I love writing city guides, from St. Andrews to Edinburgh, these travel guides are what I love writing the most and what -it appears- you love reading the most too here at Natbee’s! Visiting Bergen before Christmas has been an unforgettable experience, and with it being only an hour flight away from Aberdeen, I would easily hop in the next airplane to take me back. It is a shockingly short trip and it felt like I snapped my fingers and went straight from Aberdeen Airport to Bergen. Someone take me back, please and thank you! So without further ado, today I present you a city guide to Bergen!
*This post is going to be photo heavy, so grab a cuppa and why don’t you stay a while!
It was so nice to be in Bergen before Christmas for many reasons. Firstly the decorations, secondly the activities and events that created a special atmosphere, the Christmas food and drinks (hello cinnamon latte!), and last but not least the people being in a general festive mood!
Before I get deep down into Christmas in Bergen and all the festive things you can do, I wanted to thank the Visit Bergen Tourism Board, Aberdeen International Airport and Widerøe Airlines for inviting us and organising this trip. We had the best time and were blown away by the hospitality of Norwegians, and just to justify something, this was not the case just because we are members of the press invited by the tourism board. Every single person we met, from the strangers in the streets to the people at the hotel and restaurants we visited were amazing. It was not uncommon to have locals giving me suggestions on where to go and what to do as soon as they would see me with my camera getting pictures of the streets. Any expectation we had was exceeded!
As guests we were provided with the visitor’s Bergen card. This is a card you can buy online or from the Visit bergen tourism board offices, which are conveniently located on top of the fish market in the centre of Bergen – a spot very difficult to miss. The card provides you access to museums and attractions and gives you discounts for some restaurants and cafes. Considering that Norway is a bit pricey for someone who lives in the UK, I found this card life saving. Not only we visited the best attractions, galleries and museums the city had to offer but we also had a lovely dinner on a beautiful restaurant that came with a 30% discount off our bill. At times I felt quite spoiled showing this card to people in restaurants and museums but it was the perfect way to explore the city in the most inexpensive way!
Without further ado, today in this city guide to Bergen, I give you a glimpse into Christmas in Bergen and all the things you can do in this beautiful city.
CITY GUIDE TO BERGEN NORWAY
One of the first things we did after getting our stuff in the hotel was to head to the Fløibanen, that is Bergen’s funicular that takes you to the top of Fløyen mountain (320 m above sea level). It provides you with the MOST stunning views of the city and the surrounding mountains and it is one of the best things you can do when in Bergen. If you have seen my Bergen vlog, then most likely you have noticed that I kept trying (and greatly failed) to pronounce the word ‘Fløibanen’ so many times that at the end I started laughing hysterically. I still don’t know how to pronounce it and my Norwegian friends still make fun of my accent, but even though I will never be able to say ‘Fløibanen’ properly, I will always cherish the stunning views and breathtaking atmosphere on the top of this mountain.
On top of the mountain there’s a shop kiosk where you can buy souvenirs for your family and friends and also have a cup of tea if you are freezing cold. The prices are not much different than in the city and it is totally worth the view!
Food in Bergen is another big hit. Everything is locally sourced with emphasis given on good bread, fresh seafood and fish, and seasonal vegetables. Also, delicious ‘Skolleboller’, the buns with custard and shredded coconut on top. Just perfect, little bites made out of heaven. The best companion to a cup of tea or coffee. Available almost in every corner of the city, this is a Norwegian delicacy that children used to bake at schools, hence the name Skolleboller (school+buns). I might have eaten way more than I should, but these baking goods were truly scrumptious!
Like I said before, seafood and fish based dishes are a big thing in Norway and it’s no wonder that in the heart of the city lies the fish market. A heaven for those who love a taste of sea! There, we ate the richest seafood platter I have ever tried in my life, but more on this tomorrow as it deserves it’s very own post!
But Bergen is not only for food lovers. If you are into culture, art, photography and architecture, then you will love Bergen! At the time of our visit, KODE 3 Art Museum had an exhibition presenting Edvard Munch’s collections. It was a unique collection from a historical point of view as it exhibited works from all the major paradigms in Edvard Munch’s artistic career. I am not a talented person and most likely my drawings look like a child’s attempt to mix colours, but this is why I mostly admire paintings. It is beyond my powers to draw anything and I will always praise the talent of all these artists from the past, including Edvard Munch.
