Surrounded by tall peaks overlooking Norway’s western fjords, Bergen was founded by the last Vikings almost 1000 years ago. The city’s colorful Hanseatic harbor and epic outdoor scenery combine to create a destination that’s long attracted both history and nature lovers.
But now, with the launch of new flight routes from major European destinations in 2023, there’s never been a better time to visit Bergen.
Norway’s largest regional airline, Widerøe, is transforming Bergen into a Norwegian travel hub as it launches new flights this spring. New routes will connect Bergen to London Stansted, Liverpool, Dublin, Hamburg and Munich – making Bergen a one-stop flight from some of Europe’s biggest cities.
Start your Bergen visit in the district of Bryggen, where a Unesco World Heritage–listed waterfront of ramshackle wooden shops and old merchant warehouses illustrates the Viking and Hanseatic history of the town. This is where King Olaf III founded Bergen in 1070 CE, and where merchants from the Hanseatic League grew rich off North Sea trade. The excellent Bryggens Museum has much more on this fascinating history.
Atlantic cod has always been the bedrock of Bergen’s economy – and in 2023, the city is building on this fishy legacy. Local chefs have revived traditional dishes like persetorsk (a type of “pressed cod” cured in salt and sugar). Divers harvest fresh oysters in the fjords. And the old Fish Market has been repurposed into an upscale dining hall where seafood restaurants serve the best local catch. With two Michelin-starred restaurants to its name, Norway’s second city is now set on reinventing itself as the country’s culinary capital – a status surely helped by its designation as a Unesco “City of Gastronomy” back in 2015 (part of the organization's Creative Cities Network initiative).
The 2023 edition of Bergen’s Matfestival is an event food-lovers should not miss. In September, the best local chefs and producers will showcase everything from homemade cider to elaborate tasting menus. Bergen’s innovative “Neo-Fjordic” cuisine champions local produce and Nordic flair, with the city’s unique culinary style being recognized with the awarding of Michelin stars to Bare Restaurant and Lysverket.
Work off the added calories with a hike up Mt Fløyen, one of Bergen’s seven mountain peaks. (You can also take the funicular.) At the top, you’ll have uninterrupted views over the city – until the fog rolls in, that is. Hike through moss-strewn forests that echo with legends of trolls, and join locals braving the icy waters of the fjord – followed by a sauna session or swim in the thermal saltwater pool at Nordnes Sjøbad.
The year 2023 also marks 160 years since the birth of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Bergen local Rasmus Meyer spent a lifetime (and a fortune) amassing the third-largest collection of Munch works in the world. Many ended up on loan to other galleries, yet they’re all set to return to Bergen’s KODE this year for an anniversary exhibition, which will run from April 14 until the end of the year.
And all this is just the beginning. From Bergen you can jump on a ferry and make your way deeper into the western fjords, take the train to Myrdal to join the outrageously scenic Flåm Railway, or hop on a regional flight to Bodø, Tromsø or even Svalbard.
Where to eat in Bergen
Located within Bergen’s old stock exchange building (dating back to 1862), Bare offers five- or 10-course tasting menus prepared to Michelin standards. Dig into local dishes with a slightly lower price tag at Bergen’s Fish Market, where the fish soup at Fish Me is as hearty as it gets. Allmuen Bistro by Bergen’s main Torgallmenningen Sq serves up fusion fish cakes and falafel, while Pingvinen offers budget-friendly, home-cooked portions of pressed cod, meatballs and winter stews. Take the cable to the summit of Mt Ulriken and you can dine at Skyskraperen, where seasonal menus inspired by Nordic nature are served against panoramic views.
Where to drink in Bergen
Dyvekes Vinkjeller has supposedly been serving patrons since the 1300s. Settle in and sip on beer named for a Norwegian king as you listen to tales of medieval murder in a stone cellar lit by candlelight. Kafé Kippers offers waterside drinks and live music, 7 Fjell Bryggeri (Seven Mountains Brewery) has an exciting tap room and Dr. Wiesner is partially community-owned pub located in an old bathhouse. While alcoholic drinks are notoriously expensive in Bergen, Det Lille Kaffekompaniet, Bergen’s oldest barista cafe, serves freshly roasted coffee. (Try the hot apple juice with whipped cream if you’re not into caffeine.)
Where to stay in Bergen
Design hotel Bergen Børs offers comfortable, modern rooms that occupy the 1862 stock exchange building (where you’ll also find Bare). The Radisson Blu Royal lets you stay on the old wooden waterfront of Bryggen, while the Scandic Torget Bergen offers minimalist Nordic functionality and excellent value on the opposite side of the harbor. Opus XVI is another Bergen boutique property packed with character. The hotel is located in a former bank that dates to 1876; the interiors were inspired by the music of composer Edvard Grieg, one of Bergen’s most famous sons.