I went to Bergen, Norway in the summertime this past year and I liked it well enough. But then I returned to Bergen this winter – and absolutely I loved it. It was colder, it was rainier and it was darker, but it was also better. I couldn’t stop gushing afterwards about the city, its charm and all its gorgeousness. I certainly registered those before, just not quite as strongly as during the winter.

Thinking more about it, I realized that I loved Bergen in the wintertime so much more because of those off-season, murky gray days – the ones most people try to avoid on their holidays. They reminded me of the way I feel about Venice during that same time of year.

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Much like in Venice, the sunnier season in Bergen brings with it crowds of tourists, and lots of them. These enthusiastic travelers descend by the thousands into this extremely special waterfront city, dwarfing not only the local population but also the local flavor. Regular restaurant menus give way to touristy fixed price “specials”; anything an actual person might buy is hidden under piles of cheaply imported facsimiles.

In the wintertime I had to bundle up. The sharp winds coming off the cold water will certainly test your commitment to the outdoors. But whatever I might have received in cold air, I also got back with the warm possibilities of chances to encounter a more authentic city. I saw Bergen the way it is meant to be seen.

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I visited the Hanseatic Museum, which tells the story of Bergen and its trading past, and enjoyed nearly all the exhibits to myself.  In the summertime, I had to give up the attempt because the queue was so long. Now, the well-curated galleries of the Kode Museum were all mine, while in summer I couldn’t even make it across the crowded sidewalks that far into town fast enough. I shared the infamous cable car, the Floibanen, which takes passengers to the best view of the city, with only a handful of locals, rather than with hundreds of cruise ship passengers who rode up, snapped a few photos and rode down, barely having the time to take in much more.

Which is not to say that visiting Bergen in the summertime is bad, not at all. This past summer I was among those hordes of cruise ship passengers, making the most of a short day in what is a city that merits so much more. I just felt the experience opened me up to Norway as a destination, something more to return to. The sunshine grazing over the magnificent fjords invited me to come back someday for more, not more sunshine, but more substance.

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I also realized that, like Venice, cities built by the launching of a thousand ships of seafarers are best enjoyed for their character, for their determination and for their sheer presence on the water. Bergen and Venice are certainly cities that can show you a version of themselves in just a day or two, a brief glimpse if you are lucky. If you want to really see the city for what it is, then the quieter, colder days will invite you in for a much warmer reveal.

Are you an off-season traveller as well? What are your favourite destinations for off-season trips?


This is a guest post by Ania Krasiewska.

AKS ProfileAnia is a blogger, consultant and mom who planned on becoming a diplomat, but somehow married one instead.  Living life in 2 to 3 year increments around the globe, she and her family are always on the hunt for the next adventure while making a home away from home.  Ania keeps track of their life-on-the-go on her blog The New Diplomats Wife and A Toddler in the Trees and you can find her across social media channels as @thenewdiplomats.