Most likely Scream is the most popular of his paintings and something that everyone has in mind when thinking of Bryggen, however his collections are much more than this. Through his paintings he reflects his psychological state, from depression and agony to content, Edvard Munch managed to leave a great work behind him that will be treasured forever.
Here is a glimpse into the gallery’s exhibition…
Some of the paintings were so detailed, I often wondered if it was a picture of a painting!
Much to our amusement, there was another special exhibition happening in the city – the world’s biggest Gingerbread Town (Pepperkakebyen), including the cutest miniature version of Bergen and landmarks of the biggest European cities – all build by students of the locals schools and kindergartners using real gingerbread!
Attention was paid in every detail, from the windows to the trees and the miniature ginger men, I loved this attraction! Everything was so beautiful I had no idea where to turn my camera and shoot for fear I would leave anything out.
This event is free for children under the age of 12 and these who have contributed in this masterpiece and it is open until the 25th of December. If you happen to be in Bergen or around at this time of the year, I wholeheartedly recommend you pay the centre a visit! Oh, the smells.
Back to real Bergen, of course we couldn’t miss out and not visit the most sought-after attraction of Norway, Bryggen! This is a UNESCO’s World Heritage monument that was rebuild after the 1702 fire in the same foundations as it used to be back in the 12th century. Most of the city was destroyed during the fire and only a few buildings made out of stones survived. When Bryggen buildings were restored after 1702, Norwegian architects used the same colours and wooden facades to replicate this area in its most authentic version!
Today, Bryggen is filled with tourists, admiring the architecture and beauty of this historic part of the city as it used to be back in the centuries. This is a meeting point for the locals, the No.1 place tourists from all over the world want to visit when in Norway and also the best place to do your souvenirs shopping. Corner shops filled with Scandinavian, designer gifts and traditional products will satisfy every taste. This is the best place to wrap up a trip to Bergen and a photographer’s paradise!
Speaking of architecture, the first words that come in my head when thinking of Bergen as a city are ‘wood‘, ‘colour‘ and ‘history‘ and this is exactly what Bergen offers to its visitors. Beautiful, narrow alleys lined with old, historic, wooden, colourful houses and secret gardens. Bergen has something new to discover in every corner, and so we decided the best way to explore the city was to just allow ourselves to get lost and wander around. So here is Bergen’s architecture through my lens!
On occasions, there were no words to describe the beauty of Bergen’s buildings and houses. Some streets felt like they jumped out of the pages of a book!
I have two more posts lined up from our Bergen adventures, one with all the outfits I wore and another one with some restaurant recommendations and what we ate in the city (Hint: it’s going to be mouth-watering).
Even though Bergen was foolishly not on the top of my travel list, it has now become one of my favourite cities. Like I said in my vlog, I liked Bergen more than Copenhagen and this is a big statement to come from someone who has some sort of obsession with the Nordic countries!
To finish off this city guide to Bergen post I think I should share with you some of my travel tips when visiting Bergen:
-Bring plenty of cash. Norway is an expensive country, blame it to the oil & gas industry or the Norwegians being brilliant at maintaining a strong currency, you will need loads of cash with you. Exchange some money at the airport. We exchanged around £100 which came down to approximately 1100 Norwegian krona and had to exchange more by the second day, even though most of our food and drinks were offered to us.
-Bryggen souvenirs are expensive but totally worth it. If, however, you find them too expensive, wander around the Klostergaten area where most of the cheap shops are located.
-Bergen is a city that you can easily walk around so there is no need to stress with bus routes. Pretty much anywhere you go, you are in the centre.
-There is ZERO chance you will be robbed or feel in danger while being in Bergen. People are very polite and even at the late Saturday hours there will be very few drunk people down the streets.
-Relating to the previous tip, Norwegians are very polite and excellent English speakers. So if you have a question or you got lost don’t be afraid to ask for some help. They will be more than happy to help you.
-Walk down the streets of the Skottegaten, it has the most beautiful houses, you wouldn’t want to miss!
-We tried to cover as much as possible however some of my readers (thanks Christine and Britt!) suggested we go back just to do the Fjord day cruise during the summer. So this is now on my cards for the summer 2018!
I hope you enjoyed this travel guide to Bergen and please tweet me your pictures whenever you visit!