After the enjoying the breathtaking views on the Bergensbanen train from Oslo, we arrived to the beautiful coastal city of Bergen. Since we arrived in the evening, we only allocated the following day to explore Bergen before heading off a road trip. We tried to fit in as much as we could without spending too much. Did I mention how expensive Norway is? This is partly why we allocated only one day to Bergen, being a very popular tourist stop. Unfortunately, we were here on a Sunday which is the worst day to visit if you like to shop. All of the shops were closed (except for the tourist shops), as well as some of the cafes. Despite this we did fill our day with lots of site seeing. I have so many photos to show you that I have had to write two posts for Bergen. The highlights from the first half of the day include amazing Norwegian pastries at Godt Brod Floyen, exploring Bryggen (old town), visiting the Bergen Fortress and a delicious lunch at the famous Fisketorget (Fish Market).
Before I go on I will tell you a bit about the must-see Norwegian city. Bergen is located in Hordaland, facing the fjord of Byfjorden. It is the second largest city and is known as the ‘city of seven mountains’. It was founded by King Olav Kyrre in 1070, but trading in the area goes back to the 1020s. It was the largest city until Christiania (Oslo) surpassed it in the 1830s. Today it still maintains its old town character and is a major tourist stops for tourist and cruise ships. Indeed it is an expensive city, however its a great place to visit on the way to see the amazing fjords in this region.
We arrived to Bergen at 10:30pm after a 6.5 hour train journey from Oslo. As I mentioned in my last post this is one of the most scenic rail lines in the world, so it’s worth doing if you find yourself contemplating how to get to Bergen from Oslo.
Since we arrived so late we didn’t intend doing anything except getting to our Airbnb as soon as possible. Octavia had fast asleep in the stroller and we had a long walk on the cobble stone streets. Luckily with the daylight savings I got to take a few of photos of the amazing street art. By the time we finally got to the Fløibanen, we realised that it was all uphill from here. We were quite close, but there was no way we could do three suitcases and a stroller (with no head support) up that cobblestone street, so we grabbed a cab. It only took 5 minutes, for the lady cab driver to get us to our apartment, which was great. What wasn’t so great was that it cost $30 for that short trip. It was a bit of a surprise but then we were in Norway so we had to expect that it wasn’t going to be cheap.
We booked an Airbnb in a small old Bergen home in the Fjellsiden area. Our space was on the bottom level, which was nice and private. The apartment itself was very clean and spacious enough for the 3 of us. The floors were heated, so we were nice and toasty inside too. We didn’t get a chance to meet the family who own and live in the levels above, but that in no way affected our stay. Definitely an ideal place to stay if your in Bergen.
The next morning we walked down to the city centre to have breakfast at the bakery cafe, Godt Brød Fløyen. Godt Brød is an bakery chain that was founded in Bergen, but you now can find them also in Oslo, Trondheim and Stavanger. They specialise in Norwegian baked goods that use organic raw ingredients. They offer freshly baked bread, Norwegian pastries, baguettes and coffee of course.
It was extremely busy when we arrived (photo of entrance was later). We sat out on the back tables and ordered a few pastries. Marco had the Skillingsbolle (cinnamon roll) and Octavia and I shared the Fylt bolle (jam stuffed) and Sommerbolle (topped with custard). They were all very delicious and I could of ordered a few more if I wasn’t saving myself for something else for coffee.
After breakfast we were looking to try one of the most recommended cafes for coffee. So we headed to Kaffemisjonen. Unfortunately the barista was extremely non-responsive despite us standing at the counter while she set up for the day We did wait about 3 minutes why she gave no eye contact or any indication that we existed to her. So we left. I was very disappointed to miss out on coffee, but what could we do. I have heard they do serve excellent coffee so I hope your experience is better then ours if your drop by.
Our plan was to first visit the old town but I did come across a couple of tourist stops on the way and I took photos of the heart of the city before it was flooded with people.
First site we came across St Mary’s Church (Mariakirken), which is the oldest remaining building in Bergen. It was built between 1130-1180 during the reign of Olav Kyrre. I did have a fee to visit, like most churches in Norway. Since we had no cash I didn’t bother venturing inside to have a look.
Next we came across the Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene, which is located on Finnegården in Bryggen (Old Town) and is housed in a conserved wooden building. It presents the heritage during the Hanseatic League period from the 14th century, when the German guild of merchants opened an office in Bryggen and this site was the assembly hall for the Hanseatic merchants (1361-1761). This museum has a fee which varies during the season. We didn’t have time to visit this one, but it looks interesting. It is the major museum for the Bryggen area and I believe this photo must be from the back.
Bryggen is the old town in Bergen and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also known as Tyskebryggen (the German dock), since it features a line of Hanseatic commercial buildings sitting adjacent to the eastern side of the Vågen harbour. However, these long narrow buildings were originally owned by Norwegians, before German traders came to Bryggen in the 1230s. Much of the originally buildings were lost to the fire of 1702, which built the entire city other. They were rebuilt only to be affected by fire again in the 1900s. Today only a quarter of the buildings remain and these 61 buildings are protected. Today these buildings house souvenir shops, shops, restaurants and pubs.
