Tromsø, one of the largest cities in northern Norway (which is also known as the capital of northern Norway), tends to be one of the tourist hotspots in Scandinavia. In this Tromsø travel guide, we will uncover how to get there, what to do, what attractions to see and what activities to undertake. Here you can find everything you need to plan your next trip to Tromsø.
Despite its distant location, it is fairly easy to reach Tromsø. Flights are available on major routes. Cruise ships are another means of reaching Tromsø. Unfortunately, this destination is not accessible by train.
Flights. SAS and Norwegian, two Scandinavian airline companies, offer daily flights from the major Scandinavian cities: Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger, Ålesund, Copenhagen, Stockholm. Wideroe, another airline company, offers direct flights from Bergen, Ålesund and several other Norwegian cities. Norwegian offers direct flights from London to Oslo. There is also about a dozen of direct flights from other (smaller) Norwegian cities and towns.
Cruise ships. You can also arrive to Tromsø on a cruise ship. For instance, Hurtigruton offers cruises from Bergen to Tromsø. Likewise, there are regular cruises from the UK to this Norwegian city. Additionally, there is a regular daily cruise from Måløy, a city located between Bergen and Ålesund, to Tromsø.
Bus. You may also reach Tromsø by bus from Narvik, a town near the border with Sweden. That is convenient if you depart from the northern part of Sweden.
Even though Tromsø is best associated with winter and northern lights, there are two seasons when it is recommended to visit this city.
Winter season (end of January – March). This time is perfect for all the typical activities associated with Tromsø – reindeer sledding, dog sledding, northern lights safari, and alike. Coming earlier than late January is not recommended because it is possible that there will not be enough snow yet. Simply put, the weather is more stable during this period.
Summer season (mid July – beginning of September). At this time, you won’t be able to try most activities Tromsø is so well-known for. However, this season is ideal for some trekking in this region – some of the best trekking routes in Norway are located not far from Tromsø.
Prices in Norway are immeasurably high – the same stands true of Tromsø. For instance, a dinner at a mid-range restaurant for two would cost around 800 NOK, which is equal to around 75 euro. A bottle of beer would start at 90 NOK, or 8 euro. One-way transportation ticket costs 45 NOK (4 euro), while a monthly pass costs 720 NOK (66 euro).
Arctic Cathedral. Tromsø’s iconic landmark – it was constructed back in 1965 – is featured on countless postcards and photos. This is the actual Norwegian church, which is located in an ideally serene spot, not bothered by any bustling. While being located on the southern side of Bruvegen bridge, you can easily reach this iceberg-shaped cathedral in a 30-minute walk from the city center.
Cable car. Also known as Fjellheisen, this cable car will bring you to the peak of Mount Storsteinen. From the height of 421 meters, you will observe stunning vistas over the city, fjords and neighboring mountains. On that peak, there is a nice terrace and a fairly expensive restaurant – there, you can sit, relax and take a sip of coffee. There are several hiking trails – if you have a few spare hours, don’t hesitate to follow one of them.
Polar Museum. Norway is a country that is well-famed for its achievements in polar explorations. Many of the expeditions that led to grandiose discoveries had been started exactly from Tromsø. Discover how the legendary expeditions of Nansen and Amundsen unfolded with some fairly rare exhibits, stored in this old style building. Also, the museum explores the life in the Arctic region and its fauna.
Tromsø University Museum. Famed as the oldest scientific institution in the north of Norway (it was established in 1882), Tromsø University Museum discovers some of the most important topics to this region. Its exhibits will help you dive deep into the subjects of the traditional and modern Sami life, the life of the Vikings, and ecclesiastical art. The museum also houses a replica of the “Northern Lights machine,” which will give you a glimpse into what is aurora borealis – even if you had never witnessed one.
Polaria. Visiting this thematic museum is among the top things to do Tromsø, as it uncovers the specifics of this region and the neighboring Svalbard, another popular tourist destination. You may start your visit by watching two panoramic films about the northern Norway. Or, alternatively, you may head right to the Arctic Walkway and witness such exhibits like the aurora borealis, the shrinking sea ice, and an aquarium with fish. If you arrive around the feeding times (12:30 P.M.), you may ask the keepers about the questions which interest you the most.
