I Walked 16,000 Steps A Day In This Norwegian City And It Was Easier Than You Think
I love to walk. Living in London, where you’re just sitting in traffic in a car, my feet are my primary means of transportation.
So when I go abroad, it’s always a pleasant surprise to discover a city that can only be explored on foot. This is exactly what I found during my visit to Bergen in Norway earlier this year.
The second largest city in the country, Bergen is surprisingly compact. “Discover the city’s highlights in just 10,000 steps,” proclaims the Visit Norway website.
But why is it so easy to get around this Norwegian city without using a car or public transport?
Bergen: clean and easy-to-navigate streets
Many pedestrian-only areas can be found throughout Bergen. From the main shopping streets to the central plazas, you can go far enough without having to share space with a car.
It is also one of three Norwegian cities with a low emission zone to reduce air pollution in central areas. This means vehicles have to pay a fee to enter, with more polluting cars paying more.
This is not a problem in a city where 30% of vehicles are electric or hybrid, one of the largest shares in the world. Even when looking for a taxi as a tourist, it’s not hard to find one that doesn’t use fossil fuels.
In 2023, the city hopes to go further by piloting its first zero-emissions zone in hopes of making the downtown area entirely emission-free. By 2030, the goal is that no fossil fuels will be used for transport, municipal services or heating.
The streets are also exceptionally clean compared to my hometown of London. This is partly thanks to an innovative underground waste management system called “Bossnet”. It sucks up around four tonnes of waste from the city center every day, transporting it to sorting centers on the outskirts. It reduces the need for garbage collection trucks to enter downtown, making the streets safer and cleaner.
Overall, these measures to reduce air pollution and create safe spaces for pedestrians make Bergen one of the easiest cities to explore on foot. Unlike many other European cities I went there, walking didn’t seem like a second thought in its urban planning.
I walked 60,000 steps in four days in Bergen
You might think walking is an easy mode of transportation if you’re only visiting a few of the top attractions a city has to offer.
That may be true, but I wasn’t just in Bergen for fun. Between work, foraging, and sightseeing, I racked up nearly 60,000 steps. That’s an average of 15,000 every day I was there.
In my free time, I visited the World Heritage Site of Bryggen, the city’s historic harbor district, and rode the Fløibanen Funicular. These are some of the most visited attractions in Norway – all within easy walking distance from my downtown hotel.
Ultimately, my travels to and from the airport on public transport were the only times I didn’t pound the pavement during my four-day trip.
But even that, mostly run by an agency called Skyss, is cheap and easy to use, even for someone with minimal Norwegian skills. Fossil fuel-free light rail systems and bus lines cover most of the city and surrounding areas.
The green transportation network extends even further than the city limits too. I didn’t get the chance during my short stay in Bergen, but many electric cruises and ferries cross the waterways in this area.
Western Norway, where the city is located, has the largest share of electrified ships in the world.
Climbing trails built by Sherpas in Nepal
One of Bergen’s highlights is Mount Ulriken which towers over the city with incredible views of the surrounding landscape. Although there is a cable car to the top, even here walking is an option for visitors. 1,300 steps on a well-maintained trail means it’s not a desperate scramble for ascend the 290 meters to the summit.
It is part of a series of newly renovated hiking trails in the Norwegian mountains – many of which use beautifully designed stone stairways like Mount Ulriken. Nearly 300 have been built over the past 20 years by a team of Sherpas from communities in the foothills of the Himalayas. They built these trails by hand the same way they do in Nepal.
The longest stone staircase in the country is in the town of Mosjøen. Known as Helgelandstrappa, this route takes visitors up 3,000 steps to the 818-metre-high summit of Øyfjellet mountain.
While they make hiking in the Norwegian mountains safer and easier, they also serve a dual purpose by protecting vulnerable natural sites from tourist traffic. Erosion can be a big problem for these Norwegians mountain sidesmaking it dangerous to walk on uncertain paths and destroying the ecosystems around them.
But Sherpa Stairs help guide visitors along routes that are solid and won’t collapse – keeping nature and those who enjoy it safe on foot.