Where: Bergen, Norway
When: November 2018
Hotel: Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Bergen
Why Bergen: We’d visited Sweden in July (recap here) and Denmark in October (recap here), so Norway seemed like the best choice for our long-weekend in November. One of my co-workers lived in Oslo for a couple of years, and recommended not making it the first city we visited in Norway. I did research on other places to see in Norway (there are a lot of options), and Bergen stood out the most. A cute coastal town surrounded by mountains? Yes, please!
The Trip: Before we left for Norway, I was chatting with our neighbors who are world travelers, and they warned us that the weather was probably not going to be the best this time of year. I was a bit nervous that maybe in this particular case, traveling in the off-season was maybe not the best choice if it was going to be rainy and foggy the whole time. I was especially worried, because we were able to get first class seats to Bergen on KLM for really, really cheap – and I wasn’t sure if this was a sign that no one came because the weather is not great.
I’d read that Norway was even more expensive than Denmark, which I definitely took into consideration when I booked our hotel. It was a bit of work to find a hotel that was in a great location, with good reviews, and that wasn’t ridiculously priced. Maybe it was owed to it being the off-season, but Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Bergen was reasonably priced for what it offered – we paid $370 for three nights, and that included a breakfast that was described as the best in Bergen (and was a point of pride for the hotel), as well as a “light dinner” in the evening. The light dinner was usually a hot dish with a salad and some sides. It was good and filling and key because it meant that two of our three meals were taken care of – definitely a money saver right there. And the breakfast was as good as described – it was almost ridiculous how many options were available and it meant we only really needed a snack at lunch. Perfect!
Bergen is a UNESCO World Heritage City and a European City of Culture, but it not so big that you have to cram a lot into an itinerary to make sure you see everything. The two main things I wanted to see our first day was the view from Mount Fløyen and Bryggen, the World Heritage-listed Hanseatic wharf. To get to the top of Mount Fløyen, you can either hike or take the Fløibanen Funicular. We chose the latter, and got there first thing in the morning because I had read that the lines got longer than later in the day you decide to go. I had bought our tickets in advance, and we were able to get right on and were the only ones in our funicular car.
The view from the top was amazingly pretty (and the much-feared bad weather was no where to be found!) There are multiple viewpoints to see both the seven mountains that surround Bergen, as well as the many waterways through and around the city. So many photos to be taken here. In addition to enjoying the view, there is a restaurant, gift shop, a playground, a troll forest and lots of hiking paths. We decided that instead of taking the funicular back down, we had time to take one of the trails back down to town. It was such a good choice – except of course when John would go off course and we were on man made trails that were steep and questionable. 🙂 But it was a fun walk down and had great views of the town the closer we got.
I loved the view from Mount Fløyen, but I couldn’t wait to see Bryggen and the colorful houses I had seen in so many pictures. The colorful wooden houses line Bergen’s wharf, and are UNESCO recognized. This area is one of the oldest in the city, dating back to the 14th century. The buildings have burned down several times, but also have been rebuilt in the exact same building techniques as when they were first erected, so it seriously seems like you are stepping back in time. It’s so cool.
We took our normal afternoon siesta and then enjoyed the “light” dinner at the hotel before wandering out again. I’m a big fan of night walks, and Bergen at night did NOT disappoint. If anything, it was even more quaint, with its twinkling lights from the homes on the hill and the wharf all lit up. We decided to pop into a bar, and enjoy the view from the outdoor patio (with blankets and a heater, thankfully!), but could only justify one drink each..for the experience. 🙂 Norway definitely approached Iceland prices as a Guinness and a glass of red wine set us back $25. Yes, you read that right – that was the total for two drinks. CRAZY!
I was not going to go to Norway and NOT see the fjords, and while there are a ton of options to choose from, I picked a half day cruise from Bergen. It seemed like the perfect introduction to the fjords without spending too much time on the boat – it was scheduled to travel up the 27-km Osterfjorden, through the narrow Mostraumen strait before turning back. Along the way, there would be waterfalls and picturesque towns and we would be treated with great views of Bergen on our return. I couldn’t wait.
Except, worst case scenario occurred when John woke up sick. There was no way he could go out on the boat – he was feeling so bad, he couldn’t even leave the room. 😦 I’d booked the trip later in the day with the aim of exploring more of Bergen in the morning. I explored the town on my own, keeping my fingers crossed John would feel better by the time we were supposed to board the ship. No such luck. I left him sleeping while I headed out on the boat.
Final Impressions: Bergen is quaint, colorful and completely worth a visit. There is something for everyone – water and mountain for outdoorsy people, great shopping for those looking to spend some money and cobblestone streets and bright buildings for those just interested in a relaxing getaway in a laid-back, but pretty atmosphere. Norway is for sure expensive, but as we found, it can be done without spending a lot of money (point one – stay away from bars!) 🙂 I would love to go back to explore more of the country, because I can’t imagine how pretty it is, especially based off our limited experience and the beauty we saw in just two days.