JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH RENATE SANDVIK FROM BODØ, NORWAY!
Renate Sandvik was born and raised in Bodø. After finishing her archaeology studies in Oslo, Athens and Rome, she moved back to town, and called it home. After 100 countries this is where she wants to be. Her blog focuses about destinations all around the world, especially exciting places off the beaten track, but also Norwegian destinations and mountain hikes.
Bodø is the second largest city in Northern Norway, and is located right above the Arctic Circle. It’s also the gateway to the North and to the Lofoten Islands
The town is located on a peninsula and surrounded by the Norwegian sea and countless exciting islands and mountains. Bodø celebrated it’s 200 year anniversary in 2016, and has 50,000 inhabitants today. Most of downtown was levelled during WWII bombings, and still to this day, new buildings are popping up around town at an almost alarming rate. It’s a university town, with a vivid nightlife.
What is the best time to visit Bodø?
It’s a bit hard to say since every season has its highlights. In the falltime the autumn colors are amazing, and in the winter you can go skiing. In both those seasons you also have the chance to see the northern lights. My personal favorite is late spring, early summer when it’s blooming and the midnight sun shines all night.
What are the best ways to reach Bodø considering most travellers land in Oslo?
Travelling to Bodø by air from Oslo is by far the easiest. It takes 1.5 hours by air, and the airport in Bodø is only 1 km away from downtown.
You can also go by train, but it takes about 16 hours and you have to switch trains in Trondheim. If you order in advance, then that’s usually the cheapest option.
If you want to travel by water, you first have to get to Bergen, and then you can board Hurtigruten. That will take you three days, and can be expensive, but it is by far the most beautiful way to reach the city.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Bodø?
Bodø is a really small town, so you can reach every inch of it by foot. Locals usually get around by car, but there is also a frequent bus service within the city and to the surroundings. If you want to reach the closest islands, there is also a ferry and fast boat service. To reach the islands of Lofoten archipelago by boat click here.
For excellent details on transport in Bodø and Nordland County, click here.
What are the top three must visit places in Bodø?
One of the must visit places in Bodø is the Aviation Museum. Bodø has for many years been a hub for military aviation, and when it was decided where the Norwegian Aviation Museum would be placed in 1994, Bodø was the chosen site. The huge museum is shaped like a propeller from above, and has the biggest collection of military and civil aviation history.
Another must visit site is Keiservarden mountain. This 366 meter high mountain can be seen from downtown, and offers great 360 degree views over the city, and many of the surrounding mountains and islands. You can even see all the way over to Lofoten. You can get to the top of the mountain in less than two hours from downtown Bodø, or you can take the bus to Rønvika and cut the trip down to half that. Here is a very helpful guide for hiking to Keiservarden mountain.
The third must visit site is the Mjelle beach. It might seem strange to include a beach when listing places to visit in a city above the Arctic circle. But the fact is that this area of Norway has many stunning beaches to offer, with turqouise crystal clear waters and white sand. Mjelle is one of them, even though the swimming season is quite short. If you visit in the summer and like to hike, there is a wonderful beach called Hovdsundet about 1,5 hours hike from here. A must see!
Other places to visit include the harbor area, the new library Stormen (“the Storm”), Bodø Cathedral, Bodin medieval church, Bodø Museum and see the view from the top floor of Scandic Hotel.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Bodø?
Bodø has many great options when it comes to day trips. Two of the most obvious are Saltstraumen and Kjerringøy, but I also wish you suggest Åselidalen – if you want to explore more of the nature.
Åselidalen lies about 40 minutes south of Bodø towards Helgelandskysten, and you either need a car or a bus to get there. Once at the parking spot, you can hike for about an hour up to Nedre Åselivatn, where you can pitch up a tent or enjoy the stunning scenery with a day hike further up into the valley.
Saltstraumen is the world’s strongest tidal current, where enormous amounts of water rushes through the narrow sound every six hours. This creates powerful whirlpools that can be up to 10 meters or so wide. You can even take boat trips out on the water or go fishing from the shores. Just make sure you don’t get too close to the water. For more details on things to do in Saltstraumen click here.
Kjerringøy with the surrounding mountains and crystal clear sea, it almost feels like a miniature Lofoten. It is as far north as Antartica is south. Kjerringøy Trading Post is a wonderful place in the county of Bodø that takes you back in time. To get here you can take a bus from the city, and the 40 km trip also includes a short ferry ride. This was once a central trading post for the area, and many of the old buildings are still standing like they did back in the day.
You can even do a (long) day trip to Lofoten if you wish. You can either take a frequent 20 minute plane ride to either Leknes or Svolvær, or you can take a 3,5 hour long ferry to Moskenes. If you bring a bicycle with you on the ferry, you can visit fishing villages Å and Reine. Both beautiful places in stunning locations. Once the stone staircase to Reinebringen is finished (hopefully this year), you can also stop by and hike what is probably one of the most famous hikes in Lofoten.
