Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a 24 hours in Bergen itinerary. Contemporary Bergen is an adorable, mid-sized Scandinavian city. It’s just perfect for a long weekend of exploring, eating, and enjoying the local art, music, and culture. But keep in mind that until fairly recently, Bergen was the richest and most powerful city in Norway.
Accompany me for this 24 hours in Bergen itinerary and we will learn the hidden psychological depths of this city by the sea. Plus we will dine on wolf. Follow me on this Bergen itinerary, into the hall of the mountain king!
24 Hours in Bergen Itinerary
What to Pack and Where to Stay?
Norway can be on the rainy side. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Sweden.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out and about without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
And if you are looking for great deals on over 200 hotels in Bergen for your Bergen itinerary, just click here.
24 Hours in Bergen Itinerary
Morning: Troldhaugen Tour
I’m sure that all the Internet Strangers out there reading this post think that Troldhaugen is some silly word I just made up. After all, we all know that there are no trolls left in Norway. Well, two things. First off, maybe there are some trolls left in Norway. I mean, probably they’d be in hiding from troll hunters. That’s just science. And second off, Troldhaugen is the name of the most famous Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg.
In the summer season, KODE Museum arranges a bus tour that conveniently leaves from the Bergen docks. It’s the perfect start to any Bergen itinerary. It will take you all the way to Grieg’s villa where you can have a tour of his home, see the museum dedicated to his works, and hear a brief Grieg concert. It’s both an excellent value and the perfect way to start your day in Bergen.
Some of you may be thinking that you’re not familiar with Grieg. I guarantee you that you’ve heard at least one of his pieces, unless you have tragically been living in an underground cave your whole life because you were kidnapped by trolls as a baby. Full disclosure: my sister was named after a character from Grieg, which either biases me for or against him depending on how I feel about my sister at any given moment. And without further ado…
three fun facts: edvard Grieg
1) Grieg and Glamour
Edvard Grieg was born in 1843 in Bergen, making him the city’s most famous son. When he was a young man, he thought he would be a priest. Fortunately for music lovers everywhere, his family friend with the magical name Ole Ball convinced him to become a musician.
This probably worked out for the best. Grieg enjoyed the finer things in life, so a vow of poverty wasn’t for him. His favorite food was oysters with champagne. On the house tour, you can see his gorgeous oyster tray. Sadly, photo taking in the house is not permitted. But you can take all the photos you want in the Grieg Museum, so I’m happy to share Grieg and his wife Nina’s spiffy concert going duds. I’m sure they went very well with the oysters and champagne.
2) Behind every great Norwegian…
Another reason Grieg probably wouldn’t have made a great priest is that he fell madly in love with his first cousin. Her name was Nina, and he claimed that she was the inspiration for all his music. She loved flowers, so he had a rose window installed in the house for her to enjoy year round. (You can vaguely see it in the photo above.)
Some of you might feel that it’s creepy to marry your first cousin. But is it as creepy as kidnapping a baby and raising it to be your troll bride in a secret mountain lair? Definitely not. So when it comes to creepy Norwegian marriages, Grieg isn’t even in the top ten.
3) Troll Time
Grieg was a Romantic musician, which doesn’t mean that he sent dozens of roses and love poems on a regular basis. Most Romantic artists of the 19th century were also interested in creating national art. After all, many countries in Europe, like Norway, were just discovering their national identity around that time. Grieg loved Norwegian folklore and used it as the inspiration for some of his music.
In fact, Grieg loved Norwegian fairy tales so much that he kept this little figure of a red troll with him as a good luck charm. He was a bit of a superstitious guy, so he also had a lucky pig and a lucky frog with him.
Having three different lucky charms kind of sounds like cheating to me. I feel like they’d start to cancel each other out. If you’re interested in having just one lucky charm, you can buy a replica of Grieg’s frog at the museum gift shop. I got one and since then I’ve quit my miserable job and started an online business. I give all credit to my mass-produced rubber froggie!
24 hour treat: Grieg concert
The tour advertises a lunchtime concert, but lunch isn’t included. You can pick up something small at the museum cafe, or you can wait until you get back to Bergen. The concert is a 30 minute long performance of Grieg’s piano music. My favorite piece played was the melancholy “Lonely Wanderer“. I am not sure what Grieg had to be so sad about when he was a famous musician, married to his favorite cousin, who ate oysters and champagne on the regs, and had not one but three lucky charms. But I guess into even the happiest life a shadow must fall.
24 Hours in Bergen: Itinerary
KODE looks like the name of a society of super villains from a James Bond knockoff. But actually it’s the name of a society of museums and composer homes all around Bergen. I cannot at all find what KODE stands for, but I suspect it is something in Norwegian. The museums consist of four different buildings cleverly named KODE 1, KODE 2, KODE 3, and KODE…I forgot the last one. Those sound like terrorist threat levels and not museum names, but maybe I just don’t understand because I’m not Norwegian and I don’t have a lucky troll.
