How to Visit Bergen on a Budget

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Norway is generally an expensive place to visit, but experiencing the best of Bergen needn't cost a fortune. Here's our money-saving travel guide to Bergen.

Bergen is a hugely popular tourist destination on the west coast of Norway. Known as the gateway to the fjords, Norway's second biggest city is an ideal base for a deeper exploration of the coastline and fjord region.

The lake at the heart of Bergen. Photo: David Nikel.
The lake at the heart of Bergen. Photo: David Nikel.

Yet Norway's reputation as a costly travel destination puts off many budget-conscious travelers. However, with a bit of planning and some insider tips, you can explore Bergen without running up a massive credit card bill.

From affordable accommodations and free attractions to budget-friendly dining options and cost-effective transportation, we've got you covered.

An Introduction to Bergen

Nestled between the ocean and towering mountains, Bergen is Norway's picturesque gateway to natural beauty and cultural richness. Home to approximately 285,000 people, Bergen is Norways second biggest city.

This vibrant city, renowned for its historic wharf Bryggen and charming wooden houses, offers a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern attractions.

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Explore its lively fish market, hike up Mount Fløyen for stunning views, and immerse yourself in its bustling arts scene. Bergen's unique blend of nature, history, and culture makes it an unmissable destination.

Don't Waste Money Getting to Bergen

The potential savings can start before you even arrive in Bergen by making smart choices about getting to the city.

Bybanen, the light rail system in Bergen. Photo: David Nikel.
Bybanen, the light rail system in Bergen. Photo: David Nikel.

If possible, take the train from Oslo. Not only will it likely be cheaper than flying, it will also provide a memorable travel experience in itself. The Bergen line is one of the world's most famous railway journeys, with good reason.

If you do arrive by air, don't waste money on a taxi or the costly and inefficient airport bus to reach the city. Yes, the airport bus is fast (as long as you're taking it outside rush hour), but you'll usually wait at least as long for one to depart the airport, wiping out any time savings.

Bergen's light rail system is perfectly adequate for most travellers. A single zone ticket is enough to travel between the airport and downtown. That's just 44 kroner. Or you could pay 169 kroner for the “faster” airport bus. The choice is yours!

Free Attractions in Bergen

Bergen is rich in history and culture, and many of its top attractions won't cost you a single krone. With these free attractions, you can experience the essence of Bergen and save your budget for other experiences and perhaps a few local treats.

Start your adventure at Bryggen, the UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander through its narrow alleyways, admire the colourful wooden buildings, and soak up the atmosphere of the old Hanseatic wharf.

Bryggen in the heart of Bergen, Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
The colourful buildings of Bryggen, Bergen. Photo: David Nikel.

A short walk away. Bergen's stone fortress and grounds are worth a look. You'll need to pay a fee to go inside, but the grounds are open to explore.

Next, head to the Fish Market at Torget. While indulging in the seafood might be pricey, browsing the stalls and enjoying the vibrant market scene is free. The market is a great place to get a sense of local life and the city's seafaring heritage.

For nature lovers, a hike up one of Bergen’s mountains is a must. Mount Fløyen is a popular choice, offering stunning views of the city and fjords. You can take the well-known Fløibanen funicular railway for a fee, but the hike up is free and equally rewarding.

Once at the top, enjoy the scenic walks and perhaps bring a picnic to make the most of the view. Many trails begin at the top Fløibanen station, so it's a great place to discover Bergen's nature as well as enjoying the views.

If you're not travelling into the rural parts of Norway, make time to visit Fantoft Stave Church in a leafy suburb. You can travel there using a cheap light rail ticket, although an uphill walk is required to reach the church.

Fantoft Stave Church in silhouette. Photo: David Nikel.
Fantoft Stave Church is a short trip from central Bergen on the light rail. Photo: David Nikel.

While there is a small entry fee for the church itself, you can appreciate the marvellous exterior of this reconstructed church from outside the perimeter fence.

Money-Saving Tips on Bergen Attractions

If you want to visit Bergen Art Museum (KODE), plan to see everything it has to offer in one day for the best value.

The NOK 175 daily ticket gains you entry to all four of the downtown buildings: Permanenten, Lysverket, Rasmus Meyer, and Stenersen. It also gains you access to Troldhaugen, the villa and former home of composer Edvard Grieg.

If you do want to experience everything Bergen has to offer, consider buying the Bergen Card. Read the full terms and conditions to fully understand what is included, and what isn't, as this isn't the right solution for every traveller.

While pricey at NOK 380 for 24 hours, the card offers value if you don't mind packing a lot into one day, or if you are spending longer in the city. For example, a 48-hour card costs just NOK 460, with a 72-hour card even better value at NOK 540.

Budget Accommodation in Bergen

As a major city, there are all sorts of accommodation options available in Bergen. AirBnB is a good bet to secure a room or small apartment at a good rate, but be sure to check location and cleaning fees before booking, especially for a shorter trip.

While my hotel preference in Bergen is the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel at Bryggen, it doesn't always come cheap. There are some budget alternatives in Bergen though, if you prefer the comfort and security of a hotel.

CityBox Bergen is a short walk from the railway station and offers small and simplistic Scandinavian-designed rooms all with en suite bathrooms. Check Booking.com for availability and rates for this and other Bergen budget hotels.

View of Bergen from Ulriken. Photo: David Nikel.
The spectacular view of Bergen city from the top of Ulriken Cable Car. Photo: David Nikel.

There are also a handful of hostels in Bergen. While hostels in Norway are more expensive than in other European countries, they still offer savings compared with budget hotels. Check Booking.com for availability and rates for Bergen hostels.

Where to Eat in Bergen

If there's one thing that's difficult to avoid on a Norway vacation it's most definitely expensive food. Without planning, visitors often struggle to find suitable options and end up settling for an expensive restaurant.

Bergen offers some interesting eateries if you know where to look. The Daily Pot offers healthy soups and ‘power bowls' for under NOK 200. Takeaway available.

Asian restaurants are always a good choice in Norway for value meals. ‘Guangdong House' on Marken looks shabby but you'll enjoy the Chinese meals served there, again for under NOK 200. Takeaway available.

For a true budget trip, rent accommodation that includes a kitchen. AirBnBs are good options for this. Shopping at Norwegian supermarkets, while not exactly cheap, will be much better value than eating out.

If you're without your own cooking facilities, seek out the salad bar at Rema 1000 or some Bunnpris supermarkets for a good value lunch option. Remember, there's no need to buy bottled water in Norway. Bring a reusable bottle and refill from the tap.

What are your best tips for saving money in Bergen? Let us know your experiences and tips down in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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1 thought on “How to Visit Bergen on a Budget”

  1. Perfect, David. I’ve researched many options for my trip to Bergen but you’ve gone that extra mile with great local insights. Thanks for your usual thoroughness.


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