Visiting Flam on a Cruise: The Flam Scenic Railway and More!

Tucked between two mountains at the head of Aurlandsfjorden, the teeny hamlet of Flam is a popular Norwegian cruise port. Although it is a good base for hiking and has a visit-worthy 17th-century church, its main tourist draw is the Flam scenic railway.

Running between Flam and Myrdal, this is considered to be one of Norway’s most scenic train journeys. To help you make the most of your cruise stop in Flam, here are some tips on how to book the Flåmsbana scenic train ride, what to expect and a guide to the other attractions of the hamlet.

a fjord in norway with mountains reflected in water
Sognefjorden

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How I Visited Flam on a Cruise

Flam (or Flåm, to be correct) was port number two of my week-long cruise along Norway’s fjords.

  • Cruise operator: P&O
  • Cruise ship: HMV Britannia
  • Time in port: 11 am – 6 pm

Leaving Stavanger the previous evening, all 143,000 tonnes of MV Britannia weaved her way through the bends and turns of Sognefjorden and Aurlandsfjorden to reach the hamlet of Flam shortly after 7 am. Seagulls cried and sheep bleated their respective welcomes.

Flam cruise port is a (very) short walk to the train station (Flam is tiny!).  

I started the day by riding the Flam scenic railway and then took a short hike around the hamlet using the map from the Tourist Information Office.

Why Ride the Flam Scenic Railway?

Not only is the Flåmsbana super-scenic, but it is also a marvel of modern engineering.

Completed in 1940, it runs a total distance of approximately 12 miles from Flam, at sea level, to Myrdal, at an altitude of 2,845 feet. At its steepest point, the gradient is 1:18, making it the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe.

But fear not nervous travellers; the train is equipped with not one, not two, but five sets of brakes.

Building the line was no mean feat. With its 20 tunnels, most of which had to be dug by hand, 10 stations and one bridge, it took 16 years to complete.

Although the Flam Railway was originally constructed to allow local passenger and freight access to the Bergen – Oslo line, it is now a tourist-oriented service operated by the Norwegian State Railways on behalf of Flam Utvikling.

My Experience of the Flam Railway

Waves of anticipation rippled through the train carriage as passengers took their seats amid excited chatter. I was also stupidly excited at the prospect of riding the Flam Railway, or Flaamsbana (Flåmsbana). 

With a toot of the whistle, the train pulled out of the station.

It passed the old village of Flam before winding its way up a gradient of 5.5%, between rocky cliffs and past river gorges and cascading waterfalls. The Flamselvi River on the right-hand side of the train was my companion for most of the journey as the train cut its way through the Flam Valley, shaped by glacial erosion over millions of years.

flam railway travelling through valley in norway

At Breikvam the track split in two to allow trains to pass one another. If the train makes a short stop here, it is a good opportunity to point your camera out of the window to take a shot along the track.

Around 4km from Myrdal station, the train stopped for ten minutes at the Kjosfossen waterfall. With its thunderous waters falling a total distance of 225 meters, prepare yourself for a drenching.

According to Scandinavian folklore, the waterfall is home to the Huldramythical siren women who lured men into the forest with their enchanting song. Although I was vigilant, I failed to spot one dancing next to the waterfall, draped in ger red cloak.

The train skirted the northwestern edge of Reinungavatnet Lake to reach Myrdal. After a ten-minute turn-around, I got to do this all again in the opposite direction.  

Flam Railway: Tips & Frequently Asked Questions


During which months does the Flam Railway operate?

The Flam Railway operates year-round.

In the winter months, there are four services in each direction daily. During the peak summer months of June to August, this increases to nine per day.

Check the Flåmsbana timetable here. 

green train carriages of flam railway

When is the best time to travel on the Flam Railway?

As the Flam Railway is open for business year-round and accommodates all weathers, choose the time of year according to the type of scenery you are after and the outside temperature.

These temperatures range from 28 degrees in the winter months to 70 degrees in June, July and August.

How long does the Flaamsbana scenic train take?

The return journey between Flam and Myrdal takes around 100 minutes.  

How much does the Flam Railway cost?

The Flam Railway fares are seasonal. In 2024, the cost of an adult ticket for the return journey starts from 500 NOK. 

