Before I start the article, I’m sure many of you are thinking I’d love to go, but Norway is very expensive. Well, I have news for you. Now is a great time to visit Norway as their currency has sunk in value, and prices are similar to the UK for food and drink in most places, with hotels being very cheap.
In this post:
Getting to Bodø in the Arctic Circle
I have used the Calm Sleep stories many times as they have a range of travel stories that will inspire you to visit new places. One of my favourites is about the Nordland line, which runs from Bodø in the Arctic Circle to the city of Trondheim in Norway. The service is the longest railway journey in Norway, taking around 10 hours to do the whole trip one way.
So when Finnair invited me on a press to Bodø, I jumped at the chance to add on the train down to Trondheim (at my own expensive).
Bodø is Finnair’s newest route, making it surprisingly accessible from the UK. If you fancy doing the train line as well, you can fly on an open jaw into Bodo and out of Trondheim with Finnair if you don’t want to make a return trip. The route from Helsinki to Tronheim with Finnair is the longest propeller aircraft route in Europe, and the lower altitude of the aircraft gives spectacular views as you approach Bodo. The airport itself is so close to town, it is walkable!
There are 3x weekly summer seasonal flights from Helsinki in May 2023 to August 2023, and you should be able to use Avios to Bodø, although you may need to call BA as ba.com does not seem to be able to handle it.
Finnair is currently the only airline offering scheduled international flights from Bodø, and also flies to four other destinations in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Tromsø). You can travel from Heathrow, Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin, to Helsinki to connect onwards. If you fly from London, you can experience Finnair’s long haul business class on at least one flight a day.
A return flight from London Heathrow to Bodø starts at £379 in Economy Class, including all taxes and charges. From London to Helsinki costs 33000 Avios + £ 84.18 in business class return.
Bodø is a beautiful but small city in the Arctic Circle. The city is due to be the European City of Culture for 2024, with over 1000 planned events, including an ambitious opening ceremony from a platform in the stormy seas in early spring. While being more of a town than a city in my eyes, I was really pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit I didn’t know quite what to expect and thought maybe it would be a bit unsophisticated, but I was very wrong!
Currently, there are no five-star hotels, but The Wood is being built for 2024. The modern hotel is perched on the hillside overlooking the city, mountains, and water for breathtaking vistas. There will be a restaurant and bar with spectacular views as well as a wellness area with a large roof terrace and outdoor infinity pool. For now, the best option is probably the Radisson Blu hotel has the perfect setting on the harbour in the town center and has a rooftop bar perfect for enjoying the fiery skies of the midnight sun. I’d recommend going for one of the higher category rooms since the basic room is very small and rooms only cost from £68 a night! I’d recommend at least the Premium room with sea view, if not one of the Junior or full suites.
Even if you don’t stay there, it is well worth visiting the hotel to view the midnight sun. The rooftop bar Top 13, is indoor, but I preferred the ambiance to the Scandic.
There was a good range of cocktails which were reasonably priced at about £13. I also really enjoyed the Asian restaurant OHMAA on the ground floor, which has a large outdoor terrace by the waterfront. As you’d expect, the sushi and sashimi dishes were stunning here.
The Scandic hotel rooftop bar and restaurant, Roast, has a large outdoor area if you are lucky enough to get great weather. However, there was no service outside and the seating was a bit odd and more like benches along the wall than bar seating. But even if you just take in the views, it is worth a visit.
The restaurant scene in the city is well-developed, with several outlets focusing on wine or champagne. One of the unique offerings is Craig Alibone, a patisserie and chocolate shop that also curates a wide range of champagne to enjoy with your sweet treats. Stop by in the morning for the flakiest croissants outside of Paris, or buy some of the delectable salted caramel chocolates made with salt from nearby Saltstraumen. I’d go back to Bodo just for those!
LystPå Restaurant also has a strong emphasis on wine and champagne in a casual atmosphere that offers everything from fine dining to more casual outdoor options.
If you prefer to be by the harbour, Bryggerikaia has a conservatory by the water which offers the chance to try traditional dishes such as stock fish which is dried cod.
There is plenty to do near Bodo, such as a walk to the red sand beach at Mjelle nearby or visiting the Kjerringøy trading post to see how the family and their workers lived in the 19th century.
You can have lunch at the nearby Kjerringøy Pier hotel while enjoying the harbour’s tranquillity and crisp Arctic air.
A boat trip on a rib to Saltstraumen is also a must, home of the world’s strongest maelstrom. The ride to the area is absolutely stunning, particularly if you get great weather like we did.
You can ride the maelstrom in the boat with its mixture of whirlpools, rushing water, and glass-like still areas.
