass of wine with the picnic. The police usually won't mind as long as everything passes in an orderly fashion.

Prices vary great from place to place, ask at the door if you need to know. In the weekends, there is usually a cover charge from kr. 50 to kr. 100 at night clubs.

Almost all night clubs and some bars have a dress code. The required attire varies; look in the list for more information (when the listing indicates "no dress code" normal, nice clothes are accepted). Supporter gear is generally not accepted even in sports pubs.

Remember that smoking in all indoor areas where people work is strictly prohibited by law in Norway. Most restaurants, bars, night clubs etc. will require you to leave if you try to smoke indoors.

Nightlife is largely concentrated in the central downtown (streets Vaskerelven, Engen, Torgallmenningen, Ole Bulls plass, Nygaardsgaten) and Bryggen area (streets Bryggen, Rosenkrantz gt, Vetrlidsallmenningen, kong Oscar gate).

Central downtown

Clubs

Other

Former quarters of feared Nazi Secret Police now popular nightlife complex

The building now housing Rick's was during World War II the quarters of the Gestapo and the Sicherheitspolizei in the Nazi-occupied Bergen. There were prison cells in both the basement and the building's top floor. Several prisoners committed suicide by jumping out the windows on the 5th and 6th floor so that the Nazis could not torture them into revealing any secrets of the resistance, and a number of those not taking their own life died from the treatment they received during interrogations. The open place by the entrance to Rick's has a monument in memorial of those who lost their life. This has been the subject of repeated discussions in the local media due to a request from the owners of Rick's to use some of the area to serve alcohol.

Bryggen and Dreggen

Nordnes and Nøstet area

Nygårdshøyden and Møhlenpris – the University Area

Outside the city center

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Up to 800 kr
Mid-range 800–1500 kr
Splurge Over 1500 kr

Outside the summer season, getting a hotel room is usually not a problem, although it can be quite expensive unless you have a reservation. In the summer season (from May to Sept) a reservation well in advance is required. Breakfast is normally included in the price except at hostels and camping sites.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Bergen has, as the rest of Norway, a generally low crime rate. The most likely crimes for tourists to experience is car break-ins and bicycle theft. Pickpockets do also tend to be an increasing problem in the summer season, but it's still nothing like in larger cities in Europe. It is always a good idea to look after your belongings, this includes never leaving valuable objects visual in your car and locking your bike safely.

There are no particular unsafe areas in Bergen. The upper part of Nygårdsparken is, however, the hang-out place for drug addicts. They are usually completely harmless, but nevertheless not fun to be around. The risk of getting into trouble is very low, but families should be aware of the area. The lower part of Nygårdsparken is a beautiful place popular among the locals, but the upper part is, as previously stated, somewhat of a free haven for all the drug addicts in Bergen. The drug trafficking is out in the open, addicts are shooting up in plain sight, and the police is basically turning a blind eye to the whole area. Although considered harmless by most, there are frequent petty crimes in this area and it should be avoided by tourists.

Until 2009, prostitutes would solicit their services rather openly in the area around Nykirken, the northern parts of Strandgaten and C. Sundts gate. From January 2009 buying sex is illegal in Norway. This has had an effect on the visible prostitution.

People party hard on Friday and Saturday night, and hoards of drunk people will appear in the central areas from around midnight, singing, carousing, and just hanging around. Some foreigners may perceive this as threatening, but they are mostly harmless, even all-male groups chanting football songs. If approached, just smile and stay friendly, but uneasy visitors should avoid groups of drunk young after midnight. Summer evenings has daylight until 11 or 12, adding to the safety for visitors.

There is an emergency and accident ward at Vestre Strømkai 19, close to the bus station. The ward is open all day all week, and provides examination and treatment in case of accidents and acute diseases. The ward is located together with a life crisis assistance center, a psychiatric emergency ward, a reception center for rape victims and a dental emergency ward. All services may be reached at +47 55 56 87 60. If you should be in need of immediate medical assistance, do however call 113.

The police station downtown is in Allehelgens gate 6, across the street from the old town hall.

☎ Emergency numbers

If you are unsure which number to call, 112 is the central for all rescue services and will put you in contact with the correct department.

For non-emergencies, the police is to be called on 02800.

The hearing impaired using a text telephone can reach the emergency services by dialing 1412.

Roadside assistance is provided by Falck (tel. 02222) and Viking (tel. 06000). AAA members may call NAF on 08505.

Stay healthy

In acute illness or if accident occurs:

There are many pharmacies (apotek) in Bergen, that are selling medications and can give you advice on the treatment of injury and disease. Vitusapotek Nordstjernen Bergen (Bergen Storsenter, Strømgt. 8) has extended opening hours.

