If you’re wondering how to take Norway’s Flåm Railway, I’ve put together my experience with it in this guide! Whether you’re taking the Flåm to Bergen Train or doing a return day trip from the village of Flåm, here’s everything you need to know.
“All aboard!” called our railway conductor as we clambered from the snowy platforms into our old-fashioned carriages, all clamouring for a window seat to enjoy the legendary views of the Flåm railway.
Known as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, the Flåm railway extends 20 kilometres from the village of Flåm up to Myrdal, where it connects to the Bergen/ Oslo line.
And, after spending a chilly but chic 24 hours in Flåm (with snowshoeing, a frosty RIB ride and a stay at the historic Frentheim Hotel), we were about to use the Flam railway to journey back to Bergen.
This blog post contains affiliate links. I was a guest of Norway’s Best. All opinions are my own.
What is the Flåm railway?
The village’s tourism industry is largely thanks to the Flåm railway. A 20 kilometre branch line running from Myrdal to Flåm, it connected the village to Norway’s two biggest cities, bringing tourists but also providing valuable transport for locals.
The Flåm railway weaves around its fjord and ascends into the mountains, through some of the most picturesque scenery in Norway.
It’s delightfully old-world, with wooden seats and old-fashioned luggage racks, and by taking a window seat, you’ll see some of the region’s most charming yet rugged scenery unfurl before you.
There’s even a 180-degree tunnel, so passengers on both sides can take in one of the most spectacular views.
Flåm to Bergen train
Like many tourists, we took the Flåm to Bergen train route by changing at Myrdal to the Bergensbanen which led to Norway’s second-largest city. This is an easy way to connect the village with Bergen (and you can do the same the other way to connect it with Oslo).
Flåm railway history
Dating back to 1923, the Flåm railway was one of the world’s most difficult railways to build, thanks to the challenging terrain of this part of Norway.
Construction took 20 years, and it finally flung open its carriage doors in 1940.
If you want to memorise some statistics about Flåm railway, just remember the number “20”. It took 20 years to be built, it’s 20 kilometres long, there are 20 tunnels and it cost 20 million NOK. Yes, that is all just one crazy coincidence!
When the roads came to Flåm in the late 1980s, the ongoing need for the railway was debated; but as it was already proving to be a tourist attraction and remained important for locals travelling between Bergen and Oslo, it was privatised by a new company.
This company was the mother company of Norway’s Best, which now owns 50% of the railway.
They agreed to fund the continuous running of the railway by expanding the historic Fretheim Hotel and building a cruise port, which has further boosted Flåm’s popularity with tourists.
In the summer months, there are up to 10,000 visitors per day.
The Flåm railway was the impetus for other tourism industries to build up around the village, including electric boats running on the UNESCO World Heritage fjord and snowshoeing tours in the nearby mountains.
Plus, there’s the Flåm railway museum, where you can learn about the fascinating story of the railway (in much more detail!).
What’s riding the Flåm railway like?
As I cosied up in my window seat, camera in hand, I took a glimpse of the view unfurling below me.
We weren’t graced with the best visibility on our February trip in Norway, but we could still take in dramatic drops into frozen rivers and tilt our heads upwards to the towering mountains above.
The train dates back to 1940, and the carriage looked like it may be a relic of this time, with nostalgic seating (reminding me a little of the Palma to Soller train in Mallorca) and wooden panelling.
Halfway, we stopped at a waterfall, where we could evacuate the train, stretch our legs and take in the views. We’d already summited a fair way into the mountains by this point, and the blistering wind outside made me quickly retreat back to my cosy seat, where I enjoyed snapping more photos of the frozen landscape.
It was snowing sideways at Myrdal; we breathed in the fresh, thin mountain air on the short walk from the train to the heated waiting area.
40 minutes later, we exchanged the poetic Flam railway for a much more modern Bergensbanen to Norway’s second largest city, leaving the mountains behind us as we ploughed towards Bergen’s more temperate climate.
The Flåm railway was everything I love about nostalgic train journeys.
While it was only short, its cosiness and incredible views helped it soar to one of my favourite train journeys in Europe; and as I sat on the much more contemporary train to Bergen, I knew that the hour I spent in a time warp on the Flam railway would be an experience I’d be keen to repeat.
Is it worth doing the Flåm railway in winter?
Our Flåm railway experience took place in February, and we were unlucky with the weather (“it’s not normally this bad!” pretty much every local told us as we watched the clouds roll in).
However, the mist parted enough to offer a glimpse of the landscape that the railway meanders through; an alluring snapshot of what could be if we had perfect visibility!
As a train fanatic, I tend to take the rough with the smooth and enjoy the art of train travel, even if the conditions aren’t perfect. So, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience riding the Flam railway, and I think that any other train lover would feel the same.
However, if you’re embarking on the railway for the views alone, I would recommend exploring on a clear day – in winter or in summer. The colours of the landscape will be more vivid in the summer months, but I’m a sucker for landscapes enhanced by a snowy blanket!
How to do the Flåm railway: practical tips
Here’s how to plan a Flam railway adventure for yourself.
Flåm to Oslo or Flåm to Bergen train
Probably the most popular way to enjoy the Flåm railway is to use it as part of transport from Flam to Bergen or Oslo.
Anne Hirst, the host of Norway’s best, told us that “most tourists come from Bergen”, as it’s a journey time of only around three hours. Oslo is five to six, so it’s still certainly possible in one day.
To connect with either Bergen or Oslo, simply take the railway its full distance and then change trains at Myrdal. You can book combination tickets on the VY website.
Flåm railway as a day trip from Flåm
Of course, it’s entirely possible to take the Flåm railway as a day trip from the village. If you want to do a round-trip journey from Flåm to Myrdal and back to Flåm, you can easily book tickets on Norway’s Best website, or in person at the station.
You can also check the most up-to-date timetable on Norway’s Best website (click here) and decide which will be best for your trip. The train journey takes 50 minutes each way.
Flåm railway as a day trip from Bergen
It would be difficult to do the Flåm railway day trip independently from Bergen.
However, I found a Get Your Guide tour that includes a fjord cruise, time in Flåm and the return transport, which is doable as a Bergen day trip.
It’s a self-guided trip, with all tickets included.
There is also this Get Your Guide tour available from Oslo, which includes round-trip transport, a private guide, tour on the railway and a fjord tour – it’s a fantastic way to see fjord Norway from its capital.
Where to stay in Flåm
If you’re spending a night or two in Flåm, there’s nowhere better than the historic Fretheim Hotel.
Dating back to the late 19th century, the hotel offers a timeless mix of period furnishings (I loved the roll-top bath) and contemporary amenities.
Our room had a fjord view – an idyllic backdrop to enjoy a morning cup of coffee – and the reception area has huge windows where you can take in even more views.
The hotel’s restaurant serves up imaginative dishes made from local and seasonal ingredients.
Embark on the trip of a lifetime on the Flåm railway!
As you climb on board the Flåm railway, cosying up in one of the seats ready to gaze at the phenomenal views, you’ll experience one of Norway’s most romantic and nostalgic travel experiences.
While it’s an attraction in its own right, it provides a valuable connection between this otherwise isolated city and Norway’s main metropolises.
Travel is often about the journey, and it just so happens that the Flåm railway is a particularly beautiful one!