Urban Hiking in Bergen, Norway: Mt. Ulriken and Mt. Fløyen
Many people who go to Norway visit its big cities, like Oslo or Bergen, sometimes take a cruise through fjords or visit easily accessible natural attractions, like the Glacier. Very few decide to go hiking in the Norwegian mountains, as they are not ready for the challenge or just don't see it as fun.
When I hiked for a few weeks in Norway this past summer, I fell in love with this beautiful land. The fast-flowing streams filled with melting glacier water, grey rocks creating majestic landscapes, smaller and bigger alpine lakes with crystal-clear water.
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Not ready for long hiking trips? Urban hiking is for you!
The good thing is, you can have a bit of this experience without leaving the town. Even the biggest Norwegian cities are very close to nature, and it often takes a long walk, a bus ride or a few stops by a train to arrive in a pure and stunning natural area.
Bergen, the second-biggest city of Norway, lies at the western coast of the country. Its houses were often built on rocks and steep slopes of the surrounding mountains. If you have a chance to fly into Bergen, you can see the jaw-dropping setting for this city, with the many mountain peaks, lakes, fjords, and islands.
Urban Hiking in Bergen: Mt. Fløyen
As part of the Bergen experience, one must go up at least one of the famous Seven Mountains surrounding the city: Mt. Fløyen. Easily accessible by the cute Fløibanen funicular can be reached by everyone. Although it's far from very high: it's 400 m above the sea level, it provides incredible views to the whole area.
The ride by the Fløibanen funicular is a fun ride in itself - I used it when I was the first time in Bergen, some four years ago. This year it celebrated its hundredth birthday and is one of the main attractions of the city. It has two wagons that are built in a way that counters the steep slope of the mountain. It has three stops on the road: Promsgate, Fjellveien, and Skansemyren.
If only you can, it's worth taking a walk up the mountain instead of the funicular. In summer there are very long lines of tourists hoping to reach the top. There are a few options as to how you can get to the Fløyen - you can start by walking up the popular pedestrian walkway through the narrow streets of wooden houses - a treat in itself. The path leaves the homes and reaches woods after a while, and you can keep on going the main path till you reach the top.
Fantastic net of day hikes
You can also choose to take a bit rougher trail. I found this trail on the fantastic site UT.no and decided to give it a try. This site is a must for anyone who thinks of doing some hiking in Norway. You can plan your trek, learn about mountain shelters and even help in navigation (as long as you have internet access).
Just take a look at the thick web of trails in Bergen:
In the top left corner you can see part of the trail through the island of Askøy . I hiked about half of it and will write about it soon. When we zoom in, we can clearly see all the many options of hiking around Mt. Fløyen:
With the map as a guide, I continued on the pedestrian road and instead of turning right up the zigzagging way, I continued straight. Within a few minutes of leaving the well-maintained pedestrian path, I reached a wild path turning right and taking me up the steep slopes of the mountain.
Hiking atop Mt. Fløyen
Although I could hear the urban sounds and see some houses peeking through the trees, it felt like a regular hiking path in woods. There is a fantastic fast-flowing stream with waterfalls, and you can feel like you were miles from any town. It was hard to believe I was still within the city!
When I reached a bigger path, I had a few options for hikes. I chose to go to the Fløibanen station, circling a small lake, as hiking around the mountain was not my only goal for the day. It was almost a shock when I reached it, and there were crowds upon crowds at the view platform, the souvenir shop, and the cafe. There is a lot of trails to choose from, and you could even go on a day-long hike on a trail linking this peak with the much higher Ulriken mountain. I decided to walk down the popular tourist path and felt refreshed after this urban hike.
If hiking up the steep trail is not exactly your thing, you may want to go up using the funicular but walk down on the wild path. It's well worth it! Just make sure you wear a pair of comfortable shoes. You can also get up and down with the funicular but walk around the lovely trails around the top - grab some food with you and make a picnic surrounded by peaceful forests.
Although it is said that Seven Mountains surround Bergen, there really are nine peaks in the area: Ulriken, Fløyen, Løvstakken, Damsgårdsfjellet, Lyderhorn, Sandviksfjellet, Blåmanen, Rundemanen, and Kolbeinsvarden.
Urban Hiking in Bergen: Mt. Ulriken
Aside from Fløyen, the other famous peak is Mt. Ulriken. This time, I reached the top by using the aerial tramway - Ulrikbanen. This mountain is 643 m high, so much bigger than the Fløyen. You can also reach its peak by climbing, but as I visited it with my friends and we didn't have much time, we opted for the gondola lift.
If you want to hike up the Mt. Ulriken, take bus No. 12 to the Montana station where a few trails begin. To the right you can see again the many trails you can choose from when hiking around Ulriken.
When I was there, a few workers from Nepal (as I was told) were working on creating steps on the steep slopes. They were highly experienced rock-cutters and brought their Himalayan experience to Scandinavia. You can see them below resting in a photo taken from the Ulrikbanen.
Ulriken is less popular than Mt. Fløyen as it's not in the center of the city. That means fewer people and a bit wilder experience. There is a restaurant at the main station and a TV tower but right outside of it, wild mountains begin. There are many paths you could use just to stroll around and admire the views or take one of the longer trails and hike for a whole day.
If you enjoy my photos, you my want to see my gallery at Fine Art America.
As you can see in the photos, the views are just mind-blowing. I was lucky to visit during a beautiful, sunny day with nothing obstructing my view. I can imagine that it could have been a very different experience were it a more typical rainy Bergen day.
Bergen is a fantastic city that links urban culture with nature experiences. Just minutes after leaving the city, we can emerge ourselves in mountainous landscape, walk on hiking trails, and stare for hours (if we have them) at jaw-dropping vistas. Seeing just the famous Bryggen robs one of the full experience of this beautiful town - make sure you have a chance to see it from above or even hike its trails.