Domkirke. Tromsø’s wooden church tends to be among the largest wooden churches in Norway and is definitely worth your time. Especially its worth waiting for a sunset to observe how the church’s beautiful exterior turns pink.
M/S Polstjerna. This seal hunting vessel brought around 100,000 seals in the period between 1949 and 1981. In 1981, the ship stopped its operation and was harbored in the city, after being taken over by the Arctic Society. In 2005, after the dock where the vessel is located was covered, the museum opened its doors for the first time. You can get aboard and explore the historic vessel and see the original gear that is exhibited on the ship.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic Gardens. Another attraction run by the Tromsø University Museum, this place appears to be the world’s northernmost botanical garden. It had opened its doors for the first time in 1991, and nowadays it receives visitors in the summer season (from late May to early October). Here, you can observe the flora and Arctic plants that were brought here from the entire northern hemisphere. Even though the entrance is free of charge, you might wish to order a guided tour (225 NOK for adults).
Tromsø War Museum. The city’s war museum was established in 1993 and is dedicated to the city’s tumultuous history of war, starting with the 1250s. However, the key focus of this museum is put on the World War II and the liberation of this part of Norway. The most interesting exhibits include the restored Nazi bunker and the coastal artillery battery, making this museum one of the best places to visit in Tromsø.
Perspektivet Museum. It is not that much about this museum as about the building in which the museum is housed. This neoclassical mansion dating back to 1838 strikes the eyes of passers with its elegant exterior. Currently, it houses a museum that exhibits photos that reveal the history of Tromsø. Occasionally, there are high-quality temporary displays, too.
Catholic Church of Tromsø. Pay a visit to the world’s northernmost Catholic church in the entire world. The unassuming building would barely attract attention of many people, yet this church dates back to 1861 and visiting it is among the best things to do in Tromsø.
Tromsø Library. The city’s bibliotek is a bright example of the modern Norwegian architecture – many of such edifices you can find among the attractions of Oslo, too. Apart from its sleek and elegant exterior, you can also visit this building and take advantage of its free internet access.
Storgata. The city’s main pedestrian street is a great place to hang out and dedicate some time to shopping – there are plenty of trendy, nice boutiques and shops. If you don’t feel like strolling around, you can relax and have a bite in one of the local cafés or restaurants.
Tromsøbadet. The water park opened in Tromsø just in the summer of 2019, yet it quickly gained popularity among the locals and tourists alike. There are wellness areas, bubble baths and massage. But it is especially worth to relax in the heated outdoor pool while relishing in the scenery of the mountains that surround the city. There are also huge stadium-sized pools for passionate sportspeople.
Northern Norway Art Museum. For just 80 NOK (free for students and children), you have a chance to observe temporary art collections regarding the history and culture of this region. There is no permanent exhibition, however, and the museum’ s exhibits also regularly travel to Svalbard, Finnmark, Troms and Nordland.
Kunstforening. The Tromsø center of contemporary art was established in order to create a space for artistic discussion. Even if you are not interested in art, the beautiful mansion in which this museum is housed (and that dates back to 1924) is well worth your attention on its own.
When someone mentions a soon-to-happen trip to Tromsø, it’s never about the city’s attractions in the first place. Above all, people head to this northern city for its astonishing number of activities and adventures. In this part of our Tromsø travel guide, we will uncover the top things to do in Tromsø in terms of activities, both in winter and summer seasons.
Dog sledding. This natural activity is among the most popular tours and best things to do in Tromsø (and you can order all these tours from our company). Dog sledding allows you to experience an exciting ride in the Arctic area where the snow holds for over 8 months in a year! Discover the natural beauty of northern Norway by undertaking this adrenaline-rushing activity!
Snowmobiling. Snowmobiles are the vehicles that allow you to ride on the snow, not the easiest terrain. Though the snowmobiling tour starts on an easy terrain and a well-established trail, you can – after getting to grips with your vehicle – try something more adventurous. Aside from having such an adrenaline-rushing ride, you will have plenty of chances to stop and shoot photos of the beautiful Norwegian landscapes, covered in snow.
Reindeer sledding. Another exciting activity on the list of the best things to do in Tromsø! You will not only experience an exciting ride on a sled while being dragged by reindeers, but also get acquainted with the Sami culture and traditions! Overall, the reindeer sledding tour lasts from 4 to 5 hours – so, brace yourself for it!
