Bodø is one of the liveliest cities in Northern Norway and is famous for being the gateway to the Lofoten Islands, one of the most famous and scenic places in Norway.
Easily accessible by train, plane or car, Bodø is also the northernmost city accessible by train from Oslo, making it a must for road travelers heading to the beautiful regions above the Arctic Circle.
What you will find in this guide to visiting Bodø:
- Bodø: Things to Know and Curious Facts
- Things to Do and Places to Visit in Bodø
- Best Things to Do and Places to Visit Around Bodø
- Best Restaurants in Bodø
- How to get to Bodø
Bodø: Things to Know and Curious Facts
Bodø is a town located along the coast of Norway in Nordland County, just north of the Arctic Circle. Locals often call it “the metropolis of the north”, as it is the second largest city in Northern Norway.
Indeed it is a modern and lively city, surrounded by the beautiful unspoiled landscapes of the Salten region. However Bodø, with its 50,000 inhabitants, is far from being a metropolis, but it is a nerve center for transport and tourism to and from Northern Norway.
Bodø overlooks the Norwegian Sea, at the mouth of the Saltfjorden, and is the main gateway to the Lofoten Islands and Northern Norway, as it is an important ferry port and is also the northernmost terminus of Norwegian railways.
During the Second World War, the city was mostly destroyed by the German invasion, both by land and by sea, but in the years following the end of the war, it was very quickly rebuilt and expanded. Bodø airport and train station have been added. The city center has been completely rebuilt and in recent years many modern buildings and several interesting museums have sprung up.
But the real attraction of Bodø are the surrounding natural landscapes, the mountains and the wonderful fjord with its many beautiful viewpoints. The area offers many opportunities for hiking, boating, rafting, diving and eagle safaris.
Furthermore, Bodø is definitely a great place to start your visit to the Lofoten Islands. In fact, there are several ferries a day (both car and passenger ferries) that depart from the port of Bodø for Moskenes, in the most famous and scenic archipelago of Norway.
The last train station for those traveling to Northern Norway
Traveling in Norway by train you will find that there are no railways in the lands of Northern Norway, due to the severe climatic conditions of these regions. Then you can travel from Oslo to Trondheim and from there to Bodø via the scenic Nordland Railway.
There is just one exception, Narvik train station, which is further north of Bodø. This station is the terminus of the Arctic Circle Train from Stockholm, which runs along the Iron Ore Line, a legendary railway built to connect the iron mines of Kiruna with the port of Narvik. It is not connected to other Norwegian railway lines.
Bodø Train Station is conveniently located right in the heart of the city center, a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal to the Lofoten Islands. Also located in the same building is the Bodø Hostel & Motel, a great hostel offering single, double and family rooms and which is undoubtedly the best option for those traveling on a budget.
A historical curiosity: the Bodø Affair
Although the Bodø municipality was established in 1838, the city was born in 1816 and already in 1818 it became known for a diplomatic scandal between Sweden-Norway (then a dual monarchy) and the United Kingdom, the so-called “Bodø Affair”, from 1818 to 1821.
It all started with the illegal commercial activities of an English company in the port of Bodø. Norwegian officials in 1818 discovered that this company was smuggling goods, and so they seized a large shipment from it and arrested one of the owners. The foreign ministry, which was run by the Swedes in Stockholm, sided in favor of the British and sentenced the Norwegian state to pay large compensation. This sparked a great distrust between Norwegians and Swedes, and is considered to be one of the most significant episodes that led to the establishment of Norwegian nationalism.
Things to Do and Places to Visit in Bodø
Norsk Luftfartsmuseum – Norwegian Aviation Museum
One of the most famous museums in Bodø is the Norwegian Aviation Museum, located near the airport, along the Olav V Gate road. The museum, which has the shape of an airplane propeller from above, boasts over 10,000 square meters of exhibits dedicated to the history of military and civil aviation.
It exhibits a large collection of aircraft that finely trace the history of aviation, especially Norwegian, up to modern times. You will see old propeller planes, helicopters and tons of warplanes. The exhibition is accompanied by explanatory panels that allow you to discover the details and history of each piece in the collection.
There are also several interesting exhibits with models and multimedia activities, where kids can play and have fun while learning how a plane can fly. The interactive exhibition on in-flight safety is also very interesting.
Don’t miss the flight simulator in the Aviation Adventure, included in the ticket price. You will be able to test yourself in a flight session with the same simulator used by Boeing pilots and, assisted by a professional, you will be able to try to fly an airliner and take off from the (simulated) Bodø runway.
It is advisable to allow at least half a day to visit, because the Norwegian Aviation Museum offers so many activities to do. You can get there by taxi or by bus (Yellow Line 3 towards Vollen, Sentrum, Stordalen). If you have a car, there is a large free parking area for visitors. You could also walk there as it is just 1.5km from the city center. More info on the museum’s official website.
Bodø Cathedral is located in the city center and dates back to 1956. It was built on the site of the previous church, which was destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War.
