The door to the Norwegian Fjords
One of the most seek destination across Norway, Bergen, it is not always the easiest and the cheapest place you can find a nice flight deal. Then knowing about the remaining expenses as hotel, rental car and food, we knew this trip was not going to be anymore on budget but a be very pricey considering how short it was, merely a weekend. Nevertheless, considering how beautiful is this city and the incredible region surrounding it, returning is not even questionable, it is a reality.
Bergen is the door to the fjords. If you are coming here it is likely that you will be either taking a tour, (there are many), from half a day, one day or the longer ones, getting on a cruise; or you will be driving on your own around. Whichever the option it does not matter. But getting a rental car and be free to do as you wish for as long as you want, no hassle of running from one place to another and no one rushing you is simply ideal.
A weekend is really enough to do both the fjords and Bergen, if you cannot have any longer that that. But of course I am only talking about the most notorious sights and places, as otherwise one can be in this region for weeks every day in a different place.
From our experience, I can highly recommend that you take a rental car at the airport and drive straight away to the fjords should your flight land early in the morning, to only return in the evening in Bergen after a nice 200 km circle drive or so around the 3rd largest fjord in the world and its surroundings. The reason to avoid getting on to Bergen first is that you will need to pay road tax every time you enter the city. So doing it this way, you will save at least one entry.
Getting to the fjord is pretty easy. Just drive south from the airport until you reach Osøyro, here follow the signs for the ferry crossing (Halhjem) to the other side. The short trip is absolutely worth it. The landscapes you will see on this fjord (Bjørnefjorden) are spectacular. A hint of what is yet to come. Once in the other coast, Vage, drive direction Hatlestranda, where you will be already at the Hardangerfjord. For sure you will stop along the way to make fantastic pictures. And then on to Norheimsund.
Once here, it’s time to start heading back to Bergen. Follow the road Route 7. You will pass a great waterfall on your right hand side where you can park easily nearby to make some pictures. Then farther ahead, another waterfall on your left hand side, and then you will end up in the main road to Bergen.
As for the city, it’s not big and everything is within walking distance from wherever you are. It is very charming and beautiful with several buildings of different styles and plenty wooden houses. An old fort near the old historic town, and what makes it special is the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Bryggen. The original and unchanged old Hanseatic dock houses.
For the best views of the whole Bergen Fjord, take the funicular to the top of the mountain. There is another option, which is the cable car, but this is further from the city in another mountain top. The views from the first one are the best as you can see right down the whole city.
With regards to places to eat, well, you are in Norway, and as such, prices are stunningly high. There are plenty of restaurants, but check the menu and get the shock. On the other hand, the typical western fast food chains are around the old town. Prepare to pay at least twice as much as what you would normally pay in London, Paris or Madrid to take an example. Drinks, if you plan to go out in the night, prepare for the barbaric prices of alcohol, even is this is a beer, or have a big budget.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel. Norway’s currency is the Krone (NOK). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Bergen
- Fløibanen Funicular Goes up the Fløyen mountain and offers the best views of the city. Kr 35 for single.
- St. Jørgen’s Hospital In Kong Oscars Gate 59. One of very few preserved leprosy hospitals from the 18th century in Northern Europe. It was here where Armauer Hansen discovered the bacteria that causes leprosy in 1873.
- Statsraad Lehmkuhl At the end of Bryggen, across the street from Bergenhus Fort. A three-masted toll ship built in 1914, one of the best preserved in its kind.
- St. Mary’s Church Mariakirken, In Dreggsalmenningen 15, behind the Bryggen Fort. It’s the oldest remaining building in Bergen, built in the 12th century. It is also the best preserved of the city’s three medieval churches.
- Bergenhus Fortress Once the seat of the king, it is one of the oldest and best preserved forts of Norway. Among the sights within are:
-The royal hall Håkonshallen, named for King Haakon Haakonsson.
-Rosenkrantz Tower Has the same appearance as it had in the 16th century. The oldest part dates back to the 12th century.
-Remaining of Medieval buildings like the Church of Christ Cathedral.
- Bryggen An UNESCO site and the most iconic sight in Bergen, located on the north side of the bay. Between 1350 and 1750, this area used to be a Hansa dock but the current houses were built after the fire of 1702.
- Fantoft Stave Church Fantoft stavkirke, in Fantoftveien 46, is a reconstruction of a church originally built in Fortun, by the Sognefjord, around 1150. Kr 40 or 25 for students.
- Den Nationale Scene This is the National Theatre of Bergen, in Engen 1.
- Hardangerfjord As described before, this is the 3rd largest fjord in the world and one of the finest in the sense of scenery and beauty.
Flesland International Airport is some 20 kilometres south of the city and offers a great choice of flights either national and international destinations. It’s the second busiest airport in the country after Oslo. From the airport you have two options: the frequent bus service to the city centre, provided by Flybussarna. They offer students discount should you be lucky enough to be young and hold a card with you, just make sure to take the ID with you and pay half the price. And second, the recently introduced (as of April 2017) the tram line serving the airport.
Within the city centre, although we did not use any public transport, you can count on a tram line and buses. There is really not need for anything else since distances are short and the sights easy to reach one after another. In the other hand, if you plan to move out of the city like going to the fjords nearby, then the best option is of course to have a rental car, however bear in mind both the rental car and petrol are very expensive. Specially the car. Make sure you check on different rental companies before you go ahead with one particular. Prices differ from one to another quite frequently.
Hotels can be seriously expensive, and this is also one of the reasons we didn’t fly here before but instead to plenty other destinations. Because when adding the generally high air fare plus the accommodation costs is well over the general budget for just a weekend. The usual here, having a look at some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers is the best way to start. Then, if your budget is still not met, there is a good selection of properties through airb&b and the likes of course.
We stayed at the Best Western Hordaheimen. Pretty much central. Few minutes walking to the main square and the Bryggen. Really nice, modest but very comfortable place. Larger than average rooms, quiet and with all the facilities needed for a short or long stay. Friendly and very helpful staff willing to give you advice at any time to your queries, and a great breakfast.
Album for Bergen
Album of the fjords