How to spend a perfect one day in Bergen, Norway

Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city after its capital Oslo, is a fabulous place to visit for a short break or day trip. Situated in southern Norway, it has it all: a small historic city centre, fjords and mountains, great museums to explore, and wonderful food.

Read on to discover the top things to do in one day in Bergen, based on my recent trip.

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Why visit Bergen?

There are a lot of reasons to visit Bergen.

Not only is it a beautiful destination itself, but the city is well-located for trips to see some of the amazing landscape that Norway is well known for. It is a gateway to some of the western fjords and is not far from Flåm and the famous Flåm Railway, which is often said to be among the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

Bergen is also a small city. This means it’s easy to see the main sights in just a short break or even a day. If you’re visiting on a cruise ship as part of a wider trip to Norway, perhaps to see the Northern Lights, you might only have a day to spare – but you can still see a lot in this time! 

Top things to do on one day in Bergen

Here are the things I think you should choose from for your one day in Bergen.

One day in Bergen: top things for your itinerary

– Wander around Bryggen wharf
– Visit the Hanseatic Museum
– See some of the city’s stunning surroundings: sail through a fjord or go to the top of Mount Floyen
– Eat at the fish market
– See Bergen’s oldest remaining building
– Wander around the Bergenhus fortress and down to the Lille Lungegårdsvannet lakeside area
– Visit another museum

How to get around Bergen

Bergen isn’t very big at all – many of the main sights are situated around a small harbour area. So it’s possible to see most things on foot (or as part of a walking tour).

Part of Bergen harbour

However, if you prefer, there is a hop-on hop-off bus. For some people this will be the best way of seeing the main attractions, especially if you have limited time. It includes stops in Bryggen, the cruise port, the funicular station, Bergen Aquarium, and the fish market.

You can also book boat tours that will take you to see the main sights (for example this one-hour cruise that takes you past historic sites in Bergen).

How to have a perfect day in Bergen

Below are some of the best things to do if you have one day in Bergen and what to consider putting on your Bergen itinerary.

Your choice will depend on the time you have available and how you are visiting the city. If you’re here independently, I’d recommend trying to fit a fjord trip in; if you’re in Bergen as part of a wider cruise in Norway, you might prefer to opt for going up a mountain rather than out on the water.

Best things to do with one day in Bergen

Go back in time at Bryggen wharf

The top thing to do on your one day in Bergen is to head to the Bryggen area of the city. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is set back from the old harbour. It consists of a row of picturesque old wooden buildings with narrow streets between them.

Bryggen in Bergen

These were once the offices and homes of German traders who worked from the city and took over the area from the late 15th century. The buildings are reconstructions following the Great Fire of 1702 that gutted much of the Bryggen. 

This is a great place to just potter around. You can stroll up the narrow streets and pop into some of the small shops in the wooden houses that line them. There are also some shops along the front of the Bryggen buildings facing the harbour.

Alternatively, in the summer you can grab a drink and sit outside on one of the terraces of the bars and restaurants here. Lots of these serve traditional Norwegian cuisine if that’s what you’re looking for.

People drinking at outside tables in front of some of the buildings in Bryggen

If you walk to the very top of any of these streets and up to Bryggestredet, you’ll find the last remaining traditional building that stands in its original position. 

There is also a restaurant here – Tracteursted – that has outdoor seating at both the front and back. If you pop inside the bar to order a drink, make sure you go into the left-hand room to see some of the old black and white pictures hung on the wall of Bryggen as it once was.

Learn about the history of Bryggen in the Hanseatic Museum

The entrance to Bredsgarden Street in Bryggen has the Hanseatic Museum shop. You can buy tickets to the museum here, as well as souvenirs.

At the moment, the museum’s main site – just a few buildings away in the same row – is closed for renovation. However, you can still go into the old assembly rooms of the Hanseatic merchants who met and ate here (Schotstuene). These are at the end of the tenement streets and near St. Mary’s church.

Much of the inside of the assembly rooms consists of reconstructions. But there are some interesting information boards here. These give you information on life here, including the rules apprentice workers had to adhere to, how they might be punished, and how they cooked in the house.

If you do go inside the Schotstuene, don’t miss the information boards on the walls outside the building. I found these equally, if not more, fascinating. 

They tell the story of the Hanseatic League and German merchants who traded between different countries in northern Europe from the 13th century. These included Russia, Poland, Belgium, England, and Norway. Fishermen in Lofoten in northern Norway would travel down to Bergen with fish, fish roe, and cod liver oil in exchange for grain, beer, spices, tobacco, and textiles to take back home.

There are some great old photos here of the cargo ships and the fishermen sorting and transporting the fish.

