Food Tourism: Bergen, Norway.

I have wanted to go to Bergen for years. I can’t recall when it first was scribbled onto my ever growing list of places to travel, it was that long ago, but it has been high on the list ever since. The thoughts of a town nestled among the fjords with seven mountains peering over it seemed magical to me; a place so different from anything I’d ever seen, I just had to get there . And even though I’ve been to Norway before, Bergen did not disappoint as it is unique to the other places I had visited (Oslo, Tromsø and Svalbard.) The beauty of Bryggen (wharf) along the waterfront with the Fløyen mountain behind it just takes your breath away every single day that you’re there.

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(View of Bryggen, Fløyen and the Fish Market)

One of the highlights of Bergen, besides the most stunning scenery within the city and the surrounding area, is the focus on fresh local produce. Smack bang in the middle of the city is it’s famous fish market. The array of fish, shellfish and small goods is impressive. There are two aspects to the fish market- the bustling Fisketorget outdoor area and the indoor Torghallen (Market Hall.) Both areas have stalls that offer fresh produce that you can either take away or that they can cook in front of you and that you can eat onsite. In the summer this place is open from 7am till 9pm daily and it is constantly busy. Besides the array and quality of produce, another impressive aspect to this market is that you’ll pretty much find someone who speaks your language- Norwegian, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Mandarin, to name but a few. But even by Norwegian standards this place is pricey.

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(Fisketorget stall, offering an array or salmon.)

When I think of Norwegian food a few things come to mind. Besides their amazing seafood, one of my favourites is their Vafler (waffles) with jam and sour cream, but in Bergen I really had to search for it! Very few places within the centre of town (ie. the touristy areas) had it on their menu. While I did have to look around a bit, it turned out there was a fantastic place only two blocks behind Bryggen, Bar Barista (Øvregaten 12, Bergen).  There is a variety of waffle toppings, great coffee and a good selection of beer too. This places doubles as a cafe and a late night bar, and has funky decor to boot. Definitely worth a visit if you have a sweet tooth, appreciate good coffee or like an outrageous setting to have a beer.

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(Waffles with jam and sour cream and a latte at Bar Barista will set you back around 9.)

One place that came highly recommended, both by tourist guides but also locals, was the Traditional Norwegain gastropub named Pingvinen (Vaskerelven 14, Bergen.) To be honest, I’m not quite sure what all the fuss is about. I’m sorry to say that, but perhaps the hype raised my expectations too much. Whilst the food was nice and it was traditional, it was very basic and quite expensive. However, they do have a good selection of beers, a nice atmosphere and friendly staff. This place is super busy, so be prepared to share a table with fellow diners.

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(Wild mountain trout with baked potato, carrots and cabbage with sour cream approx. €25 at Pinvinen. Two mains, a sparkling water and a beer will cost you approximately 65.)

One place that is a bit off the beaten tourist track, and well worth a visit is Marg & Bein (Fosswinckels gate 18, Bergen.) This restaurant has a lovely Scandinavian vibe that focuses a local, quality produce, and where they change their menu weekly. It is a really popular place so bookings is advised. After being disappointed by the level of food that was on offer in the heart of the Bergen’s centre it was fantastic to see a restaurant delivering this level of quality. Definitely pay a visit if you’re a bit of a foodie.

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(Buttermilk ice cream with Huldreost brown cheese, hazelnuts and dark chocolate sauce approx. €14. A la carte three course meal will set you back approx €125.)

Bergen is a stunning city which has a fantastic fish market and a great variety of restaurants and cafes. Like almost every city that a new traveler visits it is difficult to find the gems among all the tourist traps. Most places within a stone’s throw of the fish market, in my experience, serve average food marketed to tourists. I was pretty underwhelmed for the first few days but after a few google searches and going for walks around the city I soon learned that Bergen has a decent foodie scene. I found a good cross-section of cafes, from funky hippy places to bakery cafes, some of which double as a bar also. The variety of restaurants in Bergen is like most cities, with plenty of American-style eateries and Asian restaurants as well as upmarket dining, the full spectrum is covered. There are some great places to be found, the only main issue is the cost. For example, to buy a few basic essentials (eggs, milk, butter, bread) from the supermarket can cost close to €20. There’s a certain kind of sting to one’s pocket when you pay decent money for an average meal so make use of the internet and research, research, research before your trip. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy great food in Bergen you just have to know where to find it. Happy travels!

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