Northern Norway’s second city

What to do and see on your visit to Bodø

Bodø pier

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Bodø boasts one of the most beautiful harbors in Northern Norway. The pier called Moloen that was erected in 1904 and extended in 1980 makes for a lovely stroll along the ocean and offers some stunning views.

Vanessa Brune
Stavanger, Norway

Bodø is a city with only 50,000 inhabitants in northern Norway, situated 60 miles from the Lofoten Islands and over 300 miles from Tromsø farther north. Not many travelers know about Bodø, and many of those who do use it only as a pit stop to get to Lofoten. Others don’t even stop here at all and head to Tromsø instead, which arguably offers more sights and attractions but is thus also more crowded and expensive.

However, Bodø has no shortage of things to see and experience—from incredible views to lovely hiking trails and fascinating street art! In this guide, I’ll show you what there is to do and see in the city, should you decide to give Bodø a chance, which you should!

1. Go on a self-guided street-art tour
One of the newer attractions of Bodø (and one that Tromsø doesn’t offer to this extent) is all the street art around the city center that was created in 2015 for the UpNorth Festival. Ask for a map at the visitor center to make sure you get to see all the pieces that are still left.

2. Take in the views from above at Keiservarden
Opened by Queen Sonja, the new hiking trail and Sherpa staircase leading up to Keiservarden hill overlooking Bodø has quickly become many a local’s favorite place in the city. The trail is only 1.25 miles long and takes less than an hour to complete, so it’s really popular among families with kids. And the views are definitely gorgeous!

Bodø Keiservarden

Photo: Vanessa Brune
The view from Keiservarden, a lookout that’s a short hike from the city.

3. Go for a stroll along the pier
If I may say so, Bodø has a much prettier harbor than Tromsø. The pier called Moloen that was erected in 1904 and extended in 1980 makes for a lovely stroll along the ocean and offers some stunning views. Do make sure to bring a windproof jacket though, as they call Bodø the “windy city” for a reason!

4. Learn more about aviation at the Norwegian Aviation Museum
You can find the Norwegian Aviation Museum close to the airport of Bodø, and it’s an attraction for all ages. Here you can learn more about civil and military aviation history of Norway and even go for a spin in the flight simulator! You can easily spend half a day here to explore everything—from the development of SAS to the beginning of the popular Norwegian “Sydenferie” (summer holidays in Southern Europe).

The entrance fee is rather steep at NOK 160, but there is a lot to explore here and the exhibitions were updated in 2016.

5. Hike in one of many National Parks
Sjunkhatten National Park is one of the wildest and most stunning areas I’ve ever visited in Norway, but it’s not the only park in the area. Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park south of Bodø is incredibly impressive as well, and its biggest highlight has got to be the Svartisen glacier! Aside from these two, Rago National Park at the border to Sweden is another option for any hiking enthusiasts.

6. Visit the world’s biggest maelstrom at Saltstraumen
Saltstraumen is the strongest tidal current in the world where you can experience whirlpools (or maelstroms) bigger than 30 feet. Saltstraumen is a small strait situated between the island of Straumøya and mainland Norway, about 6.25 miles from Bodø.

Bodø Saltstraumen

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Saltstraumen is the strongest tidal current in the world. You can see it from the shores of the strait, a short drive outside of Bodø, or experience it firsthand in an RIB boat tour.

At Saltstraumen, about 14.1 billion cubic feet of water from the ocean is pressed through and out of the 500-foot wide strait every six hours at low or high tide. The water gets as fast as 25 miles per hour, which leads to whirlpools in the strait.

7. Enjoy some time at the beach in Mjelle
Mjelle Beach is many a local’s favorite place on a sunny day, but I argue that the beach is also fascinating to visit on a rainy day. It’s a photographer’s paradise and offers countless photo opportunities and a stunning landscape that combines sand, rocks, and grassland, right next to a mountain range.

8. Time travel at Kjerringøy Trading Post
Kjerringøy Trading Post is an open-air museum with preserved buildings from the peninsula Kjerringøy, where you can learn more about the 19th-century fish trade. The old buildings are lovely to look at and offer countless gems inside. Admission is available at a reduced fee in the low season, and they even have Christmas markets here in December, so it pays not to visit in summer!

Bodø Kjerringøy Trading Post

Photo: Vanessa Brune
The old buildings of Kjerringøy Trading Post are lovely outside and contain countless gems inside. In December, the site even hosts a Christmas market.

9. Watch the northern lights or the midnight sun
While Bodø isn’t quite as far north as Tromsø, the city is still situated above the Arctic Circle, which means that you can see the northern lights or midnight sun if you come for a visit in winter or summer, respectively.

The official midnight sun season in Bodø lasts from May 31 to July 12, but summer nights are quite bright before and after this period as well, so make sure to bring a sleeping mask if you visit.

The northern lights need to be strong to be seen in Bodø, but it’s not impossible to see them by any means. Just make sure to head somewhere dark, away from the city lights, and hope for clear weather! Mjelle Beach or Keiservarden are both nice spots with a 360-degree view to spot the lights.

Bodø Mjelle Beach

Photo: Vanessa Brune
Mjelle Beach is many a local’s favorite place on a sunny day and is a photographer’s paradise.

10. Hit the spa and unwind
Bodø Spektrum offers nine different pools under one roof, from an outdoor pool to a wave pool to an outdoor slide. They even have a spa with sauna, hot tub, hammam, aroma showers, and ice cave. So if you’re exhausted after a long day of sightseeing or hiking, Bodø Spektrum might just be the perfect place for you to relax and unwind!

11. Go shopping at Glasshuset
There are lots of stores in downtown Bodø, but naturally you wouldn’t want to go out when the weather is stormy and rainy as it so often is the case in Bodø. Luckily, the city has a mall in the pedestrian street! Glasshuset isn’t just a building but rather a glass roof on top of the pedestrian street, which hosts 75 different stores, cafés, and restaurants. Plenty of options to fill a rainy day!

12. Go fishing, kayaking, or snorkeling
Bodø is a city that, in my view, can best be explored by renting a car and driving around. However, there are some activities that call for a tour! With Visit Bodø, you can go on a fishing adventure off the many islands that are scattered around Bodø or even go kayaking in the fjords. If none of that sounds adventurous enough for you, how about a snorkeling adventure at Saltstraumen then? Or an RIB tour over Saltstraumen?

Bodø in a nutshell
As you can see, Bodø has lots to offer, and I personally think that it’s an awesome alternative to Tromsø year-round. If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path and budget destination in northern Norway without having to sacrifice your food and culture cravings, Bodø really is a great option!

Vanessa Brune is a German expat who’s recently moved to Stavanger after three years of life in Tromsø. She blogs about Norway and the Nordic countries on her blog www.snowintromso.com.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 26, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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