Located on the western coast of Norway, Bergen is known for its picturesque scenery, rich cultural heritage and thriving art scene. While the cost of living may be high, wages in Bergen are also generally higher, and the quality of life and lifestyle in Bergen more than makes up for it. Although the city has a strong economy, a relaxed and informal work culture allows a good work-life balance in Bergen, and residents can make the most of the city's many attractions and amenities.
The city of the seven mountains provides plenty of opportunities for hiking and skiing, and the North Sea presents recreational boating and fishing opportunities. The weather presents a challenge, though, as Bergen is known as one of Europe's rainiest cities, and expats will quickly learn not to let any sunny days go to waste.
Bergen is also home to several museums, galleries and theatres, and is a hub for arts and culture in Norway. The city hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, and it has a thriving music scene representing various genres. The Bergen Philharmonic is one of the oldest orchestras in the world, and the city is the proud birthplace of Edvard Grieg. On the other hand, Bergen has a thriving indie music scene that has produced numerous internationally known bands like Kings of Convenience, Datarock and Kygo.
Shopping in Bergen
From historic markets to modern malls, Bergen has something to offer everyone. Normal shopping hours are from 9am until 4.30pm on weekdays and until 3pm on Saturdays, and many shops are open on Sundays as well during December. Most shops accept credit and debit cards as well as cash, and contactless payments are becoming increasingly common. Most shopkeepers are friendly, helpful and fluent in English.
Popular shopping areas in Bergen include:
The city centre of Bergen is home to a number of popular shopping areas, offering a wide range of shopping experiences that include historic squares, pedestrian shopping streets and modern malls.
Stromgaten Street is located in the heart of the city centre. It is lined with a variety of shops, including clothing, jewellery and souvenir shops, offering a range of products and prices. Many of the shops are family owned and operated, giving the street a unique and traditional feel. Bergen Storsenter provides a contiguous roof from the train station to the bus station to a car park and a variety of grocery shops and restaurants on the street. Nearby is Marken, known for its high-end boutiques and designer shops.
Further west is Torgallmenningen, a historic market square and hub of activity. It is surrounded by a range of shops and is known for its traditional street vendors and food stalls, selling everything from fresh seafood to souvenirs. The market is a popular destination for those seeking a unique shopping experience as well as for those looking to sample traditional Bergen cuisine. Nearby Torgallmenningen is Xhibition, Bergen's newest shopping centre. Also located on Torgallmenningen is the Galleriet shopping mall, a popular destination for those seeking a more upscale shopping experience. It features high-end and mid-range shops as well as restaurants and cafés, making it a convenient destination for shopping and dining.
Leading west out of Torgallmenningen is the traditional shopping street of Strandgaten. Here, shoppers will find Kloverhuset, Norway's oldest shopping centre, having been established in 1852. It offers fashion, luxury and design items. Near the harbour, Strandkaien offers a range of shops, including souvenir shops, clothing shops and restaurants. It is popular among tourists and those looking for a scenic shopping experience.
Lagunen is the largest shopping mall in Bergen and one of the largest in the country, located on the city's outskirts. It offers a range of shopping and dining options, including clothing stores, electronics shops and food courts. The mall is also known for its spacious and well-designed interior, making it a comfortable and convenient shopping experience.
In addition to these shopping areas, there are also weekly markets in Bergen. These markets offer a unique and dynamic shopping experience, with vendors selling everything from fresh produce and seafood to antiques and vintage items.
Eating out in Bergen
Eating out in Bergen offers a variety of dining experiences that showcase both local and international cuisine and culture. In terms of dining options, Bergen has a range of options to suit different budgets and tastes. There are many budget-friendly cafés and street food stalls, as well as upscale restaurants serving gourmet cuisine.
Traditional Scandinavian cuisine is prevalent in the city, and seafood is a staple in many restaurants. Some must-try dishes include salmon, cod and shellfish, which are often served with potatoes, vegetables and other traditional accompaniments. Additionally, the city has a strong coffee culture, and cafés are popular places for locals and visitors alike to relax, socialize and enjoy a cup of coffee. Vannkringler is a Bergener pretzel-shaped bread, traditionally enjoyed with sour-cream porridge and cured meat.
Bergen also offers a diverse range of international dining options, from Italian to Thai, Indian to Mexican, providing a taste of home for expats from countries around the globe. These restaurants serve a variety of dishes, including classic pastas, curries, tacos and more.
Nightlife in Bergen
Bergen's small size means that it doesn't have a distinct nightlife district, though there is a higher concentration of venues in the areas of Bryggen and the 'Studentbyen' (Student City) in the city centre. There are plenty of bars, clubs, pubs and other venues to explore. Whether they're looking for a casual night out or a lively dance party, expats will find something to suit their tastes.
Bergen has a thriving bar and pub scene with a variety of options to choose from, ranging from traditional Norwegian pubs to more modern and trendy bars, powered by the region's world-famous beer and gin. Bryggen is home to several traditional bars and pubs, while the city centre has a trendier vibe aimed at the student population. Beer fans will want to taste a Hansa Pilsener in its home town, and gin aficionados should try the award-winning Bareksten Botanical.
