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Tromsø City Guide

Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway, is a captivating destination set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and surrounded by the Arctic Ocean.

Tromsø beckons travelers to experience the Arctic's magic, from the mesmerizing Northern Lights to the beauty of the Midnight Sun.

Whether you're embarking on a husky sledding expedition, exploring the Polar Museum, or savoring local delicacies like Arctic cod, Tromsø promises an unforgettable Arctic journey.

When to visit Tromsø

Tromsø, located in the Arctic region of Norway, experiences distinct seasons. From the midnight sun in the summer, to darkness and northern lights in the winter, making it a year-round destination for travelers seeking Arctic adventures.

NOTE: The best northern lights are often seen in October and March, but can in general be seen all winter

Blog: See my packing list for Norway.

Winter (December to February): Winter in Tromsø is characterized by cold temperatures, with average highs ranging from -3°C to -1°C (26°F to 30°F) and lows dropping as low as -10°C to -7°C (14°F to 19°F).

It's a good time to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), as the city experiences long nights and extended periods of darkness. Winter activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing are popular, and the city is often blanketed in snow, creating a magical winter wonderland.

Spring (March to May): Spring is a transitional period when temperatures gradually rise, with average highs ranging from -2°C to 4°C (28°F to 39°F) and lows around -7°C to 0°C (19°F to 32°F).

As the days grow longer and the sun returns, it's an excellent time for winter sports and snow-based activities. Wildlife enthusiasts can observe the migration of birds and the awakening of Arctic nature.

Summer (June to August): Tromsø's summer is a time of continuous daylight, known as the Midnight Sun, with the sun not setting for several weeks in June and July. Average highs during summer range from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), with occasional warmer days, while nighttime lows stay above freezing.

Summer is ideal for hiking, kayaking, and exploring the breathtaking fjords and coastal landscapes.

Autumn (September to November): Autumn brings cooler temperatures, with average highs between 5°C and 8°C (41°F to 46°F) and lows ranging from 0°C to 4°C (32°F to 39°F).

As the nights grow darker, it's a great time to witness the Northern Lights again. Late October and November are also great months for whale watching.

Getting into Tromsø

Tromsø Airport (TOS)

To get to/from the airport you can ride the Airport Express bus. It makes several stops downtown, ending at the Scandic Ishavshotel. The ride takes about 15-20 minutes, and there are 1-2 departures per hour. Find prices and schedule here.

A budget option (41 NOK) is to hop on the local bus 40 or 42. Buy the ticket from a ticket machine at the stop, or in the Tromsø Billett App. The rides take about the same as the Airport Express bus.

You can also find a taxi (approx 200 NOK) stand right outside the terminal, served by the following companies:

  • Tromsø Taxi: (+47) 03011
  • Din Taxi: (+47) 02045
  • Taxi 1: 05501, e-mail: [email protected]
Tromso whale tail with boat of people watching

Places to stay in Tromsø

Most hotels in Tromsø are clustered inside the downtown area, and that is also my recommendation so that you can be close to everything Tromsø has to offer.

High-End & Mid-Range

In my opinion, your best bet for a 3-star comfortable hotel with a seaview might be the Clarion Collection Hotel With, which includes a free evening meal and has a sauna up on the top floor.

For a step up I’d recommend one of these 4-star hotels:

Scandic Ishavshotel
Modern rooms overlooking the Tromsø harbor.

Clarion Hotel the Edge
Upscale rooms in a high-rise building overlooking the Tromsø harbor.

Budget

Due to high demand and Tromsø’s small size, it can be difficult to find budget hotels and booking far in advance is advisable.

However, I’d recommend you to check out Enter Backpack Hotel with either shared or private bathrooms, or you might find a good deal at the Ami Hotel.

Note that prices for hotels highly fluctuate throughout the year, and if you book early you can sometimes find good deals! The high season in Norway goes from June to August.

Places to eat in Tromsø

Tromsø's cuisine is a reflection of its Arctic location and the rich natural resources of the surrounding region. Reindeer, arctic cod, arctic char and all kinds of seafood, Tromsø is where you’ll find it.

Here’s a few of my favorite food and drink spots in Tromsø:

RESTAURANTS & CAFéS

Two excellent fish restaurants that I often visit in Tromsø are the Fiskekompaniet Restaurant, and the Dragøy Fish Market. At Dragøy they have excellent fish soup and fish and chips, good both for lunch and dinner. Fiskekompaniet is a step up with a lunch menu consisting of typical fish dishes from the region and for dinner you can eat a la carte or choose their exquisite 4 or 6 course meals.

