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Oslo versus Bergen: Five big differences between Norway's two largest cities

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected] • 27 Jan, 2023 Updated Fri 27 Jan 2023 16:40 CEST
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There are a number of key differences between Oslo and Bergen. Pictured are the two cities. Pictured: The Local, Photo by Lachlan Gowen on UnsplashPhoto by Andreas Dress on Unsplash

Sitting on opposite sides of the country are Oslo and Bergen, but a lot more than a distance of nearly 500 kilometres distinguishes Norway's two biggest cities from one another.

New York or Los Angeles. Sydney or Melbourne. Hamburg or Berlin. Like many countries, picking between the two major cities often turns into a contest of culture, a question of lifestyle and a matter of preference. 

While Oslo and Bergen are both quintessentially Norwegian cities which represent the country well, there are also several significant differences between the two, be that geographical, cultural or linguistic. 

Language 

While it is technically true that both cities speak the same language, the different dialects in the two towns are distinctive from one another. 

Almost every foreign resident in the country will have experienced or heard an antidote of someone learning Norwegian in and around Oslo and then feeling like a rabbit trapped in the headlights trying to understand the dialect from the Bergen area for the first time.  One of the key differences is that people in Bergen don’t roll their r’s but instead use a guttural more pronounced r. Additionally, there is no female noun. 

Weather 

It's easy to associate all of Norway with a fresh blanket of snow regarding the weather. But there are significant differences between Bergen and Oslo. 

Sitting in the valley of seven mountains and right on the coast, Bergen has its own unique microclimate. 

This microclimate won't be for everyone, as Bergen is one of the rainiest cities in Europe and the rainiest in Norway by far. Bergen experiences rainy weather between 202 and 239 days a year. While rainfall is recorded on most days in Bergen, it doesn't necessarily mean that it buckets down the whole time. Instead, this figure also includes light and intermittent rainfall. 

Conversely, Oslo is a lot less rainy and can have pleasantly warm and sunny summers. 

In the winter, Bergen is a lot milder and typically sees temperatures above freezing, and very little snow, for much of the season. 

Bergen feels more historic

Much of downtown Oslo was built in the mid-1800s, while the city centre itself, from the Oslo opera house down Dronning Eufemias street, is chock-full of modern architecture. Some of them, like the Oslo Opera House, are beloved and world recognised. Others, like the Munch Museum, are more divisive. 

Conversely, Bergen has buildings dating back to the 16th century, with plenty of tight medieval streets. 

For many, this can make Bergen feel more charming, quaint and historic than Oslo. And while both cities share decent proximity to nature, Bergen edges Oslo as a cable car that can be taken directly to the mountains surrounding the city, and the city itself acts as a gateway to some of Norway's most majestic fjords. 

While Oslo feels more like a city

As we've already covered, it can feel more like Bergen has a smaller, cosier feel than Oslo. That's because Oslo is two and a half times the size of Bergen when it comes to population. 

Oslo has around 630,000 residents, while Bergen has 270,000 residents. So while those looking for something more quaint prefer Bergen, Oslo has much more of a city feel. 

That said, Oslo will still feel somewhat smaller and less busy than a typical European city. 

Cost of living 

The largest difference in the cost of living between Bergen and Oslo is that renting is significantly more expensive than in Bergen.

 A 2-room apartment of around 50 square metres in the Oslo districts of Sentrum, Frogner, Ullern and St. Hanshaugen costs 13,200 kroner a month.

Comparatively, renting in Bergen costs between 10,600 and 9,700 kroner a month, depending on how centrally one chooses to live.

It is also cheaper to get on the property ladder in Bergen than it is in Oslo. 

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Frazer Norwell 2023/01/27 16:40

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