If you’re looking for an incredible destination in Norway that combines the energy of a city with the beauty of nature, Bergen, located along the country’s fjord-indented west coast, is bound to please.
Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen is packed with things to see and do, from exploring untamed nature and colossal fjords nearby to tucking into seafood feasts. You’ll find intriguing museums detailing the region’s past, and historical sites showing off Norway’s rich Viking heritage.
Fascinating things to do in Bergen are never in short supply thanks to this city’s ability to mix its ancient seaside wharf and fishing village origins with all of the perks of being a thriving urban center.
Here are some of the best things to do in and near Bergen during your stay in Norway.
Wander Around Historic Bryggen Wharf
Bryggen, Bergen’s old historic wharf, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Norway, with more than 60 exceedingly charming and colorful wooden buildings in shades of yellow, white, and terracotta, their origins dating back to the Middle Ages.
The celebrated wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, tells the tale of the power of the Hanseatic League (a Germanic merchant group) in Bergen over the centuries.
The traditional wooden structures, rebuilt after being burnt down by fires, served as houses, offices and warehouses along the busy wharf back in the day when the Hanseatic League held sway. Today, they’re a warren of artists’ studios, galleries, and independent shops.
Bryggens Museum is a great spot in which to learn more about the archaeological excavations that took place here after the 1955 fire and to view many of the recovered artifacts.
Sample the Wares of the Fish Market
Bergen’s famous Fish Market traces its lineage back to the 13th century. In its modern iteration, you’ll find the indoor Mathallen Hall market (for colder weather), plus the outdoor fish market, easily identifiable by its red canopy awnings.
If seafood, fresh fruit and veggies, and Norwegian cuisine—along with meandering around a busy vendors’ area right next to Vågen Bay, located in the city’s center—appeal to you, chances are you’ll love the Bergen Fish Market.
Fishmongers and other merchants will offer you samples to nibble on at this lively marketplace. You’ll come across several seafood restaurants here as well, serving fresh oysters, crab, caviar, and other delicacies from the sea for lunch. On sunny days, the whole place buzzes with locals enjoying lunch.
Visit Bergen’s Wooden Fantoft Stave Church
The now rebuilt wooden Fantoft Stave Church, in Bergen’s Fantoft neighborhood, is a wonderful example of wooden stave church construction, characterized by pegged (no nails) wooden planks and a pointed, towering silhouette.
The original Fantoft church was built in the village of Fortun in the early 12th century, then moved piece by piece to Fantoft in the late 1800s to save it from planned demolition.
Followers of Norway’s occult-oriented Black Metal music genre burnt down many stave churches in the 1990s—and most likely burned the original Fantoft Stave Church to the ground.
The recreation that you’ll visit is an exact copy of the church moved from Fortun and features the old church’s crucifix, which survived the destructive blaze.
Prepare for Battle at Bergenhus Fortress
Bergenhus Fortress, next to the harbor, was originally built in the 13th century. The Holmen islet was eventually combined with Koengen (now an open-air concert venue) and the Sverresborg military castle to form the Bergenhus complex.
French forces laid siege to the fortress in the 18th century. And then in the 20th century, occupying Nazis requisitioned the fortress’s buildings for their western headquarters in Norway during their occupation of the country in the Second World War.
You’ll notice broad walking paths here, which will let you wander around the grounds, and lead up to Sverresborg as well, with its brilliant views of the harbor below.
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Board the Floibanen Funicular for Mount Floyen
Mount Floyen rises high above Bergen. You can hop on the Floibanen Funicular in town, and reach the summit in less than ten minutes—or opt for a steep walk up the side of this Norwegian mountain.
Once you reach the top of the mountain, you’ll discover many Bergen attractions to keep you occupied. First off, you can say “hi” or hei (“hi” in Norwegian) to the friendly cashmere goats hanging around the summit station.
Mount Floyen offers expansive views across Bergen, its harbor and many of the nearby islands below. You’ll also discover different nature hikes through forests and alpine fields on or near Floyen, along with strolls around the sublime lake Skomakerdiket, one of the best lakes in Europe.
You can go for a mountain biking adventure on Mount Floyen too, riding along well-defined highland paths, and across grassy meadows and woodland trails.
Admire the Frozen Artwork at MAGIC ICE
Like many Scandinavian cities, Bergen has its own ice bar, MAGIC ICE Bergen. Located in the Strandsiden neighborhood, this chilly venue is worth a visit for a bit of fun.
MAGIC ICE’s claim to fame is that it’s a bar where everything is literally made out of ice, including the carved artwork. Thankfully, upon entrance, the affable staff will offer you a pair of toasty gloves to wear, and a thick poncho to pull over your clothes.
