Everything you need to know before visiting my hometown Bodø.
The coastal town of Bodø with a population of roughly 45 000 people, is pretty unknown to most people. Located above the arctic circle in northern Norway, it is mainly known for it’s strong winds and for being a hub for getting to more popular destinations, like the Lofoten Islands and Saltstraumen.
Although it took me a decade to realize, it turns out Bodø is a great destination of its own, as well! I mean, whats not to like about a city where you can enjoy urban city life and collect the most memorable nature experiences of your life?
By reading this guide you’ll hopefully get inspired to spend some time exploring this charming arctic city. This guide will also provide you with all the info you need to make your Bodø trip as great as possible. I truly hope you enjoy it!
Table Of Contents
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Why Bodø Is Worth Your Time
The main reason why I urge people to visit Bodø? Because its a travel destination that has “it all”.
- The nature surrounding Bodø is fantastic: Countless mountains to hike, several dreamy beaches with turquoise water, breathtaking national parks, and beautiful waterfalls, lakes and fjords to admire.
- Bodø is quite urban too: Cool street art, fun shopping, galleries with local art, plus great restaurants, cafés and bars.
- It is less touristy and crowded than other popular destinations.
- Bodø is a great place to experience natural phenomenons like the midnight sun during summer, northern lights during winter, or the world’s strongest whirlpool all year ’round.
- The wildlife is fascinating: We often see moose on a weekly basis, and sea eagles are a fairly common sight as well. 20% of the world’s white-tailed sea eagle population is located in Nordland county, most of them in Bodø and the Salten region.
- Its a great hub for visiting places such as Lofoten, Helgeland, Hamarøy, Steigen, and Norway’s second largest glacier Svartisen.
- Bodø has an interesting Viking & Stone Age history: People have been living in up here for at least 11 000 years. The third oldest settlement in Norway was found in Saltstraumen, a 30 minute drive from the city centre, and at Saltstraumen Museum you can see Norway’s oldest musical instrument. Vikings also lived in the area, with “new” artifacts being discovered still.
- Bodø has an interesting WWII history too: Although it rarely gets any attention in the press, documentaries or historic movies, there was actually a lot going on in northern Norway during World War II. Bodø was largely affected and the city itself got bombed to shreds.
How To Get To Bodø
One of the best things about Bodø is that its very accessible. The city works like a hub, and you can choose from many different types of transportation, fitting every itinerary and budget. All stations are located super close to the city centre (even the airport is within walking distance), which saves travellers time and money. And, it makes Bodø a great city to combine with other destinations in northern Norway! The most popular ways to get to Bodø:
Bodø By Train
Although it may not be the most comfortable choice, nor the quickest (Trondheim – Bodø takes 10 hours!), traveling to Bodø by train is a popular choice. This is due to it being very budget friendly (you can get tickets for as little as 199 NOK if you book early), better for the environment, and the stunning sights along the way.
Bodø By Plane
Traveling to Bodø by plane is the fastest and likely the most comfortable choice. Bodø airport has connecting flights from most airports in the country, and is conveniently located a 15 minute walk from the city centre. You can also catch a cab or take the first local bus you come across. Get the best price on your bus tickets using the app Billett Nordland (app store/google play).
Bodø By Car
Many traveling to or through Bodø do so by car. That is largely due to Bodø being the final destination on Kystriksveien (the scenic coastal route), it being located 45 minutes from the main road E6, and ferry connections to the Lofoten Islands. In other words, Bodø is the perfect place to begin or end a road trip of Nordland county, the Salten region or northern Norway in general.
Bodø By Boat
The city’s coastal location is very practical, and Bodø is connected to several other destinations in Norway by boat. Booking or reserving a spot on a boat in advance is smart, especially if you’re traveling during the popular summer months. Three major boat options to and from Bodø:
- The local ferry connects Bodø to the the west of Lofoten, more specifically the islands of Moskenesøya, Røst and Værøy. For a fee you can bring a car.
- The regional speed boat (“hurtigbåt”) connects Bodø to places north of the city like Hamarøy, Steigen, Svolvær and Skrova in eastern Lofoten, and places south of Bodø like Rødøy, Nesna and Sandnessjøen. No room for cars on this boat though!
