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Oslo versus Bergen: Which is best for a weekend break?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Oslo versus Bergen: Which is best for a weekend break?
When choosing between Bergen and Oslo for a weekend break, visitors tend to consider ease of access, natural scenery, attractions, and outdoor activities. Photo by: Lachlan Gowen / Unsplash & Darya Tryfanava / Unsplash

Oslo and Bergen both have unique draws that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to Norway each year. If you only have time to visit one of these cities, it's best to know which one is ideal for you.


Each of the two cities in question – Oslo and Bergen – have a special charm and enough memorable attractions to fill two or three-day weekend breaks with excitement.

So, the choice for a weekend getaway largely depends on your personal preferences and what you're looking for in a two or three-day break.

When choosing between Bergen and Oslo for a weekend break, many visitors consider aspects like ease of access, natural scenery, attractions, and outdoor activities.

To help you make an informed decision, we will outline the strengths of both cities in these areas.

Accessibility: The advantages of visiting the capital

When it comes to ease of access, it's hard to argue the fact that Oslo, as the capital and the transportation hub of Norway, is better connected than Bergen. This is especially evident when it comes to international flight connections.

However, that doesn't mean that Bergen doesn't have a solid offer of international flight connections – it's just a smaller city overall (with a population of roughly 286,000 people), so it can't match the offer of the capital (which has over 650,000 inhabitants).

In practice, that means that if you're visiting Bergen from a smaller European country, like, for example, Croatia, you'll likely struggle to find direct flights (the summer season being the exception to the rule), which will result in a longer and less smooth travel experience.

Both cities have comprehensive public transportation systems, which means they're pretty easy to explore through their respective public transport networks.


City vibe: Vibrant versus cosy

As the capital of Norway, Oslo is usually considered more cosmopolitan than Bergen – although Bergen, too, has a vibrant international community of students and international residents.

Still, the overall impression you'll get from a weekend in these two cities is likely to be quite different.

In Oslo, you'll feel spoiled for choice (by Norwegian standards), with a wide range of cultural activities, shopping districts, museums, and a lively nightlife scene. You should expect a bustling and fast-paced urban experience, although not as overwhelming and certainly still more relaxed than in larger European capitals.

In Bergen, on the other hand, you'll more likely focus on the unique and cosy charm that accompanies its Old City (especially the old wooden buildings in the area close to the UNESCO-listed Bryggen Wharf), the narrow streets, and strong connection to the maritime history of western Norway.

The relaxed atmosphere in Bergen and the somewhat slower pace of life make it a perfect place for strolls or taking your time to pick a restaurant to try the local cuisine (focus on the seafood and make sure to try Bergen's traditional fish soup while you're at it!).


Key attractions

In Oslo, you'll find a number of internationally renowned attractions such as the Munch Museum, the Museum of the Viking Age (currently closed but scheduled to open in 2025/2026), the Royal Palace, and the Opera House – most within walking distance of each other.

The famous Nobel Peace Centre, situated at the heart of Oslo on City Hall Square, is also a prominent attraction in the capital.

READ MORE: One day in Oslo: How to spend 24 hours in the Norwegian capital

Serving as the museum dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize, it offers a range of exhibitions, events, and guided tours that draw inspiration from the ideas and accomplishments of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates.

Bergen, on the other hand, is famous for its Bryggen Wharf and colourful wooden houses, the Fløibanen funicular that takes visitors to Mount Fløyen with amazing panoramic views, and the Fish Market (which has retained its popularity with tourists despite its reputation of being a "tourist trap" in recent years).


Natural scenery and outdoor activities

While Oslo is situated by the Oslo Fjord, and its urban landscapes boast many green spaces, Bergen is a bit more recognised for its stunning natural beauty, as it is surrounded both by mountains (a whopping seven of them!) and fjords (among its many nicknames, one of its most used ones is the "Gateway to the Fjords").

Bergen is positioned between the Sognefjord (the longest fjord in the world) and one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway, the Hardangerfjord, making it an excellent starting point for fjord tours and unforgettable experiences.

READ MORE: 24 hours in Bergen: Everything you should see and do

Being closer to nature, the city is also a better fit for visitors who value outdoor activity opportunities at their doorstep – from hiking and fjord cruises to biking and excursions into the nearby mountains.

It has to be said that Oslo also has numerous outdoor options, including hiking in the surrounding forests, biking along the fjord, or swimming in the summer, though it might take you a bit longer to reach them, depending on where you find accommodation.

Ultimately, if you're interested in a dynamic city with a plethora of cultural activities, dining options, and urban attractions, Oslo might be the better choice.

On the other hand, if you're an outdoor activity aficionado and prefer a slower, cosy atmosphere, Bergen might be the choice for you.


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