Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway, situated tranquilly surrounded by mountains and overlooking the sea. For several hundred years, Bergen was the centre of prosperous trade between Norway and the rest of Europe. Nowadays, Bergen is a vibrant, youthful city that offers art museums and galleries, a wide selection of cultural events (like the popular Bergen International Festival held annually) as well as exquisite dining opportunities.
Planning to travel to Bergen on a budget? This guide will give you loads of useful budget tips and a full list of Bergen experiences and explorations that won’t break the bank!
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The best time to visit Bergen
The best time for your visit to Bergen Norway is the European late spring and summer: from May through September. Due to the city’s location on Norway’s west coast, Bergen has a temperate oceanic climate; the weather is mostly wet (it is especially rainy during the Autumn months) and quite unstable.
Visiting Bergen in the summer months also gives you many hours of sunlight, which can be quite important if you are planning to go hiking in the mountains around Bergen. The last two weeks of May and the first week of July are usually dedicated to the annual Bergen International Festival where the city blooms with musical performances, cultural events, ceremonies, happenings, temporary food markets and pop-up eateries. If you want a true taste of Bergen and a comprehensive and fun way to explore its contemporary urban culture, the time around Bergen International Festival is the best time to visit the city!
Many visitors coming to Norway in Autumn, want to see the Northern lights (also known as Aurora Borealis). Indeed, Autumn is a good time for Aurora hunting, but keep in mind that Bergen is too far South to see the phenomenon. To experience the Northern lights, you must go farther North, to the Arctic Circle.
How to get around Bergen on a Budget
Before you can start exploring in Bergen, you have to get to the city first. Norwegian Air is an international budget airline that flies directly to Bergen Airport, so you will not need to fly to Oslo and then book another flight to Bergen. When you land, head over to Deli de Luca, Bergen Airport Flesland (open 24 hours) to buy your Bergen Card, which will be your all-in-one tool to save money during your stay in Bergen.
It allows you to enter loads of sights and museums for free, opens up for special discounts, but it also allows you to travel from Bergen Airport to the city centre is with “Bybanen” (the City Light Rail) completely free of charge. The journey will take about 45 minutes and if you do not want to purchase the Bergen Card, the cost will be 38 NOK for an adult and 19 NOK for a child.
Holders of the Bergen Card can also travel for free by all Skyss buses throughout Bergen and the Hordaland region (you can eg. take the Skyss bus to visit the magnificent Norwegian fjords), but Bergen city centre can easily be explored on foot too, as it is very walkable and easy to navigate within.
What to expect in Bergen
Keep in mind that even though Norway is situated in Europe, the country is not a part of the European Union. This means that European visitors travelling to Norway must carry their passport with them at all times, and it also means that Norway has own currency: the Norwegian krone. You cannot pay with Euros, yet international credit cards are widely accepted and PIN-code protected credit and debit cards can be used in Norwegian ATMs to withdraw money (you must know the PIN code for your card, as you cannot withdraw money with a signature only). The conversion rate is approximately 1 USD to 9 NOK.
Norway does not have a tipping culture per se, nevertheless leaving a tip is seen as a kind sign of appreciation. It is more common in bars (a bar-crawl is not a budget-friendly activity in Norway though!) than in restaurants. Some restaurants will have the service fee included; if the fee is added on top of your bill, it will be specified clearly.
You can expect easy communication in Norway! Most people speak English fluently, and messages and announcements in train stations, as well as public websites with tourist or transport information, will always be bilingual: in Norwegian and in English.
Budget things to do in Bergen
Bergen Kunsthall, one of Norway’s premier institutions for contemporary art showcasing a variety of exhibitions from international and Norwegian artists, is one of our top recommendations for things to do in Bergen on a budget. With the Bergen Card, you can enter Bergen Kunsthal free of charge; otherwise, the fee is 50 NOK (around 5,5 USD).
To learn more about the history of Bergen and the region, we recommend a visit to the city’s Historical Museum (“Universitetsmuseet i Bergen“). The expositions consist of archaeological finds, collections of urban and rural history and an interesting textile section. Holders of the Bergen Card enter for free, and the regular ticket price is 60 NOK, around 6,5 USD.
A noteworthy tourist attraction, very unique to Bergen is the Leprosy Museum, also known as “St. Jørgen Hospital”. Between 1850 and 1900 Bergen had three operating hospitals for leprosy patients; in fact, the city had the largest concentration of patients in Europe.
The hospital shut down completely in 1946, and the museum now serves as a memorial of thousands of personal tragedies. It is also an important institution that disseminates the Norwegian work and research on leprosy, following the lineage of the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen who discovered the leprosy bacillus in 1873 in Bergen.
An attraction you do not want to miss is the Bergen Aquarium. With your Bergen Card, you get a 25% discount on your entry if you visit in the Summer season (March through October), and November through February, holders of Bergen Card can visit for free with no need for booking in advance. One Bergen Card only allows one person to get discount, so if you are travelling with children, you will probably benefit more from buying the combined family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for 775 NOK in total (around 85 USD).
Apart from introducing you to the underwater lives of the sea creatures, Bergen Aquarium also hosts temporary exhibitions that focus on contemporary topics related to marine life and the underwater ecosystem, like educational expositions about the raising plastic pollution in our seas.
Last, but not least, if you want to relax, experience the best parts of Bergen, meet locals and save money all at once, we recommend you to visit some of the city’s many parks. Check out Muséhagen, Byparken (Bergen City Park), Nordnesparken, and Nygårdsparken.
