What do you do on a rainy day in a city renowned for bad weather and that is surrounded by water? You go to the aquarium of course! As if you hadn’t seen enough water!
Bergen Aquarium has a reputation of being one of the finest in Europe and while I haven’t been to many, I can see why Bergen’s has this good reputation.
The aquarium is situated about 1.6 Kilometres from the fish market, which in tourist terms is the heart of the city. It stands at the end of the Nordnes peninsular and you can find it quite easily by walking as far as you can before you end up in the fjord. When you fall in you know you have gone too far. I was going to say “when you get wet” but as it rains virtually all the time in Bergen, this is not helpful. If you don’t want to walk you can take a bus, alternatively you can take a ferry from the fish market which drops you off at the aquarium. However, the walk is very scenic through a lovely residential area of traditional wooden house, the part of Bergen where we stayed, in fact.
The outside sections of the building are that kind of art deco style that lots of zoos tend to be built in; simple clean white buildings that are rather stylish. Although we visited on a Saturday afternoon and there were lots of people around we didn’t have to queue long for our tickets. When you get your tickets you are also given a guide to the aquarium and a list of the feedings times for the seals and penguins. Alas, we had missed both.
First you come to the penguins and seals. They live separately of course, but their pools are close together and there will be loads of children tripping you up as they run madly from one to the other. Both pools have viewing windows in the side walls so you can get a really good look at them swimming and the seals, especially, like to put on a show and continually swim past the window in a flamboyant fashion – they are so obliging in this respect. I would say that if you are visiting with kids it’s probably best to try to go with the feeding times at mind because the seals in particular do become less active just after eating and I suspect children would enjoy seeing them being fed more than just lolling around the pool (the seals, not the kids).
Inside the aquarium are about 70 tanks containing all kinds of sea-life, much of it from the North Sea. The collection is split into different zones – coastal, tropical and North Sea. The tropical area is also home to some very mean looking crocodiles and some snakes. To be honest the inclusion of these creatures didn’t add much to the experience and seemed incongruous with the rest of the collection. Is it an aquarium or a zoo?
The contents of the tanks range from huge cod and eels to teeny little creatures you simply have to believe are there if you have forgotten your specs. Children seemed to lose interest quickly in this section and I can’t say I blamed them. In this section the lights are very dim and it takes a few minutes to adjust to it. It also doesn’t help if your travelling companion sneaks up on you and pretends to be an eel biting your posterior – I was a bag of nerves by the end!
Ordinarily most of the creatures here wouldn’t much interest me but the captions were so informative and thought-provoking that I became more interested – I still prefer a piece of cod in batter than hundreds swimming in a tank but I did learn a lot. Usefully, the captions were in Norwegian, English and Swedish (well the English part was useful for me!).
Upstairs in a huge hall there was what I think was a temporary exhibition on creepy crawlies with lots of tanks on tables full of soil and other vegetation and apparently (not that I am for one second accusing Norwegians of pulling the wool over your eyes) various arachnids, multi-footed creatures and other creatures likely to make your skin crawl. If you were interested in that kind of thing jolly nerds were there to answer questions.
Access around the whole complex is good with lifts and ramps both inside and out. There is plenty of room for pushchairs though you might find you have to be patient and wait for people to get out of the way in front of tanks as the more “exciting” fish did tend to make children go a bit crazy and forget their manners. There were also toilets on all levels and they were well signposted so you didn’t have to make your way through lots of exhibition halls to find a loo.
There is a cafe and a souvenir shop though we didn’t use either of these.
We spent a couple of hours at the aquarium and really enjoyed our visit. I am not sure how much younger children would get out of it except perhaps for the seals and penguins and if this is why you’re going then it becomes pretty expensive. Having said that the place was full of children who appeared to be having a great time: perhaps it’s best for children over seven years of age.
Current prices (2009)
Adults NOK 100 (10.19 on 15.02.09)
Children (3-13) NOK 75 (7.65)
Family ticket (2 adults+2 children) NOK 300 (30.59)
A Bergen Card gives 25% discount on entry May-August. Free admittance September – April. These can be bought from tourist information centres and details can be found at