There are regular live music events in Bergen's bars, pubs and nightclubs, and those who plan on visiting the city centre at night won't have to worry about an itinerary – Bergen's compactness leads to a natural flow between venues. Those craving a different kind of buzz won't be hard-pressed to find a coffee shop for unwinding and socialising.
Outdoor activities in Bergen
Bergen is a nature lover's paradise, offering a wide range of outdoor activities that are sure to satisfy even the most adventurous. The city is surrounded by mountains, fjords and the North Sea, making it an ideal location for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and enjoy the best that Norway has to offer.
The city of the seven mountains is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Norway. With their breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding fjords, Mount Floyen and Ulriken are must-visit destinations for any hiker. The city itself is eminently walkable, and many hours can be lost taking in the city's historical and cultural sites. In the winter, the mountains lend themselves to skiing. Bergen is located near several ski resorts, including Voss Resort and Myrkdalen. These resorts offer a variety of ski runs for all skill levels, including cross-country skiing trails and snowboarding parks.
The Bergen region is a dream for boaters and fishers, with its many rivers, lakes and fjords providing exciting paddling and sailing experiences and a wealth of opportunities to catch both freshwater and saltwater specimens. The region provides the perfect backdrop for kayaking, and visitors can explore the fjords and enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, waterfalls and wildlife.
See and do in Bergen
Bergen is a city rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty, offering a wealth of opportunities for expats to explore and immerse themselves in its unique character.
One must-see attraction is the Bergen Fisherman's Wharf (Fisketorget). This historical market is the perfect place to sample fresh seafood, chat with the vendors and learn about local life and traditions. The market is a hub of activity, with vendors selling everything from seafood and vegetables to crafts and souvenirs. It provides a unique glimpse into the heart of Bergen's heritage and culture.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen is a historic district famous for its colourful wooden buildings, dating back to the Hanseatic League era. A leisurely walk through its narrow, winding streets provides a glimpse into Bergen's rich history and charming atmosphere. Visitors can admire the old buildings, many of which have been converted into shops and restaurants, and get a sense of what life was like in the city's past.
The Bergen Aquarium offers a chance to learn about the fascinating marine life of the North Atlantic and get up close and personal with some unique and interesting sea creatures. The aquarium provides a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages, with a variety of interactive exhibits and live animals.
Mount Floyen is another iconic location that offers breathtaking views of Bergen and the surrounding fjords. The scenic ride on the Floibanen Funicular is an experience in itself, and once at the top, visitors can take a leisurely walk or enjoy a picnic while taking in the panoramic views. Mount Floyen is also a popular hiking destination, with trails leading through the forest and offering stunning vistas along the way.
Finally, a fjord cruise is a must-do for anyone looking to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of Bergen's surroundings. With crystal-clear waters and towering cliffs, the fjords offer a stunning landscape that can only be fully appreciated by boat. Visitors can get up close to these majestic wonders and let the fresh sea air rejuvenate their senses, making it a truly unforgettable experience.
These are just a few of the many incredible experiences that Bergen has to offer, making it an ideal destination for expats looking for a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty.
What's on in Bergen
Blastfest is a heavy metal festival that attracts a diverse range of metal fans. With a focus on energy and intensity, Blastfest provides a thrilling and high-octane experience for metal fans. Blastfest is also known for its vibrant and supportive metal community, with fans from all over the world coming together to celebrate their shared love of heavy metal music. With a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, Blastfest provides a unique and unforgettable experience.
Bergen International Festival (May)
One of Northern Europe's largest festivals of its kind, the Bergen International Festival showcases a diverse range of over 200 music, theatre, dance and opera performances. With artists and performers from around the world, the festival offers a chance to experience world-class culture right in the heart of Bergen.
The Bergen International Festival kicks off the musical summer months, setting the stage for Nattjazz, Bergenfest, Grieg in Bergen – a 10-week roster of classical performances – and Eggstockfestivalen – a music festival devoted to new and upcoming bands.
This jazz festival takes place over several days – or rather, nights – and features a line-up of local and international jazz musicians, with a mix of traditional and contemporary jazz styles. With a relaxed and intimate atmosphere and venues spread throughout the city centre, Bergen Nattjazz provides a unique and immersive jazz experience.
This annual musical festival attracts talents and fans from around Norway and beyond. The festival features local and international artists, with a mix of genres including rock, pop, electronic and world music, and takes place over several days, with multiple stages and performance areas spread throughout the city centre.
Bergen Food Festival (August)
The Bergen Food Festival is another must-visit event for food lovers. Visitors can sample a range of local and international cuisine, with vendors offering delicious bites and drinks to enjoy. With live music and cooking demonstrations, the festival provides a fun and exciting way to experience Bergen's food culture.
Bergen International Film Festival (September)
The Bergen International Film Festival showcases a range of new and innovative films from around the world, providing a chance to experience the best in contemporary cinema. With screenings, discussions and special events, the film festival is a highlight of the cultural calendar in Bergen.
Bergen Light Festival (December)
The Bergen Light Festival is a magical and festive event that illuminates the city's streets and squares with a colourful array of lights and installations. With street performers, music and food stalls, the light festival provides a warm and festive atmosphere in the heart of the city during the winter months.
Are you an expat living in Bergen?
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