Here is an advice not many will give you while planning to travel to Bergen, the city of the seven mountains in Norway. You may be pondering to take the flight or arrive by a cruise ship, but in my opinion, the best way to arrive in style and in complete awe is by driving a car. Either you are arriving from down south via Stavanger or from up north say from Alesund, the sights and scenery at almost every turn in the roads that lead to Bergen are strewn with an abundance of jaw-dropping natural beauty, humming the harmonic coexistence of people and nature all along the way. We drove from Byrkjedal via Stavanger, religiously following the E39 route all the way through until we arrived at the 2nd largest city of Norway pretty late at night just to crash in to recharge our batteries for the following day’s activities.
Useful to know:
- Best to arrive in Bergen in a car driving either from Stavanger or from North.
- Bergen is the launchpad for many cruise ships to Geiranger Fjord, so, it gets crowded during the day with all cruise ship tourists
- It is possible to explore the key attractions in Bergen in one full day (Maximum 6-7 hours)
- If staying over the night, make sure to be infront of the Bryggen during night time, its all together a different experience
- Try fresh seafood from the Fisherman’s Market
The best part of our hotel Scandic Neptune was that it was literally just a stone’s throw away from the Beauty of Bergen – the Bergen Wharf – or the Bryggen. Out of the hotel 20 steps and we could see the picturesque Bergen Wharf overlooking the port. We didn’t do any delay, as passionate shutterbugs, to start capturing the characteristic appeal of the nicely stacked colourful wharfs from a far distance.
We walked towards the famous Bergen Fish Market which was abuzz with an array of sea food specialities including whale meat, king prawns, crab cakes, dried fish and not to mention our favourite salmon- a must-have dish in our weekly meals. The Fish Market was unusually clean and somewhat smaller but nice. If you have visited the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, some memories may be revived but in no way any comparison can be made. We have never seen whale meat before so the very sight and idea of the largest mammal on earth being reduced to a fillet on a plate was frankly hard to digest, so we refrained from the experiment. Norway being one of the three countries (others being Japan and Iceland) which are still pretty nonchalant about anti-whale killing measures, hunting of whales is still allowed. Thus we settled for a mixed seafood skewer with fries and a potatoes coleslaw salad on the sides as our brunch enjoying the morning activity in motion of the Bergen populace. There is no denying of the fact that Norway is even more expensive a country than the UK. The seafood meal we had was worth more than an eye watering whopping £30! You could nicely settle for a two course meal in central London for two people around £50.
Equipped with enough seafood in stomach to brave the unusually chilly so called summer breeze, we made our way towards the famous buildings along the harbour. Bryggen is one of the most visited sites in Bergen and Norway. It was rebuilt after the great fire in 1702 and is currently included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This wharf had been the nerve center of Bergen for hundreds of years and remains witness to many historic changes. Some odd 15 houses of various colours are stacked next to each other. Old offices or warehouses have been slowly replaced with up class restaurants and souvenir shops. Worth a stroll inside the narrow alleys and in the back yard of the wharf, we stumbled across Bastant– a carved wooden little quaint garden cafe offering distinctive Scandinavian charm. It is definitely photograph worthy and worth a pause for a cup of coffee and a slice of brownie to share.
We then made our way to the funicular of Bergen called Fløibanen. It’s a short 5-8 minutes journey up at the Mount Floyen from where you will get a bird’s eye view of the entire city of Bergen. With a persistent penchant for heights, we definitely make sure if the city offers the option to enjoy it from a height, we certainly take it. The beauty of Bergen from above the Mt. Floyen was splendid. With cruise liners gently reposing before setting sail for another journey, the city of Bergen looked simply cosy in the cradle of the seven surrounding mountains enveloping it protectively.
Although the seven mountains enveloped the Bergen city during day time, Tanusree had a different plan to push the envelope big time. Given that it never really gets dark in the true sense even much after sunset, Tanusree proclaimed that our next mission was to capture the beauty of the sleeping Bryggen, which was glowing a steady reflection on calm waters of the wee hours. Defying the chill in the night and cold and congestion inside the body, Tanusree stepped out to catch off guard the Bryggen in sleep mode. Having just conquered the Kjerag mountains in an epic 9 hours return hike the day before, both of us had a bad cold and not on top form. Nevertheless, Tanusree opted to brave the cold outside and inside, hence I marched on. It was a fantastic experience and worth the lost sleep. We walked back again in front of the Bryggen which was pulsating with tourists during day time especially from the various cruise liners which temporarily anchored in the Bergen port. Bergen being the launchpad for many excursions deep into the heart of many beautiful fjords of Norway including Geiranger, it is always teeming with tourists from all around the world. So contrary to the popular saying “early bird catches the worm”, in Bergen the saying should be “birds like owl which stay awake at night can catch the worm”.
The calm and quietness of night time made such an extra-ordinary effect on the colourful lined up houses with an insomniac sky up above struggling to shut its eyes to full darkness. We walked the same route as we did during the morning, the difference being that it was only me and her! Some passing cars in interval, a few returning party revellers in the distance and the sound of music coming out of a club near the port – Amazing. Unlike many other European cities where we have voyaged, the character of Bergen came out pretty strongly. Its not unmanageable big for travellers to enjoy, there is also not too many tourists coming at the same time to clog your enjoyment. And ofcourse, this being Norway may be, the number of those who had a drink too many and the question of security during night time, was non-existent. The Bryggen was all lit up, the shops closed however and it was a perfect moment for two of us to realise how hell bent we can be to quench our thirst for voyage and discovery. To be precise, it is Tanusree who dreams and dares – then I finally join in to drive the two of us to achieve our desired destinations, hence we are the best team. Wrapped in a thin jacket, pyajamas and slippers, we walked back to our hotel with our trophy captured in our camera – the sleeping Bryggen reflecting on the calm dark waters.
Like the Bergen sky dealing with insomnia, we two also passed a nuit blanche to set course the following day for our journey towards the Atlantic Highway just about when everyone else was about to wake up to another day in the beauty of the Bryggen.