I’ve put together a Bergen self-guided walking tour designed to inspire and plan your trip to Bergen!
This walking tour is for those who may be in Bergen for a limited time, or may be wondering what they can do with their time. The tour doesn’t go over much history and everyday life topics that I cover in my other walking tours. Rather, it explains what you can see and do in Bergen.
In this article, I’ve provided not just the walking tour but links to other pages on my website where I explain the topic in greater detail.
Here we go!
Download as a PDF
This walking tour is available as a downloadable PDF. If you sign up for my newsletter (see the form on the sidebar on the right), you’ll receive a download code to get this walking tour for free!
Bergen Self-Guided Walking Tour
Here we are on Bryggen, Bergen’s UNESCO World Heritage site. Bryggen, which is ‘wharf’ in Norwegian, was built in the 12th century. It was the commercial centre of Norway and is likely Scandinavia’s first commercial town.
Between 1360 and 1754, Bryggen was the trading centre of the Hanseatic League. They were a German merchant organisation that dominated trade in the Baltic and North Seas. After a fire in 1955, the first archaeological excavation took place under Bryggen. Most importantly, the remains of the first-ever warehouses were discovered along with hundreds of objects from life in the 13th century. In short, they are on display at the Bryggen Museum.
If you keep walking straight ahead, you’ll reach the Bergen Fortress. Called ‘Bergenhus’, the fortress area is from the 13th century when Bergen was the capital of Norway. King Håkon Håkonsson had ‘Håkon’s Hall’ constructed for the royal wedding of his son, Magnus the Lawmender. When Magnus became King around 1270, he wrote down the first laws of Bergen (hence his name) and had the stone tower you see constructed.
When Norway became part of Denmark in the 16th century, the Danish lord of Bergenhus, Eric Rosenkrantz, reconstructed the tower and named it after himself. Many of the old royal buildings were torn down, including a 12th century church. The fortress became more military than royal house. During World War II, the German soldiers used Bergenhus as a base. Certainly, you can see remains of buildings from the 11th century up until World War II.
We don’t walk into the fortress on this Bergen self-guided walking tour; it’s worth covering on its own walk.
The Bryggen Museum focuses on the life of Bryggen, the wharf area in Bergen. For example, the museum displays hundreds of objects categorised according to their everyday purpose, including game pieces, hair combs, religious artefacts, clothing, and even a toilet! The museum has just undergone a major renovation and is well worth visiting. One of my favourite displays is a large television screen that goes through the development of Bryggen and all the fires we’ve had – there has been dozens! The souvenir shop is also worth visiting, and there is a café inside.
St. Mary’s Church
This is the oldest building in Bergen. That is to say, it was built between 1130 and 1170, St. Mary’s Church has seen the least damage from fires and remains more or less original. The two towers are from the early 14th century, and the stained glass window is the first in Norway. Inside the church is incredibly well decorated. This is because the Hanseatic League thought St. Mary’s Church was a good luck charm. Most importantly, they brought artwork from all over Europe to the church. Inside, the artworks span a period of 400 years from all over Europe. Today St. Mary’s Church is Anglican, though it was built as a Catholic Church.
If you turn left and walk for around 10 minutes, you’ll reach the suburb Sandviken. Sandviken is a historic fishing village with many 18th century wooden houses. Above all, it’s very charming and very ‘Bergen’. At Sandviken you’ll find the Fisheries Museum, the Fjellveien scenic footpath, and a little further along is the Gamle Bergen open air museum.
We don’t walk into Sandviken on this Bergen self-guided walking tour; it’s worth covering on its own walk. For example, I’m currently putting together a Sandviken walk.
The Fløibanen is a funicular that will take you to the top of Mt. Fløyen, one of the seven mountains that surrounds Bergen city centre. The mountain is 320m (1000ft) high and has gorgeous views from the top. Most importantly, during busy times of the day, the funicular runs continuously and takes 5-8 minutes to reach the top. You can download an app to buy tickets and see the schedule or buy on at the ticket counter.
Behind the funicular station you’ll see a zig-zag path to the top. Follow this if you’d rather hike to the top of Mt. Fløyen. The hike takes about 45 minutes and is considered an easy hike (by Norwegian standards). Signs will lead you to the top.
We don’t walk up Fløyen on this Bergen self-guided walking tour; it’s something to do on your own.
For instance, this is just an idea of what you can find in this area. If you begin to walk on the streets on the side of the hill, you’ll find old timber houses with plenty of charm. One of my favourite things to do in this area is to just get lost! I’m working on a walking tour called ‘Along the Mountainside’ which will take you through the most secret of narrow streets. It’s due in early 2021.
The Allmenningen Streets
This wide street is called an ‘allmenningen’. This is a purposely built street from the 16th century designed to prevent fire spreading rapidly between buildings – you’ll notice many streets in Bergen end in the word ‘allmenningen’.
Kong Oscars Gate
Kong Oscars Gate is one of the oldest roads in Bergen. It is the old highway leading to southern Norway. Along this road, you’ll find many historical buildings. Along Kong Oscars Gate and up on the hill is the same layout from after the largest fire in Bergen, 1702. Most of the buildings date from that period.
