Updated August 2019
I talked to a few different people in Mosjøen and when I told them about my road trip through Northern Norway everyone had the same question: but why did I come to Mosjøen?
And I mean, in many ways adding Mosjøen to my Northern Norway itinerary did seem like an odd choice. In fact it sort of happened by accident.
When I was first planning out my itinerary I thought it would be nice to start off the trip in Helgeland and then make a loop up north from there. Mosjøen was on the train line and seemed like a good enough place to start.
But then other things came up that meant it would make more sense to fly back to Oslo instead of getting the train, and as flights to Oslo were cheaper from Bodø than from Mosjøen and it was cheaper to return my rental car in the same location I picked it up, I decided to start in Bodø instead.
And yet I couldn’t quite let go of the idea of visiting Mosjøen.
I wanted to see the oldest town in Helgeland, which also happens to be home to Northern Norway’s longest cluster of 19th-century wooden houses and piers. And I had read that it’s known for having lots of cafés, restaurants, and shops, and I love cafés, restaurants and shops!
Plus after examining a map I realized that visiting Mosjøen would mean that I could drive down a large portion of the stunning Helgelandskysten, so I decided to go for it.
And I’m so glad I did, because after two days in the town the only question I had was why doesn’t everyone go to Mosjøen?
In fact, six months after visiting Mosjøen I ended up moving there!
Seriously though, I was so enchanted by Mosjøen that I was also a bit confused. Why hadn’t I heard more about this place?
I even wrote to a few of my friends asking if they had been, and if Mosjøen is just this magical little town that Norwegians are keeping secret from the rest of the world.
Most of them claimed not even to know where Mosjøen is, though I learned a long time ago not to trust Norwegians when it comes to revealing their favorite spots – usually the secrets involve berries or mushrooms, but I wouldn’t put it past them to keep an entire town a secret.
Luckily I’m only half Norwegian, and the American side of me is totally happy to tell the world about this lovely little town.
Table of Contents
First of all, walking down Sjøgata is like taking a stroll back in time, except instead of feeling like a perfectly preserved museum the street is full of life. There are people living in the old 19th century houses (people who hopefully don’t mind tourists peeking in their gardens and taking photos), as well as cafés, restaurants, art galleries, and shops here.
While it might look like something straight out of a history book, Sjøgata is very much alive today. Though it almost wasn’t.
In the 1970s the municipal council proposed a plan to demolish Sjøgata in order to build a parking lot, but enough local residents protested and were able to generate nationwide publicity that helped them gain funding to preserve the town’s historic center.
And you can still see that same local pride in the town’s historic roots today. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many old photos decorating the walls of a town’s establishments as I did in Mosjøen.
Mosjøen has a lot of cafés, but all of my favorites seem to be along Sjøgata.
Umami is probably the most popular café in Mosjøen, to the point where it can be a challenge to get a table on a Saturday afternoon. It’s very cosy and claims to serve the best coffee in town. The only downside is that it’s only open until 3 pm on most days (5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays), and it’s closed on Sunday.
The Kulturverkstedet is a social center and café housed in a grand mercantile building built in 1862.
I had breakfast here one morning and eavesdropping on the conversations around me gave me a little taste of local Mosjøen life. The café offers traditional dishes from Vefsn, hosts a gallery area where you can view and purchase the works of Northern Norwegian artists, and even serves as a venue for meetings, conferences, and concerts.
Probably my favorite café in Mosjøen is Matkollektivet Vikgården, a café housed in an old-fashioned general store from the 1880s, where coffee is brewed “the old way.” Unfortunately I don’t know enough about coffee to really know what that means, but wow were the cinnamon buns there delicious!
I only wish that it were open more often. Right now it’s usually open in the summer and then again at Christmastime, and otherwise only for special events. But if you’re lucky and see that it’s open when you’re visiting Mosjøen, definitely stop in.
Gilles Café is great both for a coffee and for a meal – in fact this is where I had my first dinner on my first trip to Mosjøen. Here you’ll find yet another lovingly decorated space complete with photos from the early days of Mosjøen and a stage for small concerts.
It’s fairly lively here during the day, so if you want a place to hang out and people watch, Gilles is perfect. There are also cosy couches in the back corner, so it’s a nice place to come with a computer and get some work done.
Mosjøen has a lot of restaurants, but here are some of my personal favorites.
Blomsterbua is a new restaurant in town with amazing Italian style pizzas. The staff here are really sweet, and it’s quite popular with locals so you’ll usually find it fairly busy.
Nano is also really lovely, particularly in the summer when you can sit outside.
Fru Haugans Hotel
If you’re up for something a bit fancier, Fru Haugans Hotel has two restaurants, which are probably the nicest places to go out in town. I think Restaurant Ellen is supposed to be the nicest, with a traditional atmosphere and menu, though I’ve never actually eaten there.
Mosjøen bars and nightlife
Fru Haugans Hotel
If you’re looking to go out in Mosjøen, Fru Haugans Hotel is again your best bet. There are two bars here, Fruen Bar and Hjørnet Bar, and usually you’ll find most people here on a weekend. I love the old timber walls here and find it a really cosy place to go for a drink.
Lokaln is only open on Friday and Saturday, but it’s the go-to late night pub in Mosjøen, open until 2 am on weekends. This is an easy place to meet locals.
But outside of the town center, what I find so special about Mosjøen is the beautiful landscape surrounding the town.
If you’re looking for a challenging hike with amazing views, Helgelandstrappa is a set of about 3,000 steps laid down by sherpas up Øyfjellet, which towers 800 meters above Mosjøen. The entire route is 3 kilometers, which doesn’t sound so long, but it’s basically straight up the mountain!
Of course you don’t need to go all the way up – in fact after just a few hundred steps you’ll get an amazing view out over Mosjøen.
Or if you want something a little less physically demanding, walk along the river to Marsøra. Again you’ll get a nice view across the river to Mosjøen, and at the end there’s a nice little beach area.
There are also a few picnic tables set up along this path, so bring some food and make an afternoon of it!
Mosjøen Via ferrata, zipline & other activities
Mosjøen is the proud home to the world’s northernmost via ferrata, run by Naturlige Helgeland. There’s also a zip line that you can take from the mountain down to Fru Haugans Hotel, which looks terrifying but I’ve heard that it’s incredibly fun.
Naturlige Helgeland also organize other outdoor adventures around the whole Helgeland region, which I can personally recommend. You can read about my experience with them here and here – honestly they’re the best and know the area so well.
Where to stay in Mosjøen
And if you’re looking for something a bit luxurious, Fru Haugans Hotel is right at the end of Sjøgata. Dating back over 200 years, Fru Haugans is Northern Norway’s oldest hotel and while I haven’t actually stayed here, I’ve heard that it’s lovely. Apparently it has also always been run by women! Check prices and availability here
Mid-range and budget accommodation
On my first visit to Mosjøen I stayed in one of the historic apartments on Sjøgata, which are self-catering holiday apartments on Mosjøen’s most beautiful street. They are decorated to look like they did in the 19th century, and I’d say it’s the sort of accommodation you’d probably either love or hate (I loved it).
You’ll certainly feel immersed in the culture staying here, though if you’re looking for optimal comfort and privacy (I had to go through a common area shared with the upstairs apartment to get to the kitchen and bathroom) you might prefer staying in a hotel. You can book the apartments here.
I’ve also stayed at Mosjøen Hotel, which is conveniently right across the street from the train station, and about a ten minute walk to the town center. Check current rates and availability here