Despite the rest of the city being closed on a Sunday, Bryggen was alive and buzzing. I enjoy window shopping through the extremely expensive souvenir shops and found the most adorable little cafe for coffee (see below).
We found Kaf Kafe Bryggen tucked in an alley at the heart of the Bryggen. It is owned by a lovely couple. I had a chat with the husband, who was very friendly and hospitable. I didn’t meet his wife, who is Thai, which is why they offer many specialised Thai drinks and desserts. I really liked the harmonious fusion between their two cultures, which made their offerings all the more interesting. They serve a selection of hot and cold drinks, including espresso coffee, alcohol spiked coffees and Thai beverages. If your coming for a bite to eat they also offer soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts (both Thai and Norwegian).
It was far to early for us to have lunch so we only ordered coffee at Kaf Kafe. The owner did advise me that their coffee is very strong. It was indeed stronger then what I was use to, but with a little extra sugar it was perfectly balanced and delicious cappuccino. I can’t remember now if I had oats milk or soy milk, but if your dairy free they have you covered.
After looking around Bryggen, we had a look around the adjacent Vågen Harbour. This is where all the cruise ships come and where you can take sailing ships, ferries and day trips on the fjord. The prices are quite costly and I’m not a big fan of boats due to seasickness. However, if you are the Statsraad LekmkuhlStatsraad Lekmkuhl, looked interesting. You get to be an active participant on the board and learn how to sail at the helm.
A short walk from Bryggen is the the Bergen Fortress (Bergenhus Festning). This castle is one of the oldest and best preserved stone fortifications in Norway, built in the 1240s. However, it does have some constructions within the fortress that were built as recently as WWII. During medieval times, the space which occupies the fortress today is known as Holmen (The islet) and contained the royal residence a cathedral, several churches, the bishop’s residence, and a Dominican monastery. However, the cathedral and many of the churches were torn down during the Danish rule, when it was used as a military fortification during the 16th century. The fortress was restored in the 1890s, but it was severely damaged during WWII (see diorama photograph below) and would later be restored.
Today the Bergen fortress is free to access, however the Bergenhus Fortress Museum does have a fee. The museum features exhibition of both the history of Bergen during the Middle Ages and also during WWII. At the museum you can get a map, which gives you the Fortress Trail, which takes about an hour to completely walk around. Unfortunate due to renovations on the day we weren’t able to see much of the fortress. What I have photographed here was all we could access, which was a bit disappointing.
We started to get hungry so we headed down to the fish market. This outdoor market sells fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables and other Norwegian specialities. Its located in the heart of the Vågen harbour, overlooking the fjords and Bergen’s seven mountains. This market has been around since the 1200s and remains an important meeting place for fisherman, farmers, and Bergen’s residents. There are many restaurants within the fish market, as well as many indoor restaurants and an indoor fish market (also houses restaurants). This outdoor fish market is only open during the summer season, but the indoor fish market is open all year round.
We actually didn’t intend eating here at the fish market since it is extremely expensive. For example a lunch dish can cost anywhere upwards from 185 NOK each. At your lower end being more fried dishes, with premium prices for fresh grilled seafood. On a budget you can get a fresh seafood baguette for 100 NOK, but these are pre-made and refrigerated, hence bread isn’t so fresh. We actually planned on having lunch at the budget friendly Norwegian fastfood cafe Söstrene Hagelin. However, being a Sunday it was closed. However, we did get a chance to try them, when we returned a few days later to Bergen after our road trip. I will actually include our experience in my next post of Bergen. It definitely was worth coming back for.
So since we were at the fish market and the cafe we wanted to visit was close we decided we may as well eat here. We dined at the Bergen Seafood Specialities market restaurant that was much more affordable then others. It is one of the first restaurants on the left if your coming from the direction of Bryggen. It isn’t as fancy as the others by any means, but the food was decent and fast. We ordered the Creamy Fish Soup (Fiskesuppe), Fish Cakes (Fiskekaker), chips and a baguette with prawns lobster and smoked salmon. I really loved the fish soup and fish cakes. Octavia was more into the chips and Marco wasn’t that hungry but he appreciated the flavours. I didn’t love the bread on the baguette since it was pre-made, cold and soft., but then we should of expected it.
After lunch Marco had to go and pick up our hire car, which we would be using for the rest of our stay in Norway. Rather then pay a hefty cab fair he preferred to walk. Octavia and I stayed in Bergen city centre and looked around at the monuments. I did find one church that was free of charge had a choir performing. Korskirken (Holy Cross Church) is another very old church built in 1150. However its been damaged by at least seven fires, sits been rebuilt quiet a lot. It was still quite pretty nice inside but had a lot less embellishments.
Eventually, O and I went back to Bryggen and revisited every shop. Unfortunately Marco was a lot longer then expect, as our car was given to someone else. I was not happy since we had a schedule for the day. Eventually he got to us in time and we were able to get done everything we planned. The rest of the days activities will be in my next post.
Thanks for taking a walk around Bergen with me. In my next post I will take you to three more tourist stops that we visited this day. After that we are going on our Norwegian road trip.