Written by Kjetil Leknes
Welcome to Bergen!
Bergen is known as the gateway to the Norwegian Fjords, and as the city between seven mountains. The people of Bergen (Bergensere) take great pride in their city, and a common expression among the locals is that “they’re not from Norway, but from Bergen”. This makes for some rather peculiar traditions that you won’t find anywhere else in Norway.
For instance, the safest sign of upcoming spring is seeing marching bands of young locals in uniforms on the streets, playing drums. They’re most active around Norway’s Constitution Day on May 17th, on which, seemingly, every single inhabitant in Bergen is out celebrating.
While Bergen is one of the rainiest cities in Europe, the locals know how to enjoy the sun when it’s out. That’s why every sunny spot of the city’s bars and restaurants is filled to the brim with people enjoying an ‘utepils’, literally an outdoor lager. The word could loosely be translated as enjoying a beer outdoors in the sun.
Det Akademiske Kvarter:
Det Akademiske Kvarter, often just called Kvarteret, is usually the first port of call for every hungry and thirsty student in Bergen.
The place is run by student volunteers, and works as a restaurant, bar, and a venue for concerts and student organizations. It’s thus an excellent place to get in touch with other international students as well as Norwegians.
The place features an excellent lunch and dinner menu and has lots of exciting events organized throughout the week.
I specifically recommend checking out Studentersamfunnet’s events, which are held at Kvarteret and at a few other venues in Bergen.
Hulen is another great student-driven bar and concert venue in Bergen. Most events are concerts, and many excellent local bands perform here. Hulen is located inside a former air-raid shelter, and has a very fun vibe whenever an event is on.
USF Verftet is a cultural centre featuring concerts from a multitude of famous Norwegian and international artists. Lots of the Norwegian artists that are currently making a name for themselves on the international stage play here when they’re not touring the rest of the world. See them at this venue before all your friends back home figure out who they are.
Litteraturhuset literally means “the house of literature”. While it’s not a student hangout per se, Litteraturhuset organizes or hosts debates and talks about political and societal issues, many of them in English, that any international student should attend.
Going out to restaurants in Norway can be expensive, but you can save money by eating during lunch. Most of the cheaper restaurants are located in the area around Marken and Nygårdsgaten.
A restaurant specializing in tapas with creative Nordic twists, using locally sourced products.
Horn of Africa:
An excellent Ethiopian restaurant. Everything is delicious, but make sure you try the fantastic Ethiopian coffee they serve there. Also, vegetarian dishes are available
A restaurant focusing on healthy and organic food, with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Hang out there during one of their drum circles or live music nights, or lay back in their lounge with a good book or a board game.
Be sure to go there for lunch, as it’s considerably cheaper than their dinner menu.
A fire round of some of my other favourites in Bergen
Norwegian comfort food at student friendly prices.
A tiny Mexican food joint with the best tacos in Bergen.
Italian restaurant with pizzas, pastas, gelato, and baked goods.
Nirvana kebab or Daniel rullekebab:
The best places in Bergen for kebabs. Note that Daniel Rullekebab is a bit outside of the city centre, but it’s well worth taking a detour for.
A small, cosy place with cheap Greek pies.
Café spesial: A student institution, with cheap and delicious food. You should try their pizzas and breakfast shakshoukas.
Best cocktail bars:
I’ve haven’t found better cocktails anywhere else! Get there early and play Mario Kart on their Nintendo 64.
For the beer fanatic
Henrik Øl og Vinstove:
Henrik Øl og Vinstove has a wide selection of beers on tap, and a warm atmosphere.
The best places for bar games:
Bar3 has a wide array of bar games to play, including billiards, shuffleboard, ping pong, darts, pinball and foosball.
King Oscar is one of Norway’s largest pool halls, so you should definitely check it out with your friends.
Muskedunder is worth going to for their tasty bar snacks as well as for their shuffleboard in the basement.
For a different bar experience
For an eclectic and fun bar experience, be sure to visit BarBarista, which has amazing waffles and board games. It’s a fantastically cosy place to hang out, with a fascinating interior including everything from colourful umbrellas and musical instruments hanging from the ceiling to a classic vinyl shelf and turntable corner.
Festivals, events, and sights:
As previously mentioned, Bergen has a buzzing music scene, most active during late spring and early summer.
Nattjazz is one of Norway’s biggest jazz festivals, taking place every May/June. Another festival taking place in the same time period is:
Festspillene i Bergen (Bergen International Festival). It’s a music and theatre festival taking place in venues all over the city. The festival offers substantial discounts for everyone under 30.
A festival hosting big international names every June, at the Bergenhus Fortress. This year’s line-up included: Halsey, Pet Shop Boys, Ellie Goulding, Aurora, and Liam Gallagher.
An experimental electronic music festival at Østre. The ground floor contains a small art exhibition, while the concerts are held upstairs.
Bergen is known as a city of several famous and infamous black metal bands. Check out the local and international metal scene by attending either Hole in the Sky or Beyond the Gates. For general metal and rock concerts, Garage is typically the venue to go to.
A farmer’s market on the wharf in Bergen.
Thursday morning rave at Landmark:
An incredibly fun event bringing people from all ages and backgrounds. Dress up however you like, come as you are and go dancing before classes start.
KODE is a collection of art museums in Bergen. Most buildings are located around Lille Lundegårdsvann, and Contain art pieces from Edvard Munch, the painter of The Scream, as well as pieces from Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee.
Troldhaugen is the former home of the classical musician Edvard Grieg, known for works like “Morning Mood” and “In the Hall of the Mountain Kings”.
Lysøen is the estate of the late violinist Ole Bull, who had an international superstar status in his days. He wasn’t famous only for his music, but also for his many eccentric projects, like trying to establish his own colony in Pennsylvania, in the United States, named Oleana.