Sitting 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle lies the city of Tromso (Tromsø). The gateway to the Arctic, or Paris of the North, is the largest city in northern Norway with just under 75,000 inhabitants, the city is not half as dull as one might expect. On the contrary, there are 12,000 students and a very lively city center, as well as the beautiful nature around the town, which ensures that nothing is boring here.
Located on the island of Tromsøya in Norwegian Lapland, Tromso is dynamic and multicultural, thanks to the presence of scientists from all over the world. It is also full of fun things to discover in summer as well as in winter!
At first glance, it may seem that a vacation to Tromso is for daredevils who are not afraid of the cold and dark and romantics who are willing to cross the Arctic Circle for beautiful skies and photographs, but the city is so much more. In fact, this city has made the northern lights closer, more accessible, and more comfortable than ever before.
Tromso can’t be compared with any other city. It is not called the capital of the Arctic for nothing! Both in winter and summer, this gorgeous place has a lot to offer. Let’s find out the best places to visit in Tromso and the best things to do there.
If you like cute four-legged friends as much as we do, then a husky tour is something that you should definitely do! This is one of the most exciting activities in Tromso, which you can also perfectly combine with the Northern Lights. While driving through the beautiful wilderness, surrounded by mountains and fjords, all you hear is soft panting and barking and dog legs gently walking through the snow… Lovely!
There are many different companies that offer dog sledding, given that this is one of the most popular activities in Tromso during the winter. That’s actually a good thing because the competition, fortunately, works on our favors bringing the price down a bit.
After the trip, you can also cuddle with the hairy and friendly huskies. And if you really can’t get enough of the dogs, you can also visit a husky home, where you get to learn everything about this cute dog breed.
Go On a Northern Lights Safari
Tromso is famous for being one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. This wondrous natural phenomenon is sometimes even so strong that you can see it in the city center or from your hotel in Tromso. The experience becomes even more intense when you leave the city and go to an area where there are few houses and streetlights.
One of the best activities in this Arctic region that everyone should do at least once in their life is definitely An aurora tour. Since the sun never rises above the horizon here from November 21 to January 21, these are the best months to admire the spectacle.
We recommend booking an aurora tour in Tromso with a company. In fact, this is probably the only way to see the Northern Lights with almost one hundred percent certainty. Since these companies are in contact with other tours, as well as weather experts, they know exactly where you can see the light.
There are other several options available to enjoy this majestic show as well. You can take a cruise at sea; it is a unique experience to live, and you will be able to take exceptional pictures. If you are not into guided tours, you can still do it on your own; you can rent a car and go on an adventure. The tourist office will inform you about the best places to observe them.
In any case, this is one of the not-to-be-missed adventures! You can’t come to Tromso in winter without seeing the Northern Lights! Make sure to charge your camera or phone and bring some warm clothes!
Visit the Ice Domes
The Tromso Ice Domes are undoubtedly one of the most unique and magnificent sights in the area. They are built entirely of ice and snow, even the bar and restaurant. They are really super cool ……literally! A visit to the Ice Domes changes your view of snow and ice by 360 degrees. It’s incredible how you can build such large buildings and sculptures in this area with nothing but ice crystals.
If you’re already impressed with the outside of the Ice Domes, wait until you see the inside! Every room and space is beautifully decorated and lit with colored lights and ice sculptures. After the tour, you are treated to a complimentary drink.
From Tromso, it is possible to book a tour offered by the Ice Domes themselves. This tour takes about five hours, and of course, you can also rent a car in Norway and drive yourself to this activity, but don’t forget that you will have to drive through snow and ice!
Norwegian waters are full of dense aquatic fauna, and the capital of the Arctic has no shortage of them. One of the reasons Norway is so fascinating is that you can see the world’s largest mammals here. Between October and February, whales, dolphins, and orcas migrate through the fjords around Tromso to feed on herring. If you want to see these fabulous animals with your own eyes, Tromso really is the place to be.
During the beforementioned time, go to the port of Tromso to embark on a cruise that will take you close to the sites where you have the best chance to observe these giants of the sea. After a 30 to 40 minute ride through the snowy fjords, you will approach the feeding grounds of the whale families. This is not exactly cheap, but it is absolutely worth it, the kind of you get stars-in-your-eyes worth it!
However, if you make it to the city at different times, you can still enjoy watching the whales, orcas, and other cetaceans, as many companies offer you to observe them in Skjervøy, an island 150 km from Tromso. The departure is from the city center, and it is a nice experience to live as well.