- The national Hurtigruten cruise ships can take you as far north as Kirkenes and as south as Bergen, and many places in between, including Tromsø and Nordkapp. For a fee you can bring a car.
How To Get Around In Bodø
Walking will get you a long way in Bodø. Its a pretty compact city, and many of Bodø’s top sights are within walking distance of the city centre. If you’re only spending a few hours exploring the city, odds are you wont need any additional transportation.
If you plan to explore the Bodø area more, like going to the aviation museum and Saltstraumen, taking the bus will be a faster and more comfortable option. The bus connections in Bodø are decent and easy to use. Plan your trip with the Reis Nordland app (iOS/google play), and purchase bus tickets using the app Billett Nordland (app store/google play) for the lowest price. Consider purchasing the ‘Travel Pass Nordland’ in the app if you’re planning on traveling a lot by bus or boat in Nordland.
If you want to take full advantage of the Bodø’s amazing sights and nature, I highly recommend renting a car from the airport. This way you’ll have more freedom to explore the area whenever you want, to go on hikes without stressing about catching the right bus in time, or go on road trips to places like Kjerringøy or Gildeskål. Many of the most beautiful hikes in Bodø is simply not possible without renting a car, or booking a tour.
The Best Hotels In Bodø
There are plenty of places to stay in Bodø. Most of the hotels are centrally located, with many sights and activities within walking distance. As Bodø is one of the cities in Norway where hotels are most frequently fully booked you should book in advance. Four great hotels in Bodø city centre:
One of the newest hotels in Bodø is Scandic Havet, and its the natural choice for many travellers. It is located close to the harbor in the city centre, and their rooms are modern and beautifully decorated. Their rooftop restaurant Roast has the best view of the harbor and the rest of the city, as well as delicious cocktails.
Thon Hotel Nordlys
Another great hotel located by the harbour in the city centre is the lovely Thon Hotel Nordlys. This hotel is known for their incredible breakfast buffet, which includes a chocolate fountain (!). For the ultimate Bodø experience I suggest you request a room with a view of the harbour – nothing beats enjoying a glass of wine while watching the boats come and go.
Clarion Collection Hotel Grand Bodø
If you prefer to stay in a hotel with a little more history, Clarion Collection Hotel Grand Bodø will be your best option. Although it was greatly damaged, the building is one of the few that survived the WWII bombings of Bodø in 1940. The hotel is centrally located by the city’s glass arcade Glasshuset, is tastefully decorated and is known for its great service and their complimentary evening buffét.
Radisson Blu Hotel Bodø
The lovely Radisson Blu Hotel is also a great choice, especially if you book a room with an ocean view. In addition to being centrally located like the previously mentioned hotels in Bodø, this one has everything you need under one roof. A gym, a bowling alley/arcade, a tattoo parlor (never know when you might need one), one of Bodø’s best restaurants, Ohma Asian Cooking, and its own rooftop bar, Top 13, with the best cocktails.
Where To Shop In Bodø
Bodø is a fun city to shop in, and you’ll have plenty of shops to choose from. The city has two major shopping areas, Stormyra and the city centre.
Shopping At Stormyra
The most popular shopping area in Bodø is a part town called Stormyra. It is located a short bus ride, a 5 minute drive or a 30 minute walk from the city centre. Here you’ll find the largest shopping centre in northern Norway, City Nord (which has 110 stores and free parking), in addition to a ton of other shops and smaller shopping centres.
Shopping In The City Centre
My favorite shopping area in Bodø is the city centre. Here you’ll find a more unique selection of shops while walking among cafés and art galleries. And I must say I enjoy the city vibes so much more than the crowded-mall-vibes. In the city centre you must check out Glasshuset, Bodø’s glass arcade, as well as Koch mall, Storgata, Sjøgata, Torvgata and these unique shops:
- No14: Interior decor with a nordic twist. Lovely café inside with the best toast and chili coffee.
- Lulu: Women’s clothes and shoes in high quality brands.
- Royal Sko Bodø: The best shoe store in Bodø.
- Noor by M: Women’s clothes, mix of high end brands and more affordable ones.
- Fritidsbutikken: The perfect place to go if you’re looking for souvenirs or outerwear.
- Fretex: Second hand clothes, shoes, furniture and decor.
- Studio EBN Store: Sustainable luxury handbags made from salmon leather, a by-product of the food industry that would otherwise not be used.
