Bodø is the largest city in the Nordland county and the second largest in Northern Norway. However, it's not only the fact that it's a larger town (by Norwegian standards) that attracts large groups of visitors every year. Located just north of the Arctic Circle, Bodø has much to offer all year.
With its 50.000 residents, Bodø is the 12th largest town in Norway. It's seen tremendous growth during the last years, though, and aims to increase the population to 70.000 within 2030.
Since Bodø lies just north of the Arctic Circle, the midnight sun is visible from the 2nd of June until 10th of July. This is a natural phenomenon that attracts large groups of tourists every year. Can you imagine, the sun doesn't set for more than a month (24 hours of sunlight!).
Even though the town is north of the Arctic Circle, there is no true polar night in Bodø. This is because of the atmospheric refraction, which basically means that the border for the polar night is slightly further north of the Arctic Circle than Bodø (you don't need to travel further than to the Lofoten Islands until you have true polar nights). However, the high mountains in the south block the sun so the sun is practically gone from the city between early January to early December.
Now that you know a little about Bodø, let's look at some things you can do during a visit:
No article about Bodø is complete without mentioning Saltstraumen; the world's strongest maelstrom. More than 400 million cubic meters of water pass through the 3km long and 150 meters wide strait every 6 hours with speeds up to 20 knots. The unique location has become an eldorado for both fishermen and divers with its abundance of saithe, cod, wolffish, rosefish, and halibut. Coalfish is also a specialty of the area and the largest one documented was 22.7kg, captured on a fishing rod.
The phenomenon isn't only popular among fishermen and divers. It's become one of the most visited attractions in the Bodø area and there are several tour buses departing daily from the center. It's also possible to take RIB boat tours onto the maelstrom which is a guaranteed unique experience.
If you wish to visit without attending a tour, make sure that you've familiarized yourself with the tides as the current varies greatly. You want to visit when it's at the strongest.
While in the area you should also visit Saltstraumen Museum where you can learn about one of Norway's oldest human settlements (approximately 11,000 years old), Norway's oldest musical instrument, local boats and Viking ships and more.
The Cathedral of Bodø (Bodø Domkirke in Norwegian) is well worth a quick visit. This unique and beautiful church was built in 1956 after the town's previous church was ruined when the city center was bombed in 1940 during World War II. An architectural competition was held in 1946 which was won by Blakstad & Munthe Kaas. The church became one of the first in Norway to have a detached steeple.
There's also a memorial for those who died in Bodø during World War II. It sais: Til de fra Bodø som gav sitt liv for Norge under krig og okkupasjon 1940–1945. Ingen nevnt, ingen glemt, which translates "To those from Bodø who gave their lives for Norway during the war and occupation 1940–1945. None named, None forgotten."
The Nordland Museum was established in 1888, although the building where the museum now is situated is from 1904. Most of its historic collections were damaged or destroyed after two bombs hit the museum during World War II. It didn't function as a museum during the years of the war either as it housed the National Gathering (National Samling), a fascist party that was active from 1933 to 1945.
Today the museum building has been preserved by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage and currently holds a total of 4 exhibitions. The exhibitions are quite diverse but they all include local history dating from the Viking era until the mid-1950s.
Norwegian Aviation Museum
The Norwegian Aviation Museum is among the most popular museums in Bodø and its vast collection of aircrafts surprises most that visit. It's the national aviation museum in Norway and is the biggest of all aviation museums in Scandinavia. The museum displays Norway's aviation history since the beginning and up until today. The museum is divided into two sections; military and civilian aircraft. Some of the highlights you can see at the museum are civilian aircrafts, military aircrafts and helicopters.
Hike the Historic Fykantrappa
Even though it's a couple hours drive out of town, hiking Fykantrappa is a unique experience that is highly recommended when visiting the Bodø region. It can also be combined with an overnight stay and excursion at the beautiful Svartisen Glacier.
Fykantrappa is a wooden staircase clinging to the mountainside that was built in 1919 by "Rallare". Rallare were poor people who lived day to day but had a lifestyle where they wandered around without many worries. The staircase was needed to be able to build a hydropower station and it provided temporary work to Rallare who was wandering through and looking to earn some extra money.
The staircase is well maintained and is approximately 1.7 kilometers long with a total of 300 meters altitude and 1129 steps. The views on the way up are spectacular and this will be a hike you'll remember for life.
Explore Svartisen Glacier
Only 20 minutes away from Fykantrappa you'll find the magnificent Svartisen Glacier; Norway's second biggest glacier.
The glacier is a total of 370 square kilometers and the lowest point is less than 20 meters above sea level, making it very accessible. There are several tours you can attend from Bodø and you can choose between doing a long day tour or include an overnight stay. The hike from the parking to the glacier takes approximately one hour.
Chase the Northern Lights
You've got a chance of witnessing the magical Aurora Borealis (northern lights) if you're visiting Bodø somewhere between early September and early April. It's no guarantee that you'll be able to spot the green phenomenon dance in the sky but if you pay attention to the forecast, or sign up for a local tour, the chances might increase. Bodø is a great place to look for the northern lights but there are certain aspects you need to keep in mind to increase the possibility of spotting them. If seeing the northern lights is one of the goals for your travels I highly recommend reading our article How to See the Northern Lights.