Holders of a Eurail or Interrail pass are entitled to a 30% discount. However, as these discounted tickets aren’t available online you will need to buy them at the station or over the phone.  

Where can I get tickets for the Flaamsbana?

I highly recommend that you book your Flam Railway ticket in advance in the summer months.  The train is extremely busy on days when a cruise ship – or two! –  is in town, or when a Norway in a Nutshell day trip is running.

If you choose to book your ticket as a shore excursion from your cruise operator, you will pay a considerable premium.  

Although you can also buy tickets in Flam or Myrdal, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the departure you want.

If you are doing the trip independently and are not visiting Flam on a cruise, try to choose the less busy days. My top tip is to check the Norway in a Nutshell timetable and the cruise schedule for Flam

How do I ride the Flam Railway from Bergen or Oslo?

If you are not visiting Flam on a cruise, you can ride the Flam Railway as part of the self-guided Norway in a Nutshell day trip from either Bergen or Oslo.

The other option is to take the train independently from Bergen to Flam, a one-way journey time of around three hours.  

Which direction is best on the Flam Railway?

I rode the Flam Railway in both directions and there’s not much to choose between them.

Of course, you get to see the same scenery, but the downhill journey from  Myrdal to Flam was smoother and better for taking photos. The uphill journey from Flam to Myrdal involved more squealing of brakes and side-to-side movement.

Which is the best side of the Flam Railway to sit?

Although the views are great from both sides of the carriage on the Flam Railway, I recommend sitting on the right-hand side if you are travelling from Flam to Myrdal as the light is better. This is particularly the case in the morning, and you also get those sweeping views across the Flam Valley.

If you are travelling on busy days, make sure that you are queuing at the railway station 30 minutes before the train departs to get your pick of the best seats. 

Tips for taking photographs on the Flam Scenic Railway

Because of the train’s movement, it can be difficult to take good photographs from the carriage. My top tip for taking photographs on the Flam Railway is to poke your camera lens out of one of the roll-down windows.

However, as not all of the seats in the railway carriage are next to roll-down windows, choose your seat carefully.

Other Things to Do in Flam From a Cruise Ship

As the return journey on the Flam Railway only takes around two hours, you may be looking for other activities to do in and Flam around, particularly if you are on a cruise ship that is not setting off until the evening.

Here is a selection of what is on offer.

Stegastein viewpoint panoramic tour

One of the most photographed sights in the region, the Stegastein Viewpoint is a popular shore excursion from Flam. Rising over 2,000 feet above the fjord and extending 100 feet from the mountainside, this scenic overlook offers unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape.

The operator will pick you up at Flam Cruise Port and you’ll get a full refund if the tour is cancelled because of bad weather.

>>> CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE

Hike around Flam

There is a selection of walks in Flam, taking between 30 minutes to 2.5 hours to complete. Pick up the excellent free map in the tourist office.

cruise ship berthed at flam norway
Flam from the Freitheim Cultural Park

Other top shore activities in Flam

cruise packing checklist cold climate

Enjoy your cruise stop in Flam

In my view, if you are stopping in Flam on a Norway Fjords cruise, riding the Flam Railway is a must. And let’s face it; what else will you do on a 7-hour cruise stop in Flam?

Although the Flam Railway is expensive, the same can be said for most tourist attractions in Norway. In exchange for your well-earned krone, you will get one of Europe’s most scenic train rides (for me, though, this is trumped by Switzerland’s Glacier Express).

Packing a guidebook to help you explore the Norwegian ports of call independently is a wise move. I’m a big fan of Rick Steves and his guide to Scandinavian & Northern European cruise ports is packed full of useful information.

If you have found this article helpful, take a look at my guides to the other stops on this Norway Fjords cruise.

Finally, if you are a cruise rookie, I also have advice on booking your first cruise and choosing cruise staterooms, including solo cabins for single cruisers.

Happy travels!

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

6 thoughts on “Visiting Flam on a Cruise: The Flam Scenic Railway and More!

    • Bridget says:

      Thank you! It was great 🙂
      I really recommend Norway!
      Have a good week

  1. sarahsullivan05 says:

    Wow, it looks stunning. I’ve never heard of Flam before but now I would like to visit. Thanks for sharing!

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