Where To Eat & Drink In Bodø
In Bodø you have a great selection of restaurants, cafés and bars to choose from. Here are some of my favorite places to eat and drink in Bodø.
Restaurants In Bodø
Want to taste the local cuisine? Northern Norway is known for its fresh and delicious seafood like bacalao, grilled stockfish and fish soup, as well as a variety of dishes that include meat of moose, reindeer or whale. Not a daring foodie? Don’t worry, all restaurants in Bodø serve delicious dishes like pizza, burgers or pasta too. 10 great restaurants in Bodø:
- Ohma Asian Cooking: Asian fusion restaurant with incredible cocktails, the best sushi, and a great selection of other amazing dishes including my fave, crispy duck.
- BJØRK: Beautiful restaurant with the best pasta and thin crust pizza in town. And their signature dish, grilled stockfish, is heaven on a plate.
- Bryggerikaia: Known for their incredible seafood, this restaurant by the harbor is a must when in Bodø. Fresh shrimps, halibut and fish soup are just a few of their specialties.
- Hundholmen Brygghus & Gastropub: This cool gastropub is a haven for both foodies and beer lovers. Indulge in an exciting dish of the season while enjoying one of their gazillion beers.
- Gatsby Burger & Bar: 14 different burgers, a ton of sides, Shuffleboard and boardgames. Need I say more? Yes, they have outdoor seating by the harbor at summer. There, I’m done.
- Larsen Mat & Vinbar: Divine tapas with a carefully planned wine selection.
- Burgasm: Choose between four unique burgers at this American style diner. New menu every 3 months. Fun concept, mind-blowing burgers and shakes.
- Hovda: Dine and drink at lovely Hovda boat restaurant by the harbor for the ultimate Bodø experience.
- Delicatessen: Enjoy tapas and wine in one of Bodø’s newest and most anticipated restaurants.
- Tiger Sushi Bar: Delicious sushi for a cheap price.
Bars In Bodø
Check out the nightlife when in Bodø! Not only to taste some local beer or Aquavit – it is the easiest way to get to know the locals. Sure, it can be hard to get to know us shy and seemingly cold Norwegians during the day, but once we get a drink or two down you wont be able to shut us up. Particularly here in the north during summer, when the 24 hours of sunlight makes us crave beer like crazy. In addition to the mentioned restaurant-and-bar-combos Hundholmen, Gatsby and Hovda, my favorite bars in Bodø are:
- DamaDi: My absolute favorite bar in Bodø. DamaDi is a laid back place filled with vintage furniture and odd decor, and there is always a cool band or DJ entertaining you.
- Gulating Pub: Relatively new pub with a ton of beer options from Norway and other countries.
- Top 13: Lovely rooftop bar at Radisson Blu Hotel with a stunning view and the best cocktails.
- Roast: Rooftop restaurant & bar at Scandic Havet hotel. Great cocktails and the best view in Bodø.
Cafées In Bodø
Do as the locals do and pop by a café or three while in Bodø. You see, us Norwegians are obsessed with enjoying a cup of coffee in a cozy café, preferably while indulging in baked goods such as cinnamon buns or waffles with jam and brown cheese. Taste the Salten region’s speciality møsbrømlefse if you get the chance, especially if you’re craving something sweet and savoury.
- Melkebaren: Not only does “The milk bar” have the best coffee and ice cream in town, you can also purchase locals roasts and other local products there.
- Brødrene Berbusmel: A more spacious café (without compromising the important coziness) with a great selection of coffee, sandwiches, salads, pastries, and local products like pesto and spices.
- No14: Interior shop + café combo with amazing toast and chili coffee. The perfect choice if you like to combine eating and drinking with shopping, like I do.
- Babel: A charming and intimate café with delicious food, and a great view for (non-creepy) people-watching.
- Samvirkelaget: Lovely café with minimalistic Scandinavian decor, great coffee and delicious pastries.
- Craig Alibone Pâtisserie & Champagneria: Technically not a café, but they make the list due to its delicious chocolates, cakes and macaroons.
