Bergen is a beautiful city in Norway that if you happen to be cruising through the Fjords you are most likely to visit. We were fortunate to take the journey on the P&O Britannia in 2017 and found ourselves unusually in a dry day in Bergen!
Bergen is known to have rainfall on an average 240 days a year, it is known as the most rainy city in the world! So a dry day is unlikely for your visit - we got very lucky!
So pack your raincoats and umbrellas and head out and see this stunning city - here are some ideas of what you can do if you have not booked a tour.
Walk to Town
The ship ports close enough to the city that a stroll in is a pleasant introduction. A 15-20 minute stroll will have you in the thick of things in the centre of town.
Cable Car or Funnicular
If you love spectacular scenery Bergen offers two vantage points to take in the views. From the city centre you can catch a Funnicular to the mountain of Fløyen at 320m above sea level. Many tourists opt for this as you can walk to the Funnicular from the city centre - but beware it is busy!
An alternative is to take the cable car where you will get the most spectacular views of Bergen from a top Mt Ulriken - the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. The cable car is a little out of the city centre so you need to catch a bus from the city centre right near the tourist information centre.
The bus journey takes you out of the centre of town so not only do you get to the less crowded mountain, you also get to see a little of the outskirts of Bergen as you travel to the cable car.
The cable car is a seven minute journey to the top which takes you to 643m above sea level. Upon arrival you can stop at the restaurant, let the kids play on the playground, do a zip line across the top of the mountain or just sit and take in the views.
There are also walking trails so if you have the time and are up for an adventure you could walk one or both ways to take in the views at a leisurely pace.
Visit the Fish Market
In the centre of town you will find an open air fish market showcasing the best of the regions local catch. It is vibrant and bustling offering tourists and locals alike a taste of Bergen. Try things like Reindeer hotdogs, Kaviar and of course salmon is plentiful and presented in a myriad of options.
See the Wooden Houses
Bergen actually has one of Europe’s largest collections of wooden houses and they are spectacular. If you are after some great photos of colourful houses and buildings this is the place to see and walk amongst them.
Whilst many fires throughout the years have seen these wooden houses disappear, the centre of Bergen houses Bryggen - a UNESCO World Heritage Centre - the old fishing wharf. The area is beautifully restored and houses shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy. Just walking amongst these restored buildings is a great way to spend your day.
What did you do on your day in Bergen? Leave your tips and ideas in the comments for other travellers.
Itchy Feet Family
Norway is simply stunning. No pictures can capture the beauty that is the majestic snow capped glacial mountains, the crystal clear waters of the Fjords and the picturesque colourful wooden villages that scatter amongst the journey.
A great way to experience Norway is from a cruise ship and here are a few reasons why.
There is a lot to see in Norway, you want to take in as many of the towns/villages as you can.
However packing and unpacking, moving from one lodging to the next, can be tiresome. Once on a cruise ship, unpack once and your accommodation moves with you.
2. Visit More Than One City
On the P&O Britannia 7 night itinerary, we visited four cities in Norway. Stavanger, Olden, Flam and Bergen. Although only for one day each, the cruise gives a nice sampler of what Norway has to offer.
3. Enjoy the Scenery At Night
Norway enjoys long days with very little darkness in July. During the day you can explore the cities, at night watch the scenery pass you by. Pre-dinner drinks at the front of the ship in the comfortable bar with 180 degree views of where you are heading, dinner by the restaurant window as you watch Norway pass you by, post-dinner walk on the outside deck, there is an endless supply of beautiful scenery as you cruise through the inlets of the Norwegian Fjords.
4. Great for Families
Cruising Norway is a great option for families as it provides a balanced holiday for all. On the P&O Britannia kids are well looked after with an awesome kids club and amazing staff.
The kids can make friends and play whilst the adults enjoy on-board activities and the scenery. Lets be honest, a seven and 10 year old are going to be more interested in learning how to spin DJ decks than marvel at snow capped mountains!
5. Shore Activities
We picked some great shore activities for our day stops in Norway.
Kayaking the Fjords in Olden, taking a cable car up 2000ft in Bergen, visiting the street of colours in Stavanger and experiencing the world famous Flam Railway.
There is a lot you can cram into your 7-8 hour port stop and we made sure we certainly did!
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Travelling through the Norweigian Fjords is an amazing experience. On a seven night P&O UK Cruise out of Southampton our passage took us through scenery like no other I have ever seen.
On port stops we were able to get up close and personal to the waterways, in the city of Olden Itchy Feet Family took to kayaks to explore the Nord Fjord.
When looking at shore tours offered on the cruise, this was the only one that resembled any level of physical activity. The cruise line clearly catering for the more senior cruiser who enjoys a bus journey or walking tour. We jumped at the opportunity to do something active for the day.
Olden, with a population of just 2,500, more than doubles in size when a large passenger ship such as the 3,500 passenger Britannia comes in for the day. Our guide, Richard, loved the opportunity to meet new people and showcase his beautiful part of the world.
Although we were travelling in summer (July), the weather was still very cold. At a cool 13 degrees, we were just thankful it was not raining.
The boat house was located a short walk from where the ship docked so there was no need for a bus journey to our tour, we were off the ship and in kayaks within an hour.
