Hei Tromsø! This likeable little city in the far north of Norway is really, truly a special destination. Tromsø is not only the largest city in the region by far, but is also surrounded by spectacular Arctic nature. Therefore, anyone traveling to Tromsø should look forward to enjoying the city’s urban flair right in the middle of the seclusion of Northern Norway.
In this blog article we show what to expect in Tromsø. You find out which of Tromsø’s sights and highlights you shouldn’t miss. And we also let you in on our personal tips for your trip.
1. Tromsø: Overview of initial travel tips & FAQs
The rugged Arctic coast meets urban flair – welcome to Tromsø. Regardless of whether you are in Tromsø for just a few hours (perhaps because you are traveling on a Hurtigruten ship) or stay in the city for a few days, we promise you: Tromsø is one travel destination that you will not forget.
Where is Tromsø and what can I expect?
Tromsø is located in Northen Norway on the Arctic coast, more precisely almost 350 kilometres as the crow flies north of the Arctic Circle. That means: In summer the sun doesn’t go down – not even at night – and in winter it doesn’t come up for two months. (We will go more into the differences in times for travel soon.)
With a population of over 70,000, Tromsø is easily the largest city in Northern Norway. Some very special sights can be found in Tromsø, for example, the striking Arctic Cathedral.
At the same time, the city is also a fantastic starting point for tours in the surrounding area. Northern lights expeditions are extremely popular (more about this later), but winter hiking trails, husky sled trips or kayak tours are also offered out of Tromsø.
What is the best time to visit Tromsø?
You can visit Tromsø all year round, but it is especially popular to travel there during these two natural wonders:
Midnight sun (summer)
The sun doesn’t go down between mid-May and mid-July. It shines down from the sky all 24 hours long. This very special phenomenon is called midnight sun. Believe us: The whole thing is pretty confusing for the body, but the lighting atmosphere is something very special.
You are out of luck if you are looking to find a proper summer with hot temperatures in Tromsø. July is the warmest month on average. Even then, you can look forward to daily highs of around 14 degrees Celsius. Our tip: You should also bring enough warm (and waterproof) clothes in summer.
Northern lights (winter)
Seeing the northern lights once in your life – a wish that many hold dear. This could come true in Tromsø because the city is located in the heart of the so-called Aurora Oval. The possibility of seeing the northern lights is fairly large around Tromsø.
Therefore, Tromsø is also a rightfully popular travel destination in the winter months. The northern light season usually runs from the end of September until the end of March.
Polar nights also occur during this time – the opposite to midnight sun. The sun doesn’t come up for around two months (between the end of November and mid-January). Crazy, right? But don’t worry: It’s not pitch black for 24 hours, but often dusky.
How much time should I plan for Tromsø?
Perhaps you are traveling on a Hurtigruten ship? Then the amount of time you spend in Tromsø will be more or less fixed. No worries: Tromsø is not particularly large, and you can also get a nice impression in a few hours.
However, we warmly recommend staying at least two to three nights in Tromsø. The city flair is something quite special and there are also worthwhile destinations in the surrounding area.
Getting there: How do I get to Tromsø?
Most of the flight connections to Tromsø go through Olso. There are very few direct flights from the German speaking area (and only available seasonally).
The flight time from Oslo to Tromsø amounts to just under two hours – so not all that short considering that Oslo is already located quite far north.
Once you land in Tromsø, it is very easy to get to the city centre. You can easily take the Airport Express Bus (‘Flybussen’), which goes to many destinations in the centre of Tromsø. The trip takes around 10 to 15 minutes. The price (one-way) amounts to around 110 NOK (approx. 10 euros).
2. Sights and highlights in Tromsø: Our tips
Getting around: The city centre is located on an island called Tromsøya. Everything in the city centre is within walking distance (conveniently also where most of the hotels are located) and it is quite cosy. You can reach the mainland via a striking bridge (Tromsøbrua). Sights such as Arctic Cathedral can be found here.
Walk along the port of Tromsø
What is the best way to kick off your stay in Tromsø? Most definitely with a wander along the harbour. The many colourful wooden houses give the town a charm that we pretty much fell in love with from the first moment.
The Hurtigen Ship arrives in the harbour daily at 2.15pm. It is worthwhile to be at the port at this time and marvel at the ship.
Over the bridge, after around a 20-minute walk, you can reach the most striking sight and the landmark of Tromsø, the Arctic Cathedral. The futuristic architecture of the Arctic Cathedral is reminiscent of an iceberg and is really an eye-catcher.
On top of its bizarre construction, it is also the special glass mosaic inside the Arctic Cathedral that attracts attention. It decorates the altar wall and is considered one of the largest glass mosaics in Europe.
There are regular midnight concerts performed on the stage of the Arctic Cathedral (price 200 NOK per person). These are especially popular with the guests of the southward bound Hurtigruten Ships because the concert times fit in well with the ships’ arrival and departure times.
