Why travellers are falling for Bodø, Norway

Why travellers are falling for Bodø, Norway

Margaret Hussey explores Bodø's saunas, icy waters and superlative seafood

It’s 10.30pm, still light and I’ve just plunged into teeth-chattering Arctic waters. Feeling wholly invigorated, it’s back to the sauna for a case of sweat, plunge, freeze, repeat – and I quickly discover how addictive this ritual can be. 

It’s not my only discovery about this beautiful part of Norway, as Bodø – pronounced ‘Boo‑da’ – surpasses many expectations. 

Sitting just above the Arctic Circle, this city of 55,000 people has breathtaking scenery, some of Scandinavia’s best food and a thriving sense of community, and – thanks to being named the 2024 European Capital of Culture – this gem is going to be discovered by many more.

I visited last June to experience the midnight sun, when perpetual daylight makes you lose all sense of time. It was a strange feeling, to be sipping a Negroni at midnight at the Radisson Blu’s cool Top 13 Bar while it was light outside. Down below, people were milling around, eating and drinking in the city’s bars and restaurants as if it was 7pm. It’s easy to understand why. When long, dark winters give way to these incredible summer nights, and with so much on Bodø’s doorstep, why stay indoors?

Norway boatRib boat excursion

Norway's Natural Wonders
An amazing phenomenon here is the Saltstraumen, the world’s strongest maelstrom. I took a rib boat out, and, as we approached, I could feel the tug and pull on the boat. It’s an incredible sight as the water spins in perfect circles, and more and more whirlpools and eddies appear. Meanwhile, overhead, eagles swoop and dive for fish.

Back on dry land, I donned my walking boots for a 1.5-mile hike to the city’s mountain, Keiservarden, where I got wonderful views over the city and Norwegian Sea. Again, my body clock was confused as the hours went by in what felt like never-ending days.

At10pm, I could still spot couples walking their dogs, alongside some speed walkers and even some cyclists, up the mountain

The next day, I agreed to tackle the Rampen Via Ferrata, one of Bodø’s newest attractions. Kitted out with safety equipment and helmets, I walked across a rope bridge over open water before scaling a rock face, against a backdrop of Vest Fjord and Landegode island. No previous climbing experience is needed, but you definitely need a good pair of boots and a strong stomach.

Norway festivalMusic festival, BodøBodo Dining 
Lystpå in central Bodø showcases all that is brilliant about Norwegian cuisine. Its food is modern Nordic meets tradition – reindeer and dried cod from the nearby Lofoten Islands is on the menu, as is fish soup made with Norwegian shrimps, carrots, fennel, leek and the catch of the day. Attention is paid to presentation too, with beautiful bowls and stylish crockery. Plus, there’s a large patio for hearty burgers and beers on a sunny afternoon.

Craig Alibone Pâtisserie & Champagneria in the heart of Bodø is Scandi style meets French culinary passion. Craig, originally from Leicester, learnt his trade in France and makes the most delicious chocolates and macarons using local produce including seasonal berries and the Norwegian speciality brunost (brown cheese). He even has a brown-cheese ice cream, which tastes very much like caramel. It’s the perfect place to sit with friends and sip a glass of his perfectly selected champagnes.

One of the big social hubs in Bodø is Ohma, right on the harbourfront and opposite the city’s impressive Stormen library. It offers a huge range of Asian dishes intended for sharing, from gyoza (dumplings) to crispy duck and lobster tacos to sushi, making the most of the area’s fresh fish. There’s a real buzz and sense of occasion – the lively bar is a great place for people watching.


The Capital of Culture Affect
Bodø's people have a palpable sense of pride about being named the 2024 European Capital of Culture. The celebrations kicked off with a huge opening ceremony on a floating stage. Around 1,000 more events are planned throughout this year, including a light festival, a concert in a submerged cave and a celebration of Sámi culture.

Local Lystpå restaurateur Mike Mlynarczyk said: “There's so much that we are looking forward to showing people – what we do here and what we are about.” 

Originally from the UK, chocolatier Craig Alibone moved to Bodø with his Norwegian partner. He believes that living so far north makes a difference to people’s temperament and attitude to life. "It’s a community that really pulls together,” he added. “We all help each other.”

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