Flåm is a popular tourist village deep within the Norwegian fjords. Read on for your complete guide, featuring our recommended things to do in Flåm.
Located on a branch of the magnificent Sognefjord lies the tiny village of Flåm. On the banks of the Aurlandsfjord and close to the UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord, Flåm is best known for its spectacular mountain-to-fjord railway journey.
The railway descends 867 metres in less than a hour, providing an ever-changing view from mountain scenery to fjord. Highlights include several bridges and the striking Kjosfossen waterfall.
Table of Contents
Flåm is also one of Norway's busiest cruise ship ports, despite the village itself being home to just a few hundred permanent residents. If you're on a Norwegian fjords itinerary, Flåm may well be one of your stops.
The same is true if you've pre-booked one of the popular ‘Norway in a Nutshell' tours from Oslo or Bergen. Flåm is an integral part of that trip. My recommendation for those on a tour is to extend your stay in Flåm, preferably overnight.
Cruise ship visitor? Consider this private Flåm shore excursion to tour the fascinating area around Flåm and make the most of your limited time in port.
But how should you spend your time in Flåm, besides the famous railway? There's more going on than you might first expect for a place so small. Read on for our complete guide, including why you should visit and what to do once you arrive.
Where is Flåm in Norway?
First things first, let's put Flåm on a map. The village is located in the west Norwegian fjords region at the end of the Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord. Nearby villages include Aurland and Undredal.
Despite its small size and fjord side location, Flåm is on the main E16 road from Oslo to Bergen.
Why visit Flåm?
If you are on a cruise ship with a planned stop in Flåm, then your decision is made for you. The same is true for those on a Nutshell tour. But for independent travellers, why should you consider visiting?
Well, in many ways, Flåm is the archetypal Norwegian fjord village. The Aurlandfjord is spectacular, as is the scenery surrounding the village. Meanwhile, the village itself has the shops, cafes, restaurants and accommodation that you'll need.
If you want to tour the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, Flåm makes a perfect base. That's especially true when you consider its relative ease of getting there.
The railway link means Flåm is one of the easiest major fjord villages for non-drivers to visit, especially from Oslo and Bergen. For drivers, the E16 highway leads directly to Flåm from the two cities.
Best times to visit Flåm
Of course, its ease of transport does mean that Flåm is popular. In the summer, it can get uncomfortably busy especially when there is a large cruise ship in port. But that's also peak time for attractions.
If you are planning a summer visit, I highly recommend checking out the cruise calendar on the website of Flåm Port. This will tell you if a cruise ship is due in port that day together with the passenger capacity (PAX).
My advice? If there is a megaship (more than 3,000 passengers) due in that day, or two smaller ships, choose a different day! But if not, at least you'll be prepared.
Visiting the village outside the high season can be wonderful, but you'll need to plan more carefully. Be sure of the timetables for the railway and any sightseeing trips you are hoping to take.
How do I pronounce Flåm?
Pronunciation is something that trips up many visitors to Norway! While English is spoken everywhere, pronouncing Norwegian place names properly will definitely win you some points with the locals.
Flåm is often pronounced Flamm by native English speakers. That's understandable especially as many cruise lines list the destination as Flam not Flåm. But ‘a' and ‘å' are two different vowels in Norwegian, and they have different sounds.
The sound of the ‘å' vowel is similar to the ‘or' sound in the word ‘born' in English. So, in Norwegian, Flåm is pronounced more like Flom than Flamm.
A big reason Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord are so accessible from the country’s two major cities is the remarkable Flåm Railway, which regularly tops the charts of world’s most beautiful railway journeys.
The one-way trip from Myrdal (on the Bergen line) down to Flåm takes about one hour. The one-hour journey twists and turns over bridges and through tunnels as the train descends more than 800 metres through the Flåm valley at an average 5% gradient.
Most people visiting Flåm by ship or car will take the train up then straight back down again.
How on earth this railway was ever built in the days before computer-aided engineering (it opened in 1940) will surely top your list of questions as you trundle through the lush Flåm valley.
As primarily a tourist route, the train stops midway to allow photographs at the Kjosfossen waterfall, which includes a small hydropower station that actually powers the line itself.
Be wary of the Huldra, a seductive forest creature from Norse mythology who uses the power of song to tempt men to their fate. She’s been known to make more than the occasional appearance at the waterfall!
Myrdal itself is nothing more than the station and a couple of holiday cabins, so while waiting for the train back down you should consider taking a short walk along the trail to explore the very top of the valley. Just don't miss your train!
Flåm railway museum
Even if time is tight, I'd encourage you to call in to the Flåm Railway Museum by the train station to learn more about how the remarkable railway was built. Exhibitions include an authentic EL-9 locomotive and many black-and-white photographs documenting the work.
Things to do in Flåm
There are a lot of things to do in the village and the surrounding area besides the railway. Regardless of your age or interests, I'm sure there will be something for you in this famous fjord village.
The renowned Rallarvegen hiking and cycle path runs down the valley. Energetic travellers can take the railway up to Myrdal station and meander down the valley in your own time.
Just allow several hours, as there are many waterfalls and other outstanding viewpoints along the way. As enjoyable as the hike is, the path is uneven and steep in places, so it's not recommended for those without a good level of fitness.
The Rallarvegen trail actually continues some distance up on the mountain plateau. Originally, it was actually an access road for railway construction. The full route is popular with cyclists, so watch out for them if you do walk some of the route.
Cruise the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord
The Nærøyfjord is part of the ‘west Norwegian fjords' listing on the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Just 250 meters wide at its narrowest point with towering mountains to both sides, the Nærøyfjord is one of the most photogenic of Norway's fjords.
