The Flam Railway has been called the most beautiful railway in the world and once you ride it, it’s easy to understand why. The scenery the train passes is stunning and unique – and steep! It is well worth adding to your Norway itinerary.
If you love scenic railways or you’re looking for some inspiration for a Norway adventure, read on for practical information and my first-hand account of riding the Flam Railway.
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What Is The Flam Railway?
The Flam Railway (or Flåmsbana, in Norwegian) is a railway line that connects the town of Flam (Flåm), on the Sognefjord system to the main railway line that runs between Bergen and Oslo.
Flam Railway Facts
Here are a few interesting facts about the Flam Railway:
- The Flam Railway opened to passengers in 1941
- Construction began in 1924, although surveys for its construction had begun as early as 1893
- It covers a vertical distance of 862m from the highest point in the mountains to the lowest point on the shore of Aurlandsfjord and is the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe
- The line has 10 stations, 20 tunnels and a bridge
- The tunnels were largely created by hand using dynamite – and, sadly, two people died during the construction of the tunnels
- The line is approximately 20km long
Why Ride The Flam Railway?
For the scenery, mainly. The steep valley that the railway runs through is bursting with natural beauty. The trains run past impossibly steep mountains and cliffs, many tall waterfalls, a gushing river and quaint cabins and houses, including the town of Flam, which sits pretty, down in the valley. You’ll also pass winding roads with cyclists and hikers on them (watching them, I felt quite smug that I’d taken the easy route through the valley, hehe).
However, whilst it is a scenic railway, it does still serve a practical purpose: some people ride the Flam railway simply to get to or from Flam, which is a lovely place all on its own. In fact, check out my article about all the beautiful things to do in Flam.
Practical Questions About The Flam Railway
Where Does The Flam Railway Start And End?
The Flam Railway runs between Flam and Myrdal. Flam is a small town that sits on the shore of the Aurlandsfjord branch of Sognefjord. Myrdal is a remote station, high in the mountains, on the railway line between Oslo and Bergen.
How Long Does The Flam Railway Take?
It takes approximately an hour each way. Given the length of the track is approx. 20km, you can see how slow the train is – it trundles along, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views. If you do a return journey, it will be just over 2 hours in total, as there’s some waiting time at stations.
What Are The Ways You Can Ride The Flam Railway?
Some people ride the Flam Railway as purely a touristic activity. For example, you might travel to Flam in a car or campervan, or arrive there on a cruise ship, and decide to ride the Flam Railway up the mountain and back again purely for the pleasure of it.
Others will ride it as part of their journey to or from Flam, which is what I did. I was spending a week in Norway, getting around by train and to get to Flam, I took a train from Oslo, changed at Myrdal and took the Flam Railway from there – all within one ticket. And similarly, when I left Flam, I took the train from Flam to Bergen, which involved the flam railway to Myrdal and then a train from Myrdal to Bergen.
Some cyclists ride the Flam Railway on a single ticket: taking their bike with them on the train up the mountain and cycling back down. To do this, you need to add a bicycle to your ticket (more on this below).
What’s The Flam Railway Timetable?
Flam Railway trains are operated by Vy, the Norwegian state railways company, so you can check the timetable for the Flam Railway on the Vy.no website, by putting Flåm stasjon and Myrdal stasjon as your start and end points for the dates you’re interested in.
The Vy website has an English version, so you don’t need to translate everything from Norwegian yourself. The only thing you might find tricky is that Flam will be spelt the Norwegian way, of course, which includes the circle over the a: ‘Flåm’. If you type in ‘Flam’, it won’t recognise that as Flåm.
How Can You Book Flam Railway Tickets?
You can book Flam Railway tickets really easily on the Vy.no website. Unlike other trains in Norway, there are no reserved seats on the Flam Railway and no first class, second class, etc – so you just need a ticket for a specific timed train.
If you want to take a bicycle on the train, you need this specified on your ticket and it will cost a little more. To add a bicycle, on the Vy.no website click on the box which shows how many people are travelling and there is an option to add ‘additional options’ including a bicycle.
However, some people might like to book the Flam Railway as part of a tour package, such as this one that includes a fjord cruise and the Flam railway.
What Do Flam Railway Tickets Cost?
It’s best to check Vy.no for the latest pricing, but at the time of writing, adult tickets were 450NOK each way.
When Is The Best Time To A Ride The Flam Railway?
The Flam Railway runs year-round, but the scenery will vary hugely throughout the year. In winter, it will be blanketed in snow, which I can imagine is really gorgeous. However, I chose to explore Norway in early summer, because I didn’t want to be too cold – and I can report that the Norwegian countryside looked wonderful in June sunshine! It was lush and green in the valley, with powerful waterfalls gushing down the mountainside as the last of the snow melted.
What Is There To Do In Flam?
Lots! It’s a great base from which to explore both Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. There’s also a Flåmsbana Museum there if you want to learn even more about the railway.
Check out my guide to Flam, including all the beautiful things to do there, including all kinds of boat trips, kayaking, scenic drives, hiking and cycling. I also give some tips for where to stay in Flam, in that article.
