If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Flåm, I can highly recommend Fretheim Hotel. Here’s my full Fretheim Hotel review!
“The story of Flåm really all started with English lords” our host, Anne Hirth, told us as I sipped on an Aperol spritz in Fretheim Hotel’s Bar. “At least, this is where we can trace the hotel’s origins to; it was originally called English Villa”.
We’d just checked into the historic Fretheim Hotel in Flåm, which sits in the heart of Norway’s fjord country. “The hotel’s been renovated several times”, Anne continued “but all of your rooms are in the historic part which is based on the 19th century, when the hotel was established”.
Oozing historical charm, Fretheim Hotel is the main place to stay in Flåm. With encapsulating rooms, epic views and a high-end dining restaurant, it’s quickly become a must-do port of call for anyone exploring Norway’s fjord country.
I stayed here for a night on my winter trip to the Scandinavian nation, and have put together this full review to help anyone else who’s thinking of visiting.
This blog post contains affiliate links. I was a guest of fjord Norway and Widerøe airlines. All opinions are my own.
About Fretheim Hotel
Fretheim Hotel was originally Lord Wigram’s second house in the village. Like other English lords, he started to frequent the village for salmon fishing and then hunting. His second house was built for the purpose of renting out and was called the “English Villa”.
The Bergen line – which was one of the most difficult railways to be built in the world thanks to the mountains and fjords – was constructed in 1909, connecting Norway’s two largest cities. Then, Flåm railway was constructed, which led down from Myrdal – Myrdal linked to the Bergen to Oslo line.
Flåm Railway line’s statistics are easy to remember: it took 20 years to build, it cost 20 million NOK, there are 20 tunnels and it’s 20 kilometers long!
The railway connected Flåm easily to Norway’s main cities, which caused tourism to increase. Fretheim Hotel was already open and ready for them; it welcomed its first guests in 1879.
Tourism increased in the 1960s; lots of locals had emigrated to the USA (due to the land being too difficult to farm) and their ancestors returned wanting to find their roots.
This led to the hotel expanding and creating what is nowadays known as the “American Wing”!
The Flåm Railway became privatized in the 1990s and turned into a tourist hub in the 2000s. Nowadays, the hotel remains at the heart of tourism in the town, in the heart of the untouched UNESCO World Heritage fjord.
Fretheim Hotel Review: the rooms
While Fretheim Hotel is capable of accommodating over 200 guests in 122 rooms – and it was at capacity, even in February, the rooms felt intimate and welcoming, with no essence of mass production as is often the case in hotels of its size.
In the centre of the room, there was a comfortable king-sized bed, which had two red chairs at the end. There was an antique-looking desk on the other side of the room, with a range of lighting perfect for reading.
The room overlooked the frosty landscape which led to the fjord, although I could wind the blinds fully down so they blocked out all light – perfect for a restful night’s sleep.
I was particularly pleased when I entered the bathroom and saw the majestic roll-top bath and made a mental note to ensure I was back in the hotel room by 10 pm so I could make the most of this particular amenity!
The bathroom also had an old-style toilet (with modern plumbing!), adding to the historic atmosphere of the room.
We had a quick turnaround before we met for a night of drinking and eating in the hotel’s entertainment facilities.
Fretheim Hotel lobby
The welcoming lobby provided a much-needed respite from the cold winter weather.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, guests can sit here, enjoying a drink from the well-stocked hotel bar (opt for beer made in Flåm or sip on an exotic cocktail!) and taking in the dramatic views of Flåm, while staying gloriously toasty.
In the evening, the lobby buzzes with people’s conversations without being too loud.
Or, chill out here with a cup of coffee in the daytime, taking in the epic snow-covered (if you’re there in the winter!) landscape from the huge windows.
“Our cheese has won world championships” the waiter proudly told us as he poured us a glass of wine, carefully chosen for its pairings with our food.
The high-end restaurant at Fretheim Hotel offers an array of delectable starters, mains and desserts.
I enjoyed a beetroot salad to begin with, followed by a vegetable terrine and ultimately a rich white chocolate mousse.
Each dish was cooked to perfection, offering the ideal balance of tastes, the wine enhancing the flavour. It’s a moderate-sized restaurant, but the waitstaff took their time to explain every dish.
Breakfast was also served in Fretheim Hotel’s restaurant and consisted of delicious pastries, fruit and various cooked items.
Check prices and availability of the hotel
Activities in Flåm
While you could certainly spend a half-day enjoying the historic atmosphere of Fretheim Hotel – and of course, drinking at the lobby bar and eating at the restaurant – there are a few activities in Flåm that are well worth doing while you’re here!
As it’s a very small place, you’ll need to walk mere steps from Fretheim Hotel to reach these attractions.
Take an electric vessel or RIB sea safari boat to see Aurlandsfjord.
You’ll get up close and personal with the craggy cliffs, soar on the water and maybe even stop off to enjoy some fresh Norwegian cheese.
I would recommend saving this activity for a clear day; the weather closed in on our RIB sea safari, meaning that visibility was poor and we were freezing!
The electric boats will be warmer, but will still have visibility problems in cloudy weather.
One of my favourite activities on my entire winter trip to Norway, we used snowshoes to hike to the Stegastein Viewpoint, where we saw the fjords gently meandering through the landscape.
We even sledded down a section of the mountain!
These tours include transport to the hiking starting point, equipment hire and a knowledgeable guide.
See my full post about snowshoeing in Flåm here.
Flåm railway museum
Learn about the history of the railway – and ultimately, the town – at this interesting museum.
Of course, no visit to Flåm is complete without a whirl on the railway! You could either take it as a return trip or use it for your transportation either into or out of Flåm.
Increasing numbers of saunas have been popping up all over Norway, many with incredible fjord views. We loved PUST, the sauna on Tromsø harbour, taking a dip in Bergen’s fjords and enjoying vistas of Fjaerland’s fjords from their sauna!
We, unfortunately, didn’t have the time to have another sauna session in Flåm, but they have a wonderfully-positioned sauna that takes in immense views.
Perfect if you need to warm up after some winter outdoor activities!
How to get to Flåm
The days when Flåm was only accessible by rail are long gone; roads lead into the town now, making driving to the town a possibility. You could also fly to Sogndal Airport Haukåsen, the nearest airport (we flew from Bergen to Sogndal and spent a day exploring Fjaerland before journeying to Flåm).
However, the most idyllic way to get to (or away from) Flåm is to take the gorgeous Flåm Railway.
The railway connects to the Bergen – Oslo line, so it’s entirely feasible to visit while traveling between Norway’s biggest cities.
“Most tourists visit from Bergen”, Anne from Norway’s Best told us “but it’s about a five-hour trip from Oslo too”.
Are you ready to visit Fretheim Hotel?
Fretheim Hotel is more than just a place to stay in Flåm; it’s a walk through the village’s fascinating and complex history, which is perpetually tied to the tourist trade.
As you’ve seen in this Fretheim Hotel review, here you’ll step back into Flåm’s history, while being sure of a warm welcome and an incredibly comfortable stay.
If you’re looking for a rustic, unique accommodation in Flåm, or anywhere on Norway’s fjords, Fretheim’s just the ticket.