Respect

Do note that a high percentage of the locals are very devoted to their city and by other Norwegians Bergen is sometimes considered to be one of the proudest verging on arrogant cities in Norway, based on their pride for their city and all things related to Bergen. This pride will most likely not be noticed by someone passing through, but beware that some might get offended if you express dislike for the city. This pride also include the local football (soccer) team, Brann.

As for the rest of Norway, it is customary to take your shoes off when entering a home. This in particular done as a practical matter, due to the wet weather (slush and salt in winter).

Bergen people have a reputation for being more loud and direct than many other parts of Norway.

Cope

Getting around by foot is easy, and free maps are available everywhere. If you need a better map, you should buy one of the local newspapers' (Bergens Tidende) maps . Maps are sold from the paper's reception in Krinkelkroken 1, close to the blue stone, and in various bookstores. The city map costs kr. 50.

VISA and MasterCard are normally accepted in any restaurant, taxi and store, except grocery stores, some kiosks and McDonald's. Many places, American Express, JCB and Diners Club are also accepted. ATMs accept all major credit and debit cards and are available in English language. The currency is Norwegian kroner (crowns), but euros may also be accepted at some tourist destinations (you should, however, avoid paying in euros as the exchange rates may be stiff). Currency exchange is available in all banks. Exchange is usually associated with an incredible fee, so you should use your credit card or withdraw cash from an ATM unless you have a good reason not to. You will also find that most shops don't handle change manually. A grey machine by the till accepts your change in the top (and counts it for the shop assistant) and provides your change in a hopper at the bottom. Don't feed a large number of coins in at once: put them in one at a time or the machine may jam.

The regular opening hours for grocery stores are 8AM-9PM on weekdays. Some stores open earlier and close later. Other shops usually have shorter hours, except those in the shopping centers. Almost all shops, including grocery stores, close earlier on Saturdays and are closed on Sundays and public holidays. Kiosks such as Narvesen, 7-Eleven and Deli de Luca, as well as many petrol stations, are open. These do however often have very high prices for normal grocery items.

There are some smaller grocery stores open on Sundays and public holidays. This includes Bunnpris at Nedre Korskirkeallmenningen (by the Bergen YMCA and the Church of the Cross) and Rimi at Nygårdsgaten 6.

The city's main post office is conveniently located in the Xhibition shopping center, on the 1st floor. Some grocery stores offers limited postal services, and stamps are available from most book stores and kiosks. Post boxes are either red or yellow and are located all over town. Yellow boxes are only for local mail, if unsure use the red box. All post boxes, post offices and grocery stores offering postal services are marked with the emblem of the Norwegian postal service, a stylized red or silver horn, and the word "Posten". For more information on the postal service and to locate post offices and post boxes, see the web site of Norway Post.

The local tap water is fresh, tasty and rich in minerals from the surrounding mountains, and safe to drink.

Public toilets are available for a small fee at shopping centres and at Torget and Bryggen.

A number of countries have consulates in Bergen. For a full list of embassies and consulates in Norway, see the web site of the department of foreign affairs .

Connect

Area codes are no longer in use in Norwegian phone numbers. Phone numbers are normally eight digits, some special numbers may be three, four or five digits. In any case you should always dial all of the digits to make a call. The country code of Norway is 47. If you are calling abroad from a land line, dial 00 before your country code and phone number.

Cellular phone coverage is very good throughout the city. Three different networks are available, Telenor, NetCom and Network Norway. Check with your local operator to find out which one is the cheaper for you. The difference is usually not big. Norway, like most of Europe, uses GSM 900 and 1800, which means that some cell phones from USA, Canada and countries in Asia will not work. For those in need of mobile data lines, both HSDPA/3G/UMTS, EDGE and GPRS coverage is good on all networks.

There are no telephone centers in the city, and only a very few phone booths. Most hotels have phones in every room, but international calls from these phones are usually very expensive. There are some calling cards available, this is probably the cheapest way to phone home.

Many cafes and restaurants have free Wi-Fi for their patrons. Free Wi-Fi is also available at Bergen Public Library, Strømgaten 6 (by the bus station). Most large hotels do also have wireless Internet access, however access at a hotel may be pricy.

If you are a registered user at an eduroam participating institution, you can connect to a high-speed secure Wi-Fi network on the university campus on Nygårdshøyden, as well as in other buildings used by the university, the Bergen University College, The Norwegian School of Business and Economics and the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. For information on how to connect, see UNINETTs website .

There are a number of internet cafes around town. At Bergen Public Library, you may also use a computer with high-speed internet access for free. There is a reservation system, ask at the circulation desk.

Religious services

Christian

Consulates

Go next

Bergen area

Lysøen - home of Ole Bull

Further afield

Routes through Bergen

Edinburgh (unconnected)  W  E  Voss Oslo
Trondheim Førde  N  S  Os Stavanger


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