We left Oslo around 7 or 8 in the morning, boarding an NSB train bound for Bergen/Bryggen. I’d done a little research, which touted this train ride as one of the most beautiful in all of Europe (and also the highest rain line in all of Europe). This was, hands down, the most gorgeous train ride I’ve ever taken. For near seven hours, my eyes were completely transfixed on the scenery. Simply said – it’s stunning. Absolutely stunning. I can only imagine what this ride looks like throughout all the seasons and how gorgeous it is during each one.
This was my favorite leg of the trip and quite possibly the most memorable for me. There’s just something really special about seeing new terrain and gorgeous scenery that sticks with you in a different way than a restaurant, museum, or palace. It’s just…magic.
I booked our train ride directly through the NSB website, I would recommend you check out the Fjord Tours website, first, before your booking. I say and recommend this because we (later) found out many Fjord tours you can take include portions of the Olso to Bergen train ride. So, you might be able to combine some additional views/ferry rides, hiking, exploring with a little more preparation and research. Though, backtracking on this train ride would be FAR from the worst thing in the world, I just wished I’d done a little more research (up front), as I think it would’ve been nice to get off the train here and there and explore some of the terrain/areas more. Next time, for sure.
I mentioned above this is also the highest rail line in all of Europe with the highest altitude of any other train route in Europe. The highest point is Finse at 1,222 meters above sea level and another area passes over Hardangervidda, which is the highest mountainous plateau in all of Europe.
I, honestly, cannot think of a better way to tour this absolutely gorgeous country. I fully recommend this train ride to anyone/everyone. I’d just say, don’t go tired, be prepared to just gaze out the window and enjoy the ride.
We arrived in Bergen around 3 or 4pm, checked into our hotel which armed us with a map and some insider information regarding what to do/see in Bergen/Bryggen. We decided we’d first make our way over to Bryggen to book a fjord tour for the next day (Bergen to Mostraumen, which could only be booked through the Bergen tourist office) and sight-see explore before dinner.
Bryggen (or the wharf in Norwegian) is a series of buildings lining the fjord in Bergen and has been on the UNESCO list for World Cultural Heritage sites since 1979. It is delightfully quaint and cute in a way we didn’t experience in other Scandinavian cities. Even their manhole covers are quaint/cute (see above). The city was very hilly, with little boxes on hillsides, fountains, greenery throughout, and pretty architecture. In many ways, Bergen reminded me more of mainland Europe than what we’d seen throughout Scandinavia. It was a nice break at the end of the trip, as the city had a completely different vibe.
Most of the tourist shopping (if not all the shopping) is in Bryggen. We were in the market for some scarves, socks, wooden knives, etc. While there were many options, we didn’t buy any of those. I will say, however, behind the first row of buildings (which seems FAR more touristy) there are art galleries and smaller boutiques with local handcrafts that I found far more interesting. In fact, we purchased some artwork from Kvams Flisespikkeri’s gallery. I’m a sucker for black and white artwork, and this felt special and different – one of my favorite buys from the whole trip. So, I’d say explore a little deeper. As a bonus, all the stores seemed to be open quite late (much later than here in France…and on a Sunday, even).
We’d started to feel hungry and decided on a gastropub called Pingvinen. If you’re in Bergen, eat here. You will not be sorry. They have an amazing selection of local beers (I think we each had two), friendly wait staff, and AMAZING local dishes. I ordered a fish stew (you might be seeing a pattern here) and Jim ordered Plukkfish. I think Plukkfish is my new, favorite pub food. What is it? Well, we gushed to the wait staff about how much we loved it, and they shrugged, “It’s just just salted cod mixed with onions, butter, and potatoes (mashed together) and topped with bacon.” He was so blase about it, but believe me…it is out of this world comfort food that was exactly what we wanted/needed. This place easily won it’s way into my top five meals in Scandinavia. You really can’t beat simple and delicous, you just can’t.
After dinner, we made our way back toward the funicular up to Mt. Floyen, where we hoped we could catch the sunset (and we did). This afforded us some especially pretty views of the city along with some tasty Norwegian desserts. It was really nice after running around everywhere else to take a couple hours to relax and just enjoy a sunset. I highly recommend this if you’re in Bergen.
Before the sun set, we noticed people with incredibly large soft serve cones. As such, I made my way into the gift shop and purchased two “softis” dipped in cocoa powder. It looks like this, but ours was probably twice the height. By some miracle, we both finished one, but it might be better to split one, as it’s delicious but a LOT of ice-cream. As we ate our ice-cream, it started to get a little cooler (which was lovely) and the viewing deck began to crowd with photographers and tourists alike (I recognized at least three couples who were also eating at Pingvinen earlier).
It was another stunning sunset. I’m starting to think Scandinavia has sunsets all over the rest of the world, as they’re incredibly long, beautifully purple/pink/orange, and just perfect.
We ended our night with a stroll through town, back by the fountains and then back up the hills as the next day we had a fjord tour to look forward to!