If you like history, you’ll love it here. As the main museum is currently closed, I can’t tell you how much more you’d see there, but I definitely found the current exhibits interesting. 

Sail through a fjord

One of the top things to do in Bergen is go on a fjord cruise. Norway is famous for its stunning fjord landscape, so this was very high on our Bergen itinerary.

We booked this tour to Mostraumen – a round trip of around three and a half hours – and absolutely loved it. It was a perfect way for us to see some fjords, but still have time to do other things on our short trip to Bergen.

A small town which you see as part of the fjord cruise

The trip goes through the Osterfjord and via Modalen (apparently the country’s second-smallest town). The first half an hour or so was quite a fast journey out of the harbour through quite wide-open waterways. But these soon narrow, and you’re quite close to the sides of the fjord. 

Along the way, you see little villages, including one with a pretty white church.

A small white church and surrounding buildings on the water's edge. See these on a fjord cruise, a great thing to do on one day in Bergen

There’s also some incredible scenery: large craggy rock outcrops, mountains in the distance (some topped with snow, even in May), and small waterfalls. Towards the end, the boat steers right up to a large waterfall flowing down from the rocks and then up to a massive sheer rock face. It was hard to capture these from so close, but they are pretty dramatic.

The boat trip

This boat trip runs twice a day. We chose to go on the morning slot which leaves the harbour at 10 am. I’d really recommend it. You get to see so much.

The boat itself was great. It had an outdoor area at the top, as well as a comfortable inside seating section. There was a small snack bar where you could buy some food and drink, plus clean toilets.

The boat we went on for our fjord cruise - this is a great thing to do on one day in Bergen

At times, an audio guide came on. This provided a bit of information about our surroundings (although we couldn’t hear this from the outside sections).

Top tip: as this is a popular cruise, if you want to make sure you get a good seat (e.g. an outdoor one), then I’d advise you to arrive at the boat at least half an hour in advance so you can get to the front of the queue.

Other Bergen fjord tours

If you want to visit Norwegian fjords, there are many other fjord tours and guided tours that you can book when you’re in the city. Some of these are probably not suitable if you only have one day in Bergen, but if you’re able to stay longer, you might want to consider them.

This tour takes you on a full day trip to Flam and gives you the opportunity to see the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord.

You get time in Flam to explore and take in the mountainous landscape that surrounds it. Note that if you book this trip, it will be a long day with an early start, but I have no doubt it will be worth it!

Ride a funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen

Another way to see some of the scenery that surrounds Bergen is take the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen. At its highest point, this sits over 300 metres above sea level. It is a top tourist attraction, but also clearly popular with locals.

The ride to the top is only short – around 6 minutes. So, this is a perfect place to get some panoramic views of the city, especially if you don’t have much time during your one day in Bergen. 

The funicular train riding up Mount Floyen in Bergen

There is a large viewing area pretty much as soon as you come out of the funicular station.

Some of the views from the top of Mount Floyen

Things to do on Mount Fløyen

We were lucky to visit on a sunny day and found it was a perfect spot to wander around and find a seat from where we could look out over Bergen and the surrounding area. There are plenty of outdoor seats around the cafes and the restaurant, as well as some benches a bit further down. 

The restaurant at Mount Floyen

If you go down to these, watch out for the local goats (there are apparently 10) that graze here and try to steal your food!

During the summer, you can go hiking or cycling in the area. You can also take advantage of the canoe and paddle board rental (this is free for the former, but there is a charge for the latter). You can take these off to nearby Lake Skomarkerdiket. There is also the ‘Troll Forest’ and a playground for the children.

If you visit at other times of the year (my first visit was during a cold, wet, and occasionally snowy November a few years ago), it’s still worth going to the top of Mount Fløyen. You’ll still get some great views, albeit you probably won’t want to hang around outside for too long! But the restaurant is warm and cozy inside, and we sat by the large windows in the main part of the building and watched the snow fall.

The Fløibanen funicular

The train station for the Fløibanen funicular is just a few minutes from Bryggen harbour. The train runs up to Mount Floyen at least every 15 minutes from 7.30 am until midnight during the week and then from 8 am until midnight at weekends.

We didn’t get the chance to go up in the evening, but I imagine sunset is a lovely time to visit.

Eat at the fish market

Bergen Fish Market is centrally located. It sits on the side of the harbour opposite Bryggen in a modern structure. If you want to try some local seafood, then this is the place to go.

Bergen fishmarket
Bergen fishmarket

Go inside and see some of the counters selling different dishes, salads, and sushi. You can then opt to eat in one of the restaurants here. These have views over the harbour but note the restaurants are not cheap (although, to be honest, our experience was that most places to eat and drink in Bergen were on the pricier side compared to other countries).

