As the first European Capital of Culture north of the Arctic Circle, Bodø is gearing up for a year full of spectacular events. Fusing the region’s dramatic landscape, Sami heritage and innovative local forces, the events of Bodø 2024 are set to include unique combinations of nature, art, and indigenous culture. To get a feel for what the year might offer, Scan Magazine visited the northern hub and spoke to the organisers behind Bodø 2024.

It’s dark and the air is raw, but no one seems to notice as a steady stream of people are making their way towards the harbour of Bodø. Excitement is in the air. It’s the first Saturday of February, and the event which is causing people to swarm onto the streets is the opening ceremony of Bodø 2024. After a breathtaking 30 minutes centred around a magnificent floating stage, huge glowing fish sculptures, laser lights, storytelling, dance, and music, the event culminates in splendid fireworks and applause from around 20,000 spectators. Among them is the Norwegian Queen Sonja. Bodø is officially the first European Capital of Culture north of the Arctic Circle.

Bodø 2024

Photo: Ernst Furuhatt, Visit Bodø

Breathtaking nature

After the ceremony people quietly dissipate into the streets, restaurants fill up, and queues start to form. Having arrived in the dark and not seen much, this is where we notice one of the first striking things about Bodø: Even when the city is buzzing with people, the energy is calm, laidback, and friendly. Families of several generations, groups of friends, and young couples move tables, squeeze in extra chairs, and wait for their turn with an infectious non-fuzzed, non-hurried attitude. No matter where you go, this is how it is. The next day, in the elegant yet warm and welcoming Craig Alibone Pâtisserie & Champagneria, mothers breastfeed, and grandmothers knit as champagne, coffee and artistic cakes adorn the tables.

Maybe the widespread zen attitude comes from living in the presence of the grand landscape of Norway’s North. Undeniably, its natural wonders are what Bodø is best known for. However, 2024 is not about nature. Or rather it is not JUST about nature, but about showcasing the culture which this majestic landscape has fostered.

Traditionally seen as a gate to the stunning Lofoten archipelago, in more recent years, the region of Bodø has emerged as a destination in its own right. “More people are visiting because of the stunning nature and the beautiful scenery,” Marie Peyre, international communications & relations manager Bodø 2024, explains: “The steep mountains, the ocean, our wildlife, the Northern Lights, and Saltstraumen, the world’s strongest tidal currents – our biggest attractions are the forces of nature.”

Bodø 2024

This summer, Bodø’s midnight sun will combine with a string of cultural events to make for an enchanting visit. Photo: David Engmo, Bodø 2024

A cultural surprise

In terms of culture, Bodø is perhaps best known as the home of Norway’s 10,000 square metres National Museum of Aviation. But the fact that the city is also home to numerous unique art galleries comes as a surprise to many. Among some of the city’s art experiences are the internationally minded gallery of photographic art NOUA, set in the centre of Bodø; the Adde Zetterquist Art Gallery, a gallery focused on art, nature and Sami culture, set in the spectacular natural surroundings of Storjord in Saltdal; and the characteristic Bodøgaard gallery founded by the local artist Oscar Bodøgaard in 1985. The three venues aptly demonstrate the diversity of offers within the region of Bodø. “Bodø 2024, will see events take place throughout the region, and the fact that we cover such a big area means an incredibly wide span of locations, surroundings and approaches,” explains Peyre.

Moreover, in recent years, a number of impressive cultural venues such as Svømmehallen Scene, an old public pool turned into a raw and pulsating music venue, have moved the city in a new direction. “Before we had a bit of a problem in that people only wanted to talk about our nature, but what is special about Bodø is that we offer a combination of culture and nature,” stresses Peyre. “We see many artists whose work is inspired by our nature and nature is often used as the stage for culture. In 2024, we will have a lot of events happening outdoors in unusual places. You don’t have to choose between nature and culture, you can have both.”

Bodø 2024

Sami culture will play a prominent role in the programme of Bodø 2024. Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik , Visit Bodø

How a library spurred the idea for Bodø 2024

That Bodø 2024 was launched in the harbour of Bodø seems only appropriate since it was from there that the idea to apply for the coveted title originally arose. In 2014, the opening of Stormen Concert House and Library in the harbour sparked an idea among locals in Bodø. Inspired by this new inviting public space with breathtaking ocean views, they realised that their city could become known for more than just its beautiful landscape and Northern Lights. From that moment onwards, an impressive group of local forces united to present an application that eventually earned Bodø the title in 2019. “One of the things the jury was impressed by was that it was such a big team effort, more than 100 people were involved in the city’s nomination,” explains Peyre. “Moreover, since the European Capital of Culture first started in 1985, 70 cities have had the title, but we are the first north of the Arctic Circle,” explains Peyre.

The city’s strong focus on Sami culture was another deciding factor in its nomination.

