One day in Flam
a destination guide for cruise passengers
One day in Flam
Welcome to One day in Flam – a destination guide for cruise passengers. This is another instalment in my “One day in…” series of blog posts. Find out more about these destination guides here.
The aim of these destination guides is to help you plan your days ashore on your cruise itinerary. Time in port is often limited and with just one day (or less) available to explore, it’s impossible to visit all the highlights. I’ve created this quick and simple guide as a starting point if you want to do something other than one of the guided shore excursions offered by your cruise line.
Nestled right at the end of one of the branches of the 205 km Sognefjord – Norway’s longest and deepest fjord – you will find Flam. Flam is a small port (population: circa 350) surrounded by steep mountains and it is often a highlight for many cruise passengers on a seven-night Norwegian fjords cruise. In my opinion, Flam epitomises the essence of Norway: friendly people, spectacular views, and a relaxed atmosphere.
It’s a port which also offers many opportunities to explore further such as picturesque Nordic Fjord villages, UNESCO world heritage areas and a Viking village experience, all within 20km of the port . With backdrops and locations acting as inspiration for Disney films (Frozen) plus the chance to explore some spectacular scenery, and an epic railway journey, Flam certainly punches well above its weight compared to other small port destinations. You will definitely need at least one more return visit.
It is reassuring to know that Flam has taken positive steps to ensure it doesn’t become too overcrowded as a port – even when a big ship visits. Since 2018, Port of Flam only accepts ships with over 5000 passengers if it is the only ship in port on a particular day. So it is encouraging to know that even some of the largest ships such as Iona with capacity for 5,206 passengers and powered by more environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG) are still welcomed into this beautiful port. Despite the restrictions, Flam still welcomes over around 150 cruise ships per year and is one of the most visited destinations in Norway.
Regardless of whether you decide to stay around the main centre or hike a little further from port, you’re unlikely to lose sight of your ship for long. As soon as you step off ship, you are in the centre of things. If there are two ships in port that day, you may need a tender but most of the larger ships dock in the deep-water berth right next to the main harbour area.
A big bonus when visiting Flam is that formal shore excursions are not necessary for you to enjoy a memorable experience in port. Flam is a wonderful port for exploring independently and an easy one to navigate.
Bucket list ideas
Popular attractions in Flam - likely to be busy
- Flam Railway
There are many ways to spend a day in Flam but the Flam railway (Flamsbana) is the most popular option for many cruisers. This train journey is magnificent. Over the course of one hour, the train takes you from sea level at the Sognefjord in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station, situated at 867 metres above sea level. Myrdal is also a station on the Bergen Line, meaning the Flåm Railway connects with trains running between Bergen and Oslo. Which is good to know for potential return visits on land.
The only thing that lets it down is that the railway a little pricey – especially if you book your trip on the railway as a shore excursion through your cruise line and you are a family of four.
One way to save 50% off the ships shore excursion price is to book directly here
If you book direct the ticket prices are around 630 NOK for adults and 480 NOK for children for a return journey in peak season. You need to be quick off the mark as tickets sell out very fast. Tickets go on sale months in advance, so as soon as you know you are visiting Flam and you want to experience a trip on the railway – try to book tickets as soon as they go live to guarantee your timeslot.
The road less travelled - for a different perspective of Flam
If you missed your slot for the railway or don’t want to pay the inflated shore excursion prices or even if you’ve already experienced the railway and are lucky enough to return to Flam on another cruise there are plenty of other options for all budgets, tastes and activity levels.
Whether you decide to visit on a shore excursion or in a electric car, the journey is part of this experience. The views at the top will leave you speechless.
These nifty electric cars are a fun way to explore Flam and the surrounding area. You are given all the training you need before you start your journey and they are easy to drive. Just remember to bring your driver’s licence.
There are four routes you can choose from which vary in their duration and therefore, price. All come with a GPS guide to follow so you don’t get lost. Plus the GPS includes a pre-recorded guide which shares interesting facts at key points along the entire route.
You can visit independently by combining it with a ticket on the Future of the Fjords ferry – just keep an eye on times so you’re back in plenty of time before your ship departs. There is also a shuttle bus available if you want to do the return trip by road.
An authentic goat’s cheese producing village by the fjord, rumoured to be inspiration for Arandelle from Disney’s Frozen. But don’t expect any gimmicky attractions. This is an authentic Norwegian Fjord Village. Well worth a visit. You can get the tourist ferry which takes approximately 35 minutes each way and spend a day wondering around this picturesque Norwegian village. One of the highlights of Undredal is the Stave church.
You can either hop on the Future of the Fjords ferry or discover it on a Fjord Safari aboard a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat).
If you don’t get a chance to visit Undredal when you visit Flam, you will pass Undredal about half an hour or so before you are due to arrive at port (it’s only about 15km away from Flam) so if you have a balcony on the starboard side keep a lookout on your way into port – otherwise head up to the public decks for a better view. Alternatively, after sail away head to the port side of the ship for an evening view perhaps matched with a cocktail
If you want to explore Central Flam...