It’s easy to hop from one museum to the other on one Bergen itinerary because they are all located around the Lille Lungegårdsvannet lake pictured above. But for today, we are just going to focus on KODE 3, largely dedicated to the works of Edvard Munch and other famous Norwegian artists.
During the summer, you’ll get there in time for a free guided tour focusing on everyone’s favorite screamer, Munch. But no matter what time of year you visit, you’ll be able to find…
approximately top 5: 24 Hours in Bergen Itinerary KODE 3
1) Johan Christian Dahl
Johan Christian Dahl, or JC Dahl to his posse, is widely considered to be the first great Norwegian artist. Like Grieg, he was a Romantic who wanted to share the beauty and majesty of Norway with the world, probably in an effort to convince Denmark and Sweden to stop colonizing them. Dahl was mostly famous for his sublime landscapes of the Norwegian countryside, but I am partial to this smaller painting of jumping fish. It reminds me of how important the fish trade has historically been to Bergen. And it also reminds me of the Hanseatic Museum in Bergen that had the flying fish skeletons over my head. I think this painting is ever so much more charming, don’t you?
2) Farmhouse Interior
This rather prosaically named “Farmhouse Interior” by Bernt Gronvold is one of the more charming paintings in KODE. I’m a sucker for a good trompe l’oeil painting, and I like how it almost looks like this little boy is about to fall out the window. Nothing is funnier that a kid falling down because of his own stupidity. That’s just science.
3) Theodor Kittlesen’s Trolls
You thought we had enough trolls for one Bergen itinerary? Foolish mortal! This is Norway! There can never be enough trolls. Theodor Kittlesen was a late 19th-early 20th century artist famous for his paintings and sketches of trolls. This one above has the cutest title I’ve ever heard. Are you ready to hear it? I’m not sure you are. But I can’t see you, so I have no choice but to trust you.
The title of this painting is “The Troll Who Wonders How Old He Is.” That’s so cute! Because trolls live for such a long time that they probably do actually forget their age. I feel this way often myself. In fact, deep down, aren’t we all just trolls who are wondering how old we are?
Now begins the Edvard Munch portion of the Bergen itinerary. Get ready because this guy’s personal life was B-A-N-A-N-A-S. This painting above was aptly named “Jealousy”. The green-tinted dude in the foreground was Munch’s friend, the poet Stainislaw Przybyszewski. The cavorting lady and gentleman in the background are none other than Przybyszewski’s wife and Munch himself. Apparently, though Munch was good friends with the poet, he was even better friends with the poet’s wife, if you know what I mean.
This painting became controversial for obvious reasons. So Munch did what any serious artist would do and…charged people more money to come and see it. I wonder how you say, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” in Norwegian.
5) Women on the Bridge
It will surprise no one to hear that Munch, who is most famous for his painting of a bald ghost screaming, did some time in the puzzle house. When he emerged, his paintings were apparently brighter and more colorful. We can see an example of these colors above.
But though Munch’s color scheme cheered up, his love life remained depressing. He proposed marriage to the woman pictured in this painting, but she declined. I can’t imagine why. However, I suspect it’s because he went around all the time with his mouth wide open and his hands on his cheeks. “Stop making the Home Alone face!” his sweetheart would admonish him. But Munch wouldn’t listen.
6) Portrait of a Businessman
Munch didn’t just make his lady friends unhappy, he also made his clients unhappy. Munch was commissioned to paint the portrait of this statuesque businessman seen above. However the businessman was unsatisfied with the final product because he claimed it made him look too arrogant. Munch pointed out that he could just as easily have painted the businessman with no hair, screaming on a bridge with his hands plastered to the side of his face. Then the businessman didn’t think the portrait was so bad.
24 Hours in Bergen: Itinerary
Evening: Dinner at Lysverket
Some might say that Lysverket, which is the only restaurant in Bergen recommended by the Michelin Guide, is a New Nordic restaurant. Those of you who have been following my travels in Scandinavia on this blog will know that New Nordic cuisine combines an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients with modern takes on traditional culinary techniques.
But one thing I like about Lysverket is that the chef has a bit of a sense of humor about his cooking. He calls his style “neo-fjordic” cuisine because, you know, there are fjords in Norway. As with any meal, the less talking and the more eating the better. Well, I’ll be doing the eating, you’ll just be looking at my pictures and drooling. So without further adieu let’s end our 24 hours in Bergen itinerary with…
approximately top 10: lysverket
1) Amuse Bouche
At a restaurant like Lysverket, we are looking for local and seasonal ingredients, ideally both. The amuse bouche was three different types of smoked fish. There is nothing more authentically Norwegian than smoked fish. Until the 20th century, the Norwegian daily diet was basically smoked fish, potatoes, porridge, and if you were lucky, some fermented goat milk.
