Bergen is known for the colorful buildings along the water, as well as being the starting point for the popular Norway in a Nutshell trip. There are several ways to get to Bergen including: plane, train, bus, ferry, or, of course, car.
Bergen is a small city located on the water, making it easily accessible by ferry or cruise ship. Because of this, as well as the fact that the most visited parts of town are centrally located in the harbor, it can get quite busy. Luckily, it is easy to get away from the crowds as many people don’t venture too far.
When you visit, you will want to check out the harbor and the colorful buildings along the water. These buildings are pretty old, and look beautiful perched along the waterfront. There are plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop, including some temporary stands right on the water selling fish, trinkets, and other goodies.
There are seven mountains that surround Bergen, and you can hike all of them, including Floyen, which can be hiked right from the center of Bergen. If you don’t want to hike, but like a good view, you can take the funicular up Floyen. The hike is pleasant with a wide gravel path once you leave the pavement, complete with long switchbacks.
Some locals like to walk or run this on a regular basis. When you get to the top, there are buildings where you can buy souvenirs, postcards, food and more. There is a playground for the children, as well as a nice viewing platform to take in the iconic view of Bergen and the surrounding area.
If you have enough time, it is fun to wander the streets to Bergen, away from where most visitors go. There are a lot of pretty buildings, a couple museums, and a waterfront park. I took a couple hours one morning to do this and got more of the flavor of the town. If you like to walk, the city is small enough to walk around. Be aware that many streets away from the harbor are hilly.
Norway in a Nutshell
This is a very popular trip to take in Norway. You take a combination of transportation: bus, ferry, and train. Although you can definitely plan and book each leg of this journey yourself (for much cheaper), many opt to purchase the official tour. Normally I would opt to save money, but I was low on time and made this purchase my splurge on this trip. I have to admit that it was much easier, and quicker, to book it on the Norway in a Nutshell website.
You can start and end in a few different places, including Bergen, Oslo, Voss, and Flam. Although you can do this trip in a day, it is better if you can make at least one overnight stop along the way so you will see more of Norway. Each town you stop in is very cute and has its own thing going for it. I chose to do a loop from Bergen and back, spending a couple nights in Flam.
You also have a choice of which direction you want to do this trip. I think anything would be fine as the route is beautiful. The route I chose was to take the Bergen Railway to Voss, switched to a bus from Voss to Gudvangen, took a ferry through the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord, took the Flam Railway to Myrdal, then the Bergen Railway back to Bergen.
From Bergen to Voss, you want to be on the left side of the train for the best views. As you leave Bergen, the views get increasingly better. The bus from Voss to Gudvangen is amazing. The bus went down an extremely steep, very curvy road to get down to the fjord. There are waterfalls along the way, and amazing views of the fjord. The bus driver was nice enough to stop for us to take pictures a couple times, or maybe to take a deep breath on this hair-raising trip. There is no way I would want to drive a huge bus on this road, and it made me a bit nervous to be on it, but the views can’t be beat.
The ferry ride is breathtaking. The fjord walls rise steeply on both sides, often with long waterfalls plunging downward. I literally had to consciously close my mouth a couple times as my jaw had dropped as I took in the beauty surrounding me. I spent the entire time outside, even when it got cold, as the views are much better there.
Flam is a cute little town of around 400 people that I really enjoyed staying in. I will write more about that next week.
From Flam, the world famous Flam Railway stands up to its reputation. It climbs a steep grade for quite a few miles, stopping at the raging Kjosfossen (waterfall) long enough for you to get out, snap some photos, and get soaked.
You are surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, getting high enough that there is snow year round in some places. Like the ferry, this is a very scenic ride. At the top, you transfer to the Bergen Railway to head back to Bergen. If you are going to Oslo, this is where you begin your journey in that direction.
A great thing about the Norway in a Nutshell trip is that it is completely up to you how you want to do it. You can choose where you start and end, which direction you travel, where you want to stop and for how long, what kind of a ferry you want to take (the premium or classic – either is fine), and you can book experiences in the places you choose to stop.