After boarding the kayaks in a small inlet, we travelled under a bridge before heading out into the large open Fjord. The water was calm for the most part, however the wind did pick up whilst we were out which restricted how far out the Fjord we travelled.
The operator provided lifejackets and waterproof skirts and with the ice cold glacial waters we were encouraged to try stay dry in the boats! For the most part we did, except when the kids decided to test how cold the water was by putting their arms in the Fjord - without rolling up their sleeves!
The water was fresh on top - although the Fjord ran into the ocean, the salt water sits at the bottom of the Fjord whilst the top is crystal clear drinkable water from the mountains.
The tandem kayaks allowed us to pair up one adult with one child and although the kids were also given paddles, it was really the work of the adults that got us through the journey. With the kids at the front, their paddles mostly served as large splashing devices with the aim of seeing who could get which parent wetter!
It was quite an impressive view in the middle of the fjord with the majestic Britannia one side of us and waterfalls and snow capped mountains the other.
We kayaked for two hours on the Fjord, stopping every 15-20 minutes or so for narration from our guides. We learnt the main industries in the area were tourism, farming and petroleum and were encouraged to try the Norweigian strawberries, they came highly recommended.
Although the tour did not travel too far from where we started, we could always see the ship from any point of the tour, it was a fun couple of hours and provided some activity in between narration. Much more fun than sitting on a bus.
By the end of the two hours we were quite cold, especially given the children were wet up to their shoulders! If I was to do it again I would make sure we wore wet weather jackets and that the kids rolled their sleeves up before testing the water!
The short tour also gave us time to head back to the ship to refresh and refuel before taking a stroll around the picturesque town.
Have you taken your kids kayaking on holiday? Where have been some of the memorable locations?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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In July the Itchy Feet Family took a seven night cruise departing Southampton, UK, through the Fjords of Norway. As an Australian family - there were a few noticeable differences to travelling on a British based ship as opposed to an Australian.
Here were our top eight stand out observations: - good, bad and indifferent.
1. No Lanyards
On Australian ships we love wearing our room keys on lanyards in a kaleidoscope of colours proudly around our neck. On the Britannia there was barely a lanyard to be seen. No fire sale on day 1 to get your blinged out lanyard - the Brits just put them in their pocket!
2. Women Love a Lager
I have never in my life seen so many women drinking pints. It is the beverage of choice for men and women alike. I will never lose the picture of a 70 year old lady necking a lager like I drink a bottle of water after a work out! And with so many options of craft beers and beers on tap - why not enjoy a lager! The bars offer sampler paddles of beer so you can try a range of craft brews from varying regions across the UK. And if you simply can’t find a waiter - there is a self-serve beer tap in the buffet just swipe and pour!
3. Long Life Milk
Brits don’t mind a bit of long life milk - Aussies prefer it fresh. The advantage is that there was a kettle in the room with mountainous supplies of tea/coffee and long life milk. At any time - day or night - a cup of tea was available in your cabin. In the buffet restaurant long life milk in sachets is kept on the tables so tea could be poured at the table and you did not have to get up for milk. For me, I prefer milk from a jug rather than a sachet.
4. No Baristas
Australians are coffee snobs and we love a good coffee made by a Barista. Although there was Costa coffee on board - the machines were automated. The coffee waiter simply pressed a button and the machine did the work.
5. Kids Can Not Roam
When the kids are put into kids club, they are secured. In Australia generally children can sign themselves in and out of kids club from age 10. On the Britannia, kids have to be 13 years old to gain that privilege.
The kids club was also open quite late - until 11pm at night. The Brits like to party so the kids are well looked after so the parents can enjoy the onboard evening activities.
6. No Leaving Kids On The Ship
If parents go ashore - the kids go with them. In Australia and the US kids clubs operate on port days and parents are able to leave the ship without the kids. This is not allowed on the Britannia.
Not that we have regularly done this - however there have been a few occasions when we have taken the kids off the ship in the morning and then enjoyed an afternoon exploring further without them when they were too tired to continue.
On this particular cruise our first port day was met with cold, wind and rain. Whilst we put ponchos on the kids and headed out into the awful weather, they were not impressed. We did not get to explore much - there was only so far we could force them to walk in the rain. The adults however would have soldiered through - but back to the ship it was. The kids enjoyed their afternoon in kids club whilst the adults had to sit on deck and wonder what could have been explored at a port stop they would probably never return to.
7. Best of British
Best of British sail away party, Best of British quiz, Best of British party night, Best of British stage show - I did not realise the British were so patriotic. It was actually great to see - even if it meant at Trivia time we got the so called “easy questions” wrong. We simply had no chance when the theme of the quiz was British TV show songs.
8. Formal is Formal
Wow can the British bring out a frock! Where did all these women get such formal gowns from. I have never seen so many long flowing ball gowns and men in tuxedos. Even on smart casual evenings the British glam it up! Maybe they don’t get out much - maybe they are just more proper than us Aussies. Even on the last night of the cruise passengers were suited and booted with high heels, frocks and ties on display.
Cruising is a great family travel option, if you are considering a cruise outside of Australian waters you may want to consider a few of the cultural differences you will encounter. Have you cruised abroad? What differences did you notice?
Itchy Feet Family
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Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.