Visit the Polar Museum in Tromso
Do you like informative museums with great exhibitions? Then the Polar Museum is one of the most interesting places for you in Tromso. Tromso was once the most important starting point for expeditions to the Arctic and the North Pole. The Polar Museum provides information about that history and the history of seal and polar bear hunting.
It shows how hunters wintered in Spitsbergen, and it also provides information about polar expeditions. The museum is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the lives of famous trappers such as Wanny Woldstad and Henry Rudi and take part in an impressive polar expedition with Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen. This is a great museum that you should definitely visit!
Kayaking Between The Fjords In Tromso
Did you think that all the excitement takes place in the winter and there are no thrilling adventures in the north of Norway between May and August? Well, think again! There are many beautiful sights to discover in Tromso, even during the summer. For example, you can enjoy the (almost) never-setting Scandinavian sun and the breathtaking scenery here. If you’re a bit more adventurous, kayaking is one of the best ways to get to know nature and its glaciers.
While on a kayak tour, you get to learn how to maneuver a kayak through the Norwegian waters smoothly. You sail through the beautiful fjords around the islands that surround Tromso, feeling closer than ever to nature and life at sea. If you’re lucky, you might even see a few whales, seals, or dolphins!
This excursion, which is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience, can only be booked during the summer months. Tromso is beautiful, but the area around Tromso looks even more impressive when seen from the water!
Marvel at the Polaria
Polaria is an arctic experience center for the whole family, and the building is architecturally worth seeing. The Polaria distinguishes itself by offering a unique concept of aquarium-museum. Located at a 15-minute walk from the city center, it plunges you into the discovery of the Arctic life and proposes some basins in which you can admire seals and many species of fish.
In Polaria, films about Spitsbergen and the Northern Lights are shown, and on the Arctic tour, you can learn how the melting of the ice affects nature. Barents Sea fish and bearded seals can also be admired here. There are also small films shown in a panoramic cinema and different exhibitions about the Arctic fauna and flora, as well as the consequences of the climate change on the region.
If you are traveling with kids and want to see some educational sights in Tromso, Polaria Aquarium is definitely a place not to miss. This sight in Tromso is a combination of an interactive exhibition and an aquarium, where you can learn all about the Arctic nature and the animals that live there.
The real highlight is undoubtedly when you feed the seals, and they perform their exciting tricks. This is one of the must-do activities that is fun for the whole family.
A day of relaxation at the wellness center Tromsøbadet must be included in any list of activities to do in Tromso. Tromsøbadet is much more than just a wellness center. You can also swim there and have fun in the water amusement park. So it’s also a friendly activity to take your kids to escape the cold Norwegian weather for a moment.
One of the things you should definitely do here is taking a dip in the heated outdoor swimming pool with a nice view of the city. Tromsøbadet is fun for the young and old!
Reindeer Feeding and Sledding
One of the best activities in Tromso is reindeer feeding and sledding. Who wouldn’t want to feed reindeers and take a trip with them through Norwegian nature? Not only do they look cute, but they are also peaceful and friendly. This is mainly due to the fact that the Sami people have tamed them and taken care of them, just like farmers do with cows and sheep.
On this trip, you not only take a reindeer sleigh ride in the evening, but you also get to watch the spectacular Northern Lights while enjoying a traditional Sámi dinner. If you ask us, this is a fantastic combination! An encounter with the reindeer or a ride on a sleigh is truly one of the best activities in Tromso.
Take a Walk ….Or Many for That Matter!
When you’re in Tromso, you’ll probably want to take a few long walks, and that is totally understandable given the stunning nature of the city- especially when it’s covered in a fresh layer of snow. During one of your little polar expeditions, be sure to walk across the Tromso Bridge (Tromsøbrua) as well. From there, you’ll surely get the best view of Tromsdalstinden mountain with the majestic Arctic Cathedral in the background.
Tromso Bridge has been part of the city’s striking skyline since the late 1950s. For years, it was even the longest bridge in Northern Europe, thanks to its length of more than a kilometer. A walk across the bridge is highly recommended!
Visit the Arctic Cathedral
Unfortunately, polar expeditions also cause many casualties, and the best place to honor all these people is, of course, a cathedral, AKA the Arctic Cathedral. If you expect an ordinary cathedral like in all other European cities, well the Arctic Cathedral, or Ishavskatedralen in Norwegian, will surely surprise you.
