City Guide Tromsø. The Travel Guide for your trip to Norway.

When you envision your dream vacation, do you see a snowy landscape that offers both adventure and a cozy atmosphere? Look no further than the quaint city of Tromsø, which is nothing short of a winter wonderland.
The largest city in northern Norway, Tromsø, lies around 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle. However, its seaside location near the Gulf Stream gives it a relatively mild climate.
Tromsø, a tiny picturesque city, has a population of just over 74,000. Despite this, the location is thriving with fun-filled activities for visitors to enjoy, along with its famed party life! Yes, when you first read the word Tromsø, you likely thought of the Northern Lights. While a stunning attraction in itself, the city has many more sights to show you!
Are you ready to plan a trip to this gorgeous Arctic landscape? If so, read on because this guide provides you the perfect itinerary!


Table of contents

➡️ Basic Information of Tromsø

➡️ History of Tromsø

➡️ What to see and do in Tromsø

➡️ What’s Around Tromsø

➡️ Making Your Way Around Tromsø

➡️ Go



Basic Information of Tromsø

Location: In the county Troms og Finnmark, in North Norway
Established: The end of the Ice Age
Population: 64,448 (2017)
Time zone: UTC+01:00 (CET), in the summer UTC+02:00 (CEST)


History of Tromsø

Historians believe Tromsø has had inhabitants since as far back as the end of the Ice Age. Archaeological explorations in the nearby city of Tønsvika turned up several artifacts, building remnants, and settlement traces. These approximately 9,000-10,000 years old artifacts point to the first dwellers being the Sami people.

Before the 17th century, if a Tromsø local wanted to trade, they had to make an arduous journey. Vågan in Lofoten or Bergen in the south-west were the end destinations for these traders.
A historical period for the city of Tromsø was the 17th century. Despite having a population of only 80 people, King Christian VII issued its city charter in 1794. After this, Tromsø continued to make slow but steady steps to improve itself.

The city established itself as a heavyweight among the Arctic trade centers by the end of the 19th century. Not long after, people began to refer to Tromsø as ‘The Paris of the North’; the name origin is unknown.

During the 1940 German invasion, Tromsø held the seat for the Norwegian Government, albeit briefly. The period following the war was one of immense and rapid growth for the city. Rest assured, this tiny city is brimming with an intriguing and rich history.


What to see and do in Tromsø

Tromsø is a city with several exquisite landmarks and scenic sites alike that are worth visiting. Let’s look at some attractions you must stop by to make the most of your visit to this charming city.

The Arctic Cathedral

The Arctic Cathedral, known as Ishavkatedralen in the native Norwegian language, has to top the list. The historic Cathedral is the pictorial representation of Tromsø quite literally being on every postcard!

Norwegian architect, Jan Inge Hovig, built the Cathedral back in 1965. The structure of the Cathedral calls to mind pictures of mighty ship sails or stark white icebergs. However, its most striking feature is its 1,500 sq. ft. stunning glass mosaic front. A contribution by the artist Victor Sparre, the glass sparkles with dazzling colors as the sunlight falls on it!
The remarkable Cathedral is visible to incoming flights as well as Tromsø Center, the city harbor. However, to take in its breathtaking beauty, journey across the Tromsø bridge and into the Cathedral itself.

During the summer, the Cathedral organizes organ concerts at 2 pm while the Midnight Sun Concerts start at 11 pm. Similarly, in the winter, the Cathedral hosts Northern Lights Concerts at 11 pm. These are a great way to enjoy the exquisiteness of the Cathedral.

Polaria Arctic Experience Center And Aquarium

The Polaria is an amalgam of a museum, an experience center, and an aquarium in one! Uniquely designed to resemble Arctic ice floes tipped over onto land, the building is hard to miss. Not to mention, it is easily accessible, being a walking distance from central Tromsø.

The Polaria museum will help you delve into the many aspects of wildlife in the Arctic. Its plethora of exhibits feature information about the land, including a massive display of the effects of climate change.

The building also houses the Polstjerna, an ancient Norwegian seal-hunting ship. Although protected by a glass shelter, the vessel will still immerse you in the feel of a seal hunter’s life. You can catch a movie about the city’s most famous attraction, the Northern Lights, or one about the Arctic wilderness.