On the trip, you will likely see several eagles that swoop into the water right before you.
While there, you can visit Tuvsjyen with local food experiences and storytelling about Stone Age living in the area.
You can also try a sauna and jump into the refreshing water (10c in summer!) with the Pust sauna which floats in the harbour.
For the more adventurous you can try Bodo’s latest attraction, climbing at Via Ferrata. For a slightly less hair-raising option, you can enjoy the midnight sun on a hike up Keiservarden, which gives great views across the city.
If you are more of an aviation fan, I highly recommend the Norwegian Aviation Museum near Bodo airport.
The museum is divided into civil and military. Each half walks you through the ages of aviation with plenty of actual aircraft to see as well as items from airlines and military operations including advertising and interiors.
Nordland Line to Trondheim
All too soon, it was time to leave the Arctic Circle and head further south to Trondheim on the Nordland Railway. If you want to ride both ways, there is a sleeper service, but it would seem a shame to miss the scenery even though the carriages are comfortable and reasonably priced. On the day trains there are two classes of travel. The Premium carriage starts from around £45 one way if you book when tickets are released 90 days before.
The Premium carriage has comfortable seats with tables and power points at each seat. Complimentary tea, coffee, water, and snacks are available from a cafe area, and open sandwiches are served during the journey. Also on the train is a family carriage with a kids’ playroom and a restaurant car that serves everything from a moose burger to a poke bowl.
The local beers are well worth a try as you watch the scenery speed by. Wi-Fi is also available for the whole journey, although the only thing you are likely to be looking at is the landscape.
As you leave Bodo, the stunning views start within a few minutes, and within the first hour, you will have already taken multiple photos trying to capture the view. The track takes you past snow-covered mountains along the edge of majestic fjords, tranquil lakes, and turbulent rivers. You may even be lucky and spot a reindeer in one of the forests. As you cross the Arctic Circle beside snow-dotted hillsides and gushing waterfalls, a monument marks the spot for yet another photo opportunity.
The scenery continues for almost the whole journey, apart from brief periods inside the tunnels through the mountainside. Taking the afternoon journey is ideal in the summer because this is the land of the midnight sun. Even though you will arrive in Trondheim late in the evening, there will still be full daylight to enjoy the approach along the Trondheim fjord. The fjord is Norway’s third-longest fjord at 81 miles long. In the winter, you may glimpse the Northern Lights if you are lucky.
Trondheim is a larger city with more hotel options, from the riverfront Radisson Blu to the five-star The Brittania. I stayed at the Radisson Blu Trondheim Royal Garden, which is only a short walk from the station and also close enough to walk to most attractions in town. I was upgraded to a room overlooking the rover, which I would recommend.
Don’t be put off by the low rating on TripAdvisor. The hotel recently had a massive refurbishment, and I really liked my stay.
However, if I go back again (highly likely), I will stay at the 5* Britannia, a Leading Hotel of the World, which could rival European luxury hotels like the Savoy. Owned by an anglophile, a black cab is parked outside, and afternoon tea is served.
Rooms are traditionally elegant with their high ceiling but with modern luxury.
While there are several restaurants and bars, the highlight has to be the Michelin star Speilsalen, where I ate, which serves a fish-focused Norwegian tasting menu.
The chef’s table is the best seat in the house at Speilsalen as the chefs meticulously cook the delicious dishes right before you. The food is based on local produce, so there is a lot of fish. Even though it is only one Michelin star, it was one of the best Michelin star meals I have had in a long time.
The scallops were the largest I have ever seen, and although it wasn’t cheap, the portions and high-quality ingredients made it well worth it for a treat. Each course felt like a real indulgence, from the presentation to the luxury ingredients, but all came with a touch of freshness that stopped it from being too much.
There are also two other Michelin-star restaurants in town, so you won’t be short of places to eat.
If you want to stay at Britannia Hotel, you can book through our luxury travel agents GTC for extra perks.
During the day, a visit to the Old Town Bakklandet district and a walk across the old red bridge are top of the must-do list. Brightly coloured buildings from the 1600 and 1700s painted in shades of ochre and red line the riverside. Most are restaurants or bars and perfect for enjoying some summer sunshine and people-watching from a pavement table. The Nidaros Cathedral’s dark, candlelit interior is also a must-do.
If you want to get out into the countryside, a short tram ride to Lian will take you past the suburbs to two different lakes popular with families in warm weather for swimming and hiking.
I absolutely loved this area of Norway. Bodø is one of the most beautiful places I have visited, with fantastic food and lots to do. I am sure I will definitely go back to this area in the future.