The bar, bar stools, drink glasses, and imaginative art displays are all chiseled out of chunks and blocks of ice, making this watering hole a very “cool” place to drop by for a frozen cocktail.
Travel Back in Time at the Old Bergen Museum
Travel back in time at the Old (Gamle) Bergen Museum, a family-oriented Bergen attraction that’s the perfect destination for true history buffs.
The Gamle Bergen Museum is an open-air, smallish recreated village featuring approximately 50 wooden homes.
The homes were built to look like they would have appeared during the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Bergen, years past, was once considered Europe’s largest wooden city.
Wander around the museum’s cobblestone streets and old town square, peek into the quaint-looking timber structures, have a chat with the historical reenactment actors working on-site, then catch a theatrical play at the main square during your visit to the Bergen Museum.
Take a High-Speed RIB Tour
If you have the opportunity, try to book an action-packed inflatable RIB-boat fjords tour. These tours will let you feel the rush of motoring beneath the expansive Askøy and Sotra suspension bridges, plus you’ll also get to appreciate Bergen’s awe-inspiring beauty from the sea.
Aside from admiring Bergen and colorful Bryggen from the water, a RIB excursion will also allow your boat captain to jet around larger ships and oil platforms.
You’ll also head out to the skerries (small rock islands) and islets in the nearby Hjeltefjorden fjord and archipelago. This is a different world, where the RIB will slow down so you can look out for eagles perched on the rocks.
Check Out Ancient St. Mary’s Church
One of the oldest structures in southwestern Norway, St. Mary’s Church, just north of Bryggen, is one Bergen attraction that folks who appreciate antiquity will want to check out in person.
Construction on the church most likely started around 1130, with subsequent restorations over the centuries, which means this place of worship has been in use since the early Middle Ages.
Members of the Hanseatic League, who attended mass at St. Mary’s when they dominated the city’s cultural landscape, would most likely have listened to sermons here in German—although German isn’t the main language at St. Mary’s anymore.
St. Mary’s Church, with its two distinctive towers, is a predominantly Romanesque structure built out of soapstone and shale. You can wander around this historical site in the early afternoon on Tuesdays and on Fridays.
Walk Under Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall
Walk beneath the iconic Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall, which is a little over an hour east of Bergen, near the village of Norheimsund and the spectacular Hardangerfjord, one of the longest in Norway.
While this mighty fall is a force to be reckoned with, the paved path with protective railings running beneath the torrent of water means that anyone—even visitors with mobility issues—can safely maneuver beneath the cascades and listen to the deafening roar.
In addition to admiring this tumbling 164-ft aquatic phenomenon, a visit to Steinsdalsfossen and the adjoining region will also give you a chance to take in the magnificent views of Norheimsund village, and the green Steinsdalen river valley below.
Explore the Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen
The Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen is an exquisite Bergen villa that was home to the renowned pianist and composer Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) and his wife Nina.
Troldhaugen is now a museum, situated near the cleverly designed “sunken” Troldsalen live music venue (you’ll have to walk over a small pedestrian bridge to reach it), which blends into a green slope that almost disappears from sight thanks to the concert hall’s turf covering.
The museum itself features a composer’s hut where Grieg created much of his music, plus the gravesites of Nina and Edvard.
You can visit the villa, enjoy a coffee at the Troldhaugen café with views overlooking Nordås Lake, opt for a guided tour, stroll the grounds, and enjoy the peace and quiet this charming site offers its guests.
Hike to Waterfalls and Rock Formations
If you adore gentle mountain treks, and rugged scrambles, head to Modalen, just over 30 miles north of Bergen, for two short but impressive fjord-adjacent hikes.
Norway is a land of amazing, camera-friendly rock formations, like the world-famous Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen, in Lysefjord, south of Bergen.
Closer to the city, in Modalen, you’ll encounter “The Castle”, which is a massive pulpit-like rock (not an actual castle) looming over Mofjord and the small, pretty village of Mo.
The two-hour hike, while gaining in elevation, is fairly easy, which makes it ideal for families with children. From The Castle you’ll be treated to dazzling, expansive views of the serene fjord below.
If you’re up for a slightly tougher and steeper hike in Modalen, set your sights on the hour-and-a-half round-trip journey along the woodland Nedstavatnet trail up to the stunningly beautiful Kvernhusfossen waterfall.
Once you climb to the top of cascading falls, you’ll encounter a mountain tarn (the source of the falls) or lake, plus an old dam. The sweeping vistas across Mofjord from this elevated perch are something to behold, to say the least.
Discover this harbor city’s rich Nordic heritage and natural wonders on a luxury cruise to Bergen. Browse through our Norwegian cruise itineraries and plan your adventure to this remarkable land of fjords and glaciers.