Visiting expensive destinations on a tight budget is a challenge I gladly undergo. (Look at our trip to Santorini, for example).
It’s kind of a purpose of Travel Hacks, too, so here goes. The last such challenge, and a very pleasant one, was Bergen. Norway is often deemed to be one of the most expensive destinations in Europe. Bergen, as one of its most visited cities, is certainly not failing this impression.
Nevertheless, after three days spent in this beautiful Scandinavian city, I consider the mission accomplished. We survived, experienced wonderful times and saw amazing things. In this post I’d like to share with you how can you do the same. Not necessarily by following our itinerary step by step (although you could, if you want) but by taking inspiration for your very own adventure.
And if you take any advice and apply it in your own Bergen stay, let me know how it went!
A few handy rules for visiting Bergen on a budget
- Pricing is similar as in London which means you’ll be better off stocking up on food in local supermarkets and whipping up simple meals at home rather than by eating at restaurants. Rimi, Kiwi and Rema 1000 will be your favourite places to go. Check the nearest supermarket chain near to your accommodation prior your arrival to avoid stressing around. Even if you don’t have cooking facilities at the place of your stay, supermarkets have a simple selection of ready made sandwiches that you can take with you when going on a longer trip. Or you can just have a picnic if the weather allows.
- Alcohol is one of the most expensive items on any traveller’s list when visiting Norway. As I don’t drink alcohol I didn’t feel this as a pain but if you NEED to drink alcohol in Bergen… Well, it’s at your own responsibility. If you can skip that fire water for a few days, you’ll be glad you did so.
- The good news is that the most famous attractions are free, namely the old wharf and the fish market. Better make the most of it.
Free (or almost) attractions in Bergen
- Bryggen – the wharf is one of the most photogenic parts of Bergen and a place where majority of tourists head to after arrival. If it’s on your plan too, count with the crowds or choose early hours.
- Fish market – the second most visited attraction is also free to stroll around, although not so free to taste 🙂 Locals say that the market isn’t what it used to be so you probably won’t spend there too much time anyway but hey, it’s a must see.
- Mt Floyen – free if you skip the funicular and take a hike uphill. Nice views and doing something for your health counts, too. Once you’re there, make sure you have a look around and don’t stick only to the main viewing platform that is overcrowded with tourists. You may find some funny things in the woods, like witch-related signs or even various trolls.
- Mt. Ulriken – again, free if you don’t take cable car but hike instead. This one is more difficult than Mt. Floyen since it’s the highest mountain around Bergen. If the weather (and your physical state) allows, you can even hike from Mt. Ulriken to Mt. Floyen – I didn’t have time for this but many who have done so swear it’s worth the effort. Definitely on my list next time!
- Speaking of mountains and hiking, Bergen is blessed with almost countless possibilities for hikes and trips to nature. Nearby fjords, islets and woods make for numerous nice afternoons when you need to spend literally nothing (maybe only for public transport and some food). Osteroy and Osterfjorden, Alvoyna, Bjornafjorden, Lindas and Fensfjorden are good places to start and all can be easily reached by bus from the bus station in Bergen.
- Part of the city lies uphill which gives you plenty of opportunities to catch great views. Skansens Brannstasjon is one of those places, not too far from the Floibanen funicular. Moreover, the area above Bryggen unveils streets full of beautiful houses in traditional architecture. Paired with views it’s a sightseeing route that cannot be beaten easily.
Purchasing a Bergen card is a good idea, especially if you’re in town for a short visit (weekend or so) and want to see as much as possible. Essentially it’s a city card offering various discounts, free entrances to otherwise paid attractions and free public transport.
As you can see, the public transport network where you can use your Bergen card is really extensive. Feel free to use any public transport within the red lined area.
24 hour Skyss ticket costs 110 NOK, whereas the 24 hour Bergen card costs 200 NOK. The best value in my opinion is to get a 48 hour card (260 NOK) and make the most of it. The great thing about the card is that you’ll find it very useful regardless of the weather – which can be really unpredictable in this part of Norway and it might look like it’s more often rainy than sunny.
Some other places where the Bergen card can be used – these are examples I personally find most useful:
- Mt Floyen funicular (Floibanen) if you don’t want to hike – 50% off the regular price.
- Numerous museums and galleries, like KODE (Art museums of Bergen, regular price 100NOK for 4 museums), Bryggens Museum or Bergen Maritime Museum.
- Public transport to places that are great for a daytrip outside the city like Hellesoy or Osteroy. The latter is also where a couple of fjord cruises head to.
- And if you do choose to take a fjord cruise, you can enjoy 20-30% off, depending on a specific cruise.
- Unfortunately, no discount for Mt Ulriken cable car BUT you can use the Bergen card for bus to go there. Otherwise you would have to pay either for public transport or a designated tourist bus which adds 90 NOK on top of the cable car price.
- 10% off at TGI Fridays – a nice touch for TGI Fridays fans. By the way, if you’re a vegetarian, I found that Norwegian TGI Fridays have a really good veggie burger for quite a good price (169 NOK). I don’t go to TGIs often in London as their food is generally too greasy for my taste, but I can see myself changing that had I lived in Norway. Also, they have nice meal deals that are worth checking out.
Other popular attractions are aquarium (25% off), home of Edvard Grieg (55% off), Bergen Maritime museum (free with the card, otherwise 50 NOK), Fantoft Stave Church (free with your Bergen card, otherwise 55 NOK).
So, as you see, there’s no chance you would be bored even if it was raining cats and dogs during your stay. Which is not so unlikely so it’s nice to be prepared.
That being said, Bergen is a beautiful city in any weather. With its nature, history, charming architecture and a very high standard of living (which you fortunately can experience as a tourist), it has become one of my most favourite places in Europe. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too!
Many thanks to Bergen Tourist Information for complimentary Bergen cards. As always, all opinions are my own.
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