Polaria’s aquarium is home to a variety of Arctic fish, crabs, and more! However, the stars of the show here are the seals! The aquarium hosts two sessions a day where visitors get to watch the seals feeding and doing tricks.

The Polaria also has a quaint gift shop that sells local handmade products of reindeer bones, wood, sealskin, and more. Not to mention, you can always grab a quick bite to eat at their cafeteria.

Polar Museum

If you have time to stop by only one museum during your visit, choose the Polar Museum. Known as Polarmuseet in the native language, this museum will familiarize you with every detail of Tromsø’s polar expeditions. From the city’s discovery to its first inhabitants to its contribution to the whaling industry, you learn everything about Tromsø.

You see its transition into an Arctic research center and get a full understanding of the ‘Gateway to the Arctic.’ The museum has exhibits about some of the earliest expeditions and explorers, including Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen.

Polar Night, its newest section, provides fascinating insights into Arctic wildlife during the everlasting winter nights. Preferably, take advantage of the museum’s guided tour. With a local guide enthusiastically explaining the history to you, it will become an unforgettable story!

Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden

The Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden is one stop you shouldn’t miss on your trip to Tromsø. The garden’s unique collections are a great way to get insight into Arctic flora. You can expect the flowers to bloom in May, regardless of the snow. Prepare yourself for breathtaking visions of purple saxifrage, pasque flowers, yellow cushion plants, and more!

Considered the world’s most northerly gardens, the Arctic-Alpine Botanic has a total of 25 collections. Each section displays plant species from specific cold-weather regions, including the Himalayas, the Arctic, and more. Of course, you will find local Norwegian plants as well.

Some of the most valued plant specimens in the garden are the giant Tibetan blue poppy and cold-hardy rhododendrons. The regional medicinal plants in the collection are also favorites. The flowers will continue to bloom till snow begins to fall in October.

Cable Car Excursion to Mountain Floya

Cable cars, or Fjellheisen in native Norweigian, are a part of Tromsø’s history. They date back to the 1960s and find love among locals and tourists alike. Cable cars are also a marvelous way to take in the Northern Lights or the Midnight Sun.

Not to mention, they take you to the top of Mountain Floya. Here you will find the lovely little cafe, Fjellstua. Get a cold beer or some hot coffee, hot chocolate, or tea. Also, tuck into some yummy cakes, Norwegian waffles, ice-cream, or even a light-hearted meal!

You can choose to ride the cable car yourself. Or, go on an excursion with a guide explaining the history of the city to you.

Tromsø’s Northern Lights Tour

The Northern Lights are not exclusive to the city of Tromsø. That said, it is undoubtedly the best place in the world to take in the magnificent vision. The Lights may be so bright that you can view them from downtown Tromsø or the windows of your lodging!

However, for an unforgettable experience, it is best to head out on a Northern Lights Tour. The operators and guides take you for the ride of your life, chasing the Aurora all around Northern Norway. Sometimes, they even step into Northern Finland or Sweden for this purpose!

The tour guides know enough about weather forecasting to tell the best time to see the Northern Lights. If you choose the right tour, you even get to enjoy a small meal, hot drinks, and warm thermal clothes. Some even offer tourists tripods for clicking the perfect pictures.

Not to mention, the tour comes with several ride options, including dog sledding and sailing. Or, choose a snowmobile or reindeer tour, if you prefer! Consider visiting Tromsø between 21st November and 21st January as this is the best time to observe the Lights.

Whale Watching At Fjord

If you happen to visit Tromsø in the winter, do not forget to catch the whale watching tour! The safari is available between October and February and offers majestic sights of humpbacks, orcas, killer whales, and more! Besides, you may also find other Arctic creatures like seals, sea eagles, and dolphins.

The whale watching tour lasts between 5-6 hours, starting at around 9 am. That means you also get to observe the spectacular blue light of the Arctic, only visible during the dark hours. The tour takes you on a trip around the gorgeous fjords that surround Tromsø for an experience you’ll remember forever.

Fun-Filled Activities to Try In Tromsø

One thing to know for sure about Tromsø is that you will never have a dull day here. Here is a quick overview of the numerous activities you can indulge in while in this flourishing city!