Which is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Bodø?
The most celebrated event (besides Christmas) is Norway’s Constitutional day on the 17th of May. This is a national holiday where most people have time off from work or school. The day starts bright and early for many with a champagne breakfast, and then the children’s parades take place all over the city. At 4 PM another parade takes place, called “Borgertoget” where everyone can join and marching bands parade with different sports teams and unions and so forth. The parades always start or end with speeches. People also go to the tivoli, eat good food and as much ice cream as they can. Everyone puts on their best clothes, and it’s the best opportunity to see Norwegians in their traditional outfits – the bunad. You also get to see the “russ”, which is the graduating class of High School, dressed in red and celebrating that school is almost over.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Bodø? Can you suggest a place to try it?
The area of Salten, where Bodø is situated, has one local sweet in particular that can be found nowhere else in the country (or the world, for that matter). It’s called møsbrømlefse. It’s kind of a soft flat bread wrapped with a very sweet sauce made from brown cheese. It is often served with a little sour cream too. It’s a very traditional dish, and has a unique flavour. I love it, and try to eat it as often as I can. It might not look like much when you see it, but trust me, it’s very heavy.
You can now find it several places in the city, like at Løvold in downtown Bodø and Café City Nord (the one on the third floor at the mall), and also in Kjerringøy and at the hotell and Kjelen Kafé in Saltstraumen. I’ve tasted them all, and they are delicious.
You can also find møsbrømlefse-chocolate at Melkebaren, as well as other local produce, such as different types of coffee, cheeses, meats etc. Melkebaren even have “tørrfisk” chocolate (dried cod choclate)!
Are there any popular markets in Bodø which tourists must visit? Which is the local craft or souvenir of Bodø?
We don’t really have any outside flea markets, like in other cities in Europe. But we do have several indoor all-year fleamarkets. These include Røde Kors-butikken, Fretex and Jessen Brukt og Nytt. All of which can be found downtown. Here you can also visit Husfliden, which sells Norwegian traditional outfits and knitted products.
If you want to bring home a traditional Norwegian troll, this is where you will find it.
What adventure activities can one indulge in when visiting Bodø?
You can take a trip with a rib to Saltstraumen when it is at its strongest, you can even go snorkelling or diving there! You can go for fishing trips out at sea, or kayaking, you can go mountain climbing up Strandåtind on Kjerringøy, or hike many of our 1,000+ meter mountains, you can go skiing in the wintertime – even from the mountain tops, you can go caving in the many caves around Fauske or Gildeskål, you can go dogsledding and you can even go golfing under the Midnight sun.
What is the best time of the year to spot Aurora Borealis in Bodø? From where can it be viewed the best?
From late September to early March. Before and after that it’s too light here to see them.
The best places to see the Aurora from is either north of the city “Nordsia” or from Rønvikfjellet or even Keiservarden. Just make sure to bring enough warm clothes, something warm to sit on and preferable hot coffee or cocoa in a thermos. Waiting for this dancing lady can take time! Check beforehand if the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis are good or not.
Which guided Northern Lights and photography tours do you recommend for people coming to Bodø?
The only northern lights tour in Bodø that I know of, is run by Polar Tours. However, it is easy making your own tour, as long as you rent a car. The light pollution is quite low once you get out of the immediate downtown, and there are several places close by one can visit to see the northern lights. For example the beach of Løp, the mountain Rønvikfjellet or Keiservarden.
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals? Where can one spot street art in Bodø?
During the summer we have two musical events that take place in Bodø that are a big deal; Parken and Nordland Musikkfestuke.
The latter takes part in the beginning of August, while the first takes part in the end of August – just before schools start. These are big musical events that have included big international names as well as Norwegian ones. The Parken festival takes place in Rensåsparken, with Musikkfestuken having many venues, both inside and outside, such as Stormen Concert Hall, Nyholmen Skanse and Keiservarden.
In recent years several big and small music and food festivals have also sprung to life, for example Opptur, Bodøfestivalen, and Folk & Fish.
Bodø has also gotten lots of impressive street art in recent years. Especially after 2016 when it hosted UpNorth which is a touring festival that produces street art. All of the art is downtown, and some of the most impressive ones can be found using this digital map.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Bodø?
For getting around you can download “Billett Nordland“. If you buy a single ticket on the app, it cost 20 NOK less than buying the ticket on the bus itself. You can use the app all over the county of Nordland (which includes Lofoten).
“Too good to go” is an app trying stop food waste. Restaurants, hotels, and café’s around the city (and Norway) can sell their left over food pre-packed on this app, for just a fraction of the price you would normally spend. It stops food waste and gets you great food for a budget price.