Located in the far reaches of Northern Norway, deep into the blisteringly remote and extreme depths of the Arctic Circle, Tromso is one of the most adventurous, beautiful and enthralling destinations to visit in Scandinavia.
Despite its extreme northern location, Tromso is one of the largest cities in Norway and one of the largest cities within the Arctic Circle, anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. That makes Tromso Norway the best base to explore the icy tundras, to see the Northern Lights in winter, and to have a polar experience like no other. Outside of the cold of winter, in the summertime, the sun never sets, and you can hike into the wilderness or into the mountains, explore the fjords by kayak or boat, and enjoy the great outdoors.
Tromso also has a fascinating history, excellent museums and a vibrant, modern culture, as this is the heart of the north of Norway. It’s a great place to visit, and to inspire your trip, here’s our ultimate travel guide to Tromso.
This ultimate travel guide to Tromso will show you all the most beautiful places in Tromso, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Tromso and things to do in Tromso which will help you in planning a trip to Tromso.
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How to get to Tromso
Our top travel tips begin with our advice on how to actually get to Tromso. Despite its seemingly remote, and far northern location, Tromso can be relatively easy to travel to, as this is the transport hub of northern Norway.
That doesn’t mean that it’s quick to reach Tromso however, and with the city being well over 300 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle, it’s a long way even from other Norwegian cities to the south such as Bergen and Oslo.
Oslo is 1700 kilometres away, and while you can drive the route in summer, it’s a long, 20-hour journey – and that’s if you don’t stop. If you are road tripping Scandinavia, Tromso can be a great addition to your itinerary, provided you have lots of time. If you just want to get in though, the best way to get to Tromso is to fly.
There are several daily connections to Oslo, with both SAS and Norwegian, and these two carriers have connections to Europe and North America from the capital. In summer, there are more flights, with connections also available to London and Stockholm. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even fly to the remote island of Svalbard, or to Russian cities in the Arctic from Tromso, as this truly is the regional hub.
You can also reach Tromso via bus from other Scandinavian cities, but again, it’s a long journey, or you can call in as part of a Norwegian cruise.
What to expect in Tromso
With a population of around 75,000 people, Tromso is still a relatively small city by wider European standards. For the Arctic, though, this is a large place, and Tromso is a bustling historic and cultural centre, with a lot to experience.
The local language is Norwegian, although Tromso has its own unique dialect, but you’ll quickly find that’s easy to get around in English. The locals are well educated and speak English to a fluent level in most cases, although of course, learning a few words of Norwegian, no matter how difficult the language may seem, will always be appreciated.
The local currency is the Norwegian Krone, and you will find that there are ATMs in Tromso as well as a few money changers at the airport and in the centre.
How to get around Tromso
Tromso City itself is rather small, and you can generally walk from one tourist attraction to the next. If you are staying in or visiting the suburbs, then you can use the local public buses, which are efficient and run through the day.
If you are exploring further afield, then in summer it can be a good idea to hire a rental car, as connections are irregular outside of the city. There are local bus services to smaller towns and villages of course, but having your own vehicle really allows you to get off the beaten track in northern Norway and to see more of the Arctic.
A great way to get around too, is by ferry, as there are connections through the fjords and along the coast to nearby towns and villages and even to other parts of Tromso itself.
The best time to visit Tromso
The best time to go to Tromso really depends on what activities you are planning and what you would like to see. Tromso experiences extreme differences in weather between summer and winter.
In summer, the weather is at its best, of course, and you can experience the midnight sun all through June and July. Temperatures rest comfortably in the twenties, and it’s the perfect time for outdoor activities and summer festivals, especially when the midnight sun is up in the sky.
Winter can be just as popular though, because if you brave the cold temperatures and unpredictable weather then you can experience life within the Arctic Circle during the most extreme months of the year. Temperatures will regularly fall below freezing, the landscapes will be covered in snow and ice, seemingly with no end in sight, while for the darkest months of the winter, there’s not a single ray of sunshine. It’s an experience, and one of the best things to in Tromso in winter is to see the Northern Lights, and that’s well worth the bracing cold!
Things to do in Tromso
The Polar Museum
Start your trip to Tromso with a visit to the Polar Museum, which is a fantastic place to learn more about the local history. The Polar Museum offers a fascinating insight into the history of polar exploration because it’s from the city that many of the most famous expeditions have set out to conquer the icy wilderness of the Arctic.
The quirky, yet dramatic Polaria building is not hard to miss, and while the building is an attraction in itself, this is also the world’s most northerly aquarium.
Inside the sleek, white walls of Polaria, you can find an immense array of fish and exhibits on arctic marine animals, from seals to whales. It’s a great place to learn more about the unique ecosystems that are found in the waters of northern Norway and deep into the depths of the Arctic Circle. You’ll find taxidermied exhibits collected on polar exhibitions in past centuries, as well as live animals too.