2) Bergen Fish Soup
Most tasting menus in Scandinavia begin with several small dishes, possibly just one bite large, until the main courses kick off. This small bite was a take on the classic Bergen fish soup. The Bergen fish market has been around for centuries, so naturally the Bergendians used that fine local seafood to make warm chowder to heat up those freezing, 10-month long Norwegian winters. I like that the chef included this popular classic at his chichi tasting menu restaurant.
3) Oyster Emulsion
I think oyster emulsions are catching on in Norway because it was the signature appetizer at Maaemo in Oslo. It’s like my grandmother always told me, “If all your friends jumped off an oyster emulsion, would you do it too?” This was special because it’s served with teeny mahogany clams. When these clams are harvested from Norway’s coasts, they are usually about 200 years old. So they must be the clams who are wondering how old they are. I would think eating a 200 year old shellfish would be unsafe, but these were completely delicious. Suck it, shellfish expiration dates!
4) Scallop roe
The next appetizer was scallop roe served with nasturtiums and summer radish. Eating flowers is very big in New Nordic cuisine. I suppose they don’t want to waste any part of the plant. I had never eaten scallop roe before even though I’ve even plenty of scallops. When I was researching this article, I discovered it’s because American scallop roe doesn’t taste as good as European scallop roe. That’s because American scallop roe spends too much time watching television and eating fast food, naturally.
5) Roasted cauliflower
This was either the final appetizer or the vegetable main course, depending on how you look at it. The cauliflower was roasted with miso and honeysuckle. I’ve frequently seen cauliflower roasted with miso, mostly because I go to a lot of Japanese restaurants. But I love the idea of using honeysuckle as a seasonal summer ingredient. Eating this dish reminded me of being a kid and trying to suck the nectar out of the honeysuckle plants in my dad’s garden without him catching me.
So I got a little mixed up in the intro to this blog post. Our fish course of the day is wolffish, not wolf. The wolffish is a freaky blue creature that lives in the Baltic Sea around Norway among many other places. (Google “wolffish skull” if you’d like to never sleep again.) My wolffish was served with cabbage and a sunchoke crumble. I had never tried wolffish before, though Google tells me you can now find it in the United States at Trader Joe’s. That either means it’s no longer cool or it’s now very cool. I can never be sure with Trader Joe’s. The taste reminded me of monkfish more than anything else.
7) Crab Salad
The second fish course was a crab salad served with fresh and dried cherry tomatoes. Some New Nordic restaurants don’t serve tomatoes because they are not native to Scandinavia. Well, I’m not native to Scandinavia either, but I still make a charming addition to any restaurant. And so does the tomato. There’s nothing that says summer to me more than a fresh tomato. Forget beaches and sunshine. Give me a ripe tomato any day and I feel like I’m a kid on summer vacation.
8) Pork with Morels
The main course was pork served with morel mushrooms. I like how this dish showcased the meaty quality of the morels. Apparently mushroom hunting is a popular sport in Norway during the summer months. I guess this is why Norway always does so much better in the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics. Mushroom hunting’s not an Olympic sport, Norway! Try practicing the shot put instead.
9) Cheese Plate
Norwegians love their cheese, as they love any kind of food that is moldy and fermented. My cheese plate paired a blue cheese with a milder soft cheese. The accompaniments were mustard and a rhubarb paste. I liked this because you could make your cheese spicier or sweeter as you preferred. Also this was the first time I had seen either rhubarb or mustard on a cheese plate before.
10) Sorrel Ice Cream with Strawberries
The dessert at Lysverket was the best dessert I ate in Scandinavia. It was sorrel ice cream with fresh strawberries, and a white chocolate and molasses crumble. Norwegian strawberries are the sweetest and most flavorful I have ever eating in my life. If you’re in Norway during strawberry season, just eat every single one you can find. And look at the presentation of this dish! It looks just like a little Norwegian wood. I think I can see the troll who is wondering how old he is sitting on one of those strawberries.
11) Chocolate Cake with Brunost
By the time my second dessert came around, I was stuffed to my wolffish gills. The waitress said this was very common, so she asked me if I wanted to take my chocolate cake home. This special cake came with a layer of brunost, which is a marvelously sweet, caramelized Norwegian brown cheese.
The cake made a perfect breakfast the next morning even after my Bergen itinerary was over. Frankly I needed a little magic because I was sharing a small apartment with a group of four young men who wouldn’t stop hogging the shower or banging on the walls. So this cake really helped me imagine that they weren’t there. Thanks cake!
That’s a 24 Hours: Bergen Itinerary
What would you do with a 24 hours in Bergen itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Bergen? Does being at Trader Joe’s make you cool or uncool? And is it worse to marry your cousin or to profit from having an affair with your friend’s wife? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a 24 hours in Bergen itinerary. If you have time for another 24 hours in Bergen itinerary, try this itinerary.