  • Reindeer Feeding and Sledding: If you join a Reindeer Sledding Tour, you can get up close and personal with the cuddly creatures. The tour also exposes you to some of the traditions of the Sami tribe.
  • Dog Sledding: If you’re a dog lover, you will adore the city of Tromsø. They offer several dog sledding excursions of varying periods!
  • Midnight Sun: One thing you’ll want to catch if you visit Tromsø in summer is the Midnight Sun. The best way to do this is to get on a sailing tour.
  • Husky Cafe: Another one for the dog lovers, the Husky Cafe at Tromso Wilderness Center on Kvaloya is worth visiting. They have a whopping total of over 300 huskies you can cuddle! Also, you will find they have mouth-watering dishes and drinks.
  • Snowshoeing Hike: A newer attraction in Tromsø, snowshoeing hikes provide splendid sights of the surrounding mountains and fjords. You may, of course, head out by yourself. Or, if you prefer, you can join a professional tour where they offer you all the necessary equipment. You will also have a trained guide accompany you.
  • Sea Fjord Kayaking: Perhaps the best way to soak in the beauty of the fjords and Arctic life is to get in a kayak. They allow you to get up close and personal with your surroundings. Not to mention, there are several places to kayak, suitable for beginners and pros alike. You may also choose to join an overnight kayaking tour!
  • Stroll Down Bukta Beach: Summer visits to Tromsø are incomplete without dropping by Bukta or Telegrafbukta Beach. The spot is perfect for a cozy stroll or a nighttime barbeque! Ensure you carry your food as the beach does not have any cafes or shacks. You will find plenty of volleyball nets, grills, picnic tables, and benches, however!



What’s Around Tromsø

Without a doubt, there are plenty of things for you to do within the city. That said, venturing out of it is a chance at even more exploration and enjoyment. Here are some worthwhile destinations to visit near Tromsø:

  • Sommarøy: The quaint island offers some great hiking options.
  • Ersfjord: Besides providing a scenic view, the fjord is home to one of Tromsø’s coziest cafes, Bryggejentene. It is also a stunning location for Northern Lights photos.
  • Senja Island: A location could not be more perfect for those camping trips.
  • Lyngen: On this island, you can enjoy everything from mountain hiking to skiing to kayaking to fishing and more. The ferry ride to and from it is also splendid.
  • Skjærvøy Island: Enjoy some magnificent boat trips around this island and Tromsø.



Making Your Way Around Tromsø

A tourist vacation can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t know how to get around the city. Think of all the time you end up wasting trying to figure things out and get information from the locals! Well, our guide will have you up to speed on just how to get around Tromsø.


You likely weren’t expecting to hear this, but walking is one of the most efficient ways of exploring Tromsø. Located on the tiny island of Tromsoya, the city takes up only 23 sq. km. So almost all of Tromsø’s attractions and tourist spots are within walking distance of one another.

The city even has a dedicated walking path to make things that much more convenient! Lysloypa extends from Tromsø’ northernmost end to the southernmost end for a distance of 10 km. The track is ideal for walking, running, cycling, and even skiing!


Tromsø has a horde of buses running across all the city locales, from Tromsøya to Kvaløya to Tromsdalen. You can catch the buses every day as early as 6 in the morning and as late as midnight. Surprisingly, you can even find some midnight buses operating on Fridays and Saturdays!

Usually, the buses follow a schedule of two departures per hour. However, rush hours can take those numbers up to four. If intending to use the bus a lot in a single day, purchase a day ticket with a 24-hour validity.

You can purchase tickets onboard itself, but you will need to pay in cash. Also, keep in mind that tickets bought on the bus cost more. If you want to save some money, purchase one at the kiosk or the Tourist Information at Prostneset.

When in Tromsø, downloading the Troms Mobillett app is a good idea. With this, you’ll be able to book your bus tickets online. The plus point is you can even book ferry and speedboat tickets via the app!

Rental Car

Locations like Kavløya do have buses that travel there, but they are few and far between. If you’re planning on making a trip out of the city, a rental car will be the most reliable option.
You may book a car online before you reach the city and pick it up at the airport. Or book one post-arrival at the airport from international agencies like Avis, Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, and Budget.