Tromso (written as Tromsø in Norwegian) is the cultural hub of Northern Norway. Located on the island of Tromsøya above the Arctic Circle, it is known for being one of the top spots to see the Northern Lights. Although fairly small by international standards, Tromso is quite a populous urban city considering its remote location.
From the charming wooden houses in the historic centre to the one-of-a-kind summer festivals, there are countless reasons to choose Tromso as your next travel destination. Interested in learning more? Here are 20 exciting things to do in Tromso, Norway.
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One of the top modern architectural attractions in Tromso is the Arctic Cathedral. With its unique triangular shape, the parish church is perhaps the city’s most famous landmark, so a visit should definitely be number one on your list of things to do in Tromso!
Artist Victor Sparre installed the glass mosaic opposite the entrance, creating a gorgeous array of colours when the sun is shining. At night, however, bright lights shine out from within the building, so it’s magnificent to witness no matter the time of day.
Despite being such a tourist attraction, the interior is rather modest and the church functions normally, with regular religious services, weddings and other events. You can see the Arctic Cathedral up close opposite the Tromso Bridge in the neighbourhood of Tromsdalen, although it’s also visible from most of Tromsøya, the central island.
Did you know the world’s northernmost aquarium happens to be in Tromso? Polaria’s building was designed to represent Arctic ice floes pushed together. In fact, its white and modern exterior is the perfect accompaniment to the Arctic Cathedral on the other side of the harbour.
The displays use digital media to educate visitors about the northern Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. Polaria is one of only two aquariums in Europe where you can meet some fascinating bearded seals, including Bella and Mai San from Spitsbergen. The aquariums all include species found in the north, from sea sausages to catfish. If you’re travelling as a family, the educational experiences offered here are fun, engaging, and ideal for all ages.
Visit Panorama Kino while you’re here, where two fascinating films are displayed on a 21-metre-wide and three-metre-high panoramic canvas. The films are screened multiple times per day and bring to life the landscape of the Arctic, the Northern Lights, and Northern Norway.
Entrance tickets (which include the film screenings) cost 145 Norwegian kroner per adult, with various discounts for families and concession holders. The aquarium is open year-round from 10 in the morning, although closing times differ during the summer and on holidays.
Tromso is an incredible place to see the magical midnight sun. If you haven’t heard of this natural phenomenon before, it’s like a vibrant sunset and sunrise occurring simultaneously. However, for a few weeks and even months during summer, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. In Tromso, you’ll experience 24 hours of sunlight from the end of May until the end of July!
If you’d like to take it easy and soak up the moment, the views from the Fjellheisen gondola are unmatched. From Tromsdalen, take the cable car up to the mountains of Storsteinen, 420 metres above sea level. There are a ton of more active midnight activities available too, including hiking and swimming. If you’re feeling particularly athletic, you can join in on the Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon, held in June every year.
Another popular thing to do during the midnight sun is to unwind on a cruise. Hop aboard a luxury catamaran with Arctic Cruise and relax as you appreciate the mountains and fjords surrounding Tromso. During your three-hour tour, you’ll be served a delicious meal and some hot drinks too.
Regardless of what you choose to do, your time in the midnight sun will certainly be memorable.
One of the top whale watching tours in Tromso is definitely the Whale and Seabird Safari with Polar Adventures. During your six-to-seven-hour trip from Tromso to Skervøy and back, your local guide will teach you all about Norway’s marine life.
From the open deck or the heated lounge cabin, see the stunning orcas, humpback whales and sea eagles play in their natural environment. The decks below feature large windows to view the wildlife; a perfect solution for when it gets too windy up top.
Polar Fjord Cruise
As mentioned earlier, a cruise around the fjords is a fantastic way to see the area. Fortunately, this experience isn’t only limited to those midnight sun months. The Fjord Cruise with Polar Adventures departing from Tromso’s harbour is offered year-round. For about five hours, you can appreciate the incredible natural landscapes and fascinating sea animals as you sail on a charming wooden boat.
Included in the tour are hot beverages and some delicious food to sample, from fresh Arctic fish to fruit and other snacks. You can even dig into some reindeer stew for an additional cost. There are typically between six to 25 people on board, so your trip will feel more personal. Be sure to check the calendar on the Polar Adventures website to see how many spots are left on each daily tour.
Northern Lights Tour
When you’re in this part of the world, seeing the enchanting Northern Lights with your own eyes is a top priority! Tromso is an incredible place to see the gorgeous green glow of the aurora borealis in the night sky. Although it always depends on the weather conditions, you have a great chance of seeing the lights any time between mid September to mid April.