If you turn left and follow the road, you’ll pass the Shoe Street (Skostredet) with many cool restaurants and bars). Then you pass the Bergen Cathedral, Leprosy Hospital, and end up at the historic city gate. The city gate is around a 10-15 minute walk from where you are now. Past the gate is the wealthy area Kalfaret and the Lungegård Lake, both covered in separate walking tours.
If you turn right, you’ll pass 18th-century wooden houses with many trendy bars and cafes. A little further down is the famous hot dog stand of Bergen. The road to the right ends at Bryggen.
Kong Oscars Gate is not covered in depth on this Bergen self-guided walking tour. I am working on a separate self-guided walking tour for this fascinating part of town! For example, walk up and down it on your own to see all the history here.
Church of the Cross
This is one of three medieval churches left in Bergen: the other two are the Bergen Cathedral (Domkirken) and St. Mary’s Church. Unlike St. Mary’s Church, Korskirken has been affected by almost every fire Bergen has had (remember – dozens!) and been rebuilt in a different style every time. The name comes from a legend that the first Korskirken was built with a piece of Christ’s cross in the walls. Today the church is used by the missionaries in Bergen.
Torget & The Fish Market
We are now on the square, Torget (translates to ‘the square’). Here you can see a statue of Ludvig Holberg. He’s a famous 17th/18th century writer and political figure. You may recognise the name from Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite. Grieg wrote the Suite on Holberg’s 200th birthday.
Across the street, past the statue, is the fish market. The fish market in Bergen is famous – here you can try many local products from salmon to cod to trout, tuna, and more. There’s also Red King Crab from the Barents Sea, seal oil, whale meat, paella, dried fish snacks, mussels, and anything that comes from the sea. It’s a great place to try fresh seafood. The large glass building has a seafood restaurant on the lower floor. The tourist information centre is on the higher floor.
We are now in a part of Bergen that is more modern. That is because it was affected by the last great fire of Bergen in 1916, and everything we see was rebuilt after that period.
On Torgallmenningen you’ll find shopping centres (Galleriet and Xhibition) and many department stores.
The Blue Stone
The Blue Stone is the meeting point of Bergen. Just past the Blue Stone you’ll see St. John’s Church (Johanneskirken), the largest church in Bergen. It’s from the late 19th century. If you walk up to St. John’s Church and then turn left you’ll be in the University area with museums and a botanic garden. Past that is the working-class suburb of Møhlenpris and the gorgeous Nygård Park. To the right of St. John’s is the hidden area of Sydnes – a historic timber house suburb. At the end of Sydnes is the Hurtigruten Terminal.
Turn to your right. At the top of the slope is a large concrete building. This is the Theatre. It was established by the famous violinist Ole Bull in 1850 as the first theatre in Norway to perform in Norwegian. Before then, Danish was seen as the language of the elite and was more widely used. Outside the theatre is a statue of Henrik Ibsen, the famous Norwegian playwright. He worked in the theatre when he was in his 20s. If you continue past the theatre you’ll be in the suburb Nordnes – regarded as one of the most picturesque suburbs of Bergen. At the end of the Nordnes Peninsula is the Bergen Aquarium.
However, Nordnes and Sydnes are not covered in this Bergen self-guided walking tour. They will be covered in their own walks – coming soon!
This pavilion is from the late 19th century, though it was basically replaced during the last restoration in 2019. The plants here change according to the season.
To the left, you’ll see a statue of Edvard Grieg. Edvard Grieg is Norway’s most famous composer. He was born in Bergen in 1843 and lived most of his life here, passing away in 1907. Grieg is attributed with showcasing Norwegian folk music and being inspired by nature. About 10km (6 mi) outside of Bergen is Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg’s home and today a museum. It is well worth visiting, especially between May and October when they have daily lunchtime piano concerts there.
They play Beethoven, Mosart, etc. Just kidding, of course they play Edvard Grieg music! The brick building behind Grieg is the Telegraph Building – today it’s a department store.
To the right is another brick building. This is the first of the four KODE art galleries. These are the large collection of art galleries in Scandinavia. The first KODE gallery displays various crafted objects. The opening hours change quite a lot, so check the website for details. We’ll see the other KODE galleries at our next and last stop: Byparken
Here we are at Byparken! This park was laid out in the early 20th century. Before then, this lake connected to the fjord and many people used to dock their boats in this area. I cover this topic more on my Lungegård Lake walking tour. Byparken is used for many festivals and markets, including our Christmas Market and Food Market. On Norway’s National Day, 17 May, this is where the festivities are.
Above all, the large mountain the background is Mt. Ulriken – the tallest of the seven Bergen mountains at 640m (2000ft). It is possible to take a cable car to the top. A minibus departs from the fish market in the summer months to take you there.
Between the lake and Mt. Ulriken is the train station, the library, and the bus terminal with a large shopping centre on top (Storsenter). To the left of the lake, you’ll see a row of colourful houses. Many of Bergen’s newest and coolest cafes are opening up in these houses. Behind them are 18th-century wooden houses in the area ‘Marken’ – this is also where the Leprosy Hospital is.
To the right of the lake are the other three KODE galleries. KODE 2 is for modern art (and has a shop and café). Most importantly, the third KODE has Bergen’s Munch exhibition as well as a very good National Romantic exhibition. KODE 4 has famous foreign artworks and an exhibition for Nicolai Astrup. it also has the highly-rated ‘Lysverket’ restaurant.