In the summer, there are also fish and seafood stalls outside with covered seating where you can also eat fresh seafood and see it being cooked nearby. 

See Bergen’s oldest remaining building

St. Mary’s Church, a 12th century church not far from Bryggen wharf, is the city’s oldest building. It is also beautiful with its sleek modest design with two white and grey towers. It sits in a small park.

St Mary's church

Even if you don’t have time to go in, I’d advise you to take the very short walk up from Bryggen and admire its outside.

The church has been in use since the Middle Ages, despite having been badly damaged by two fires that took place in the city in the 12th and 13th centuries. Inside, you can see the four portals, a triptych with a central carving of Mary and Jesus, a choir area with life-sized figures of the 12 disciples, and a unique pulpit. These is also a collection of paintings here.

You must pay to go inside the church, but it is free if you have the Bergen Card.

Visit the Bergenhus fortress and see the Rosenkrantz Tower 

A few minutes’ walk away from Bryggen (away from the fish market at the end of the harbour) is the Bergenhus fortress area. The fortress is “one of Norway’s oldest and best preserved fortifications”.

It has a long history dating back to the 16th century. This includes use as a royal residence and the western HQ for German occupying forces during WWII.

There is a museum here displaying various exhibitions. This includes one on the WWII resistance movement, the contribution of women to the country’s armed forces, and the history of the fortress. 

The fortress is open from 6 am until 11 pm every day; the museum is open between 11 am and 5 pm. Both the fortress and the museum are free to enter.

If you visit the fortress, you can then wander over to see the Rosenkrantz Tower, considered to be “the most important Renaissance monument in Norway”. This is just a short walk away from the fortress.

Wander around Bergen’s lakeside area

Lille Lungegårdsvannet is a small lake in the centre of Bergen. It is a short walk from the harbour in the more modern part of the city.

You can either walk directly here from the fish market to Christies Gate or take a slightly longer walk via Bergen Cathedral (this is structure with the green spire that you can see from several places in the city). You can then walk down Kong Oscar’s Gate and turn right down to the lakeside.

On a fine day, this is a relaxing place to stroll around. There is a fountain in the middle and flower beds around the side. Then, if you cross over Christies Gate, you can see the ornate bandstand in the middle of a lawn, also surrounded by colourful flower beds.

The bandstand in Bergen surrounded by a small lawn and flowers

On one side is another small lawn. Here there is a statue of Edvard Grieg, the famous Norwegian classical composer (if you’re interested in Grieg, there is a museum you can visit that is based in his former home where he wrote many of his works). However, this is a bit out of the city, so you may not have time to visit with just one day in Bergen. 

On the other side of the bandstand, there is one of the Kode Art Museums with a modern art sculpture in front.

Visit another museum if you have time

Aside from the Hanseatic Museum, Bergen is home to other museums that cater to all tastes. Many of these are free or have reduced rates if you have bought a Bergen Card.

The Bryggens Museum, at one end of the Bryggen wharf, is another place that history buffs may be interested in. It is an archaeological museum where you can see some of the foundations of the city’s oldest buildings. 

For art lovers, there is the Bergen Kunsthall museum, a modern art museum. This is near to Christies Gate and the bandstand in the more modern part of the city.

Along the same stretch, you’ll find the Kode Art Museums of Bergen. These are housed in four buildings. In front of the building with the permanent collection, there is a quite unique sculpture on the grass.

One of the Kode art museums with a unique sculpture on the lawn in front

Bergen also has the Norwegian Fisheries Museum, the Bergen Maritime Museum and the Leprosy Museum. The latter is based in the leper hospital that existed until the mid-20th century.

How to get from Bergen airport to Bergen city centre

Bergen Flesland Airport is situated around 12 kilometres from the city centre. You can get a taxi into the centre, but with prices quite high in Norway, you will probably pay quite a lot for this.

It is easy though to get public transport into the city. We caught the airport bus (the green and white Flybussen) which conveniently has a stop outside the Radisson Blu hotel right in the heart of the Bryggen area. It also has five other stops in the city centre so will pass close to most other hotels.

The journey from the centre to the airport takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes depending on where you get on.

You can also catch the Bergen City Light Rail (line 1) to the airport. This journey takes about 45 minutes and is free with the Bergen Card.

One day in Bergen

I hope you enjoy your one day in Bergen. If you’re planning to go to Norway and fancy combining Bergen with a visit to the capital, Oslo, check out my post which gives you an itinerary for 2 days in Oslo.

I’ve also written about short trips and day trips in other countries that you might be interested in. Some of my more recent posts include:

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