I’ve never had a strong desire to travel to Norway. I don’t have friends there or Norwegian blood or a particular affinity for cold weather. Yet my short time in Bergen last weekend taught me the error of ways for not having visited sooner. As our flight descended on the lush green landscape speckled with lakes, rivers, islands and fjords I thanked my frugal travel planning style for randomly selecting Bergen based on a steal of a deal flight+hotel package I found on Expedia.com.
Bergen has a lot going for it. Let’s put it this way; it would definitely be in the cool clique if European cities manifested into teenagers. Known as the gateway to the fjords of Norway, Bergen is also a UNESCO Heritage site, the former capital, and nowadays the second biggest city in the country. It’s also bursting at the seams with beautiful blonde, stylish, active, wealthy people who speak English better than you or I. Oh – and fun fact – it’s a sister city to Seattle.
I traveled with two girlfriends from Seattle who also live in London and here’s how we made the most of our 24 hours in this Nordic paradise…
Sights and Activities:
Floibanen Funicular is the most popular tourist attraction in Bergen according to various travel review sites and I don’t disagree. Established in 1918 it hauls passengers up and down the Floyen mountain in a mere 7 minutes. The steepest grade is 26 degrees and the views are easy on the eyes. PS save your ticket you can reuse it for several days after purchase. PPS if you like hiking hills you can hoof it to the peak instead.
Sunday morning we boarded a catamaran for a 3 hour fjord cruise to Mostraumen with www.rodne.no. It was surreal. For the first 30 minutes our scenery looked like the beautiful Pacific Northwest with the tree-covered hillsides and mist hugging the water. Then we arrived at Mostraumen and it was one of the most breathtaking natural sights I’ve ever seen. Seriously on par with the Great Barrier Reef in terms of unique natural beauty.
A self-guided walking tour around Bryggen is a must-do. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and was rebuilt in the 1700s on 12th century ruins. Today it’s a strip of tourist shops, restaurants and hotels but impressive nonetheless.
Dish on Dining
Scandic Strand Hotel worked out well for us with convenient location, free internet, and hearty breakfast inclusive of the room rate. To get into the city we relied on the city’s airport bus called Flybussen which runs 160 krone for a return ticket. Simply walk out of the airport and you can’t miss it as they run every 15 minutes. Buy your ticket on the bus.
You’ll feel poor but try not to dwell on it. Plus side: London or wherever home is for you will feel affordable after this trip.
– Burger 80 NOK ($14)
– Ice cream 35 NOK ($6)
– Coffee 40 NOK ($7)
– Nice dinner + 1 beer 350 NOK ($60)
Know Before You Go:
- Take out local currency (Norwegian Krone NOK) at an airport ATM. I took out 1200 NOK and that was a good start (approximately $200 USD). Bottom line: it’s expensive – prepare yourself mentally to part with some coin.
- Buy tickets for activities at the tourist information center to avoid lines. In fact, make the tourist center your first stop after dropping off your bags at the hotel. It’s the modern IKEA looking building above the Fish Market.
- Look into Norway in a Nutshell if you’re going for longer than a weekend.
- They speak better English than most Americans so the language barrier won’t be an issue.
- VisitBergen.com is the official tourist website and a wealth of information.
- Check the weather and pack warm just in case. We were fortunate to have sunny warm days at the end of March.
Although I’ve technically checked Norway off my list of countries to visit, I don’t think I’m ready to remove it from the list completely. I’m intrigued by the Norway in a Nutshell excursions and I wouldn’t mind trying some scenic cross country skiing too. Norway, anyone?