8 [Mostly Not Free] Things You Should Do in Bergen, Norway
8. 9. 2017 | Bergen, Norway.
The evening we arrived was lovely. We came in around 4 in the afternoon and stepped out into a warm bath of sunshine; everything sparkled, and even riding the bus to our Airbnb on another island seemed fun. The air was awash with the delight of light; it was a fine August evening.
The next day the rains began. Don't get me wrong, I adore rainy days, and named my business after that, but I discovered that there are limits. Crouching down inside my jacket for 8 days took its toll, and after the 3rd to 4th day I resigned myself to being somewhat cold and pinched.
Ok Norway, I get it. Next time I'm coming armed with woolens, weather-rated clothing, and fur-lined waterproof boots. For all that, though, I enjoyed many of the little streets and cubby holes of Bergen. I wouldn't mind revisiting these spots some day, especially in winter.
If you go, do take proper clothing, and then visit every one of these spots - rain or shine.
1. VISIT BRYGGEN
The wharf in Bergen dates back to the days of the Hanseatic Trading League in the 12th century, preserved to remind the world of its importance in trade history. It was rebuilt in the 18th century after a fire dined on the old, brittle buildings, and now smells of wood and history and money. It's one of the most touristy areas in Bergen but as an UNESCO site it's worth a visit. There are also some really fun shops back behind the front row of houses selling everything from reindeer furs, leather jackets and bags, handmade jewelry, and paintings done locally. I had a blast perusing these places, and purchasing a pair of moose leather gloves from a little old man who made jokes about "no swimming with the waterproof leather."
He only knew the word 'waterproof', so he demonstrated the rest by pantomiming swimming like a moose. How could I resist the gloves after that?
The fish market is just on the other side of the wharf, but we avoided it, having heard that they notoriously overcharge for food that isn't that great anyway. We did walk through, just to sniff a little.
Click on the photo below to see more of the area and options surrounding the wharf.
2. RAMBLE THE STREETS OF OLD TOWN
This was hands down my favorite section of the city to wander through. You can get there by walking north-east from Bryggen a block or two, turning left (north) and walking straight into old town. It's a residential area peppered with shops, including my favorite cafe to be featured later on in this post. It's beautiful.
Click on the photo below to see more of the streets in Old Town.
3. HIKE UP MT. FLØYEN
Just at the top of the street (first picture under #2) is the station where the funicular leaves for the ride to the top of Fløyen. Look for the sign called "Fløibanen" and there you can purchase tickets at around 90 NOK for a return ticket, and 45 NOK for children. Several of us opted to take the funicular, and the rest of us thought the hike up would be fun. It was steepish, but attainable; it took us around 45 minutes to get to the top, and the funicular will get you there in about six minutes.
It had a great view of several fingers of Bergen, "the Gateway to the Fjords."
Lunch in the clouds.
Not too shabby, Norway.
4. READ A NEWSPAPER AT DET LILLE KAFFEKOMPANIET
Now we come to my favorite coffee shop in Bergen. After the jaunt up the mountain a warm and toasty drink is just the thing and Det Lille delivers. Just around the corner from the funicular station is this charming little place, started by college students in 1996. We popped in here several times during our stay and I fell in love. It's tiny, a wee kitschy, and a kind of place that says, "peace be unto you."
Click on the photo below to view more photos of our time at Kaffekompaniet.
My favorite drink, the chili alvaraho. I don't know exactly what it was, other than spicy and slightly peppery with lots of hot chocolate.
5. DINE AT PINGVINEN
Drink can only sustain for so long before food must be added. Daniel saw that this place came highly recommended among online reviews so we trooped through town for a sit-down lunch. We generally ate out for lunches since it was more affordable, and because it was cozy to come back and cook at night at the AirBnb.
The walk to Pingvinen to build up appetite.
Now, down to the business of the lunch: food. A few of us ordered the lapskaus, a rustic stew with smoked pork, root vegetables, and buttery flat bread. It was the ultimate comfort food after the walk in through the chilled weather. I wished for a double portion once finished, even though one had sated me.
Several of the others ordered the smoked lamb with potato dumplings and something I can no longer identify under the lamb; it looks like more potatoes. At any rate, they let me taste some of this and I particularly enjoyed the lamb. The potato dumplings were boiled, and needed a bit of seasoning to make them jump for joy, but in all the dish was tasty and wholesome. Something which you eat, and immediately after feel at peace with yourself and the world.
Dining at Pingvinen? 4 stars.
6. STROLL THROUGH LILLE LUNGEGAARDSVANNET
Can't say that? Neither can I, but a stroll by this lake is just what one needs after a good lunch. Of course, if you are Natasha strolling isn't enough, especially if there are birds to be chased. Chased they were accordingly, while we looked with the indulgence of adults who have just eaten well.
7. SPEND A MORNING (OR 2) AT KODE MUSEUM
On the other side of Lille Lungegaardsvannet is the Kode Museum. The entrance fee is 100 NOK for adults and 45 for kids, or is free with the Bergen card. I went to see some of Edvard Munch's work, but stayed because of Nikolai Astrup's depictions of midsummer celebrations in Norway. Much of Munch's art was troubled, and explored the darkness of a mind distressed, while Astrup discovered the qualities of moody light and tradition. Both are necessary to art, I suppose, but I didn't feel like screaming mentally through all the collections of art so I glossed over some of the rooms.
Welcome to Kode.
Isn't it interesting that Norway was also home to Edvard Grieg, who composed Peer Gynt? Give this a listen and "feel" a morning in Norway, as Grieg must have done.
8. FIND A HOME
Last, but not least, let me introduce you to my new home.
Fine, I'm joking. I don't think Bergen and I would suit very well with its damp climate, but I did love all the Scandinavian design and flair. Just check out this doorway for example - the city is full of surprising quirks and designs. I played a little game as I walked along that sounded something like "ok, I would live here, I love the windows" or "this house has a particularly nice view of the city rooftops" or "fancy living this close to Det Lille Kaffeakompaniet." Perhaps you've played this game in foreign cities too? It's fun. Walk through the streets and make them your own.
This photo was just because it gave me a flash of delight to think of going in these doors every day to come home. Or to see these views and street corners. Plus, the cat, the cat is mine. It knows it, despite the glare it leveled at me.
My pretend friend, Anja, and I often drink our kaffe at her patio table. It's our tradition after work on Tuesday and Thursday.
Here is the florist shop I would frequent on a weekly basis. Who could resist these blooms?
We come to the end of the tour, and I think more fondly of Bergen than I thought possible while there. I admit, I'm ashamed of my griping about the weather. It is quite a nice city; full of friendly folk, good coffee, interesting walks, history, culture, and umbrellas. It's a stone's throw (for a troll) from magnificent scenery and midsummer eve's, and I have begun to understand why Norwegians love their country.
Thank you for the experience, Bergen.