When we stepped off the bus, I thought I was dreaming. It was as if we had strolled into the pages of a storybook, or a movie set — cobblestone streets and quaint cottages, deserted and lit by moonlight. With our suitcases in tow, we made our way to our hostel, which was just a short walk down the street.
The next morning, Sarah (my friend from William & Mary!) and I began our five-day stay in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city located on the west coast. I can confidently say that Bergen is the most beautiful place I have ever been, even in the winter. It’s surrounded by seven mountains and backs up to a picturesque harbor, and every single street and building is uniquely beautiful.
Bergen on a budget
While I was blown away by Bergen’s beauty, I was also not fully prepared for its prices. Throughout the trip, we had to get creative with our activity and restaurant choices to keep our spending at a level we could stomach. First, we bought a Bergen Card, which gave us discounts or free admission to a ton of museums, attractions, and restaurants, as well as access to Bergen’s public transportation system. For a card that lasted 96 hours, we paid about $60 USD. We bought ours online and picked them up at the Tourist Information Center, which is centrally located near Bryggen, the old wharf.
We also saved money by staying in a hostel rather than a hotel. City Hostel Bergen, about a five minute walk from the city center, had very nice accommodations and was super close to great cafés and shops.
Since it was still winter, a lot of activities were discounted, like our fjord tour, or even free, like the university museums and aquarium. We were worried about the weather, but it turned out to be warmer than Stockholm, and the rain held off on all but one day. A lot of restaurants and cafés also offered student discounts, so we were always on the lookout.
Playgrounds and stave churches
We tried to enjoy Bergen’s natural beauty as much as possible, which was reliably free of charge.
Fløyen is one of Bergen’s seven mountains, and its switchback trail is easily accessible. We started walking on a whim and kept going up until we just about reached the top. The views of the city and other mountains were stunning.
Bryggen and Bergenhus Fortress
Bryggen, a row of colorful buildings lining Bergen’s Vågen harbor, is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site dating back to the 14th century. We spent hours exploring its alleyways and buildings, soaking in the historical significance and remarkable architecture. Most of the shops and restaurants in and around Bryggen were very expensive, so we primarily stuck to exploring from the outside.
We also went to Bergenhus Fortress, located just beside Bryggen. The museum was closed, but we were still able to walk the grounds.
Views from Klosterhaugen playground
A small playground in the neighborhood of Nordnes had my favorite view of the city. On our last day, we were lucky enough to see a full rainbow!!
Sunset at Nordnes Park
We discovered an amazing view of the sunset from the base of Nordnes Park, down by the water. It was magical, of course.
Fantoft Stave Church
My absolute favorite part of the trip was our journey to see the Fantoft Stave Church. We took the bus out of Bergen to Fantoft and walked the rest of the way. It was incredibly cold and windy, but that only made the experience more memorable. The forest surrounding the church was beautiful, and the church itself was awe-inspiring despite being closed to tours. It’s definitely a must-see when visiting Bergen.
With the Bergen Card discount, our fjord tour was around $55 USD. The three hours I spent on that boat were unlike anything I have ever experienced. I don’t think I can adequately articulate it, so I’ll let the photos I took do the talking.
Also, a cool moment on the cruise — I met two DIS Copenhagen students! We talked for a bit about our respective programs and core courses before parting ways.
Whale skeletons and stolen Viking treasure
On our first full day, we headed to the aquarium, which is located in Nordnes. The exhibits inside were amazing, but the animals outside stole the show.
University Museum of Bergen – Natural History
The university’s natural history museum was small but packed full of enormous whale skeletons, animal models, fauna, fossils, and more. It’s definitely worth a visit.
University Museum of Bergen – Cultural History Collections
The university also has a cultural museum, which was my favorite of the two. It had a fascinating Viking Age exhibit that was robbed back in 2017. 400 precious objects and artefacts were stolen, but the museum has recovered many of them since the incident.
Bergen’s street art is a museum of its own, from huge murals to small illustrations that are easy to miss.
Løvetann Café & Bistro: on the expensive side but worth the money.
Solros Kafe and Bakery: an adorable bakery and café just steps from our hostel. The owner is from Stockholm, too!
Råvarene: another restaurant and café near our hostel. Affordable and delicious Norwegian food.
Dalia: affordable, great food, and had a student discount before 4pm!
Special shoutout to Bella Paris — inexpensive French and Italian food run by the nicest guy ever.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. If you have the chance to visit Bergen, I would highly recommend you take it!