A Slow Weekend in Bergen

Scandinavia is always my favourite destination for a slow holiday. To me, there’s no better place to unwind and take things slow than a Nordic city or a cabin in the Scandinavian wilderness. The way of life over there is the epitome of slow living, giving priority to the things that really matter.

This time, we headed to Bergen on the west coast of Norway for a short but sweet three-day trip. It was our first visit to Norway outside of Oslo, and I was excited to see more of a country that was fast becoming one of my favourite places to visit. For weeks leading up to the trip, I was envisioning colourful wooden buildings, looming mountains, vast forests and dramatic fjords. Bergen didn’t disappoint.

I was determined to take this trip at a slow pace, despite how much I want to see and do in Norway. I’m hoping to return next year to travel by train and see more of the country heading further north, so I was content to keep this trip short and sweet, based in one place. We were only in Bergen for three days and I didn’t want to cram too much into our time there, so the only things I planned were a morning trip on the fjords and a morning spent up Mount Floyen, walking in the forest. The rest of the time, we just wandered around the city, stopping for coffee and cinnamon buns or for an expensive drink.

Bergen is a city suited to wandering. It’s centre is compact and easy to walk around, and public transport wasn’t even something that we considered. There are obviously both new and run-down structures, like in any city, but there are several pockets of the city where the streets are lined with colourful wood-clad buildings. We stayed just a minute’s walk from the funicular station, in a neighbourhood that contrasted traditional wooden houses with political street art, intriguing shops and hip bars and cafes. We spent some time wandering around these streets, popping into an antique shop filled with Mid-Century homeware that I wished I could fill my suitcase with, and eating a surprisingly good beetroot burger in an American-themed diner. If you want to see a more traditional neighbourhood with picturesque streets, walk up the hill behind the funicular station or wander around the Nostet area of the Nordnes peninsular. For places to drink and eat, Skostredet (Folk & Rovere) and Nygardsgaten (Apollen and Kafe Spesial) were our favourite locales.

You can’t come to Bergen without taking a boat trip on the fjords. It’s pricey, but worth splashing out on. We booked through Visit Bergen on the Fjordcruise to Mostraumen. I’m not normally keen on organised tours or trips with a large group of people, but once we entered the fjord, I didn’t care about the crowds of people surrounding me on the deck, or the biting cold wind freezing my fingers. Cliffs loomed up, dark and dramatic on either side as we sped through the deep waters, occasionally passing cute little red, white and yellow wooden houses that were completely isolated. Other than the daily boat speeding past, living there must be completely tranquil. After passing through a tiny passageway, the boat headed straight for a waterfall streaming down the cliffs, to collect water and allow us all to drink a cup of the most delicious, fresh spring water. Visiting this small fjord has only whet my appetite for returning to Norway and exploring some of the more dramatic landscapes.

Another essential experience on a visit to Bergen is taking the funicular up to the top of Mount Floyen and viewing the city from above, admiring the relationship between the water and the land. Once at the top of the funicular, we wandered around the forest, attempting to follow one of the trails before getting a little bit lost and decided to head off the path. Despite only being a couple of miles from the bustling funicular station, it was easy to find complete tranquility in the woods, and we didn’t see another person until we looped back to the main path. There are several wooden shelters in the forest, some prepared with fresh piles of wood and pre-made fire pits, ready for the next group of wild campers looking for somewhere to spend the night.

It was refreshing to visit someplace where my to-do list was so manageable that I din’t have to try to take things slow - it just happened. We even managed to head back to our apartment for a nap each day, taking slow travel to the extreme. Unless you have several walks or day trips planned, two or three days is enough time to experience Bergen, as I did begin to get itchy feet on the last day. If we’d had more time, I would have liked to have taken the epic train journey to Oslo (with a detour on the Flam railway) but not this time. We headed to the airport early evening on Monday, feeling content after a slow-paced long weekend in a city that is already tempting us to return.