Hello, my name is Faron and I have just returned from spending semester 1 of my 3rd year at the University of Bergen in Norway! Bergen is the second largest city in Norway behind the capital Oslo, and is located on the mid-West coast. This positioning is responsible for its notorious maritime climate (not a lot of snow, but rain like I’ve never known). HOWEVER, this has also provided the city with a rich nautical and cultural history, and the ability to make a very hardy umbrella that I think will survive wherever I take it. If you like to brave the outdoors surrounded by the most astounding scenery and then return to one of many cosy cafes, Bergen is for you. To that end, I will proceed to list my ‘Bergen Top 10’, of things that make up for the rain.

  1. Bryggen and other history stuff

Have to start off with the regular touristy things, but the famous Bryggen is famous for a reason. Originally built to facilitate trading and merchants in the 14th century, the iconic and colourful houses have been a UNESCO World Heritage site for a while now, which is a good job because they suffer, as wooden buildings do, from a disproportionate amount of fire. This has left some of them covered by a sheet that looks like the front of the building to maintain appearances whilst they’re repaired. They’re also apparently sinking? But since it’s a heritage site it is able to be maintained and remain an amazing spot to peruse. You can walk between them and find several old shops selling traditional Norwegian items, as well as a wonderful little cafe serving the Norwegian ‘vaffel’ (waffle) with jam and sour cream (weirdly nice). Just behind that you can find the old fortress that protected Bergen’s ports and neutrality during numerous naval conflicts, as well as some very old and colourful streets that I liked to just walk down and see what I could find.

The variety of museums available in the immediate area is also astounding, encompassing music, arts, science and history. Me being the marine biologist/oceanographer I am, I was partial to the Bergen Maritime Museum and the University Museum. The Maritime Museum unsurprisingly houses lots of boats, from the viking to the modern age. It also recounts how maritime activities have shaped not only Bergen, but also Norway as a country and is definitely worth a visit. The University museum is owned and curated by the University of Bergen so is therefore FREE to students. That got it off to a very strong start and it continued to impress with its wonderful exhibits on natural history and marine biology. Like a mini Natural History Museum, 10/10.

Near the international student village there is also the Fantoft Stave Church, one of the iconic mediaeval wooden churches, and Gamlehaugen, a beautiful palace which serves as the home to the Norwegian Royal Family. Outside of these times the grounds are completely free and open to walk around (thank you Norwegian right to roam), and it is a lovely swimming spot in the summer. 

  1. THE SEA

Technically Bergen’s coastline is surrounded by many small islands so the water surrounding it is characterised as a fjord rather than the sea but the point still stands. These dark, deep fjords are accessible from many points in Bergen, some of which you can also swim from in the summer (I would recommend renting a sauna house on the fjord where you can brave the cold and then immediately run into the warm comfort of the sauna). There are also lot’s of boating opportunities and numerous fjord cruises available. These can take you to see stunning scenery around the local fjords, and may even stop in some small towns such as Flåm, where you can purchase some very tasty local cheese. I myself also enjoyed just sitting with a coffee and googling the names of all the boats to see what they do and where they’re going.

  1. Bergen Aquarium

The city’s aquarium is located at the end of one of the peninsulas and can be accessed by bus or a very scenic walk. My other marine biologist friend and I rate this aquarium 10/10 just for the penguins alone, who are all named and have been assigned colours so you know which is which. The aquarium is also home to a group of sea lions, otters and of course many freshwater and marine fish. Given that some of the modules I studied in Bergen were fish based, it was very useful to walk around the aquarium and consolidate my knowledge, especially since one of my lecturers was on the board there. They’ve got some really interesting exhibits with a lot of information on species, conservation and how it all relates to Norway’s ecosystems.

  1. Hiking/walking/other outdoor excursions

Probably the main thing that makes Bergen stand out is the sheer amount of outdoor activities on offer. This is something that is very important to Norwegians and is ingrained into their culture. And you can see why when you’re able to find somewhere to hike almost anywhere within and surrounding the city. Bergen is known as the city of the 7 mountains, all of which are accessible to climb and have a range of trails of varying difficulty. The most popular is Fløyen, which is accessible from within the city centre. You can walk up the winding path within the trees or you can get on the Fløybanen which will take you to the top, where you’ll find the most brilliant view of the city and surrounding mountains, and some good cafes. There’s also a troll village and a herd of goats to find! The other most popular mountain is Ulriken, the tallest of the 7 peaks. The day I climbed Ulriken was one of my favourite days in Bergen, despite falling down a sinkhole when I went off trail. Top tip: don’t follow old Norwegian people rather than your map because you think they’re going the easy way. They’re not. They can handle it. You can’t. Despite that I had a great time and the views were fantastic. The cafe at the summit is also top tier, I met my friend there (she’d taken the gondola, a good option for non-hikers) and then we took the stairs down.