For a bit of a quirky restaurant experience inside a fisheries museum check out Full Steam, with fresh seafood prepared in a Norwegian fashion.

Bardus Bistro is another favorite which serves both meat, fish (+ vegetarian options). It’s a cozy place where you can expect moose, reindeer, king crab, fresh fish and/or whale to be on the menu.

For a gourmet meal head to Mathallen Tromsø, focusing on arctic ingredients and with a kitchen run by the award-winning chef Gunnar Jensen.

Other great options include Hildr Gastro Bar, a timeless neighborhood restaurant. The cozy Art Café Bistro is a charming place serving up Norwegian specialties.

Or grab a tasty pølse (hot dog) and beer at the Raketten Bar & Pølse. For a wonderful selection of pastry head to the Selfie Konditori for all day brunch, lunch, coffee and cakes.

Bars

During the long winter season locals socialize inside pubs and bars, while in the summer you can find them sitting by the waterfront sipping on a cold beer.

Ølhallen (Beer hall) is Tromsø’s oldest pub, run by the local brewery Mack. A must visit if you like good beer with a lively atmosphere.

Misfit Tiki Bar is a fun place with great cocktails.

The Nitty Gritty is decorated like an old slaughterhouse, and is a cool place to grab a drink, but they also got tasty BBQ food.

Blå Rock is a rock n roll place, and almost like an institution in Tromsø, having been around since 1991. They've got good beer (and pub grub) and often host live concerts.

Want to enjoy a drink with a spectacular view? Then take the Fjellheisen cable car up to the top of the mountain where you’ll find the Fjellstua Restaurant.

Things to do in Tromsø

Tromsø, located in the Arctic Circle, offers a wide range of activities and attractions that showcase the natural beauty and unique culture of the region. Whether you want to see whales, explore the Sami culture or visit a Polar museum you can find it all in Tromsø.

Here are some of my top recommendations for Tromsø:

MUSEUMS

I don’t have a ton of museums to recommend for Tromsø, but one museum that you don’t want to miss is the Polar Museum. This is a worthwhile history museum with scientific, cultural and archeological exhibits connected to the Tromsø area. Here you can discover the history of Arctic exploration and learn about the expeditions of famous polar explorers like Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.

Outdoor ACTIVITIES

Tromsø is sitting right on the water, and is surrounded by stunning mountains and fjords.

Many come to Tromsø to watch the Aurora (Northern Lights). The season generally goes from October to March. The best spots are outside of town where there is less light pollution from the city. There are a lot of tour operators that can take you to the best spots and equip you with warm gear and a cup of hot chocolate.

Northern Lights Tours that you can book online.

Other popular activities include:

Looking for something a bit extreme and a chance to hang out with the locals and other travelers in an informal setting? Book a sauna session at Pust and get ready for that arctic plunge!

Other Things To Do

  • Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car to the top of the mountain and enjoy panoramic views of Tromsø.
  • Soak up all that Midnight Sun in the summer (it's free!)...btw. Most hotels will have blinds to make your room dark.
  • Explore the Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen): Admire the striking architecture of this cathedral known for its iconic triangular shape and impressive stained glass window.
  • Go snowshoeing out in the wilderness surrounding Tromsø! Find tours here.
  • In the summer you can go for a nice hike around the Prestvatnet lake, near the city center.
Reindeer pulling a sled of bundled up girls in the snow

How to get around in Tromsø

Public transportation

Convenient City buses are running within the city of Tromsø from early morning to late night all week. You can buy tickets from ticket machines, certain sales points (7-11, Narvesen, and MIX kiosks).

For easy access to tickets and routes I recommend the Reis app. You can also buy tickets on board the bus, but only with cash.

Reindeer pulling a sled of bundled up girls in the snow

Tromsø Travel Connections

Tromsø is far up north and unless you have plenty of time, I would recommend flying to most destinations south of Bodø. Find flights for Norway.

TO LOFOTEN

Many travelers combine a visit to Tromsø with the Lofoten islands. If you decide to make this trip, there are mainly four different ways to travel.

  • Rent a car and drive from Tromsø to Lofoten. It’s a fairly scenic drive that will take you about 6-7 hours to the village of Svolvær.
  • Consider finding a flight, and fly to either the Svolvær og Leknes airport.
  • Hop on one of the coastal ferries Hurtigruten or Havila. A cruise from Tromsø to Svolvær takes about 17 hours.
  • There is also a bus connection between Tromsø and Lofoten costing about 700 NOK and lasting 7-9 hours. You first need to take bus 100 from Tromsø Prostneset to Bjervik (close to Narvik), and then change to bus 300 to western parts of Lofoten.

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