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How to spend a day in…Bergen, Norway

This compact city offers history, culture and dramatic nature, all within walking distance of the port

By Siobhan Grogan

Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city, and quite possibly its most beautiful – situated between the picturesque Seven Mountains and spectacular fjords. Here’s our guide to making the most of your time there…

In the morning...

Be wowed by the waterfront

Head straight to the brightly coloured wooden buildings that line the iconic harbour front in the medieval port of Bryggen. One of the most-photographed sites in Norway, the area can become stiflingly crowded later in the day, so this distinctive waterfront is best photographed first and explored later.

Take in the views from above

Queues can build quickly for the funicular up Mount Fløyen, the most visited of Bergen’s Seven Mountains, so it pays to arrive early. Leaving from a station just 150m from the heart of Bryggen, the funicular whisks passengers 1,000 ft up the mountain in around six minutes for breath-taking panoramic views across the city’s distinct rooftops, surrounding islands and the stunning Bergen Fjord. Take a stroll at the top to savour the views or, if you’re feeling active, travel here on on Princess’ Mt. Fløien Funicular & Hike shore excursion, which includes a three-hour guided hike through fairy-tale woodland to tranquil Lake Skomakerdiket.

Enjoy the scenic side

Return to the historic port of Bryggen, which was once home to the Hanseatic League, a guild of German and Baltic merchants who built a trading empire in the late Middle Ages. Take in the narrow alleyways, wooden homes and medieval galleries, then learn more about the city’s 900-year history at the unmissable Hanseatic Museum, housed in one of the oldest wooden buildings in Bergen. To enjoy the city from the water, the Bryggen & Scenic Cruise excursion from Princess* departs from here to cruise the city’s serene waterways and fjords to Buena pier, before a scenic drive back through Bergen’s charming surroundings.

Discover Bergen's natural beauty, history and culture with Princess

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In the afternoon...

Work up an appetite

Roam the Bergen Fish Market, a jumble of stalls where fishermen have sold their catch since the 13th century. One of Norway’s most-visited outdoor markets, it’s the best spot to sample raw oysters straight from the sea, browse stalls selling everything from flowers to fruit and pick up local souvenirs, including hand-painted troll figures, cloudberry jam and an essential Norwegian cheese slicer. Whether you prefer paella, whale steak or a steaming plate of mussels, eating lunch at the fish market itself is a must-do, although it's certainly not cheap. Choose a stall with tables and the fisherman will cook your lunch, as you wait for an unforgettable feast.

Explore the city's history

Built around 1240, the Bergenhus Fortress is adjacent to the market and was originally a royal palace, when Bergen was still Norway’s capital city. Now one of the most well-preserved medieval buildings in the country, a walk around the fortress takes in the 13th century King Haakon’s Hall, the peaceful grounds now used as a city park, as well as the impressive defensive tower – just be sure to watch your head climbing the very narrow staircases inside.

In the early evening...

Call into church

As the oldest building in Bergen, St Mary's Church is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in all of Norway. Although only open on weekdays, the exterior and courtyard are worth a visit, even if the church itself is closed.

Head to the shops

Stroll inland to discover a warren of paths lined with charming shops, tiny cafes and stylish boutiques. Pick up covetable, locally made knitwear at the award-winning Oleana, jewellery made from gems and crystals, including Norwegian thulite, at Bergen Steinsenter or traditional decorations at the cosy, all-year-round Christmas shop, Julehuset.

Be moved

It may sound a bizarre place to spend an hour, but the nearby Leprosy Museum offers a compelling insight into the history of Bergen, which once had the largest concentration of leprosy patients in Europe. It's small but moving. Before boarding, grab a pastry from the tiny Baker Brun cafe, which overlooks Bryggen habour. Locals consider this the best skillingsbolle (cinnamon roll) in town, so prepare to queue. It's worth the wait.

*Time in port is subject to change and varies by cruise itinerary. For more information on cruise itineraries to Bergen and time in port, as well as further details on Princess shore excursions, including length of time, please visit princess.com

About the Author

Siobhan Grogan

Siobhan Grogan

Siobhan is a travel, music and lifestyle journalist who has written for publications including NME, Harper’s Bazaar, British Airway’s High Life, Grazia, City AM and the Evening Standard. She is constantly searching out new destinations to explore, but loves returning to Sydney, New York and Italy.

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