Bergen is considered the gateway to the Norwegian fjords and is a picturesque city located on the country’s southwestern coast.
Although it’s a UNESCO World Heritage City and a European City of Culture, Bergen is far from your average holiday destination as it perfectly combines nature, culture and an exciting urban life all year round.
The city is a popular destination for a Norway cruise as it’s surrounded by seven fjords and seven hills and is the perfect starting point being situated between the Hardangerfjord and the Sognefjord.
Despite being widely known that Norway isn’t the cheapest country to visit, Bergen holds many opportunities for the budget-minded traveller, and you can still go on a cruise to the Norwegian fjords and enjoy an affordable stay in the city.
With no shortage of things to keep you entertained and occupied, find out more about how you can enjoy this charming destination on a budget.
Attractions and activities to do in Bergen on a budget
Bergen’s art galleries
The art galleries are some of the top attractions in Bergen and Norway as they boast an impressive collection of unique Norwegian and international treasures.
These range from the classical to the contemporary and are housed in a row of galleries lining the picturesque Lille Lungegårdsvann lake in the heart of the city.
We spoke to Vanessa Brune, a Content Creator & Guidebook Author at the Northern Europe travel blog Nordic Wanders, and she highly recommends visiting the art galleries of Bergen.
“If you’re interested in art, visit KRAFT - Rooms for Artwork, S 12 Galleri and/or Stiftelsen 3,14. All three galleries are free to visit and are a great alternative to Bergen’s art museum Kode if you want to save money and are short on time.
“While you’re exploring the city centre, you should also look out for street art of which Bergen has quite a few stunning pieces to offer in places where you wouldn’t necessarily expect them.”
Hire a bike and go sightseeing
If you are only in Bergen for a few days during your fjord cruise to Norway you should look at hiring a bike as you will see a lot more of this historic city than you would on foot.
There are lots of places you can see with the likes of downtown Bergen ready-made for cycling. If you head here you should look to explore districts like Marken and Nygårdshøyden, Nøstet, Nordnes and the city centre.
Steve Vickers from Routes North, a Scandinavian travel guide, says hiring a bike is a great idea: “It's true that Bergen is a very expensive place to visit, but there is good news: lots of the city's best attractions are totally free. You can admire beautiful wooden buildings, soak up some spectacular mountain scenery, and enjoy vibrant street art – all without spending a single krone.
“If you're prepared to dig into your holiday savings a little bit, there are some great low-cost things to do. Hire a bike (around 49 NOK per day) for some laid-back sightseeing or ride up the side of Mt Fløyen on the Fløibanen funicular railway for epic views back over Bergen (around 100 NOK for a round trip).”
Take the Fløibanen funicular
The Fløibanen funicular is a railway that takes you to the top of Mount Fløyen in just six minutes and it’s one of Norway's most famous attractions.
The trip is special but once you get to the top, which is around 320 metres above sea level, you can take in the stunning views of the cityscape, sea and fjords.
Elisabeth Beyer Villalobos, who runs the Sidetracked travel blog, has visited Bergen before and she recommends starting the day by taking the Fløibanen funicular.
“I recommend doing this first thing in the morning if possible. By 11am, there was a line up at the ticket office. That's summertime in Europe for you!
“If you're arriving via cruise ship it's only a 15-minute walk from the pier to the Fløibanen station, and on the way, you'll pass by the old wharf area Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Despite being a hugely popular attraction, it is a very affordable activity to do as it only costs 95 NOK (around £8) for a return ticket.
Explore the Bryggen area
The Bryggen area in Bergen has been a vibrant area of the city for many centuries and is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Exploring this area is something Dan and Casey talk about in their post on their blog, A Cruising Couple: “The characteristic wooden houses around the wharf date back 900 years and today have been restored to feature shops and restaurants. Interestingly enough, the town had plans to demolish the Bryggen and build a more modern shopping district until the site became a UNESCO World Heritage site.”
You should stroll through the narrow alleyways and overhanging galleries of this area as you’ll be transported back in time to a bygone era.
Where to eat and drink in Bergen?
This fast-food restaurant is a popular choice amongst locals, and it is one eatery you should certainly look to add to your itinerary, especially if you are on a budget.
The cost of food and drink in Bergen can vary, but Trekroneren offers you some affordable and traditional cuisine.
Vanessa Brune from Nordic Wanders visited the eatery during her visit to Bergen: “Definitely head to Trekroneren for the city’s best hot dogs. Hot dogs actually are somewhat of a staple of Norwegian cuisine and the traditional food to eat on the country’s national day on 17th May. At Trekroneren you can get Norwegian hot dogs in many varieties (even with reindeer meat) for about $5.”
The city’s cafes
There are lots of cosy cafes in Bergen and these are perfect for hanging out over a cup of coffee or eating something delicious from their bakery.
There are trendy newcomers and more historic establishments located throughout the city, which just gives you more reason to visit more than one.
Steve Vickers tells us about the affordability of the city’s cafes: “The city's cosy cafés provide a (relatively!) affordable escape from Bergen's sometimes drizzly weather. They can also be significantly cheaper than proper sit-down restaurants. Try Godt Brod, a chain of organic bakeries with branches across town – they serve up strong coffee, healthy salads, and yummy Norwegian almond buns.”
Kafé Spesial is a popular stop for students in the city as the food served is good and it isn’t very expensive either. The eatery is in the centre of Bergen and has a cosy atmosphere that is suitable for diners of all ages.
The food ranges from pizzas to vegetarian burgers, but if you’re all tired out from exploring the city then you can also enjoy a quiet drink.
Check out their menu here.
The Daily Pot is Bergen’s ground-breaking vegan restaurant that opened in November 2016 and aims to promote healthy food.
The restaurant uses local produce that reflects the changing seasons and the raw nature of Norway. There are small twists from around the world, however.
All the food is homemade, and every dish aims to reflect multicultural influences that in the Daily Pot’s words “truly inspire us to eat and serve beautiful food”.
Check out their menu here.