In 1946, the two architects Blakstad and Munthe Kaas won the contract for the construction of the new church. The works ended in 1956 and this cathedral was among the first in Norway to have the bell tower detached from the church. The interiors are Nordic in style, rather modest and minimalist, with a large 12-meter-long glass window on the east wall.
Near the church, there is a monument dedicated to the people of Bodø who were victims of the Second World War. On the monument there is an engraving that reads: “Til de fra Bodø som gav sitt liv for Norge under krig og okkupasjon 1940-1945. Ingen nevnt, ingen glemt”, which translates as: “To those from Bodø who gave their lives for Norway during the war and occupation 1940–1945. None named, none forgotten.”.
The Bodin Kirke is located about 3km from Bodø town center and is a wonderful little church dating back to 1240, quite off the beaten track, but of remarkable beauty.
This old stone church is much smaller than the modern Bodø Cathedral, but is very dear to the locals. It can accommodate up to 300 people and is dominated by an onion dome, while the interiors are decorated in Baroque style, especially the altar.
The altarpiece dates back to 1670 and the beautiful frescoes date back to the period between the 17th and 18th centuries. The finely decorated chandeliers are from 1760, while the organ is a replica of the original from the 1700s.
The Nordland Museum is located right in the city center of Bodø, behind the Cathedral. It is housed in a 1904 building, but the museum is one of the oldest in the region, founded in 1888.
Unfortunately, most of his collection was lost during WWII. During the war years the museum was closed and the building was transformed into the headquarters of the Nasjonal Samling, a Norwegian fascist party active from 1933 to 1945.
The Nordland Museum currently hosts 4 permanent exhibitions (and often some temporary exhibitions as well) on the history and culture of Northern Norway. One of the main themes is the culture of fishing, which has always been the main economic activity in the region. You’ll see exhibits on traditional Lofoten fishing and the stockfish trade, as well as a beautiful reproduction of a rorbu, the traditional local fisherman’s house.
The exhibits on Sami culture are also very interesting, with authentic artifacts from the Tysfjord area, such as traditional drums and huts of the peoples of Lapland.
The museum also houses a section dedicated to the Viking era, with the display of a precious treasure of Anglo-Saxon and Arab medals and coins found in 1919 in Northern Norway. The most precious piece of the collection, found hidden in an ancient watch, is the largest ring brooch currently known from the Viking age.
Also very interesting is the exhibition on the history of the German occupation in Norway, located on the third floor of the museum, which includes the viewing of a documentary film (with English subtitles) on local history from 1816 to 1940.
Bodø Jentofthaugen Bunkermuseum – Luftwaffe communications bunker
One of the most interesting things to do in Bodø is a visit to the Jentofthaugen Bunker Museum, a well-preserved authentic Nazi bunker converted into a museum.
During WWII Bodø was occupied for a long time by German troops, who built several camps and bunkers in the area, some traces of which can still be seen today. The bunker of the Jentofthaugen Bunker Museum dates back to 1943 and was built to house a secret communication station for the German air force, the Luftwaffe. The walls, built to withstand heavy bombing, are almost 3 meters thick, the roof is in reinforced concrete and part of the structure is underground.
The museum is not normally open to the public, but organizes tours by reservation only. You can book the World War II Historic e-Bike Tour to visit the bunker and learn more about Bodø’s past.
Best Things to Do and Places to Visit Around Bodø
Kjerringøy is located 40km north of Bodø and is a great opportunity for a day trip. Kjerringøy is an interesting open-air museum with 15 well-preserved old wooden buildings. Here time seems to have stopped in the 1800s, when the Zahls, a family of local entrepreneurs, transformed Kjerringøy into an important trading center where fishermen from the entire region came to trade stockfish, cod and cod liver oil.
It is also possible to visit the small village with a 20-minute audio guide included in the price of the entrance ticket. You will be able to visit the interiors of these historic houses, admire the luxurious decorated wooden furniture, canopy beds, antique stoves and even visit fascinating period shops.
At the small dock in Kjerringøy you can also take a look at an ancient boat from 1820. To get to Kjerringøy from Bodø the best way is by car, otherwise there are some local buses that leave Bodø twice a day. Between Festvåg and Misten you will have to cross the fjord by ferry.
You might want to stay overnight around Kjerringøy to make the most of the wonderful peace (and exceptional freshly caught fish specialties) of this area dotted only with tiny, remote fishing villages. The only (but delightful) options in the area are Kjerringøy Bryggehotell and Kjerringøy Rorbusenter. Honestly, it’s worth going there even for just a dinner and an overnight stay.
On the way to Kjerringøy you will pass by Mjelle Beach, a very picturesque cove with a beautiful white beach. This beach is a great place to relax on warm summer days, it is surrounded by cliffs and can be reached with a half-hour walk from the parking lot. The trail is easy and therefore suitable for the whole family.
Svartisen Glacier and Glacier Seaplane Flight
Svartisen Glacier is located about 160 km from Bodø and is the second largest glacier in Norway. This impressive glacier covers an area of about 370 square kilometers and has its lowest point at 20 meters above sea level.