Northern Lights safari. Aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is among the world’s most impressive and beautiful phenomena. But not all travelers are able to catch the aurora borealis on their first trip. With our Arctic Dreams tour, you have a much higher chance of experiencing aurora borealis (it also comes with reindeer sledding, snowmobiling, cruises, and much more). Alternatively, you may try to observe the aurora borealis in the Northern Lights camp.
Cross-country skiing. Truly, Norway is a country in which cross-country skiing is rather a religion than a sport (check the best winter sports in Norway). And where else to try it than in one of its northernmost regions? There are plenty of locations and trails for this activity around Tromsø, but you may also embark on a multi-day challenging expedition from Tromsø (warning: that’s not for beginners).
Fishing. The fishing villages of northern Norway, such as the Andøya Fishing Camp, are among the best and most interesting places to visit around Tromsø. Overall, Tromsø is a perfect city for avid fishermen, who would like to try pursuing their hobby in a new country. There are plenty of options for fishing in Tromsø, so just contact us to get more information on this matter.
Fjord cruises. Norway is best known for its glorious, beautiful fjords, and Tromsø doesn’t differ much from the rest of Norway in this regard. It would be irremissible to visit this beautiful city and not to experience a fjord cruise. Especially, the midnight sun cruise is something that will surely leave you with the emotions and impression that will stay with you forever.
Spa. It’s not just a usual spa. Vulkana Spa is a vessel that was rebuilt into a spa, thus merging the passion for Arctic adventures with the love for sauna and spa. It is definitely a great experience and one of the best things to do in Tromsø.
Whale safari. If you would like to observe some of the rarest whale species, embark on the Whale Winter Safari Tour. There has been no single tourist who has been left unimpressed by them. Sea eagles and beautiful fjords will complement your whale safari, making the trip truly unforgettable.
Trekking. In the summertime, Tromsø is a great destination for passionate trekkers and hikers. There are at least a dozen of hiking trails around the city, some of which start from the peak of Mount Storsteinen (read above). If you are not sure where to go or you are not an experienced hiker, you may embark on the Mountain Walking Tour with us.
Helicopter rides. Summertime is also a perfect season for helicopter rides above Tromsø, allowing you to enjoy the city views and the beautiful nature around the city from above.
There is a great number of restaurants and cafés in Tromsø, making it really tough to choose which one to go to. Here, we will list some of the best restaurants in Tromsø, so you know where to go.
Mathallen. Just like its namesake in Oslo, this is one of the best bistros in town. Its stylish interior with an open-fronted kitchen don’t contrast with the delicious meals of the modern Norwegian cuisine that are served here. Drop in here at a lunchtime to get a lunch special for just 100 NOK.
Fiskekompaniet. This restaurant is a perfect place to taste delicious meals prepared from the ocean fish, making it one of the best seafood restaurants in Tromsø. While the interior of this restaurant is just contemporary, the atmosphere here is just great for a perfect dinner.
Ølhallen. If you are thirsty, visit this famous local pub in Tromsø, which dates back to 1877 and appears to be the oldest pub in town. It has 72 beers on offers, and it had been the northernmost brewery in the world until very recently.
Kitchen & Table. One would rather think that this restaurant is located somewhere in New York rather than Tromsø. Yet, the ingredients of its meals are exclusively Arctic, and the restaurant’s chef serves some of the most original tastes in Tromsø. Main meals start at 235 NOK.
Risø. Another bar on this list, Risø tends to be full of people throughout the day. The favorite meals among the customers are the daily specials, sandwiches and cakes. The place is quite cheap, too – the mains cost from 95 to 180 NOK.
Emma’s Drømmekjøkken. If you are craving for original Norwegian meals, this is the place you should go to. All the meals here are prepared with high-quality local ingredients and taste exclusively delicious.
Dragøy. For a cheap bite, drop in this small bistro. Among the customers’ favorites, one may count fish and chips, fish soup, fish burger, and homemade ravioli.
Are you looking into what are the best hotels in Tromsø where you can stay? Well, our page with the best hotels to stay in Tromsø offers all necessary information on that matter, including phone numbers, ratings on TripAdvisor, images and addresses. So, just head to that page in order to find out where to stay in Tromsø.
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