Booking a Northern Lights tour means you’ll get to experience this magical phenomenon at special viewing locations away from the city lights. Escape from the cool evening temperatures under a wooden hut or an adorable teepee tent with a nearby campfire. Sip some hot chocolate or coffee as you gaze up and appreciate the breathtaking surroundings.
Only in the most northern parts of the globe can you embark on a reindeer sledding adventure! This traditional activity is undoubtedly one of the most fun things to do in Tromso, Norway in winter. There are a ton of superb tour companies to book this experience with, including Tromso Arctic Reindeer and Tromso Lapland. However, keep in mind that they only run when it’s snowing, usually between November and April.
The sleigh rides themselves can last anywhere from 10 to 35 minutes, depending on the tour you select. So, if you’re on a tight schedule, you’ll likely be able to fit in a shorter ride. You’ll also get the opportunity to feed some of the 300 reindeer from your hands.
Afterwards, sit around a campfire and hear stories about Norway’s indigenous Sami people and their wild reindeer herds. For centuries, these elusive animals helped humans survive the extreme cold temperatures in the Arctic. Finish up the tour with a warm drink and bidos (Sami reindeer soup).
Within the centre of the city is Tromso Cathedral. This pale yellow Gothic Revival church was built in 1861 and is known for being the only Norwegian cathedral made from wood. It was designed by Christian Heinrich Grosch, one of Norway’s most prominent architects during the 1800s.
The bell tower at the front stands prominently above Tromso. Opulent chandeliers hang inside the church, with a copy of Adolph Tidemand’s Resurrection painting on display at the altar. Stop by for a quick look when you are nearby.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden
The northernmost botanic garden in the world is the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden in Tromso. Scenically overlooking the Tromsdalen valley and the Tromsdalstinden mountain, the garden displays both Arctic and alpine flora.
Entrance is free, and the garden is open from May when the flowers begin to bloom until the first snow in October. Although some of the Arctic plants can survive the winter on their own, the garden is difficult to navigate during this season. If you’re visiting during the summer, however, you can explore the various plants and rock landscapes at your leisure.
The Polar Museum
A great historic attraction in Tromso is the Polar Museum, where you can learn about the region through in-depth scientific, archaeological and cultural exhibits. The fascinating displays detail daring polar expeditions, including the individuals, ships and equipment involved.
Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, stop by and gain some real insights into the strength and courage of the Arctic pioneers. Entrance costs 60 Norwegian kroner per person.
Tromso Ice Domes
An extraordinary attraction in the area is Tromso Ice Domes, a breathtaking merging of snow and art. Rebuilt every year as the cold sets in, it features an ice bar, an ice cinema, an ice restaurant and even ice bedrooms. Whether you are here for a short day trip or book an overnight stay, you’ll instantly be transported into a winter wonderland.
The Tromso Ice Domes are actually 95 kilometres away from the centre of Tromso, but definitely worth the trip. If you don’t want to rent a car, you can book a five-hour guided Viator tour that includes transportation from outside Clarion Hotel The Edge. Departing daily at 10:30 a.m., the scenic drive takes less than an hour and a half. Bring your warmest clothing, as the temperature inside the domes is kept at -5°C.
Want to sample some delicious local cuisine? Book a table at Fiskekompaniet, one of the best seafood restaurants in Tromso. Start with some fresh prawns and oysters before moving on to a serving of fish soup, pan-fried halibut or a seafood platter to share. As the ocean changes, however, so does the menu. Vegetarians can also enjoy dishes like roasted seasonal vegetables with lentils.
Fiskekompaniet is found on Killengrens Gate overlooking the water and is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Tromso University Museum
The oldest scientific institution in Northern Norway is the Tromso University Museum. The comprehensive exhibits cover everything from Sami culture, Arctic biology, archaeology and geology to church art. It’s a great place to head to if you’re visiting Tromso for the first time.
If you can’t get enough of those Northern Lights, there’s an informative section on that as well, along with an enclosed chamber resembling the aurora at the press of a button. This is a plus if you’re in Tromso during the summer when you aren’t able to see the real thing yet still want to learn a bit about them.
The museum is suitable for all ages and entrance costs 60 Norwegian kroner for adults. As usual, there are discounts for families, groups, students and seniors.
Tromso Public Library
Okay, you’re probably confused about why a library is on the list. Before you skip this one, know that we’re recommending it for its impressive modern architecture. Also, it’s cosy and warm inside during the winter!