- Explore the village.
There are numerous opportunities for iconic photos and points of interest available in Flam if you just want to walk around. There is also a small children’s park a stone’s throw from the ship. If you’re wondering around – be sure to take some photos of the iconic and picturesque Fretheim Fjordhytter; four, sweet, Nordic-red self-catering chalets available to rent, which are beautifully situated on the water’s edge.
If you want to ensure your cruise cash goes to local businesses, then this family owned business is perfect for picking up your souvenirs. Whether it’s a Flam fridge magnet, a locally handmade wool scarf or an item of Norwegian designer clothing, Mall of Norway stocks all things Norwegian. It prides itself in having something for everyone. You might spot Mall of Norway on your other Norwegian Fjords cruise stop in Alesund but the flagship store is located in the station building in the heart of beautiful Flåm. And if you forgot to pick up a souvenir, or if you want to plan your souvenir hunting in advance I also recently discovered they have a webshop – how organised it that!
- Freitheim Cultural park
Offers a 1 hour/1.5km walking trail which starts directly behind the Freitheim hotel.
This is the a little red road train in Flam. It takes you to the main scenic spots around Flam, at a gentle pace which lasts 45 mins
- Flam Beach
Not the white sandy kind of beach but still exhilarating. The fjord fills up with water from melting glaciers so even on a warm day the water can be very cold. However paddling by the shore is quite refreshing. Stay still long enough and you’ll notice the little fish swimming quite happily around your feet.
The museum is located next to Flåm Station and is open every day from 09.00–17.00. It’s also free to enter. Authentic exhibits take you through the stories behind building the the world’s steepest railway, such as insights into the people who built it and the many technical and legal challenges of involved.It’s also another great place to stock up on souvenirs.
If you want to explore Flam a little further on foot...
For those who enjoy getting their step count up, Flam offers some breath-taking and extremely picturesque walks.
- Flam Church
This is a gentle walk on flat terrain (8km round trip) – follow the road up or alternatively combine it with a journey on the railway (get off at Håreina station) and walk back or take the Rallartoget. There are public toilets near the church.
- Breikfossen Waterfall
Approx. 2 hours (5.5 km round trip) don’t let the gentle incline during the first couple of kilometres deceive you – the last kilometre is up hill – Norwegian style (i.e. steep) but the view at the lookout point is completely worth the effort. Just take a look at this 360-degree view. Sturdy walking shoes are suggested for this one. Here’s the walking route – note it goes slightly past the viewing point so don’t forget to turn off to the right. Here’s a map of the other hikes in Flam
If you feel more adventurous or active in Flam
Combine a journey on the Flamsbana and cycle downhill back to Flam. Alternatively just hire a bicycle for the day and explore Flam and the surrounding area at your leisure or cycle along Aurlandsfjord. The terrain is flat and suitable for nearly everyone. Here’s a suggested cycle route.
Fun on the Fjords for ages 5 upwards.
Interestingly there is no age limit for this if you book directly, but this option was only available for passengers 12 years + if booked through our cruise line.
Where to eat in Flam
As your ship is berthed in the centre of the village, you can easily pop back on board for some lunch if you want to save some money – but it’s worth exploring some of the delicious offerings in Flam with options from quick bites to more formal dining.
Flåm Marina is just a 7 minute walk along shoreline from the Flåm railway station. Situated on the shores of the fjord, the glass pavilion offers an undisrupted view. The atmosphere here is described as calm and cosy.
“The red cosy cafe at the top of the hill’ can be found nestled between the Fretheim Hotel and the EcoCars garage. Just slightly up hill, the cafe offers good food matched with lovely views of the fjord and your ship.
Well worth a visit especially if you’re after that Viking longhouse feel. A microbrewery named after a Norse God, you’ll find an open fire, dragon carvings and a stave church roof. You almost expect Thor to walk in for a beer after an epic battle.
Resistance is futile. The smell will drawn you in and then you’re hooked.
What we did
I’d initially planned to get straight on to the website to book tickets for the Flam railway as soon as tickets were first released (which was about 6 months before we were due to visit). Unfortunately, I missed my diary note to book the tickets.
So three months before we were due to arrive in Flam, (when i finally remembered), I went on to the booking website only to find that all the slots had gone. There were some slots left but not until the afternoon and the trains were due to arrive back in Flam after our ship was scheduled to leave port way too close for comfort for me to enjoy the trip. You might be lucky with tickets – especially if you’re the only ship in port that day and you’re sailing on a smaller vessel. For example, my sister visited on P&O Arcadia out of peak season and walked straight on the train without buying tickets in advance.
Despite showing no tickets in the morning slots on the website, there were plenty of tickets available through the shore excursion offered by our cruise line. However after a bit of quick maths I realised this was going to work out at almost £350 for the family. Normally if it’s an awesome shore excursion experience, I’m prepared to pay that. While this was an awesome excursion, what put me off was the fact I’d be paying twice as much as other passengers on the same train (who were more organised and booked it independently). I couldn’t stomach that.
