If I could only use one word to describe Bergen, Norway, it would be this one: pleasant. It’s not flashy or particularly thrilling, but it is a pleasant place to be, with a cute, historical harbor area, funiculars that whisk you to gorgeous mountaintop views, and lots of lovely streets to wander down.
The other thing Bergen has in abundance is rain; it is notorious for its soggy climate. I asked my cab driver if he knew what the weather would be like during my visit. His response? “I never check the weather; I just assume it will rain and if it doesn’t, then I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Pleasant. There’s that word again. But as luck would have it, I would wind up being pleasantly surprised, too – I got one day of pure sunshine (a Bergen rarity, apparently), and one of intermittent drizzles. As far as Bergen weather goes, that’s a win.
Rain or shine, the first place many visitors – myself included – stop is Bergen’s harbor, and particularly the Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the twelfth century. The Bryggen, with its distinctive wooden buildings with triangular roofs, was picture perfect on the outside and fascinating to poke around on the inside.
I continued walking past the Bryggen and and came to Bergen’s Fortress, built to guard the entrance to the harbor. I didn’t actually go inside the main fortress building, but I did spend quite a while wandering around the grounds, which were just lovely.
Bergen is nestled between seven mountains, so I knew I would have to make it up one of them during my time in town. The easiest to access is Mount Fløyen; a funicular whisks you up the mountain from right downtown. The views of Bergen from above were stunning!
The Scandinavian design aesthetic is one I love, and there was plenty of it to be found in Bergen. I loved window shopping (and sometimes actual shopping) around town. In addition to home goods stores, I found lovely little flower shops and clothing stores with fantastic window displays.
One spot in Bergen I was really looking forward to was the Fish Market. As has been well-documented on this blog (see here, here, here, and here, to name a few), I love a good market, but this one was…slightly disappointing. My visit to Bergen was still early in the season, so many of the market’s stalls weren’t up and running. Those that were open for business were mobbed by tourists. I wandered briefly through, then set out in search of better culinary options.
Luckily, there were plenty of great spots to grab a meal in Bergen. At Restaurant Dickens, I enjoyed a tasty fish soup for lunch, the perfect antidote to the infamous Bergen drizzle. Perhaps randomly, I also thought Restaurant Dickens had the best bread. Carbs don’t count on vacation, correct?
For a bit of a splurge dinner, I headed to Restaurant ToKokker, a stately place tucked back in the Bryggen. I decided to order the meal that seemed the most traditional: reindeer with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and two sauces, one of which was berry-based. The reindeer was wonderfully flavorful.
My favorite meal, however, was Pingvinen (the Penguin), a cozy little eatery not far from my hotel. This place had a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and really great food – I don’t think I’ve enjoyed meatballs this much since I visited Stockholm last year.
I will be honest: Bergen was never much on my travel radar, and if it hadn’t been a convenient jumping off point for the fjords, I likely never would have visited. That, of course, would have been a missed opportunity. Bergen may not have been particularly showy, but it most definitely was a pleasant place to while away a few vacation days.