I’m not sure if I will ever come to Bergen purely for leisure. So far my first two visits were for business so I was only able to see the city in between meetings and flights. Despite the very limited time, the city did not leave me wanting.
For business travellers like myself or for those who only have a few hours to explore, here’s how I manage to see Bergen in a nutshell.
Morning run around the historic centre
It rains a lot in Bergen (365 days according to the joke) but it would have been a shame if I let that stop me from seeing the city. I woke up at 7am and did a short round from my apartment at Christiesgate up to the Strandgaten and around its colourful wooden houses, several rounds at the Bergen Park, then to the city centre and finally ended at UNESCO Heritage Site’s Byrggen Docks and the Fish Market. The city centre is not very big so if you run for one hour, you would see a lot already.
Visit at the Kode Arts Musem for Munch
I’ve been a fan of Edvard Munch since I saw his paintings at a special exhibition at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam. I wish to own a Munch but that’s probably not going to happen in this lifetime. So I couldn’t leave Bergen without visiting the Kode Arts Museum, which houses second biggest collection of Munch’s paintings (the largest is in Oslo which I tried to visit as well but was close when I was there).
The Kode Arts Museum displays a couple versions of the Scream, Munch’s most famous work but I also discovered his series on women and landscape. My favourite was the Three Stages of a Woman which has been my Facebook cover for a long time. Munch made several versions of one subject and it was interesting to see the development in each version.
Stravaiging and getting lost
This is usually accidental but is lately becoming a habit. Getting lost in Bergen’s Hanseatic centre takes you on tour of wooden houses, charming alleyways, hidden flower gardens and just about endless treat of Instagram-worthy corners and colours. Stravaiging is what the Scottish calls it. There’s an eye candy to photograph all around, not only the architecture and the landscape but the well-dressed Bergen residents as well.
But if you want to be certain of where to go, look for Strandgaten and discover its picturesque little alleyways. This same street leads back to the Fish Market and Bryggen.
Floibanen ride to Fløyen
This is probably the most touristic thing I did here so that I can have a panoramic shot of the city. The 7-minute ride on the Floibanen took us to Fløyen, a viewing platform and park where you can have a bird’s eye view of the city. We descended right away because there were too many tourists. It was even September and not even the high season. If I have had more time, I would have run up here as well.
Late lunch at Dickens
The nice thing about knowing people from different places is that they can take you to good restaurants that are not tourist traps. Had I come here on my own for the first time, I would have eaten my whale dinner at the Fish Market instead of at Bellevue restaurant and I probably won’t discover how good the Bergen mussels are.
The cousin of my colleague (who has family in Bergen) took us to Dickens restaurant at King Olav V’s. He was a sort of food connoisseur who loves his meat, fish and game, smokes his own meat and sends me some all the way to Holland. And he was very proud of the Bergen mussel.
I am biased to Zeeuwse mussels because my husband is born and raised in Zeeland and his grandparents lived in Yerseke, where the famous Dutch mussels exports are harvested. They are very popular in Belgium and France. But I must confess that the Bergen mussels are just as good and even bigger compared to their Dutch cousins. I took home a kilo to show my husband the difference.
Facebook can be an effective tool to meet new people but it will only work if you take the relationship offline. I met the fabulous designer Charles Rvandal, a Filipino Norwegian living in Bergen. He blogs about his interior design projects for his quaint little house near the very picturesque Strandgaten where he and his husband welcomed me with delicious treats every time I come to the city. Knowing the locals makes your visit unique and very personal.
I have only one – bring proper rain clothes, at least a rain jacket and an umbrella. It always rain in Bergen, even in the summer and you really don’t want to get caught in a downpour. You can always shop for quality rain clothes here but Norway is very expensive and you would want to avoid doing any shopping at all.