Flåm is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Norwegian fjords. Yet relatively few tourists leave the port area on foot to discover the old village and church.
Have you ever taken the scenic Flåm railway? If so, chances are you will have noticed a handful of buildings lining the river together with this old, wooden church. The walk there is one of the best ways to discover this charming fjord village.
The port and village of Flåm is one of the most popular destinations in all of the fjord Norway region. And rightly so! Steep mountains and a beautiful, calm fjord make it one of the most picturesque spots imaginable.
Escaping the tourist crowds in Flåm
Yet Flåm suffers from a problem. In the summer, the port can host multiple cruise ships. Together with day visitors on the railway or by car, the compact village centre can get uncomfortably crowded.
But there are ways to escape the crowds! There's the railway of course, but that can also get busy.
Now, while the Flåmsbana railway trip is absolutely worth doing, you can also walk from the port along the river through to the more residential part of the village and on to the church.
Along the way, you'll bump into a handful of locals as you get to see a Norwegian fjords village up close. You might also see long-distance walkers, people heading to the Brekkefossen waterfall, or people cycling down through the valley.
The first time I visited Flåm with my parents, we walked through the village and ended up at a lovely old wooden church. Unfortunately it was closed, but we still enjoyed the walk.
On a recent return visit with my mum, she was keen to repeat the walk. This time, we struck it lucky and found the church open.
If you're visiting Flåm, this is a thoroughly enjoyable walk. It will take about 40-45 minutes one-way, but do allow time for photo stops!
The history of Flåm church
Flåm church is small but perfectly formed! Although at first glance it might resemble a Norwegian stave church, Flåm church is actually much newer. That being said, it is still more than 350 years old!
The brown, wooden church was built in a long church design in 1670 by master builder Magne Essen, although the designer/architect is unknown. Seating about 160 people, the church replaced two former churches, one of which is believed to have been a stave church.
The earliest reference to the church on this location date back to 1340, but not as a new building. Materials from this church and its replacement a mile away (which was badly damaged in a storm) were used in the construction of the new church.
Flåm church is mostly original, although there were some improvements made in 1926. The tower and church porch were both rebuilt and the exterior was painted a dark brown.
Inside Flåm church
Inside, this is one of Norway's best illustrated churches with figures over large parts of the wall surfaces in both the nave and the chancel.
Illustrations range from rose borders and landscapes through to figures of lions, hares, foxes, and deer.
The illustrations in the chancel are said to be the oldest, while those in the nave are believed to be from the late 17th century. In the 1960s, some of the oldest illustrations were restored.
The church has a nave in baroque style from its early days, with the pulpit said to be from 1667. The Renaissance altarpiece is originally from the 1600s with crucifixion-related illustrations.
Visiting Flåm church
The church and its graveyard is a picturesque spot to visit, even if the church itself is closed. A few benches are available around the graveyard.
A neighbouring turf-roofed wooden building has a visitors' bathroom that is often open even if the church itself is closed.
The official website of Visit Norway says the church is open “during the summer”. If you're visiting Flåm in June, July or August, it's highly likely going to be open. We visited in mid-September when there was a cruise ship in port, and the church was still open.
If you do get to go inside, you'll surely enjoy the interior. The church is not staffed, and donations can be left or made digitally using Vipps.
Sights along the walk
The walk from Flåm is straightforward but is along a road, so do take care. Remember many vehicles in Norway are electric-powered, so you won't always hear them coming!
The route follows the river and railway line for much of the journey, so you're likely to see at least one train on the Flåm railway pass by at some point. You'll also walk past one of the stations, and cross the tracks at one point.
One of the major sights along the walk is the Brekkefossen waterfall, which you'll see on the western side of the valley across the river. Many people hike to the viewpoint, the trailhead for which is across the river about halfway along the walk to the church.
On the other side of the river you'll also see the village school (Flåm Skule). Other points of interest include the Ægir brewery (don't miss the brewpub at the port!) and many beautifully kept private houses and gardens.
Have you taken the walk to Flåm Church? Let us know your experiences in the comments below.