The Arctic Cathedral
One of the most famous landmarks in Tromso is the Arctic Cathedral. This iconic cathedral dates back to the 1960s and it towers high above the surrounding houses.
It’s a spectacular work of architecture, and worth seeing even if you aren’t usually into visiting religious buildings on your travels.
Ride the Cable Car
If there’s only one thing you do while in Tromso, make it a ride on the cable car. The city’s most popular attraction whisks visitors high above Tromso, and to the top of Storsteinen mountain peak, which is found several hundred metres above sea level.
The ride up is spectacular, but the views from the summit are even better. In summer, you can even take the cable car one way and hike the other way – you’ll probably want to go downhill!
A great way to experience local life is in the markets, where you can find the best shopping in Tromso. Every Saturday, there’s a lively farmer’s market in the main square, while from November through to December, you can enjoy some wonderfully festive Christmas markets.
If you’re looking for a refreshing drink, then head to Macks Brewery, the most well known Tromso beer brand. You can not only enjoy some delectable local brews, but you can take a guided tour of the facilities to learn about the history of brewing within the Arctic Circle, at one of the most northerly breweries in the world.
What to eat in Tromso
Being located in rich fishing grounds, of course, fish is an integral part of the local diet in Tromso. Fresh seafood is on another level in Tromso, and you’ll find the best seasonal catches on the menu at most restaurants in the city.
A local specialty is fish soup with lobster, a soup which combines the best of the local seafood into a delicious delicacy. You’ll find seafood platters brimming with prawns, while you’ll also find an ever-increasing number of excellent fusion and international restaurants, serving everything from Norwegian classics with a modern twist to Italian style pizzas or Spanish tapas.
Where to stay in Tromso
Budget – This is Norway, and unfortunately, things are expensive here compared to the rest of the world. That means that for true backpackers and budget travellers, there are very few options available. In summer, it’s possible to camp at several campsites around the city and in the countryside, while in Tromso itself you can stay at the Youth Hostel.
Mid Range – If you’re looking for mid-range accommodation, you might still find it expensive compared to the rest of Europe, but there are certainly plenty of options. There are lots of apartments for rent in the city, while the Radisson Blu offers international standards and great value.
Luxury – Like most of Norway, Tromso has plenty of places to stay where you can easily spend an absolute fortune, but get little in return, but there are some real luxury gems in the city waiting to be discovered too. The Edge is a relatively new opening that offers immaculate decor and furnishings, excellent service and lovely rooms in central Tromso, while the Clarion has several other locations in the city where you can find unbeatable service. If you want to splash out and get out of Tromso, then the most unique place to stay is at the Tromso Ice Domes, an ice hotel which is found in the countryside.
Airbnb is also a great option for short or long stays.
Tours to do in Tromso
Northern Lights Tour
One of the best reasons to visit Tromso in winter is for the chance to see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis occurs during the winter months when it’s dark enough in the sky to see the magnetic interference in the atmosphere above the north pole.
It’s a spectacularly colourful sight, and if you can spend a few days in Tromso in winter when the skies are darkest, you are almost guaranteed to see them – making this one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights. Join a dedicated Northern Lights tour to head out of the city and into the wilderness where there’s no light pollution and the chance of chasing lights when they are at their most glorious.
Sami Culture Tours
Experience the indigenous culture of the Sami people, who have tamed the Arctic Circle for thousands of years. Head out into the tundra, on snowmobile tours, dog sleds or reindeer sleds, to see a side of life that’s totally unique to the Arctic.
Whale Watching Tours
Along the coast of northern Norway, whales are a regular sight, and you can join a dedicated whale watching tour that takes you through the fjords and out onto the ocean.
The best time to see whales in Tromso is actually in winter, between October and January, when the water is filled with the kind of fish that the whales just love to eat.
Day trips from Tromso
One of the best day trips from Tromso is to the Lyngen Alps, which are best accessed in summer when the snow has melted. This high mountain range is perfect for outdoor pursuits, and especially for hiking.
Enjoy a glimpse of local life by visiting Sommaroy, a small fishing village that looks like it hasn’t changed in centuries. It’s an easy day trip from Tromso, and you’ll find spectacular scenery, with the village surrounded by fjords, mountains and lined with glorious beaches.
Tromso Ice Domes
If you can’t afford to stay at the Tromso Ice Domes, then you can still visit on a day trip. This work of ice art is home to a hotel, sculptures, restaurant and bar, but of course, it melts every year once the summer comes around, and is rebuilt again in the winter.
Recommended tours in Tromso
- Small-Group Aurora Hunt Northern Lights Tour from Tromso
- Fjord Cruise with Arctic Wildlife Sightings from Tromso
- Lapland Husky Sled Safari 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
- Reindeer Camp Dinner with Chance of Northern Lights in Tromso
- Lasso Throwing, Reindeer visit, and Sami Culture Including Lunch from 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