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

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


While it is technically true that both cities speak the same language, the different dialects spoken in each are very different 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 when 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. 

The Local has put together several guides to try and help you get up to speed with the dialect in Bergen. 

READ MORE: A beginner's guide to the Bergen dialect



It's easy to associate all of Norway with a fresh blanket of snow. 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. 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 also home to plenty of buildings constructed over the last couple of decades.

Some of the new buildings, like the Oslo Opera House, are beloved and world recognised. Others, like the Munch Museum, are more divisive

Even many residential areas in Oslo, like Torshov and Grünerløkka, were not built up until a housing crisis in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Conversely, Bergen has buildings dating back to the 16th century, with plenty of tight medieval streets. Bergen's storied history is a source of pride for many of its locals. 

For many, this can make Bergen feel more charming, quaint and historic than Oslo.

While both cities share decent proximity to nature, Bergen edges Oslo as a cable car 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 nearly two and a half times the size of Bergen when it comes to population. 


Oslo has just over 700,000 residents, while Bergen has around 292,000 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. 

Oslo's population could also be considered a lot more diverse than Bergen's. According to figures from Statistics Norway, more than a third of Oslo's inhabitants were born in another country or to two foreign citizens living in Norway.

Bergen, on the other hand, is much closer to the national average of 18 percent of residents coming from a what's classed as an "immigrant background". 

READ MORE: Which towns in Norway have the highest proportion of foreign residents?

Cost of living 

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

It costs an average of 12,387 kroner per month to rent in Norway, according to figures from the rental agency With an average cost of 16,011 kroner per month Oslo is the most expensive place to rent in Norway. Bergen is significantly cheaper with a rental property costing 11,688 kroner per month. 

A monthly transport ticket is slightly cheaper in Bergen, but there isn't too much in it. Meanwhile, kindergarten in Bergen costs roughly the same as in Oslo



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