Located in the very centre of Bergen, “Byparken” is the most popular one, known for its beautiful, neatly maintained flowerbeds, impressive statues and a Music Pavilion. The park is easy to get to by public transportation too! Jump on the Skyss bus and get off at “Byparken”.
Where to stay in Bergen on a budget
To find the best budget accommodation in Bergen Norway, we recommend checking Airbnb, or even CouchSurfing! Especially if you are solo-exploring Bergen on a budget, do check what sofas are available in the city! The CouchSurfing culture is pretty vibrant in Norway, and it is also a fun way to meet other travellers!
One of the reasons why it is more budget-friendly to stay in a private accommodation rather than a hotel or hostel is having access to a pantry area. Preparing food on your own will help you save money during your stay (more in the paragraph below), so try booking a place with a kitchenette.
If you are looking for Bergen cheap hostel… you will probably not find any! Single bed in a dorm room can be around 30 USD (and some hostels add linen fee on top!), and private rooms in hostels are about 65 USD. The difference between a room in a hostel and a room in a hotel or Airbnb becomes fairly small, and the hostels will usually not give you access to a pantry area.
We encourage you to look for private accommodation rather than a hostel or a hotel, and if you find a cheaper place outside of the city centre, remember that you can use your Bergen Card to travel to and around the city for free with Skyss buses.
Budget eats in Bergen
Once again, your Bergen Card will prove very useful here! It will give you discounts on a bunch of different restaurants – both local Norwegian eateries and international diners like TGI Friday’s. You will either get a certain percentage off your bill or be able to upgrade your menu (eg. a 3-course menu to a 5-course menu) without additional fees. Keep in mind that lunch offers tend to be less expensive than dinner menus, so if you want to try an eatery that is more on the high-end, go there during the day, rather than in the evening.
For the best cheap eats Bergen, follow the city’s many students! A popular gathering and eating spot is Kafé Spesial in Christies gate 13 or the neighbouring Brød & Vin café that serves lunch menus for 69 NOK (approximately 7,5 USD). Every Monday, Grøndahls Pub in Bergen’s student culture venue called “Det Akademiske Kvarter” or simply “Kvarteret” offers discounts on microbrews, but even with special deals, going out for a drink in Bergen does not qualify as budget-friendly.
You do not have to be snooping too much around the city for cheap eats though! Your choice of accommodation will also determine whether you can save money on food. If you book an Airbnb with a pantry, you will be able to prepare your own food (Rema 1000 and Kiwi are the cheapest supermarkets), even pack lunch every day and enjoy it in one of Bergen’s beautiful parks.
Another tip to save money is to travel with your reusable water bottle. Norwegian tap water is safe to drink, tastes great and spares you from buying (inadequately expensive) bottled water! Last, but not least, avid buying snacks at petrol stations, of you need something to nibble on, you want to get it from a supermarket!
Cheap tours to do in Bergen on a budget
Walk with a Witch in 16th Century Bergen Audio Tour
Are you looking for a fun tour around Bergen that you can join at any time that is convenient to you? We recommend a “Walk with a Witch in 16th Century Bergen”. The audio guide will play on your smartphone, and the instructions will activate automatically following your smartphone’s GPS and the VoiceMap mobile app, which can also work offline.
On this audio-guided tour, you will follow Anne Pedersdotter, who was convicted of witchcraft and burn at the stake in the late 16th century. You will walk around Vågen, the fjord of Bergen, discovering the city’s 16th-century landmarks, including Lille Øvergaten, the oldest cobbled street in Bergen. The tour will conclude at the site of Anne’s execution, the Witches’ Monument on the tip of Nordnes.
Plant A Tree Tour
Want to leave a positive footprint from your visit to Bergen? Join a tree planting tour in Bergen; you will meet friendly locals who care about their region and the general well being of our planet. The tree planting takes place on Mount Floyen, and your pick-up can be arranged from several meeting spots in central Bergen. This tour is easily adaptable to your schedule, and you can join it every day of the week, between 10 AM and 5 PM.
Mountain Bike Rental at Mount Floyen
Mount Floyen is also a popular spot for cyclists! Enjoy the pristine environment of Mt Floyen on two wheels, riding down mountain trails, admiring views of the beautiful Norwegian scenery. You can pick your bike at the top station at “Fløyen Aktiv” and from there, you can either go on your own or join one of the guided bicycle tours that will bring you to the best and the “secret” places on and around Mount Floyen.
Tour to Sognefjord, Gudvangen, and Flåm
This tour is not the cheapest endeavour available, but it gives you Norway in a nutshell! It is a full-day guided tour from Bergen that will bring you to some of the most amazing Norwegian Fjords: the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord. This tour also includes a visit to the ancient village of Gudvangen. If you are willing to pay a bit extra, you can join a cruise from Gudvangen to Flåm, where you will find the museum of Flåmsbana railway and a popular local microbrewery.
Recommended tours in Bergen
- Best Views of Bergen – Segway Day Tour
- City Walking Tour – Bergen On Foot
- Via-ferrata Tour in Bergen
- Plant A Tree Tour
- Bergen Classic. Hiking from Mount Ulriken to Mt Floyen. Vidden trail.
- Mountain Bike Rental at Mount Floyen
- Private Transfer: Bergen Train station – Hotel Transfer
- Bergen Card
- Bergen: Mostraumen Fjord Cruise
- City Sightseeing Bergen Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
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