10 Top Things To Do In Bodø
There are loads of fun things to do in Bodø, suiting every itinerary and budget. Here are my 10 best ideas on things to do in my hometown:
1. Experience Bodø By Foot
As I mentioned earlier, Bodø is a compact city, and the most interesting way to experience it is by foot. Grab a coffee or some ice cream and go for a stroll along the harbor, which truly comes to life in the summer. Continue down the local favorite “moloen” – the breakwater – and enjoy the view of the skyline. Have a look inside the impressive Stormen library, before admiring the cool street art Bodø has to offer. Either leave it up to fate and see which ones you stumble upon, or do a self-guided street art tour using the map from Visit Bodø here.
2. Enjoy The City From A Rooftop
If you’ve read any of my other travel guides you know I have this need to see a city from above whenever I travel, and my hometown is no exception. In Bodø you have two options; the rooftop restaurant & bar Roast at Scandic Havet and the rooftop bar Top 13 at Radisson Blu Hotel. Visit both if you have the chance, they’re both amazing!
3. See Bodø’s Incredible Beaches
Similar to other destinations in Nordland county, like Lofoten, Vesterålen and Hamarøy, Bodø has an incredible selection of dreamy beaches. I highly recommend hiking to the red beach Mjelle, a local favorite so beautiful that songs have been written about it. Another personal favorite is hiking to the secluded double beach Hovdsundet, one of the most Instagrammable places in Bodø. On this hike you’ll also pass the stunning Auvika beach. Ausvika and Bremnessanden are also great beaches to visit.
4. Visit The National Museum Of Aviation
One of my favorite things to do in Bodø since childhood is visiting Norsk Luftfartsmuseum. Here you can learn a lot about both civil and military aviation history in Norway, and about how World War II affected the city of Bodø and the rest of the country. The museum is located on the site of the German’s airport during WWII, and the building itself is shaped like a giant propeller.
5. Visit Other Great Museums In Bodø
Bodø has several other interesting museums in addition to the mentioned Aviation museum. If you want to learn even more about WWII in the region you can do so by visiting Bodø Krigshistoriske Museum, the city’s war history museum. You can also book a tour of Bremnes Fortress and the city’s largest german bunker. Nordlandsmuseet and The Norwegian Jekt Trade museum are also popular options.
6. See The World’s Strongest Whirlpool, Saltstraumen
A 30 minute car or bus ride from Bodø lies Saltstraumen, which is both the name of a world-known strait, as well as the community surrounding it. There you get to see the world’s strongest tidal current in action every 6 hours or so, which is a really cool experience you can’t miss out on in Bodø. Saltstraumen also has an interesting history from both the Stone Age and The Viking Age.
7. Go Hiking
One of the best (and most popular) things to do in Bodø is hiking, preferably to the top of one of the city’s many mountains. I swear, nothing compares to the feeling of reaching a summit after hours of hard work, and enjoying the view with a cup of coffee in your hands. Pure bliss! Hikes like Bestefarvarden, Keiservarden or Ramnfloget are great for the less experienced hikers or if your time is limited. For those who are more experienced, who seek a little more thrill or simply have more time on their hands, I recommend hiking my favorites Finnkonnakken, Litltind or Steigtind.
8. Spend A Day At Kjerringøy Peninsula
Due to the WWII bombings, Bodø hasn’t a big selection of old and charming wooden buildings like you’ll find in Tromsø or Trondheim. However, you can still get that vintage vibe by visiting Kjerringøy, a peninsula located less than an hour from Bodø. Going to Kjerringøy is like traveling back in time, and there is enough to see and do there to keep you occupied for hours, days or an entire weekend. An absolute must when visiting Bodø.
9. Have Fun With Various Water Activities
As Bodø is pretty much surrounded by ocean, there are a ton of fun water activities here. Why not try sea kayaking between the little islands on the north side of the city? Or go deep water fishing, go snorkeling or diving with NORD&NE in Saltstraumen, or go on an exciting RIB trip to Saltstraumen with sea eagle safari?
10. Visit Nyholmen Skandse
Right across Bodø harbor lies Nyholmen, one of my favorite spots in the city. At Nyholmen you get the best view of Bodø skyline and the fjord, all while exploring an old fortress. Pretty cool, right? The fortress is called Nyholmen Skandse, and it was built in 1810 during the Napoleon war to protect the city from British ships. Nyholmen is located a ten minute drive from the city centre, or an hour long walk each way if you don’t have access to a car.
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