The fjords of Norway offer some of the most incredible scenery, and while a vacation to see them can be prohibitively expensive, it doesn’t have to be that way if you take a quick trip for 48 hours in Bergen. Especially now that Norwegian Air is offering low fares from U.S. cities like Boston and New York!
There’s no denying that Norway is a pricey destination. From hotels to food, the bill for your trip can add up quickly. So while I might find myself back in the country one day when I’m older and a millionaire (it’s going to happen, definitely), at this period in my life I’ll settle for weekend getaways to Norway.
One such weekend getaway brought me to Bergen, a small and very pretty city surrounded by mountains and fjords on Norway’s southwestern coast. Bergen is known for being one of the rainiest cities in the world, but luckily during my trip it was mostly sunny. That being said, be sure to pack some good waterproof footwear, a rain jacket and a sturdy umbrella if you’re visiting. You’ll also want to pack footwear that’s made for walking: exploring Bergen is pretty much hiking, given the city’s hilliness.
Now what to do once you arrive? Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Bergen, Norway.
48 Hours in Bergen, Day 1: See the fjords with Norway in a Nutshell
Where to Stay in Bergen: Klosterhagen Hotell
The first order of business when booking my 48 hours in Bergen was figuring out where I’d stay. I originally considered a hostel, but all the options I found were either inconveniently located, as expensive as a hotel, or not open for check-in late at night (my flight was arriving around 11:00 p.m.).
Instead, I found myself at the stylish Klosterhagen Hotell, a boutique property that’s somehow both sleek and cozy. Compared to some of the more outrageously-priced waterfront hotels, the Klosterhagen was a great mid-range option (approximately $250 per night). The room was basic but super comfy, and with little luxe touches here and there like a heated bathroom floor.
photos: c/o Klosterhagen Hotell
One unique aspect of this hotel is that it’s set up primarily to offer work training for those on their way to returning to a normal life. They offer jobs for both those who are interested in learning the ropes of hospitality, and those who see the hotel as an opportunity for general work training on their way towards jobs in other businesses. Participants in the program are referred by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Services.
Waking up and peeking out our skylight at Bergen’s rooftops!
Breakfast was complimentary (so clutch in an expensive country like Norway) and included traditional Norwegian staples like meats, cheeses, fish and yogurt. Not knowing when I’d see food again on our marathon nine-hour Norway in a Nutshell fjord tour, I chowed down!
Norway in a Nutshell Fjord Tour
So what exactly is a fjord? It’s a deep, narrow and elongated sea or lake drain with steep land on three sides. These beauties were formed by giant glacier tongues that have shaped the landscape over several ice ages. They’re often surrounded by stunning mountain scenery. Basically… you should go see them.
The Klosterhagen Hotell was conveniently located about a 10-minute walk from the train station where our Norway in a Nutshell tour departed. Typically people spread these tours out over a couple days, but as I mentioned, we only had 48 hours in Bergen and were determined to see as much as we could. So we signed up for the whole shebang in one day.
Our walk from the hotel to the train station.
I wouldn’t really call it a tour, actually, as it was more like a series of rail, bus and boat connections. While drivers mentioned something you should look out for occasionally, there was no official guide explaining what’s going on. But then again… the scenery speaks for itself.
The day began on a train to the smaller city of Voss. Once in Voss, we caught a bus to a mini cruise terminal. While the whole journey is pretty, the cruise is the best part of the trip. The boat moves very slowly, offering plenty of photo opportunities (including tiny adorable Norwegian towns that can’t even be reached by road).
The boat eventually dropped us off in Flam, where we boarded the historic Flam Railway and made our way high up into the mountains. We had left a sunny, 75-degree day in Bergen but up in the mountains we saw a thick layer of untouched snow. It was like we were on the Polar Express!
The final rail connection is made in Myrdal, where we boarded yet another train back to Bergen. We made it back to the city just in time for dinner.
If you’re planning to do the one-day Norway in a Nutshell itinerary, make sure you pack a variety of layers – it can be breezy on the boat and downright chilly in the mountains, yet warm in Bergen. Also, pack a good book in case you get bored of looking out the window for nine hours. There’s no cell service for most of the trip. You’ll also likely want to bring a back up battery and memory card for your camera! And if you’re spending more than 48 hours in Bergen, you can space the tour out over more than just a day.
48 Hours in Bergen, Day 2: Explore the City
With the fjord tour behind us, we had one day left to explore the city of Bergen. While it’s small, there’s plenty to do – here are some of the highlights.
Mount Fløyen and the Fløibanen funicular
For a great view of the city from above, take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen, where there is a scenic outlook. You can also hike one way if you’re feeling athletic!
Make sure you to make a pit stop at the gift shop, which is entertaining thanks to the extensive collection of trolls.
In fact, you’ll find trolls everywhere on Mount Fløyen. Including the playground.
Bergen is one of northern Europe’s oldest port cities. Bryggen, the old wharf, dates back to the 14th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All the colorful, slightly crooked buildings were constructed from wood, and have inevitably burned down a few times – but they’ve always been rebuilt, and the area has remained virtually unchanged since 1702.
It’s touristy, but a really pretty place to walk around, sit outside and grab a drink.
The famous fish market, Fisketorgot, is also located in Bryggen. It was once the center of fish trade in Norway, and today is located in a pretty cool looking building.
Thanks to some tips on Foursquare, I found Pingvinen, gem of a bar that wasn’t crazy expensive, and had delicious food to boot.
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 when in Rome, right?
Anyway, 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.
In addition to trolls, rainy weather and its historic port, Bergen is famous for its indie music scene. You’ll likely spot a number of music shops as you explore the streets, selling instruments, sheet music, etc. A lot of successful European bands get their start in Bergen, and it’s a popular place to study music. Check local listings for shows while you’re in town, and pop into Apollon, a classic record store that’s been around since the 1970s and stocks a huge vinyl collection. It’s also a bar that servers – you guessed it – many different beers on tap. Since we only spent 48 hours in Bergen, we didn’t have time to take in a show, unfortunately!