The lights are up and the nights are drawing in. Here's how to enjoy the festive season in Norway's second biggest city, Bergen.
Love it or hate it, it's hard to avoid Christmas in Norway during December. Things get underway in late November, which I saw very clearly on a recent weekend visit to Bergen.
The city was decked out in white, winter lights and there were Christmas trees everywhere. Lysfesten—a festival to kick off the Christmas season—was held around the city lake, the gingerbread town opened, and the Christmas market was under construction.
With so much to see, I couldn't resist taking photos everywhere I went. I hope you enjoy this festive postcard from Bergen!
I hadn't planned on being in Bergen on the weekend of Lysfesten, but so it was! Originally I thought the stage being constructed by the city lake was for the Christmas market.
But after a chat with someone at the hotel, I was introduced to Lysfesten—the festival of light. The annual event run by the local newspaper is essentially a kick-off of the city's Christmas celebrations.
Featuring live music, singalongs and a spectacular firework display, the short event drew many thousands of people to the lake. At just over one hour, I was surprised how short the event was.
But given how cold the day was, that was no bad thing! Walking back towards my hotel with thousands of people past the lit trees, it really did feel as if the Christmas season had begun.
Christmas shop at Bryggen
Shoppers visit Julehuset (the Christmas House) at Bryggen year round, but in the run-up to Christmas many more people do so.
Inside the three floors you'll find all kinds of decorations and other trinkets to create a traditional Norwegian Christmas, whether you live in Scandinavia or not.
You'll be able to get your hands on a julenisse or perhaps even an ugly Christmas sweater for your julebord.
While visiting Julehuset, be sure to stroll the back alleys of Bryggen, which are all decked out in white winter lights and other Christmas touches.
Christmas market in Bergen
Sadly, the finishing touches were still being made to the city's main Christmas market during my stay. But although I didn't get to experience the market, here are some pictures from a previous event.
As with many other Christmas markets in Norway, the Bergen event features stalls selling gifts and decorations, together with plenty of food and drink.
Held at Festplassen, the market is open daily from 25 November to 22 December. There is no entry charge.
The gingerbread town
Bergen's Pepperkakebyen is a real highlight of the season in Bergen. It’s billed as the world’s biggest gingerbread town. Take a look:
Pepperkakebyen hosts an incredible range of houses, churches and other buildings, many of which (but not all!) are modelled on real places in Bergen. Cleverly-placed jelly figures and moving trains add a touch of realism to the remarkable scenes.
The non-profit event has been held every Christmas season since 1991. My only slight gripe is the high entry fee of NOK 150, although kids get free entry along with anyone who has contributed to the exhibition. Its current location is Lysverket at KODE, Bergen's Art Museum.
On the first night of my visit to Bergen I stayed at the historic Hotel Norge. Now renovated and part of the Scandic group, the hotel was already decked out in its Christmas look.
Inside the foyer the ‘virtual sun’ provided a backlight to the large Christmas tree. Though quiet in the picture, the lobby bar was bustling with people in the evenings.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Bergen. Even though it was still November, the festive feeling was very much up and running.