From May to September, a popular two-hour sightseeing cruise operates along the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord between Flåm and Gudvangen. Hybrid and electric-powered passenger ferries have been used on the route for several years now.
If you are travelling independently and especially if you're staying overnight, take an early or late ferry in order to avoid (or at least minimise!) the crowds from cruise ships and Nutshell tours.
Taking the sightseeing ferry both ways can take up to five hours, but not everyone has that much time in Flåm. So, a shuttle bus links Flåm and Gudvangen through the road tunnel to bring down the overall journey time.
Other sightseeing tours are available including a tour by RIB boat, perfect for those who want to get up close to some of the highlights.
Viking Village in Gudvangen
Gudvangen is similar to Flåm in many ways, with tourist facilities and a small permanent population. One major attraction in Gudvangen is the Viking Valley known as Njardarheimr.
In this reenactment centre you step back 1,000 years to experience what life was like in a Viking Age settlement. Wander around at your own pace to explore the the construction traditions, religion, food and crafts.
Viking Village tour: Keen on the Viking Village but don't have time to cruise there from Flåm? This small group tour including lunch is perfect for those tight on time.
Fjord tour by kayak
But for an even more intimate experience, how about a kayak trip? Exploring the incredible scenery with just the splash of your paddle and the call of the birds will take you closer to nature than you ever thought possible.
Guided tours are available, as is kayak rental for the keen, independent traveller. Double kayaks are also available for couples. The more adventurous could also try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).
Visit the Stegastein viewpoint
For the best view of the Aurlandsfjord, head to the Stegastein viewpoint. You'll need a car or to join a guided bus trip from Flåm to get there, as the viewpoint is above the village of Aurland, a little farther along the fjord from Flåm.
Tour to Stegastein: Are you visiting by cruise ship? This small group tour to the viewpoint could be just what you're looking for.
The Stegastein viewing platform juts out 30 metres from the mountainside and gives visitors a panoramic view from 650 metres above the fjord. Wood is used to clad the steel platform in order to blend in as much as possible with the forested mountainside.
The view is simply phenomenal. The first time I visited the sky was clear and it felt as if I was looking at a painting, until I spotted a boat coming around the corner!
If you're driving, Stegastein is part of the Aurlandsfjellet national scenic route that runs over the mountain to Lærdal. Known as the ‘snow road', the summer-only road is a must-do trip for keen drivers.
Walk to Flåm Church
If you need to get away from the cruise ship crowds in the village, the riverside Flåm Church is a pleasant walk. The postcard-worthy 17th-century church is a 3km walk from the waterfront.
It always seems a bit of a lottery whether the church will be open to visitors or not. Your chances are much higher in the summer, of course.
Walk to Brekkefossen waterfall
About halfway along the route to the church, cross the bridge and you'll find the trailhead for the walk to Brekkefossen. The waterfall is impressive, but so is the view back down the valley to the village and fjord beyond.
The steep, rocky trail quickly gains elevation. Although the walk is just a 5km roundtrip from Flåm waterfront, there is a total elevation gain of 155 metres on the way up. Allow up to three hours.
Enjoy the atmosphere in the Ægir brewpub
The liveliest spot in the village is the Norse-themed brewpub Flåmsbrygga from local craft brewery Ægir. Named after the seafaring Norse creature, Ægir has created an atmospheric brewpub centred around a fire pit.
The best choice here for beer drinkers is the sampler, allowing you to try a small taste of each of the Ægir brews. If you're peckish, check out the menu packed with local flavours such as reindeer and shellfish.
Winter activities in Flåm
If you've never visited the Norwegian fjords in the winter, you don't know what you're missing!
First things first, a dusting of snow completely changes the look and feel of the natural surroundings. The Flåm Railway still operates and essentially becomes a ski lift. Snowshoe rental and hikes are also on offer at this time of year.
If you are visiting in the winter, just be aware that extra planning will be needed. Not all accommodation options may be available, while some mountain roads may be closed. Sightseeing tours may not operate, or will run on a reduced schedule.
Where to stay in Flåm, Norway
Many visitors to Flåm are day-trippers, but some people choose to stay overnight. For those, there is a good range of accommodation options. That being said, if you're hoping to stay in the summer, you'll need to make your booking well in advance.
The most popular choice is the former 1800s manor house, refurbished into the Fretheim Hotel. Single rooms right through to family rooms and suites are available. Along with breakfast, the hotel often offers a good if pricey buffet dinner.
Personally, I've stayed in one of the apartments offered by Flåm Ferdaminne. These central apartments aren't cheap but they give you everything you need including a great balcony. This would be a good choice for a longer stay in Flåm.
How to get to Flåm
By car: Flåm is located on the E16 highway that runs between Oslo and Bergen. Drivers coming from Oslo will need to use the Lærdal Tunnel, unless you choose to take the much longer summer-only Aurlandsfjellet snow road.
By train: A top choice for independent travellers is to take the train. It's possible to reach Flåm from either Bergen or Oslo on the same day by taking the Oslo-Bergen line and changing on the Flåm Railway at Myrdal. Book tickets in advance.
By ship: Many cruise ship itineraries include Flåm, at least for now. If yours does, be sure to be up early for the sail-in, as you'll be sailing along some of Norway's most famous fjords for hours before reaching the village. The same applies for the sailaway, of course.
Bear in mind Flåm is a busy port, so your cruise ship may be required to anchor in the fjord. In these cases, passengers will be able to reach Flåm by tender boat. Your cruise ship line will have more details on whether this applies to you.
Tours from Bergen: There are many options to visit Flåm on an organised trip, with many of these starting from Bergen. I much prefer independent travel, but I understand that’s not everyone’s preference.
Have you been to Flåm? If so, what did you do? If not, what appeals to you most about this fjord village? Let us know in the comments below.