Guide / BodØ
Top-notch cultural life above the Arctic Circle
Former travel journalist Marie Peyre, now the international communications and relations manager for Bodø2024, shares an action-packed travel guide of Bodø.
24 Mar 2023

Who are you? 

— I’m originally from Provence in southern France, I lived in London for several years before moving to Norway in 2008, and to Bodø in late 2020. I work as international communications and relations manager for Bodø2024, European Capital of Culture 2024. My background is as a travel journalist and editor, but I have always loved culture, so being able to combine my two passions in my current job was a perfect fit, says Peyre. She continues:

— Next year, Bodø and Nordland will assume the mantle of European Capital of Culture. It will be our time in the limelight and we are planning some 1,000 events. These include a spectacular opening ceremony featuring a purpose-built floating stage in the harbour, a 100% sustainable festival, a huge Midsummer’s Eve bonfire event, and Nordland’s first-ever light festival. There will also be a concert in a submerged cave, an opera about stockfish, a Sami theatre trilogy, an Arctic food festival, Europe’s only land art biennale… The programme is still under development. I think it will also be a bit of a surprise for many to discover that beyond the stunning scenery our region is famous for, we also have a thriving local cultural scene and strong connections with the rest of Europe — this despite living that far north on the edge of the continent.  

For someone who hasn’t been to Bodø, how’d you describe it?

— It’s a city of contrasts, with awesome nature and extreme weather, with long, dark winters and glorious summer days basking in the midnight sun. If you’re the kind of person who’s into beach holidays and shopping, then this is probably not the right destination for you — although we do have some amazing beaches too! I think Bodø attracts the kind of people who, like me, are looking for something different, people who are keener on ice-swimming than sunbathing, and think a snowstorm is something exciting, not a major inconvenience. People who want a bit of an adventure, whether it’s for a week’s holiday or a long-term change of scenery. It’s not for everybody, and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted but Bodø is a fascinating place that won’t leave you unmoved.

My favourite thing that makes me proud of Bodø: 

— That we got status as European Capital of Culture. Only two other Norwegian cities have held the prestigious title before; Bergen in 2000 and Stavanger in 2008. But we’ll be the first-ever European Capital of Culture north of the Arctic Circle. That’s pretty special! 

My favourite cultural spot:

— That’s a tough one. Maybe Stormen, the local library: I’m there at least once a week, to meet friends, borrow books, or attend events. I love the view over the harbour from the main reading room, the modern architecture, and not least the long opening hours — it’s a really nice place to hang out. I’m also a fan of NŌUA, an art gallery showing top contemporary photography. I have seen many interesting exhibitions there and Dan Mariner and Marianne Bjørnmyr, the owners, arrange talks and show films and I always seem to meet interesting people there.

My favourite breakfast place:

Påpir, Stormen Library. Although they don’t open before 10 am, that’s the perfect spot for a late breakfast or brunch. Nice surroundings, chilled vibe, and a place you won’t feel self-conscious when eating alone either. Always a big plus in my book (no pun intended).

My favourite hidden gem:

— There are many, but I’ll choose one hidden inside Bodø City Hall, yet in full view once in the building: a work by Norwegian artist Per Kristian Nygård, Poem to the Bureaucracy, which consists of 36 pieces of furniture — desks and chairs — set up vertically along the six-floor wall of the elevator shaft in the atrium. I like it when artists also have a sense of humour.

‘Poem to the Bureaucracy’. Photography: Adam Mørk

My favourite excursion:

— Kjerringøy. The scenery is breathtaking. I am lucky to have a friend with a summer house there, so I have been there quite a few times. I have visited the Old Trading Post of course, but have also paddled, swam and hiked there. I have also been on a botanical walk — the northernmost wild orchids in Norway grow here, including the rare lady’s slipper and fly orchid. Fun fact: Kjerringøy is also home to KLAB, Europe’s only land art biennale — don’t miss the special edition in 2024! 

My favourite place for dining out:

— It’s hard to narrow it down to just one. I’d say Lyst På for a special occasion, Larsen for an informal evening with friends, Bryggerikaia for fish, and Ohma for sushi and dim sum. We are lucky — there are many good restaurants to choose from here!

My favourite local entrepreneur or creative I want to promote:

— I really like the work of local artist Are Andreassen. Fish and sea feature prominently in his graphics, which have a strong sense of place. At the same time, his style is quite unique and instantly recognizable. A bit rough around the edges, yet kind of poetic at the same time.

My favourite hotel for a staycation:

Scandic Havet or Quality Hotel Ramsalt. Both offer rooms with great harbour views. Ramsalt is the newest of the two — opened in 2021 — and gets bonus points for its art collection, while Scandic Havet boasts the best sunset viewing spot from its rooftop bar on the 17th floor. 

My favourite route for a run or walk: 

— I live in Bodøsjøen, so I would have to say along the Saltfjorden and/or the Bodø River. Both double up as good places to see the northern lights, as there is less light pollution there than in the city centre. I have lost count of the number of times I have gone for a late evening walk after having spotted the lights from my window. It’s such a special experience to see them, I never tire of it! 

My favourite place for fashion:

— Fashion is not always a top priority here in the Arctic, but good clothes to keep you warm in the rain, snow, wind and/or sub-zero temperatures are. There are plenty of shops to choose from for outdoor gear and wear, making this a good place to upgrade your all-weather wardrobe.

My favourite space for great design: 

— Local illustrators Gundersons have a colourful range of designs featuring Bodø landmarks, as well as the city’s beloved football team, Glimt. Check out their shop in Dronningensgate 13 for cool posters, T-shirts, tote bags, and more.


My favourite example of tech innovation in Bodø: 

Studio EBN, making fashionable accessories out of salmon skin. Yes, you read that right.

My favourite thing at home: 

— Reading and cooking. I come from Marseilles, the home of bouillabaisse — the world’s most famous fish soup — so I grew up eating fish, but the cod here? Wow, it’s really something else.