When planning my first trip to Norway, I quickly realized that if I tried to see everything I wanted to see there, I would be spread pretty thinly. Therefore, I decided to make Bergen my entry and exit point, a kind of home base, and not to spend time travelling back and forth to the larger city of Oslo. Perhaps I will go back and see Oslo someday, but looking back, I have zero regrets about spending as many days as I did (a total of about 5) in Bergen. Several sources from my pre-trip research had warned that a day or even two would not be enough to truly soak up all this gorgeous city has to offer and I’m so glad I heeded that advice. It gave me time to get comfortable there. In fact, by the last couple of days, I had a regular routine, knew my way around, and started to have fantasies of becoming a permanent resident!
In Bergen I had the opportunity to experience two very different kinds of accommodations: one a boutique hotel, the other a rented room in an apartment where the hosts were present.
Klosterhagen Hotell, Klosteret
Strangehagen 2 (4,233.85 mi)
Bergen, Hordaland 5011
My first night in Norway, I stayed at the beautiful Klosterhagen Hotel in Klosteret, which means “Monastery” in English. Klosteret is a peaceful and charming residential neighborhood in Bergen, across the harbor from Bryggen. In fact, views of Bryggen are best from the Klosteret side! After the overnight transatlantic flight and subsequent clearing of customs in Amsterdam, “peaceful” was exactly what I wanted. I booked in advance through their website and had no problems whatsoever. They were very responsive to my emailed questions. The woman at the front desk when I arrived, Anna, was helpful in every way. I had a room on the 3rd floor (no elevator) and she even offered to help me carry up my backpack, but I declined and made it up the steps on my down. I thought my room was charming and comfortable, the bathroom clean and modern. The Klosteret neighborhood itself was quiet and very photogenic, as well as being the perfect base for walking to the bustling and touristy Bryggen area.
“Lovely Room + Breakfast”, Bergenhus
VacationRentals.com or HomeAway.com
The other place I stayed in Bergen, both when I touched base in Bergen mid-trip 28-30 June, and again on my final few days in Norway 1 – 3 July, is listed on VacationRentals.com as “Lovely Room + Breakfast” in the borough of Bergenhus, one block directly behind the historic Bryggen shops! VacationRentals.com is affiliated with HomeAway.com which I have mentioned in a previous blog post (See “If You Only Have 48 Hours in Chattanooga). HomeAway is a great tool, featuring a .com website as well as a mobile app that I will be using often in the future. If you read last week’s post, “Five Tips for Planning a Successful Trip to Norway (Or Anywhere!)”, you may recall that I wanted to challenge myself on this trip to be open to getting to know the people of Norway on a personal level. This turned out to be the perfect accommodation to do that, as it is actually a single room in the home of two lovely people, Jessica and Daniel. At the time of making the reservation, I felt a little weird about being in someone’s home whom I’d never met, but the price was right at $98US per night, which is on the low end for a Norway tourist city like Bergen. I arrived to find it was a 5th floor walk up, just a FYI in case you are unable to do stairs. For me, the only issue was my lifelong phobia of lighthouse stairs that was triggered by the spiraling finale of the top two floors. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for me, since I became somewhat desensitized to the narrow winding steps by the end of the week. Maybe I’m ready to tackle a real lighthouse next!
Being on the top floor meant there were beautiful views from every side of the apartment and lots of sunshine.
My room was very comfortable and I saw Jessica and Daniel only occasionally. In fact, I’m not sure they were even aware when I locked up my large backpack and left for a night in Flåm with only my daypack in the middle of the week. (Doing this was actually more economical than if I had rented most other places in Bergen, checked out midweek, and returned for the rest of the week.) I had use of the fully stocked kitchen and most of the time I had the shared bathroom, shared with the other guest room they rent out, to myself. I think staying in an apartment like this probably fed into the feeling of living there like a real Norwegian.
Once I had settled in to accommodations, I was ready to head out for a meal. Bergen has a wealth of restaurants at all price points. Below are some of the best that I tried:
Nedre Korskirkeallmenningen 4
I mentioned above that Anna at the front desk of the Klosterhagen Hotel was exceptionally helpful. One of the many ways she demonstrated this was in her detailed and knowledgeable description of restaurants and other attractions in the area. For restaurants she suggested a few different places: a café next door where the fish soup is said to be good, the famous fish market at the Bryggen, and lastly, a place she said she liked to eat, Pygmalion. She described Pygmalion as a small intimate restaurant with an eclectic menu just a block away from the waterfront. It was a chilly, rainy evening, and before I set out Anna offered me a hotel umbrella for my stroll to Bryggen (couldn’t wait to see it in person!) and finally to Pygmalion. I had the potato and leek soup which turned out to be the absolute perfect thing for such weather, followed by a hot crepe filled with dark chocolate. If I’d had more days in Bergen, I would definitely have returned to sample more of their menu!
Fisketorget i Bergen (Fish Market in Bergen)
Torget, 5014 Bergen
On my second stop in Bergen, the following week, I found my way to the outdoor Fish Market on the waterfront near Bryggen and enjoyed a large plate of paella that was being made right there in large skillets, so that the saffron aroma wafted through the market and lured hungry tourists in. I believe I had other things at the fish market for other meals, but it’s the paella that I remember.
Baker Brun, Bryggen – Søstergården
Breakfast was included with my room in the Bergenhus apartment where I spent most of my days in Bergen. However, one morning near the end of my visit, I was so anxious to get out and start seeing things that I didn’t want to take the time to make coffee in the apartment kitchen. I loved being out early, before any cruise ship had unloaded its passengers and when most tourists were still in their hotels. The air was brisk, the sun was bright, and I felt like a citizen of Bergen walking to work in the morning. Eventually, my skipped breakfast started to haunt me, and I ducked into Baker Brun for an Ultiksbolle (not sure this is what it was called, but it was a sweet roll with apricots and nuts. Delicious!) and coffee. Both were very good and I hope to go back someday and try the classic Norwegian Skillingsbolle (cinnamon roll).
Coop Prix Øvregaten
I would be remiss if I did not mention the friendly neighborhood grocery store conveniently located on the same block as the apartment room I was renting in Bergenhus. More than once, the time got away from me, due to the longest days of summer happening while I was there. I would be walking around, not yet aware of how exhausted I was, puzzling over the fact that many of the tourist attractions were closed, realize I was starving, check the time and find out that it was 10pm or later! I would drag my worn out self back to “my” neighborhood on Øvregaten street, behind the old Bryggen shops, and grab something to tide me over in my room: a sandwich, hot chocolate mix, butter cookies, Kvik Lunsj… Once I headed back earlier in the day (for a nap!) and grabbed a “Bygg Salat” for lunch from the grocery store. The store features low prices, a friendly cashier, and a self-checkout option if you aren’t feeling social!
Bergen, Hordaland 5013
For my final dinner in Bergen, I wanted to do something special, and I wanted one last taste of authentic Norwegian seafood. After walking around the Bryggen so many times and perusing the menus posted on doorways for tourists passing by, I already had a good idea of where I wanted to go: Fjellskaal. I mentioned in a previous post that I am a seafood purist and I don’t believe good seafood needs heavy sauces. This restaurant seems to understand that and allows the seafood to shine in its own right. I had steamed mussels and the “Symphony of Caviar”, which was 4 types of caviar with toast points. Accompanied by a glass of white wine, this was a special and delicious meal that was the perfect finale for my time in Bergen.
Coming next week: Bergen Part 2: Sightseeing and Shopping! Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!