You can of course visit the Arctic Cathedral on your own accord. The entrance is 50 NOK per person. You can find more information, such as opening times, on their official website: Arctic Cathedral.
Taking the cable car to Storsteinen
One highlight you should not miss in Tromsø is the view from Storsteinen, Tromsø’s 421-metre-high mountain. You can quite easily reach the top in the cable car called Fjellheisen.
A gondola heads up every half hour – more often if necessary. The journey only takes 4 minutes. Once at the top, you will come to a visitor platform from which you can enjoy a fantastic view over Tromsø. For those who would like to move around a bit, you can find some trails up here on the plateau.
Speaking of moving: If you are feeling sporty you can also walk up to the top of Storsteinen over the so-called Sherpa-Steps. Around 1,200 steps lead up to the mountain station of the cable car.
The cable car begins on the mainland about a 10-minute walk away from the Arctic Cathedral – so it makes sense to combine the two sights. The price for the cable car (up and down) comes to 230 NOK per person.
Guided tour of the Macks Ølbryggeri brewery
You can find the Macks Brewery right in the centre of Tromsø. For a long time, this was known as the most northern brewery in the world, however the title was contested when the brewery’s production site was relocated. It doesn’t matter anyway: The in-house pub (‘Ølhallen’) is still very quaint and worth the visit.
You can visit the brewery as part of a guided tour. In about an hour you learn about the history of the brewery as well as the brewing process. The tour ends with a small tasting. Of course, you can also just drop by for a beer without taking a tour.
Tours: Monday to Friday at 3:30pm
Duration: 1 hour
Price: 200 NOK per person
Kayaking close to Tromsø
As we mentioned at the start, Tromsø is surrounded by dreamy nature. How about taking a kayak trip? Tromsøs neighbouring island, Håkøya, is a very popular destination for a kayak tour.
Kayaking is of course a summer activity, but you need to plan for variable weather even at that time of year – which you can easily see from our photos. The view of the gigantic Norwegian fjords is still absolutely breathtakingly beautiful.
Kayak tours take around three hours and are also suitable for beginners. If you are taking the Hurtigruten, you can book a tour there.
Marvelling at the northern lights
Absolutely everyone would like to see: the polar lights – also called the northern lights in the northern hemisphere or the aurora borealis.
The northern lights season lasts from the end of September until the end of March. Important: You should be aware that there is no guarantee of seeing the northern lights. The longer you stay in Tromsø, the greater the chance of having clear skies, good weather and therefore, northern lights.
The lights usually appear between 5am and 2am in the night – sometime just for a short time, usually around 15 to 20 minutes. You can sometimes see them directly in Tromsø, but because the sky should be dark, it is better to drive into the surrounding area.
We personally really recommend a guided tour run by professionals. There are bus tours where you really go ‘on the hunt’ for the lights. We would recommend above anything else that you keep an eye on the forecast (e.g. via an app) and then book a tour more spontaneously. A magical experience is taking a husky sled ride under the northern lights. So, in case you don’t see the northern lights, at least the trip wasn’t in vain.
You can book the tour here: Husky sled rides under the northern lights
3. Eating & Drinking: Tips for cafés and restaurants in Tromsø
Risø Mat & Kaffeebar: In this coffee bar you will find excellent coffee, small snacks and cake. Perfect for a break from sightseeing in the centre of Tromsø.
Frø: This small café exclusively serves vegan dishes. The coffee is also outstanding. Perfect for a healthy snack to keep you going.
Fiskekompaniet: You will find this chic and excellent fish restaurant at the port (with a view over the water). The prices are high, but so is the quality.
Skirri in Kystens Mathus: If you are looking for a modern restaurant with a very nice atmosphere and a view of the port, you’re in the right place. Most of the dishes on the menu are fish and meat dishes.
4. Staying in Tromsø: Our hotel tip
We stayed in Radisson Blu Hotel Tromsø and can really recommend it. The hotel has a very central location at the port of Tromsø – it hardly gets better! Practically all the sights of Tromsø are within walking distance from here.
Some rooms have a view right over the sea. It is simply a dream to wake up to a view over the water. Talking about the rooms: They are modern and comfortably furnished. The breakfast is great, and the spa is a nice addition.
Our conclusion: Top price-performance ratio! Unfortunately, the accommodation options in Tromsø don’t really comprise of hip boutique hotels, therefore we would definitely stay here again.
You can book the hotel here: Radisson Blu Hotel Tromsø
Disclaimer: Invitation & Affiliate Links
We were invited by Hurtigruten to travel on this dream trip – thank you very much! Of course, this does not influence our honest opinions.
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Tell us: Have you already been to Tromsø? How did you like it? Let us know your experiences. We look forward to your additional tips in the comments.