Knut Hansvold

Tromsø is the cool Summer city – literally

Tromsø is a lively and colourful city set among islands, fjords and mountains some 350 km inside the Arctic circle. It is a perfect base to experience the magic of bright Arctic summer nights, for enjoying fun activities at sea and in the mountains and to get acquainted with Arctic lifestyle, culture and cuisine. All in refreshing temperatures.

Tromsø is far to the north: Almost 350 km inside the Arctic Circle and a mere 2000 kilometres from the North Pole. Yet, the city doesn’t feel like an outpost. A vibrant, colourful, historic downtown is filled with lively cafes, restaurants serving fish and rowdy bars. There is a selection of interesting museums, galleries, and attractions to be explored, and you look for good buys in the shopping streets.  In summer, the midnight sun shines for 68 days, and the atmosphere in town in carefree and joyous, everyone eager to make the most of the precious light. This is manifested in a number of popular outdoor festivals. The favourite activity for locals and visitors alike, though, is the exploration of the stunning scenery. The myriad of islands on the coast, the deep fjords cutting through the mountainous landscape. It’s endlessly varied, strikingly beautiful and safe to explore.

How to see the Midnight Sun

Tromsø’s historical centre invites to leisurely strolls

The centre is a charming mix of beautiful 19th century architecture, striking modern masterpieces and aesthetically challenged concrete. The main drag, Storgata, lined with outdoor cafes and shops, is where everybody meets. Make sure to visit the quaint Polar Museum, dealing with Tromsø’s history as a centre for Arctic hunting and expeditions. At the experience centre Polaria, seals, fish, king crabs and calming gellyfish live good lives, all well explained and presented. The Northern Norwegian Art Museum exhibits the north through the eyes of artists, local and international alike. Wonderfully low key and accessible is the Perspektivet local museum on Tromsø’s history. Stop at Ølhallen – The Beer Hall – for a refreshment at the oldest watering hole in town, or maybe a guided tour. Explore central Tromsø on your own or join a guided stroll.

Head to the mainland for the grand panoramas

A 15 minute walk across the monumental bridge of Tromsø takes you to the Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø’s landmark modern church. Inside, take a moment to admire the colourful stained-glass window. Another leisurely walk leads you up to Mount Storsteinen. Here you can either walk up the hillside yourself, or go by the cable car, to the viewing deck 421 metres above sea level. From here, Tromsø spreads out at your feet, and you see mountains, islands and lots of water.

Learn new things on the Tromsø Island

A long walk or a quick bus ride out of town will lead you to yet more things to see. Near the University Campus, one can learn about the Northern Lights at the planetarium withing the science centre. Follow a forest path to the botanic garden featuring flowering plants from all continents. Due to the refreshing climate in Tromsø, this garden can grow alpine, arctic, and Antarctic plants that find it too hot in any other botanic collection. The Tromsø University Museum has exhibits on the nature and culture of the north, including a rich presentation of the Sami culture. More surprising is the religious art exhibit, with some precious items from the Middle Ages.

The midnight sun shines for 68 days

From the 18th of May to the 25th of July, the sun does not set in Tromsø. There simply is no night. To observers from lower latitudes, the idea is difficult to grasp. The clock matters less, the body needs little sleep, and one tends to celebrate, enjoy and be carefree. The Midnight Sun can be observed from various points in the city area. Some locations, including parts of the city centre, have the midnight sun view obstructed by hills and mountains. As the midnight sun sets in late July, we’re entering the best time of the year, according to the locals. This a time for vibrant sunsets, for berry picking and for hiking. Glaciers are at their bluest in the late summer.

Get out at sea – day or night

No visit to Tromsø is complete without getting out at sea. And it can be done in many ways. The wooden boat Hermes from 1919 chugs leisurely through the waterways near Tromsø, while modern electric boats take you to the midnight sun in utter silence. A RiB – like a zodiac with a keel – takes you quickly to the remote islands of the northwestern archipelago. Enjoying fishing just south of town is great fun, or opt for a sailboat excursion. Nothing connects your better  with nature’s elements than kayaking. Choose between daytime excursions or boat trips under the midnight sun.

The mountains beckon – with panorama guarantee

With long daylight hours, residents of Tromsø are drawn to the trails in the surrounding hills and mountains, where the effort is rewarded with breathtaking views of the sea and mountains. There is a mountain for almost every fitness level. The sherpa steps leading up to Storsteinen are short and brutal, with an iconic view awaiting at the top. On the island of Kvaløya, several scenic hikes await, including Ørnfløya near Sommarøy, renowned for its stunning ocean views. Further afield, the Lyngen Alps reach a towering 1800 metres, but even here there are easy trails. Novice hikers should opt for guided tours, while glacier hikes must always be accompanied by a guide for safety.

There is some fishy business on your plate

Tromsø locals enjoy dining out with friends, and the city boasts a diverse range of restaurants. Fish features prominently on menus, thanks to Tromsø’s location on one of the world’s most abundant seas. Sometimes it is served the way grandma would serve it, just with some added finesse. Cooks however, often search inspiration from classic French cooking, from the spices of the world and the newest trends. Shellfish and white wine are the definition of summer for many locals.  Meat eaters feast on mutton and reindeer. There is, of course, no lack of various international restaurants, pizza and burgers. Always reserve a table ahead for fine dining.

No night doesn’t mean no nightlife

Tromsø’s nightlife is legendary in Norway. On sunny summer days, the locals linger at outdoor cafés until late, a sweater is often a good idea. As silvery summer rain and veils of mist engulf the city, the indoor atmosphere is cosy and inviting. Sociable Tromsø locals often move between venues, pausing on the bustling main street for conversations with friends. Expect loud laughing and many smiles. There’s a special feeling stepping out of a nightspot and seeing the sun shining down the main street from the north.

