My first visit to Bergen was September 9, 2014 one year ago today. I came to the city on Norway’s west coast in the heart of fjord land last year to hang out and hike for a week. Statistically, September is the wettest month in Bergen. Last year I barely saw a cloud for the entire week.
I arrived in Bergen for the second time today, September 9, 2015 on a Norwegian Airlines flight from Prague. Once again a cloudless sky over Bergen greeted me. This is the best weather I’ve experienced in the past week in Europe and only the second time I have worn shorts since the first afternoon in Malmo, Sweden seven days ago.
Get high with the locals in Bergen, Norway
With weather this good, 17 C or 63 F, I instantly knew that I had to get high with the locals in Bergen, Norway. That meant after checking into my hotel at 4:30pm, I changed into shorts and tennis shoes, picked up a free apple from the Clarion Collection No 13 Hotel restaurant and headed out the door to stair climb up to the Floyen mountain paths. Within minutes I joined dozens of locals making the same trek.
View over Bergen, Norway from Floyen.
As the Czech Republic is like my beer nirvana, Bergen is my hiking paradise. Bergen sits at the edge of the sea, surrounded by islands and seven mountains.
Norwegian Airlines Prague, CZ to Bergen, NO
Flying to Bergen on Norwegian Airlines was an incredible visual experience today as the clouds and rainstorms over Czech Republic and Germany gave way to mostly clear skies over Denmark and totally clear skies over the coast of Norway. Norwegian offers free wi-fi and with a two hour flight, I gave it a whirl. Loading sites frequently took three or four tries with an error message, but eventually websites loaded. That occupied me for the first hour and then the coast of Norway dragged my eyes away from the computer screen.
The views of the southwest coast of Norway alone were worth the $50 flight ticket price. From ground level, much of the landscape in the fjords are in shadows most of the day, if there is even sunshine to create shadows. From the air, the deep channels in the mountainous west coast with water in the fjords reaching dozens of miles from the open sea to the interior are a sight most people don’t get a chance to see. The coast is usually covered in clouds.
Bergen Airport Transportation
The road out of Bergen Airport is still a mess as I remember it last year. Bergen light rail line between the city and airport is still a year away before scheduled opening. The bus to Bergen runs every 15 minutes and is 90 NOK ($11 USD) one-way; no discount for round trip ticket purchase. The bus is directly outside the airport doors and ticket machines are at the bus stop. There are English instructions and credit cards are accepted, but be sure you have a PIN number for your credit card. The trip takes about 30 to 40 minutes to reach city center.
Bergen Airport Duty Free
Duty Free alcohol at the airport can save big bucks. Six packs of beer were 49 NOK to 55 NOK ($6-$7 USD) for Carlsberg or Hansa (33cL cans). City store rates are about 30 NOK ($4 USD) per can. They even had some Norwegian microbrews, but high-priced at 55 NOK per 0.5 L bottle. I passed on the beer today, but I’ll be picking some up next week before I head to the Lofoten Islands above the Arctic Circle on my return trip to Norway.
Ulriken, Bergen’s highest peak (643 meters; 2,110 feet)
Last September, I hiked Ulriken on my last full day in Bergen. Ulriken looked high from the plane and really steep to me when seen from the airport bus this afternoon. Norwegians label the hike as a green trail, meaning it is an easy hike. I was truly exhausted hiking Ulriken and there was no question in my mind about taking the cable car back down the mountain after reaching the top and getting the fuzziness out of my head. I looked at Ulriken today and thought I was crazy to hike that last year.
This is the view of Ulriken from Bergen city center. The building on the right is Radisson Blu Hotell Bergen.
Floyen is a community hike, Norwegian style
It appears to me that hiking Floyen is the city cultural tradition for a healthy outing in Bergen. I headed out of the Clarion Collection No 13 at 5:15pm. The No 13 hotel is just around the corner to the left on the pedestrian mall in my photo above.
The first thing I came across outside the hotel was an Amnesty International table with advocates approaching people on the pedestrian shopping mall to help Syrian refugees .
Floibanen to Floyen
The paths to Floyen go uphill within a hundred meters from the Fish Market/Bryggen at the harbor; the main tourist center of Bergen. The Floibanen is a funicular from town to the top. The view platform is 350 meters in elevation (1,050 ft) over the harbor city.
I rode the funicular one time last year. It is fun for the engineering aspect of the transportation. Floibanen is the way to the top for babies and tourists.
Bergen Guide says the hike takes about 45 minutes. That is pretty accurate for a tourist. It took me 45 minutes to hike from Clarion Collection No 13, so the same time should apply to Radisson Blu Royal and Radisson Blu Hotell Bergen.
Square across from Bergen Fish Market with Floyen view platform seen in upper right on mountain ridge.
The first time I hiked Floyen last year, I had leg muscles ache in places I didn’t know could hurt. Personally, my good news is I hiked up Floyen without having to take a sit down break this afternoon. I am in better condition than one year ago. On the other hand, the only people I passed up on the trail were toddlers and couples in their 70s. Last year I wrote this piece about Floyen – Walk like a Norwegian up Floyen in Bergen. After reading my article again, I know I am in better shape this year. No muscles in my body ache and the toddlers and much older people were passing me up last year.
There are a couple hundred stairs to get past the hillside houses of Bergen or you can wind around the road and bypass many of the stairs at a longer but more leisurely walking rate.
Floyen and much of Bergen have terraced levels of housing part way up the surrounding hillsides, and then forest and natural landscapes for the higher parts of the mountains. There are dozens of miles of hiking trails all around Bergen.
Soon after you pass these houses and pool, the paved road and stairs change to a winding dirt/gravel trail.
It felt good to be out hiking with hundreds of other people. Most of the Norwegian women and men look healthy and hearty. There were many exercisers from people in their teens to fifties running up and down the trail. Families push baby strollers over the rocks. There were about a dozen of toddlers and children hiking up and down Floyen without complaint.
I truly adore Bergen primarily due to its hiking culture. I usually hike alone and it felt good to be outside with hundreds of people spending their early evening hiking up Floyen.
The Floyen platform view at the top rewards you for effort and sweat. When I saw the clear skies flying into Bergen this afternoon, I knew I had to hike Floyen before 6-9 pm dinner. I headed out at 5:15pm, reached Floyen at 6pm and I was back for dinner shortly after 7pm.
If Floyen is not enough of a workout, then you can always climb Ulriken for a little more strenuous climb.
Floien Folkerestaurant at the top of Floyen is a full-service historic restaurant. Ulriken is the tower on the distant peak.
Ulriken, the highest of the peaks surrounding Bergen, also has a restaurant beside the mountain top tower. There is aerial tram transportation to the top of Ulriken, if you simply want the views without the sweat.
View of Bergen from Ulriken taken during my hike last September. The white dots near the top of the hill in center is Floyen.