The city of Bodø was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). Bodin was merged with Bodø on 1 January 1968. Skjerstad was merged with Bodø on 1 January 2005. Bodø, located just north of the Arctic Circle, is the largest city in Nordland county, and the second largest in North Norway.
Bodø was granted township status in 1816 and is now county capital of Nordland. Most of Bodø was destroyed during a Luftwaffe attack on the 27 May 1940. Six thousand people were living in Bodø, and 3500 people lost their homes in the attack. Fifteen people lost their lives during the air attack (2 British soldiers and 13 Norwegians). Due to the acute lack of housing, the Swedish government helped build 107 apartments in the winter of 1941. These houses were built tightly together just outside the town. This small area, today in the heart of Bodø, is still called "svenskebyen" — the Swedish town. The town was subsequently rebuilt after the war. The rebuilding ended in 1959 with the completion of the new town hall.
Bodø received international attention during the U-2 Crisis in May 1960, when it became known that the American U-2 pilot Gary Powers had been shot down over the Soviet Union on his way from Pakistan to Bodø.
The city lies just north of the Arctic Circle where the midnight sun is visible from 2 June to 10 July. Due to atmospheric refraction, there is no true polar night in Bodø, but because of the mountains south of Bodø, the sun is not visible from the city from early December to early January. Average number of sunhours in Bodø is highest in June with 221 hours.