Then I discovered eMobiltiy Flam and these eco cars. There are 4 different tours available and the one we chose was the 2-hour trip to the Stegastain Viewpoint.
Two cars worked out just under £300 (3,600 NOK) in total. Not cheap, but cheaper than the shore excursion option through our cruise line. It was also somewhere different away from the main crowds and offered the chance for us to explore at our own pace. I booked on the earliest slot available – 10:00am.
We arrived in port early and once we had breakfast, we were off ship by 9:00am. Earlier that morning (approx. 6am) I watched us sail into Flam along the Sognefjord – initially from our balcony then on the top deck, finishing off right at Azura’s bow in the ‘secret’ Clam shell deck. This allows you to get some amazing photos – especially if the weather is with you – we had a quite an atmospheric sail in which allowed me to capture shots like this. Norway certainly delivers.
Once we were off ship, we had a little wander around. The kids spotted the small park (which is just a stone’s throw from the cruise terminal) from our balcony just as we arrived, so we headed there first and took few photos of the ship. Next it was on to eMobility Flam garage to collect our cars. After a short tutorial (which is all you need to get up and running) these cars are surprisingly easy to drive – automatic and electric. One pedal to go, one to stop.
Although we had a child in the back of each car, an adult can sit quite comfortably in the back seat and still see great views. The car doesn’t have any side windows, so you are open to the elements to a certain extent. It was a gorgeous, warm sunny day for us, so this didn’t pose any issues, however in less clement weather, you may need to wrap up warm.
We opted for the route which took us to the Stegastein viewpoint which was around 2 hours (round trip). As you climb you use the battery which gets recharged as you descend – so if you only have 20% battery left when you get to the top (which we did) don’t worry (like we did). It will quickly recharge, and you’ll soon relax (which we also did).
The Stegastein viewpoint is an amazing place – plus there is the bonus on the way back down of stopping off at various viewpoints to take pictures of view like this.
We stayed at this point for a few moments and the silence and spectacular scenery was like nothing I have ever experienced. You really do get a good sense of the enormity of the fjords from this viewpoint which you sometimes don’t get from your cruise ship. It was one of those ‘stay with you forever’ memories. Calming and energising all in one go.
The only downside about the Eco Cars trip to the Stegastein viewpoint is that while 2 hours is enough to get you there and back without rushing, I wish we’d had perhaps another hour in total to spend a bit more time to stop off and explore Aurland on the way back down. Or perhaps to stop a little longer to take in more viewpoints. But it is a fantastic alternative to the Flam Railway and allows you get to get a bird’s eye view of the Fjords. Highly recommended.
After we had dropped the car back in the garage, it was lunch time, so we headed back on the ship for something quick to eat. A quick buffet lunch later, we were ready to explore again.
After browsing for souvenirs and a visit to the Flam Bakery, we headed for the little beach across the river for a bit of a paddle. The beach is more of the grainy/pebbly variety (technical geological term). The water is cold, even on a hot day (it is glacial melt-water after all) but once you get acclimatised to it – it’s quite refreshing. However we remained perfectly satisfied with a little knee-deep paddling. More adventurous passengers decided to go for a swim. Judging by their reactions, it was as cold as we first suspected. The water is extremely clear as you can easily spot the little fish if you stay still for long enough. The beach is also shallow at the edges, but it does get deep quite quickly. Additionally, its worth bearing in mind that as the water is very cold, it’s not really suitable for long swims.
I don’t know where the time went, but whilst we were paddling, I noticed that it was 3:30pm. Perhaps too late to go on a hike or venture a bit further – so we decided to head back on ship and relaxed on our balcony for a while before sail away.
Writing about it now – it didn’t seem we did much in Flam apart from the Eco Cars. On reflection, I think we were just a little bit in shock and awe from the perfect morning we just had up to the Stagastein Viewpoint, coupled with the unique and breath-taking experience of driving through some idyllic Norwegian countryside. It was also an early start for me watching our sail in and transit through the Sognefjord. One thing I do know though, Flam is an amazing place, and I need to return to Flam to explore more of what it has to offer.
Port ratings are given as an indication only and based on our own opinions and experiences.
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Hi, I’m Steph I’ve travelled around the world, backpacked across Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii and spent over 100 nights at sea. Having grown up by the coast, the sea is my passion and now I enjoy exploring the world on cruise ships with my family. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to keep up to date with my ever expanding set of port guides to inspire you on your travels plus money-saving cruise tips, ship tours and cabin reviews.
Please note: These are not meant to be definitive guides. They are to help you start to plan your time ashore. Any prices, services or experiences mentioned can and will change. Information contained in these guides is belwived to be accurate. While I try my best to keep these guides updated where possible, I strongly recommend you check any details yourself before you travel. I have not received any form of payment or inducement to recommend any of the attractions or businesses mentioned in these guides. Where an inducement or payment has been received this will be clearly stated. I will only recommend a product, service or experience I have personally tried and enjoyed.