Glacier snout can be reached from Svartisen Gård on a long hike that involves approaching by boat from Holandsvik. The boat can be taken from the Svartisen Parking (GPS: 66.72423, 13.67895). Plan to stay overnight in the area, as it is quite far from Bodø. A good place to stay nearby is the Svartisen Apartment Hotel, which offers modern and well-equipped apartments.
A great way to visit the Svartisen area is to fly by seaplane over the glacier and Storglomvatnet lake, while also admiring the breathtaking coastal scenery. The seaplane flight allows you to enjoy wonderful views and to discover much more about the glacier and this amazing region of Norway. Flights can be booked online in advance and depart (and return) directly from Bodø Airport.
Saltstraumen Maelstrom vortices
Saltstraumen is a small strait that is located less than 30 km from Bodø and connects the Saltfjorden with Skjerstadfjorden.
This strait, spanned by the scenic Saltstraumbrua road bridge, is famous for having the strongest eddies in the world. In six hours, over 400 million cubic meters of water flow into the 150-meter-wide strait at a speed of over 40 km/h, forming dangerous eddies (according to locals it is possible to observe at least 4 per day) with a diameter up to 10 meters and which can even reach 5 meters deep. It is possible to see them from along the coast or from the Saltstraumbrua bridge.
Most travelers visit Bodø on their way to the Lofoten Islands. Lofoten are undoubtedly the most famous archipelago in Norway, and one of the most scenic places in the world, famous for its breathtaking landscapes, dominated by mountains that plunge into the ocean and picturesque fishing villages.
The best way to visit the Lofoten Islands is undoubtedly by car. That’s why most travelers fly to Bodø (or arrive by train from Oslo), where you can rent a car, and then take a car ferry to Moskenes, a village on the southwestern tip of the Lofoten Islands.
Consider that, especially in summer, car rentals in Bodø are in high demand and prices tend to soar, so it is advisable to book well in advance on a reliable site like Rentalcars or Discovercars, where you can find the best deals.
The Lofoten Islands are crossed by the main road E10, and countless detours will allow you to discover tiny charming fishing villages and beautiful landscapes. In addition, the islands are one of the most famous places to spot the Northern Lights, which are visible from November to March.
Bodø is very well connected with the Lofoten Islands. From Bodø Airport there are several flights to Svolvær or Leknes that allow you to reach the main islands of Lofoten. There are also flights to some of the smaller islands, such as Røst, or helicopter flights to the Væroy heliport. However, Røst and Værøy are not connected to the rest of the archipelago by any road bridge, so if you want to visit the rest of the islands you will have to take a ferry.
But most travelers arrive at the Lofoten Islands by ferry from Bodø to Moskenes. There are both car ferries to Moskenes (4 hours) and express passenger-only ferries to Svolvær (3.5 hours).
If you want to go to the small islands of Røst and Værøy, there is a ferry from Bodø to Moskenes that makes both stops along the way.
There are also buses from Bodø to Lofoten, but they take much longer. For example, there is a bus a day that goes from Bodø to Lødingen (about 5.5 hours) and from here you have to change and take the one to Svolvær sentrum (2 hours).
Best Restaurants in Bodø
Bryggeri Kaia is located near the harbor and is a nice restaurant serving good Norwegian specialties, such as grilled cod, fish soups, shellfish and fish & chips. It has a nice pub-like atmosphere with a wonderful terrace overlooking the harbor.
Larsen Mat & Vinbar
Larsen Mat & Vinbar is located near the harbor in the city center. It is the ideal place if you want to taste different local specialties, as it serves an interesting menu of tapas, mainly fish, with a good selection of wines and beers.
Restaurant Bjørk is located in the heart of Bodø and serves several international cuisine (mainly Italian) such as pizza and pasta, but also serves delicious grilled cod with pea cream, poached egg, potato aioli and bacon. The restaurant is modern and pleasant and also has a small terrace.
How to get to Bodø
Many travelers stop in Bodø on their Norwegian coast road trip, perhaps before taking the ferry to the Lofoten Islands. Many others arrive by train or plane. However Bodø is a very compact city, and it is possible to move easily on foot from one place to another, ie between the port and the airport or the station.
Getting to Bodø by Plane
Getting to Bodø by Boat
Bodø Harbor is located near the center, just behind the train station, and offers frequent connections to the Lofoten Islands. There are ferries from Bodø to Moskenes (car and passenger ferry) and ferries to Svolvær (passenger only). Once a day there is also a ferry from Bodø to Moskenes via the smaller islands of Røst and Værøy.
The famous Hurtigruten Coastal Express also calls Bodø port twice a day, once along the northbound route and once along the southbound route.
Getting to Bodø by Bus
Bodø is connected to the main towns in the surrounding area with local buses that leave from near the train station. There are also buses to Narvik (6 hours) or to Fauske (1 hour).
Getting to Bodø by Train
Bodø Train Station is conveniently located within walking distance of the ferry terminal and all major attractions. There are several trains a day to Fauske (40 minutes) and to Trondheim, connected by a night train (10 hours).
To get from Oslo to Bodø by train you will need to take the train from Oslo to Trondheim via Hamar (approximately 7 hours), and from Trondheim you can take the comfortable night train to Bodø.