Jetting off on a two-day detour to Norway during my Denmark trip was a slightly over-the-top expense, but I’m glad I did it because I saw some incredible things there: the fjords (post to come later) and the adorable city of Bergen, surrounded by seven beautiful mountains. I only got to spend about 24 hours exploring Bergen, but despite a severe lack of sleep and inability to afford food, we somehow crammed in almost all the major “to-dos.” This post comes just in time for my NY-based readers, as Norwegian just launched some CRAZY new cheap direct flights to Bergen!
After returning from a long day of looking at fjords from trains, buses and boats, my sister Brooke and I were ready for a satisfying meal. But prices in Norway are out of this world. One beer will run you $25 USD, and a value meal at McDonald’s is about $15. At these prices, we thought we’d be eating at the hot dog stand for breakfast lunch and dinner, but fortunately, thanks to Foursquare, I was able to find somewhere that was cute, delicious and (relatively) affordable: Pingvinen, aka “Penguin.”
Pingvinen is known for its extensive and unique beer list, so if you are a beer lover then you definitely need to make a stop there. I am not a big beer drinker personally, but for some reason I consumed quite a bit of the stuff during my Scandinavian excursions. When in Rome, right?
Anyways, in addition to copious amounts of beer, Pingvinen serves a very good menu of traditional Norwegian cuisine. I had an absolutely amazing stew, and my sister opted for Norwegian meatballs with peas and wild berry jam. The portions were very large and filling – just what we were craving after an adventure-filled day!
The next morning we got up bright and early to fill up on a delicious breakfast at the Klosterhagen Hotell and cram all of Bergen’s sightseeing in before our evening flight back to Denmark. Apparently Bergen is Europe’s rainiest city, but fortunately the travel gods blessed us with sunny weather for most of the day.
So what’s there to do in Bergen? I personally could have wandered around the colorful cobble stone streets taking photos all day. It’s so picturesque, I had to restrain myself from snapping every block.
For ahh-mazing views of the city from above, we took the Fløibanen funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen, where there is a scenic outlook. You can also hike one or both ways if you have more time and are looking to get some exercise.
Once you’re done gazing at the beautiful city below, it’s time to go troll hunting. Yes, I said troll hunting!
Troll spotting starts in the gift shop, where there is an insane assortment of troll figures to shop for. You can bet I brought home a couple.
When you exit, you’re greeted by this guy.
And then in the forest behind the gift shop, you’ll find tons of trolls. A bit creepy, but kind of awesome.
We had a fun time “discovering” all the trolls in the woods (#nerds) before returning to the city.
Besides trolls and rain, Bergen is also famous for being one of northern Europe’s oldest port cities. Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen that dates back to the 14th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings were all constructed from wood, and inevitably have burned down several times. However, they were always rebuilt and the area has remained virtually unchanged since 1702.
It really is quite pretty, and on a nice day you can sit outside in a beer garden by the water. I recommend anything from the brewery “BrewDog,” which I’d never had before but seemed to be everywhere in Bergen!
The fish market, or Fisketorget, is another big tourist attraction that was once the historical center for fish trade in Norway. It’s located by the harbor too, and while the smell of fish isn’t very appealing for me, I did think the modern building was architecturally cool.
So what didn’t we do in Bergen? If I’d only had more time, I’d have gone to see the St. Jørgen’s Hospital, aka the Leprosy Museum. It’s one of very few preserved leprosy hospitals from the 18th century in Europe. Slightly disturbing, probably, but it also would have been fascinating.
I also wish I’d gotten a chance to experience the nightlife of Bergen. While it didn’t seem like a huge party city, apparently there is a big indie music scene. I was surprised at how many music shops we found on the street selling instruments, sheet music, etc. I read that a lot of bands come out of Bergen and many people there study music. Unfortunately we were there on a Tuesday and didn’t stumble across anything too exciting.
But who knows. Maybe one day I’ll be back! Especially since Norwegian is now offering international flights for less than $500 round trip from New York to Bergen. Not joking… check out their website and punch in some dates to see for yourself. Happy travels!
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