The library is made up of four floors, with a comfy reading gallery at the top. The front and side walls are made entirely of glass to allow the natural light in. The unique shell-shaped roof was inspired by Mexican architect Félix Candela.
If you have some spare time, this 2008 ‘Library of the Year’ nominee is worth a short visit. Plus, it’s centrally located along Grønnegata, so you’re likely to pass by it while you’re out and about.
The Perspective Museum (or Perspektivet in Norwegian) is housed in a gorgeous neoclassical estate. The foundation began in 1996 with the intention of sharing knowledge between cultures and understanding different perspectives. In 2004, the museum was created to showcase photographic projects that explore Tromso’s modern cultural life.
The entire photo collection owned by the museum contains over 500,000 images relating to the history of the town since the 19th century. Stop by Storgata 95 from Tuesday to Sunday and take a look around for free.
In addition to reindeer sledding, dog sledding is also one of the most exciting things to do in Tromso, Norway in December. If this activity is on your bucket list, Villmarkssenter is a reliable and experienced company to book a tour with.
45 to 60-minute dog sled tours are available during the winter, as well as hikes and adventures during the spring and summer. 300 Alaskan huskies (often including some adorable puppies) await your visit, where you’ll learn about their breed and overall welfare. You’ll be given with the proper attire such as thermal overalls and boots, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. After the ride, get cosy and warm in a Sami gamme hut and indulge in some chocolate cake washed down with a hot drink.
Vulkana Spa Boat
Think you know what to expect from a spa day? Think again, as Vulkana ensures a truly unique relaxation experience. This Arctic Spa boat was rebuilt and converted from an old Norwegian fishing boat, now featuring a Finnish wood-fired sauna with a panoramic window view and a saltwater hot tub. There is also a bar and lounge area with access to coffee, tea and snacks.
Your hosts on board can help you complete the traditional Nordic warm-up and cool-off rituals, including a swim in the Arctic waters! During the winter, you can book your Arctic Spa experience with brunch, lunch or dinner included. If you’re travelling with a group, the boat allows a maximum of 14 guests.
The oldest pub in Tromso is a must-visit for beer lovers. Ølhallen is known for its selection of Mack beers, a favourite brewery in Northern Norway, so have a chat with the staff and find a brew you’ll love. Its long history and merging of people from all walks of life have allowed the pub to become one of Tromso’s most iconic venues.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable nighttime activity, Ølhallen is open until 12:30 p.m. on Thursdays and until 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The pub is found at the southern end of Storgata, the main street in Tromso, so it can also be a great finishing point after a day of sightseeing.
Art Museum of Northern Norway
An excellent place to see some local artwork is at Tromso’s Art Museum of Northern Norway. Known as the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum in Norwegian, the visual arts space was awarded the title of Museum of the Year in 2017.
The temporary exhibitions introduce you to fascinating Norwegian creatives, such as the eclectic maritime painter Betzy Akersloot-Berg and wood sculpture artist Aage Gaup.
The museum is open daily and costs 80 Norwegian kroner to enter.
End your time in Tromso with an exhilarating seven-hour snowmobile excursion. A peaceful ferry ride will take you out of the city for the day and up to the Lyngen Alps of Lapland. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll listen to a safety briefing and be given a protective helmet and thermal suit to wear. When you’re good to go, you’ll practice your snowmobiling skills along an intermediate trail before tackling some more challenging tracks when you feel prepared.
Keep in mind that anyone without a valid driving license or those under the age of 18 won’t be able to drive, though the snowmobiles can fit two people at once.
Nighttime departures are also an option if you want to ride underneath the moonlight. As is the trend on Norwegian tours, you’ll wrap up with a serving of warm fish (or vegetable) soup and bread.
Recommended tours in Tromso
- Small-Group Aurora Hunt Northern Lights Tour from Tromso
- Lapland Husky Sled Safari from Tromso
- Fjord Cruise with Arctic Wildlife Sightings from Tromso
- Reindeer Sledding, Feeding, and Sami Culture Tour from Tromso
- Aurora Pass: 7-Day Unlimited Northern Lights Chase Tours
- Essential Tromso Historical City Walk
- Cross-Country Ski Lesson for Beginners in Tromso
- Puppy Training Experience at a Husky Farm in Tromso
- Norwegian Fjords Tour, Including Professional Photos in Tromso
- Overnight Stay in Lavvu, Northern Lights, and Reindeer Sledding in Tromso
- Whale and Seabird Safari by Boat from Tromso to Skervøy
- Midnight Sun/Sunset Sailing
- Ski Building Multi-Day Workshop in Tromso
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