A home for our history: The Hurtigruten Museum

How a Captain’s love for our maritime heritage led to a beautiful museum in Stokmarknes, dedicated to The Coastal Express.

A ship in a bottle

Walking along the waterfront of Stokmarknes, you can’t miss the big, bold, box-shaped building of glass, gleaming in the sunlight. As you draw closer, you’ll see that encased within is a full-sized ship - our very own MS Finnmarken from 1956.  

This is Hurtigrutemuseet, a modern museum that honours The Coastal Express and takes the form of a massive ship in a bottle. Protected and preserved, MS Finnmarken houses paraphernalia, archives, photographs, and exhibitions that chronicle the stories of the many people who have made The Coastal Express the icon it is today.


A walk through time

As you explore the museum, you’ll be able to walk through time in different sections of the ship. Take a visit to the bridge, the galley, the engine room, and antique cabins. Admire the fine woodwork of the 1956 dining room and relax in the lounge from the first ever Coastal Express ship DS Finnmarken from 1912.

But the story of how this special building came to be and how MS Finnmarken has been restored over 30 years is an inspiring tale of perseverance and passion.

A history to be treasured

Former Captain Sten Magne Engen comes from a small town just outside Stokmarknes. He has sailed coasts all around the world, captaining eight ships in total, and has been a board member of the museum since 1991.  When he first heard that MS Finnmarken was to be retired in 1993, Sten Magne leaped into action.

“I felt that it was an important treasure to take care of. This is a classic, beautiful ship. Hurtigruten ships are in harmony with the Norwegian coast, and we should treasure them and their history.”


The jewel in the crown

He spent the next several months sweet-talking various people to try and have MS Finnmarken donated to the museum. In 1994, just as he was about to go on holiday, he received a reply: “If you want her, you have to come and get her”.

“I immediately changed my holiday plans and gathered a crew together,” says Sten Magne. “It was the opportunity I had been looking for, even if it meant a cancelled holiday.”

Later in 1998, Sten Magne received a letter from a former passenger who told him about a ship in the Netherlands. “This turned out to be the steamship DS Finnmarken from 1912, the oldest of our ships.”

He travelled to the Netherlands in the hope of procuring at least a souvenir to bring back to the museum. Instead, he ended up buying an entire section of the ship. The 55-tonne guest lounge was transported to Stokmarknes through a complicated operation that took three and a half years.  

But for Sten Magne, it was too good a chance to pass up. “This is the jewel in the crown for our museum. We have restored what we can of the ship, rebuilding it using the same methods that were used in 1912.” 

Building for the future 

In August 2021, Hurtigrutemuseet opened its doors, featuring a lovingly restored MS Finnmarken and its counterpart from 1912, DS Finnmarken. The modern museum is the result of a 200-million Norwegian Kroner makeover and a huge team effort that included the national government, the county municipality, the regional bank, Museum Nord, sponsors, volunteers, and local enthusiasts. 

For Sten Magne, it represents three decades of dedication. “It’s been a long road, with a lot of effort involving so many people… But it was worth it! The result is so beautiful,” he says proudly, a big smile on his face.  

The extensive joint-project is a testament not only to Sten Magne’s passion and persistence, but also to what The Coastal Express means to people on the coast. Together, the museum partners plan to continue Sten Magne’s hard work, preserving and giving new life to this important history for many generations to come.