Bergen is the gateway to the Norway’s coastal fjords.
Easy to reach from Oslo by plane or train, it’s the jumping-off point for many visitors to Norway who want to see the beautiful coastline. It also happens to be a sister city of one of the places I’ve called home: Seattle. (Seattleites may find the weather familiar—Bergen is notoriously rainy, but when the sun comes out, it’s absolutely magic in that hearts-in-your-eyes Disneyland kind of way.) Whether Bergen is your destination or just a stop along the way for your trip, this city has a lot to offer. So grab a cup of strong coffee, put on some Kings of Convenience, and kick back as I take you on a virtual stroll through the cobbled streets.
Husfliden is my favorite spot in Bergen for yarn, as it’s the retail branch of the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association (and the store contains much more than just yarn).
I’d suggest heading for the shop on Vågsallemenning which is a proper Husfliden store, rather than the one located at Bryggen, the famous wharf.
While the Bryggen shop does have some handknit sweaters for sale, it’s much more like a tourist shop full of trinkets of ugly troll figurines and glittery keychains). Husfliden on Vågsallemenning has two floors, with yarn both downstairs and upstairs. Being part of the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association, they specialize in Norwegian brands.
Modellstrikk is a beautiful little shop that’s fairly centrally located.
They also primarily carry Norwegian brands, but a few foreign brands can be found here as well. The samples in the shop are always lovely and provide a nice cross section of both simple knits with a modern aesthetic alongside more traditional pieces, both of which are popular in Norway today.
While it’s technically not within Bergen itself, the first museum I mention must absolutely be the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum in Salhus.
It’s a short drive from the city center, and also accessible by bus for those traveling without a car. This museum began its life as a wool factory in 1859 and was turned into a museum in 2001—and it is once again a working factory.
In its heyday, not only was wool prepared and spun into yarn here, but knitted fabric was also made by machine and finished pieces were cut and sewn together, all under one roof—most unusual.
Make sure to get there in time for the guided tour (in English!) and stay afterwards for waffles or cake in the café space, which is bright and airy with a view of the water. You can also take home some souvenir yarn, spun by Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk and then plied at the museum, or one of the Salhus sweaters made there.
Also worth a visit while in Bergen is the sprawling complex of art museums, KODE.
The city center complex consists of four museum buildings spanning a wide variety of architectural styles and was the Norwegian museum association’s museum of the year in 2014. The range of stuff to see at these museums is too immense to name here, but if you like art, craft, or design (we’re all raising our hands, right?), you’ll find something of interest here.
Coffee and Food
As in Oslo, it’s easy to find good coffee in Bergen. My first choice is always Bergen Kaffebrenneri whose coffee is as good as their logo.
Their café located on Kong Oscars gate (“Bergen Kaffebrenneri Vågen”) is quite central and very cozy.
The organic bakery chain Godt Brød is always a good place to stop when you need a quick break.
With coffee, tea, pastries, sandwiches, snacks, and free wifi, it’s the ideal place for weary travelers to rest their feet. You’ll find these located all over Bergen.
Pingvinen, or the penguin, is one of Bergen’s icons.
This is your spot if you’re interested in trying some traditional Norwegian food in a cozy atmosphere. It’s one of those places the locals always tell visitors they should go.
When the weather’s fine, you’ll find the whole city outdoors. Bergen’s location tucked up into the bottom of the surrounding mountains makes it absolutely beautiful from many different vantage points, but here are a few of my favorite sunny day spots.
Taking the funicular up Fløyen with the funicular Fløibanen is absolutely worth the trip, though you can hike up the mountain as well. There’s a large viewing platform and a café/gift shop at the top, and if you’re not ready to come down right away, there are plenty of approachable hiking trails to explore while you’re up there. On a clear day, the view over the city is incredible.
Nordnes Park, located on the water at the end of the Nordnes peninsula, is a gorgeous spot on a sunny day with large, shady trees and a seawater pool for swimming. Nordnes itself is a particularly picturesque area of Bergen, so it’s worth walking out to the park if you can. This would be one of my picks for an outdoor knitting spot on a sunny day.
Other Points of Interest
Bergen’s famous wharf, Bryggen, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and rightly so.
Lining the old waterfront, the colorful crooked wooden buildings give way to a tiny network of pedestrian alleys.
These buildings are a relic of the days of the Hanseatic League, but they now house all sorts of small businesses, including artists and craftspeople.
Bergen’s also a great city for secondhand/vintage shopping. There are lots of antique stores around, but for vintage clothing, Vintage Sisters is a great choice. A little further out of town (but accessible by public transit), the intriguing Ane Blich House carries a mix of new designer clothes as well as vintage clothing and home items. The prices may not be thrift store prices but the finds are likely to be a little bit more unusual.