Bodø 2024

In 2014, the opening of the stunning Stormen Concert House and Library sparked the idea for Bodø 2024. Photo: Dan Mariner, Visit Bodø

What to expect

With 1000 cultural events taking place during 2024, the only problem when planning your visit to Bodø is when to go to make the most of it. With the alluring magic of the midnight sun, multiple outdoor events set in magnificent landscapes, and even remote hiking routes laced with cultural surprises, the summer months offer an abundance of irresistible opportunities. To celebrate the magic of the summer, Midsummer Mystery, a grand outdoor family event by the experienced performing arts company Walk the Plank will take place on 22 June.

Bodø 2024

After School by Rustam QBic. Bodø is also the home of several impressive works of street art. Photo: Marie Peyre, Bodø2024

Asked to name some of her recommendations from the extensive programme of events, Peyre says: “We have 1000 events so it’s not easy to pick just a couple! I have to mention the KLAB (Kjerringøy Land Art Biennale), which is Europe’s only land art biennale, in stunning Kjerringøy, about an hour’s drive north of Bodø. Another one is the European Cabins of Culture, a lot of people come to hike in Nordland, and they will experience a multitude of surprises in intimate settings and striking locations. Visitors can expect things such as outdoor art and performances, impro theatre, Sami lasso throwing, sanking, campfire cooking, and a poetry evening and workshop with a local poet.” Peyre adds: “But also everything with Sami culture. From 19 June, our City Museum, Bådåddjo Musea, will be transformed into a Sami museum with several exhibitions of Sami art.”

Bodø 2024

Photo: Dan Mariner, Visit Bodø

Many events will be screened for the world to enjoy, and the focus on reach and longevity characterises many projects. Among them is the erection of a ten-metre-tall bronze sculpture of Petter Dass, Norway’s most famous baroque priest, which is set to create a new landmark off the Helgeland coast. Another project is a special book project created with award-winning Scottish author Stef Penney. On 4 July, she will release her new book, The Long Water, a mystery set in the region of Bodø.

Bodø 2024

Photo: Frank R. Dahl, Visit Bodø

From cold to cool

Apart from its stunning landscape, the zen-like mindset of its locals, and diverse cultural offers, what might surprise some visitors to Bodø is the city’s vibrant and international culinary scene. Trendy Asian restaurants, sky view bars, and local gourmet eateries make sure you will never be lacking choice when deciding where to spend your evening. “When I moved here, I was surprised by the diversity and quality of the city’s gastronomic offerings,” agrees Peyre. “What I heard is that it has just exploded over the last ten years. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that people here like to eat out and do so a lot. It has created a much broader offering than one might expect.”

Bodø 2024

Performance Lofoten. Photo: Dan Mariner, Visit Bodø

For the foodies, the region’s numerous festivals also include, ArktiskMat, Norway’s smallest food festival in the quaint Sjøgata in Mosjøen. “It has a very big international network, but because it is so small, you get to talk to everyone, even top chefs,” says Peyre.

Bodø 2024

Bodø will be one of three European capitals of Culture in 2024. Photo: Visit Bodø

The transformation of Bodø’s culinary scene is in many ways characteristic of the development the city has been through during the last decades. From 1973, the city was widely known as the base of Northern Norway’s largest military airbase and for that reason often associated with the Cold War. However, in 2022, after years of downsizing, the airbase shut down completely. “When it was taken away, we decided to turn things around – to transform the image of Bodø from one associated with the Cold War to one associated with cool culture,” says Peyre and rounds off: “We are not an isolated outpost at the edge of the civilized world, but a vibrant city where lots of stuff is happening.”

Bodø 2024

Traditionally known for its magnificent landscape, the region of Bodø is a popular destination with outdoor enthusiasts. Photo: Frank R. Dahl, Visit Bodø

Bodø 2024

KLAB Kjerringøy Land Art Biennale. The spectacular landscape of the region of Bodø will add an extra dimension to many of the events of Bodø 2024. Photo: Marie Peyre, Bodø 2024


Population: Approximately 53,000 inhabitants.
Bodø’s weather events: From 1 June to 13 July, the sun doesn’t set in Bodø — a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. From September to April, the Northern Lights make regular appearances on clear nights.
Geography: The region of Bodø consists of eleven municipalities centrally located in Nordland County. To the south, the region borders Helgeland, to the north Ofoten and to the east Sweden.
Flight Connections: Bodø is served by Bodø Airport (BOO), which offers domestic flights to major cities in Norway, including Oslo, Bergen, and Trondheim. Additionally, there are international connections to destinations such as Copenhagen and Stockholm. The airport is a 20-minute walk from the city centre.
Train Connections: Bodø is the northern terminus of the Nordland Line, a scenic railway that connects the city to Trondheim and other towns along the coast. The train journey is known as one of the world’s most scenic.

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