Built in 1965, it is actually a protestant cathedral with a (very) surprising architecture. The cathedral is shaped like an iceberg, and in front of it is a magnificent glass mosaic stand that sparkles with incredible colors when the sun shines through it. It even looks a bit like the northern lights!
You can see this white church from almost anywhere in the city, but be sure to go inside if you want to admire the dazzling light show. If you are visiting the cathedral in Tromso in the winter, then you might want to consider attending a performance there. The Christmas concert there is spectacular!
Since we’re already in the religious realm, there’s one more house of worship that’s a must-see. The Tromso cathedral is probably one of the most charming sights of Tromso. It is a special place because the cathedral is the only church in Norway built entirely of wood.
The Tromso Cathedral is also one of the largest places of worship in Norway. It was built in 1860 in the very heart of Tromso city. There is a lot of greenery planted around the church, so it looks like an idyllic Christmas card, especially in winter.
Not only the exterior of Tromso Cathedral is worth seeing, but also the interior is extraordinary. Make sure to check out the interior of Tromso Cathedral and admire the beautiful artwork that decorates the cathedral.
Spend A Night at Camp Tamok
Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to spend the night in a tent when temperatures drop below freezing? If you have, then Camp Tamok might just be the place for you. This attraction in the Tromso area is about 75 minutes by car from the city center. Located in a beautiful valley surrounded by enchanting mountains, Camp Tamok was built exclusively as a wilderness camp for the most adventurous tourists.
It is not only about sleeping in a tent here though; there are various accommodations available as well, from staying in a Sami shepherd’s tent to different cabins. Camp Tamok is also the starting and ending point for multiple excursions such as husky rides and reindeer sleigh rides. Afterward, you will be pampered in the open air with a hot tub and sauna.
Of all the activities and places in Tromso, the harbor is one that is worth visiting in both summer and winter. From there, you have an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and the endless sea. The harbor is surrounded by colorful cottages, and there are always a few beautiful boats gently swaying on the waves.
Make sure to have enough time to enjoy this idyllic place, also the best restaurants in town are located along the harbor. Who knows, you might even see a whale or a few seals jump out of the water while sitting here!
At the very top of the city is the beautiful lake, Prestvannet, which is really worth a visit. It is one of those interesting places in Tromso where you automatically hold your breath for a moment because of the dazzling view. You can walk around the lake Prestvannet while encountering joggers, hikers, and even cross-country skiers along the way.
Sightseeing in the Fjords
While in Tromso, you shouldn’t miss this opportunity to explore the fjords. You’ve probably seen them from afar during a whale watching, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing them up close. You can rent a car in Norway and go on an adventure on your own to explore the incredible beauty of this area, or you can join one of the many tours where a guide will take you through the romantic villages and all the other wonders of the north.
This day tour takes about five hours from Tromso as a minibus takes you to the most beautiful parts of the fjords. During the stops, you have plenty of time to take beautiful photos, and of course, you can warm up with a cup of coffee or tea around the campfire while chatting with the locals.
One of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is a boat trip in the middle of the fjords. On a sailboat, a zodiac, or a silent hybrid ship, enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape. From May to September, you can even embark on a cruise under the midnight sun, which is such a unique and memorable experience!
Fjellheisen Aerial Cableway
The Fjellheisen Aerial Cableway is one of Tromso’s most famous sights, and it is appreciated by locals and many travelers alike. From the top of the mountain, you have a sublime view of Tromso city and the fairytale surroundings of mountains and fjords.
If you are lucky, you can also spot Kvaløya, one of Norway’s largest islands. If you’re really lucky, you might also see the spectacular Aurora Borealis dancing above you! Don’t hesitate to head to the café at the top and treat yourself to a delicious hot chocolate.
It’s magical to see the Northern Lights dancing in the wind above the city, or the midnight sun glittering in the sea in the summer. So it’s an activity you can do all year round, but still, make sure you dress warm enough. Even in the summer months, it can be very chilly up there! If you book a tour, you can enjoy some delicious cocoa as well as tasty Norwegian waffles after a ride on the aerial streetcar.
To visit Tromso in Norway is to visit a city like no other. Cradled by the midnight sun in the summer, illuminated by the northern lights in the winter, the city is synonymous with a change of scenery and wonder. With its red houses against the blue fjord and cloud-like mountains, Tromso is a lively city that belongs to any traveler’s bucket list. Whether its many great activities or mesmerizing places to visit, the city has something for everyone.