My name is Kristian Skurtveit and I grew up an hour north of Bergen. When I started my studies I moved to Bergen and have lived here since. My passion for photography started back in 2013 on summer vacation when I discovered an old medium format camera in an old camera shop. With this camera I photographed on and off for a few years.
At some point I became a bit inactive, but when I was on paternity leave I picked up my interest for photography again and it quickly became natural for me to photograph Bergen where I live. Photography has since grown into a huge passion, and I capture the architecture and nature of Bergen, on both analogue and digital cameras.
Why Bergen is Such a Special City
Bergen is a very compact city which makes it easy to move around and discover new places. You get a little bit of everything. The city offers shops, restaurants, museums and lots of activities. Obviously you can’t see all the places in one day, so I always recommend travelers to spend a few days primarily on foot.
Bergen holds a lot of history around every corner and many places have stayed and looked the same for many decades. By walking on foot you get to see a lot of these places which are located quite near to one another. Be sure to visit the small and narrow cobblestone streets, the cozy wooden houses and the hidden gems.
The City Between the Seven Mountains
There is a saying that Bergen is the “City Between the Seven Mountains”. So this makes Bergen a great base to explore the mountains nearby, and the first spot that comes to my mind is to visit Fløyen. There is a great funicular taking you all the way to the top and from here the possibilities are many. Before exploring further, soaking in the beautiful view over the city is mandatory.
Furthermore, there are many tracks leading into the woods but with tracks suitable for everyone, especially for families. On Fløyen you usually take the funicular to the top and plan to use one of the paths on the return way. My personal favorite is to take the trip to Tippetue, and go down to the city center from there. You feel like you’re inside a forest, and maybe you get to see the tallest tree in Norway on your way down.
If you want even more breathtaking views I personally recommend going to Mount Ulriken. Before there was a pathway leading up to the mountain, but now it is more accessible than before because of the sherpa stairs. Always pack your camera on this trip, the view on the top is quite rewarding. It is also possible to reach the top by cable car.
To witness some of the surrounding fjords of Bergen, I recommend taking the bus from the bus station all the way out to Herdla. The view of the Herdlafjord is beautiful from here and it is possible to take a walk on the former airstrip north of the island. Here you can get a closer look at the surroundings and if you have an interest in birds, the island is known for a big variety of bird species and two bird-watching-towers. You can also visit the local museum and get food at the restaurant Biologen.
For more adventures further afield, the fjords of Hardanger and Sognefjorden are a few hours drive from Bergen. Driving north you get to see Sognefjorden – the longest and deepest fjord in Norway. Driving southeast from Bergen you get to Hardangerfjord – known for fruit farming, award-winning ciders and beautiful landscapes.
Visiting Lysefjorden outside Bergen is worth a visit as well, if you don’t want to travel that far. Here you can travel by ferry to the island of Lysøen where the famous composer Ole Bull lived in his spectacular villa.
My Favorite Place in Bergen: Nordnes
My number one favorite place in Bergen must be the part of the city called Nordnes. During my studies I lived here for a couple of years and it has been in my heart ever since. My absolute favorite place in Nordnes is a street called Ytre Markeveien. The street is split in half with an upper and a lower level. Wooden houses, popping colors and friendly people await here.
Also Strangehagen and Strangebakken are great places – you walk around corners that don’t seem to lead anywhere, only to stumble upon a new place where you can wander along further.
10 Best Things To Do in Bergen
1. Spend Some Time in Bryggen
Check out Bryggen but not only the frontside of the buildings. Spend some time going back into the narrow alleyways – and experience the architecture and feel of the historic atmosphere.
2. See the Japanese Cherry Trees in Full Blossom
If you are visiting Bergen in May, go to Festplassen or Støletorget and you will get to witness the nice Japanese cherry trees in full blossom.
3. Plan a City Walk in Bergen
The streets and places I can recommend are: Ytre Markeveien, Strangehagen, Strangebakken, the wooden houses of Kroken, Nikolaikirkeallmenningen, Bernard Meyers vei, Øvre Korskirkeallmenningen and Øvre Blekeveien. Make detours along the way to get the full Bergen experience and stop for quality coffee when you get the chance.
4. Visit Antonio Stasi’s Classic Camera Shop
A place that all photographers must visit in Bergen is Antonio Stasi’s Classic Camera Shop in Lille Øvregaten. A place unique to Bergen and rumors will have it that the camera shop is the oldest analog shop in northern Europe.