What’s It Like On The Flam Railway? My Experience
I travelled on the Flam Railway in June 2022 – here’s my experience of the journey.
Boarding At Myrdal
I boarded the train at Myrdal Station, having arrived there on a normal train from Oslo. Myrdal struck me as a small remote mountain spot, and at that time in early summer, snow still clung to the ground. There are only two platforms at Myrdal, so I found it super-easy to navigate.
I had about an hour at Myrdal station before the Flam train was due, so I bought some lunch in the café there: I had a hot dog, which was very tasty.
I had read that the train can be quite busy, and with no reserved seating and a lot of other passengers waiting for the Flam train, I was concerned it might be a bit of a scrum to board the train. But I was worried about nothing: our train was not full and in fact, there was plenty of space to choose from.
The Flam trains shuttle back and forth between Flam and Myrdal, and I noticed some people who had arrived on the train stayed on it – they were evidently riding the train purely for the enjoyment of it, rather than to get to Myrdal or an onward destination.
The carriages themselves seem rather old-fashioned to me – like they’ve been in use for decades. There are few comforts on board and certainly no plug sockets or anything like that.
There’s space for luggage at the ends of the carriages and seats are in a 2 + 3 formation. The windows are normal-size, not stretching into the roof of the carriage like some other scenic trains have.
Only some windows open, so if you want to take photographs without reflection from the glass, try to sit next to one of the opening ones. Don’t worry too much if you can’t though. On my trains, because they were not full, people moved about and shared their windows when there was a particularly great view. So you might be able to briefly get that good vantage point even if the seats were ‘taken’.
During The Journey
The route is very twisty, as the train zigzags down the steep terrain, and there are many tunnels along the way. It can also be quite screechy and loud.
There’s an onboard audio guide in several languages including English. This points out various things you can see from the window and gives some details and history about the railway.
The train stops several times at local stations, although the only time I saw anyone get off at one of these interim stations was Vatnahalsan station, which has a zipline you can ride down the mountain.
It also stops at Kjosfossen waterfall, a big gushing waterfall that the train passes very close to. At this stop, you can get out of the train for a few minutes to see the waterfall from a viewing platform right by the train. It’s an impressive waterfall, so I recommend you do get out. However, depending on the conditions, you might need a raincoat. On my return journey, the waterfall was incredibly wet, spraying the entire platform and the train!
There’s an odd thing at the waterfall: after a minute or two, some music started on a loudspeaker and a dancer appeared on the rocks next to the waterfall, above the platform. She did a performance to the music for a minute or two. I’m not sure if this was for tips or not – I didn’t see any collection for her. Overall, it felt a little cringey: it didn’t enhance the experience of seeing the magnificent waterfall for me at all! It felt like an unnatural thing that was out of place next to such outstanding natural beauty.
Boarding At Flam Station
Boarding for my return journey at Flam, I observed the tour group effect. Some people travel in a group as part of a tour and the tour guides sometimes work with the train operators to commandeer whole cabins for their groups. The impact of this was that there were a lot of people queuing for the train ahead of its departure. I think I arrived 20 minutes early and there were already quite a lot of people queueing.
However, because many of them were in tour groups, possibly from a cruise ship docked in Flam, the train guards directed them to their own carriages and the rest of us independent travellers to different carriages. In the end, despite the queue, there was plenty of room for everyone on my train.
Flam Railway Tips
- If you can, try to sit on the right-hand side of the carriage travelling from Flam and the left-hand side of the carriage travelling from Myrdal. There are lovely views on both sides, but it is marginally better on those sides
- If you want to take photos, try to get a seat with one of the windows that open. Not every window does, so look out for those that have a sliding upper pane of glass. These were roughly every third window on my trains.
- If you want to sit facing the direction of travel, it will be obvious which way that is from Flam, because you will sit with the fjord behind you. In Myrdal, the train pulls into Myrdal in the same direction as the trains to Bergen and pulls out in the opposite direction, the direction of Oslo, so you can use this to work out which are the facing seats.
- Arrive at the station a little early, maybe 15-20 minutes – because, as I said, there can be queues at Flam.
Flam Railway Map
Here’s a map showing the key places around the Flam Railway. I’m not able to plot the railway line itself, though!
How To Use This Map: click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one. If you click the star next to the title of the map, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.
I hope I’ve inspired you to consider the Flam Railway for your next trip to Norway! It really is rather special, and definitely a unique Norwegian experience.
And check out my other Norway blog posts for ideas of things to do in Flam, things to do in Oslo and how to spend 7 days in Norway.
2 thoughts on “Ride The Flam Railway: Norway’s Stunning Scenic Railway”
Hi there. I’ve neen to Flam earlier this July and have a super sweet memories there.
I just want to add information about the dancers in the Kjosfossen waterfall. The dancers represent the Huldra, a spirit forest in Scandinavian folklore, that seducing human to enter the forest.
I think its a great “touch up” to add a story about the waterfall, so the waterfall and the environment sounds so magical.
Thanks for that context, Irfan. I’m glad you enjoyed the experience at Kjosfossen. The music and dancing didn’t enhance the experience for me, but I’m glad it did for you 🙂