There are also loads of good hikes outside of Bergen, most of which are accessible by bus (very cheap, reliable buses); these are a great way to explore the wider area and trails can be found on most hiking apps. Beyond that there are many student organisations which plan trips further afield to places such as Lofoten, as well as skiing/ice climbing trips in the winter. Whatever your ability/interest in walking and the outdoors, there is something for you in Bergen (and you can always reward yourself with a cafe trip afterwards, that’s how I bribed my friend to go on hikes with me). Be sure to check for ticks afterwards though!

  1. Subsidised stuff

Despite Norway being a notoriously expensive place to live in, a lot of things are very subsidised thus very affordable, and there are a lot of student discounts! I found that the main expense was food, which is quite outrageous, but at least it’s good quality. However, housing is comparatively affordable, as well as transport. The main transport company Skyss runs the light rail (Bybanen) and bus services in Bergen, all of which come under one ticket. For a student this is about £35 per month if you get the monthly pass, which covers unlimited travel on all services, including ferries to the surrounding islands! Norway is also very big on cultural enrichment, so museums, concerts and plays are also fairly cheap for students. You can see the famous Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra for about £7, and I even saw a full production of The Nutcracker for around the same price!

  1. Nightlife

Bergen does in fact come alive at night, especially at the weekend where you’ll find most people out and about, either at clubs or bars or even just out for a nice late-night meal. Despite this it maintains its safe feeling and the tram services continue to run late into the night so you can get home. BEWARE! McDonalds increases the prices at night so I recommend getting food beforehand. Overall very upsetting but the only downside to an otherwise brilliant night out. There are many bars and clubs to choose from and the big bonus is… there are no entry fees! You are free to hop around as many places as you wish to experience all the many different types of music on offer without spending a fortune. 

  1. The people

I met some amazing people during my time in Bergen, both Norwegian and international. I lived in a flat with several other international students from a range of places including Germany, the US and Denmark, and I definitely made some friends for life! Everyone was lovely and it was great to be able to share and exchange cultures. The Norwegian people, counter to the stereotype, are also very friendly, and it all combines to create a uniquely international city that is rooted in Norwegian culture and laid-back attitude of Bergen.


Ah the skoleboller, possibly one of the best foods of all time. Originally what was given to children after they returned from school, it can now be found in most bakeries across Bergen. It’s basically a cinnamon bun, with icing and coconut on the top, and custard in the middle. Truly a delight, 10/10. The best ones in my opinion can be found at Baker Brun and Søtt + Salt. If coconut is not for you, there is a version without as well as a skillingsboller, which is essentially just a cinnamon bun but is still very tasty. The cafe culture in Bergen is major, with a brilliant selection of food, coffee and hot chocolate for whenever you fancy. Seriously, wherever you are there will be a bakery. 

  1. The university and academics

Ah yes, the actual reason I went to Bergen. Seriously though, the university is amazing. Not only is the standard of education and teaching superb, but the university is also very good at including the social aspect of university life, offering many subject specific and non-specific events to relax and socialise at. The lectures themselves are also quite laid back, and there is often a lot of discussion within them. I studied a module on Chemical Oceanography, the area I want to pursue, in the geophysics building, the beautiful, old building near the lake. I very much enjoyed the module, as well as the fact that the scientists finally got to be in the nice historical building for once. The entire department was very friendly and knowledgeable and there was free coffee! The other modules I studied were more fish based, which I took as that is what the university/Norway specialise in. These were heavily biological, which is a change from what I usually study, but I left feeling like I truly understood fish and my friends and family now get to hear all of my random fish facts, so that’s nice I guess. The lecturers for these modules were two of the funniest men I’ve met and were very passionate about what they do. I also got to dissect a giant cod!

  1. The general vibe

Whilst all of these points above contributed to what made Bergen an amazing place to live, a big part of it was also just the general laid-back nature of the city. I think this is similar across Norway, but particularly in Bergen, a huge importance is placed upon enjoying life and not stressing about much. The work-life balance is incredible, I never felt overworked, nor did I feel like there wasn’t enough to do. I was able to make the most of a beautiful city and an amazing country without it affecting the quality of my studies, which I was extremely thankful for. What a lovely, happy, relaxing time I had, I will definitely be back, if not for my PhD then definitely sometime after that!

(and as you can see from the photos, it wasn’t always raining)

My top 10 in (Bergen?)

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