5. Jump on the Tram to Møhlenpris in Summer
Take the classical tram going to the neighborhood of Møhlenpris in the summer months. This tram used to roam the streets of Bergen decades ago. Included in the ticket are also a visit to the tram museum.
6. Take a Trip to the University Gardens and Museum
7. Catch the Bus to the Old Bergen Museum
This museum is named Gamle Bergen (Old Bergen). In the summertime you will experience a live show of people acting in the streets. The atmosphere and architecture transports you back to the old days and you get to see how people lived.
8. Sip on Coffee Throughout Bergen
9. Head to the Local Christmas Market in December
If you are visiting Bergen in December, plan on going to the local Christmas market located at Festplassen.
10. Visit Fløyen and Ulriken
Both Fløyen and Ulriken are great in the summer, but can very often offer a unique experience in the wintertime and around Christmas.
What makes many of these places unique is the fact that the streets and buildings hold a lot of history. The city of Bergen is said to be 950 years old, and is also an old Hanseatic city of trade and commerce because of its location by the coast. Therefore the city has also been influenced by other countries and cultures. Maybe that’s why Bergen is known to be a bit different from the rest of Norway and why there is a local saying that “I’m not from Norway – I’m from Bergen”.
What Photographers Should Know
All photographers visiting Bergen should know that a lot of the historical city center has been preserved for many decades. People who have seen my Instagram before know that I like to incorporate a lot of the historical places and architecture into my photos. Going back to photos taken by famous city photographers, you can see that very little has changed over the years.
If you want to capture some really nice architectural photos, bring a wide lens (35mm and wider) and try to capture as much as you can. Trying to capture the narrow streets on camera with Bergen elements in the background can be very rewarding, and something unique to look back on later. If you are planning on hiking Ulriken or Fløyen I would also bring a small tele lens, so you can really capture the beautiful view over the city. Don’t pack too much equipment and bring the camera that you know best.
For smaller trips I would leave the tripod at home – so that you can move around light, easy and fast. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable. I personally like to shoot in a variety of conditions with clouds and not too much heavy sun. If you own a weather resistant camera, that is a bonus. Bergen is beautiful in all kinds of weather, just be prepared beforehand.
Tips for Visiting Bergen for the First Time
For tourists, I would recommend the bus network and a light rail service in Bergen (skyss.no) to get around. If you are staying for a few days and need to use public transport while staying here, you can buy a 7-day ticket which can get you around the city. This is usually cheaper than buying single tickets.
Weather can sometimes be challenging in Bergen, so light-weight rain jackets and clothes are recommended to pack – even in the summertime.
Norwegians can be a bit shy, and don’t often talk to people they don’t know. However, if you are taking pictures of houses and architecture, Norwegians tend to open up and often ask questions about your camera gear, and wonder what you are taking photos of. Don’t be hesitant to talk to the locals, even though we might look a bit shy at first.
The touristy places are where prices can be a bit on the expensive side, but there are many different price categories since you have many options for food, drinks and so on. What I would recommend is trying the Bergen fish soup (Bergensk fiskesuppe) or the Norwegian potato dumpling (raspeballer) at Bryggeloftet & Stuene Restaurant.
Thursday afternoons are usually a good day to try the potato dumplings, as many restaurants offer them. You should also try the Norwegian brown cheese (brunost) which tastes sweet and kind of caramelized. It’s perfect on the top of a newly baked warm slice of bread with butter.
If you are visiting in December, another classical Christmas dish comes highly recommended. The dish is called pinnekjøtt, which is a traditional meal around Christmas time based on lamb ribs. This is often the Christmas dinner in Bergen (but also on the west coast of Norway too).
Most Norwegians can speak a lot of English and therefore it is easy to be understood if you don’t speak the local tongue. However, we always like it when people say “takk” (thank you) and say their greetings in Norwegian like “hei”, “hallo” (hi/hello) or the very Bergen way of saying it – “hallaien”.
Continue Following my Photography
To continue supporting my work, you can follow me on a second Instagram account I started that focuses on the world of analog photography: @filmstreet.analog. I’m also planning on building an online portfolio with a gathering of my best photos, and I am currently looking at different options for this. The best way to contact me for the moment is through my Instagram. From time to time, I get together with other photographers in Bergen and host photographer meetups. That’s all for now – thanks for reading my article!