Go behind the Lyngen Alps for scenery and heritage

There is a world beyond lively Tromsø. To the east of Tromsø, the majestic Lyngen Alps soar to a height of 1833 metres (6000 ft) from the fjords. While this realm of peaks, glaciers, and pristine wilderness may appear daunting, there are several easier hikes that provide a glimpse into the area’s beauty. Beyond the chain, the long Lyngenfjord offers incredible mountain views and great hikes. There are also deep, forested valleys and stunning waterfalls. The rich cultural heritage comprises Sami, Kven (people of Finnish origin), and Norwegian influences

Senja is an island of many faces

Another beautiful neighbour of Tromsø is the island of Senja. Norway’s second biggest has a rough, weather-beaten and dramatic ocean side. The inland-side, though, is green, fertile, and friendly. In-between, there are mountain peaks, rivers, light birch forests and calm lakes. The Norwegian Scenic Route meanders along the outer coast between dramatic cliffs, fishing villages and scenic viewpoints. The southern coast is friendlier, and surprisingly lush is the adjacent island of Dyrøy.

What is the weather like?

Tromsø and Northern Norway have entertaining weather. Sometimes, warm winds from the south-east drive the temperatures up to the mid- or even high 20ies, almost intolerable to heat-sensitive locals. Rain systems following the gulf stream is another possibility, making your day very wet. Chill from the Greenland ice cap and Svalbard brings single digit temperatures and snowfall on the mountain tops even in July. Northeasterly winds frequently bring fresh temperatures around 10-15 degrees Celsius, accompanied by varied cloud cover and ample sunshine. Pack your swimsuit along with long johns, woollen hats and mittens. Jeans, trainers, t-shirts and a good, wind-proof jacket will keep you comfortable most days.

Good to know about Tromsø

Tromsø is found some 350 km inside the Arctic Circle, and a good 2000 km from the North Pole. More specifically, it is found in the country of Troms, in the region of Northern Norway, some 1150 km north of Oslo or Stockholm as the crow flies.

Tromsø has a modern airport with many daily connections to Oslo with airlines like Norwegian Air and SAS. Widerøe (WF) flies to Bergen, with direct flights to a number of international destinations. Furthermore, a number of international airlines fly directly to Tromsø. Destinations include Helsinki (Finnair), Düsseldorf (Eurowings), Vienna (Austrian), Frankfurt (Lufthansa), Copenhagen (SAS), Stockholm (SAS), Zürich (Edelweiss), Gdansk (WizzAir) and Paris (Air France). Nothing is as volatile as the world of aviation, though. We thus reserve all rights and make all disclaimers regarding the information provided. For updated info, the website of the Tromsø airport is a good place to start.

Visit Tromsø is the local visitor’s centre, and operates a tourist information centre as well as a comprehensive website.

Tromsø has many hotels, ranging from first class to economy, and also some good appartment hotels catering for families and groups of friends. There is also a camping with huts and bungalows, suited for both budget travellers, families and groups of friends. In the area surrounding Tromsø, you find bungalows, holiday appartments and hotels, usually at stunningly scenic locations. Visit Tromsø presents this comprehensively on their website.

Tromsø’s airport is a mere 4 km out of the city centre. You can get here by city bus, by taxi or by the airport express bus. The city centre itself is easily walkable, and there are city buses to places like the cable car, the botanic garden and the university museum. Further afield, one needs to plan more carefull. Visit Tromsø has more details on their website.

You can take a catamaran to Finnsnes. From here, you can reach almost any inhabited place by bus. There is also a catamaran to Lysnes, on Senja’s northern coast. From here, you can take onward buses to various places. However, you need to study the timetable thoroughly, as there isn’t a connection every hour. Many visitors opt for a rental car for increased flexibility. Visit the website of Visit Senja for more information.

There are buses going to places in Lyngenfjord like Skibotn, Lyngseidet, Olderdalen etc. There is also a catamaran going to Skjervøy, stopping in Nord-Lenangen on the way. Again, the read the timetable well. For increased flexibility, a rental car is a good idea. Visit Lyngenfjord, the local website, has more.

The legendary Lofoten Islands are found some 420 km by the road from Tromsø. Getting there overland typically takes the whole day. The easiest way is to take the catamaran to Harstad, and then a bus from there. There is also an overland bus connection through Bjerkvik (near Narvik) to Svolvær in the Lofoten Island. The Hurtigruten sails every night at 01:30 from Tromsø, arriving the next evening in Svolvær.

Tromsø is a city with some 78 000 inhabitans, making it the biggest city north of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia. The world’s northernmost university is found in Tromsø, and it is also one of Norway’s biggest fishing ports. The city enjoys a reputation for its merry nightlife, and is know in Norway for its easy-going vibe.

Tromsø’s inhabitants are not known for their modesty, but the 19th c. German traveller G. Hartung is the origin of this nickname. He was so surprised by the level of knowledge and culture at the end of the world that he nicknamed the city “The Paris of the North”.

The average temperature is a refreshing +12 degrees in July. Anything from +6-7 and chilly rain through +10-15 and varied cloud cover to + 22-28 and glorious sunshine can be expected. Make sure to pack your swimwear, but do not forget a good, windproof jacket, woollen clothes such as longjohns, a hat, mittens and a big sweater. Tromsøites walk the main street with jeans, trainers, a wind-proof jacket and a t-shirt most days of the summer.