Tromsø (Romsa in Northern Sámi and Tromssa in Kvensk/Finnish) is a city in the very northernmost part of Norway. It is almost 350 km north of the Arctic Circle and is one of the best places to view the spectacular Northern Lights in winter.
Tromsø is a surprise to most visitors: Here you find art, history, sophistication, good food and an infamous nightlife in a bustling, tiny city. All of it, though, is surrounded by spectacular scenery that is visible from everywhere in town. The city is home to the world's northernmost university, as well as research institutes and satellite based industry. The population is therefore highly skilled, but retains the straightforwardness and sense of humor that the North is known for.
People reached the Tromsø area 11,000 years ago. We hear about Tromsø for the first time in 1252, when the first church was built here. The next 550 years, Tromsø was a minor religious centre, as people in a vast area regularly congregated in Tromsø to go to the only church in the area. Trade and industry, however, suffered under the domination of Bergen and Trondheim to the south.
To promote trade in Northern Norway, the 80-person settlement was issued its city charter in 1794. Initially hindered by the Napoleonic wars, the city soon developed into a small trade centre with connections from Arkhangelsk to Central Europe, and from 1820 onwards, Arctic trapping was a major industry. Early visitors, who probably didn't expect people in Tromsø to eat with a knife and fork, dubbed the city the "Paris of the North" in complete surprise that French was spoken, fashions were more or less up to date and people knew what was happening down below the Arctic Circle.
A number of expeditions made Tromsø their starting point in the first decades of the 20th c. Explorers like Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen frequently recruited sailors in Tromsø. However, the biggest drama took place in 1928, when the airship Italia crashed in the ice near the North Pole, and rescue expeditions were sent out of Tromsø.
World War II and development
For a few weeks in the 1940 campaign, Tromsø was the capital of Free Norway. However, the city totally avoided war damage, although the German battleship of the Tirpitz was sunk near Tromsø in November 1944. Since the 1960s, the city has doubled its number of inhabitants, and in 1972 the university started up.
Tromsø is found some 2200 km south of the North Pole, in the far north of Norway. The distance south to the Arctic Circle is about 350 km.
Most of Tromsø is situated on the small island of Tromsøya, in English often adapted to "Tromsø Island". This low island is 10 km long, and contains both built-up areas and birch forests, as well as the airport. The city centre is located in the south-eastern part of the island. This is where you find Polaria, the Polar Museum, The Art Museum of Northern Norway, the Contemporary Art Gallery and most of the shopping, good eating and nightlife. The main artery of the city is the 1 km long Storgata, where most of the people watching takes place (an activity in which tourists play but a modest role).
Elsewhere on the Island, you find the Tromsø Museum on the southern tip, and the Botanic Garden near the University, on the north-eastern side.
East of the Tromsø Island, across the Tromsø Sound, you find the mainland with the Arctic Cathedral, the Cable Car, the Military Museum and extensive residential areas. The island is connected to the mainland by the 3 km long Tromsø Sound Tunnel and the 1016 metres long Tromsø Bridge.
Winter in Tromsø is not as severe as other cities at the same latitude due to the Gulf Stream. Average January temperatures hover around -4°C. The coldest temperature record of Tromsø is -18°C. Rain and temperatures up to +6°C are not unusual, even in mid-winter. Usually, there are large quantities of snow between December and May, and in April 1997, the snow depth in the city was 2.4 metres.
The summer temperatures are highly variable. Overcast, chilly and drizzly days are interspersed with beautiful, warm, sunny days. The July average is +11°C and the heat record is +30°C.
Light and darkness
The city enjoys midnight sun from May 18 to July 26. During this period, the sun is always above the horizon. Popular viewpoints include the Tromsø Bridge, the front of the Arctic Cathedral and most prominently the Upper Station of the Cable Car, but it can be seen at most points in the city area. Due to the topography, you cannot see the Midnight Sun in large parts of the east side of the Tromsø Island, including the upper reaches of the city centre. Recent construction has also blocked off the Midnight Sun from most of the main street.
In winter, the sun is below the horizon between November 26 and January 15. Because the city is surrounded by mountains, the period is prolonged a few days. In the city centre, the sun is not visible between November 21 and January 21. However, there is some daylight for a few hours, and often there are beautiful colours at midday.
Despite the location, it is fairly easy to reach Tromsø. Most people get to Tromsø by plane, but one can also go by bus or boat. Driving up is also an option, but take the 1700 km distance from Oslo into consideration. Considering the low speed limits on Norwegian convoluted roads along fjords, allow several days (a week is not too much) for the journey. There is also one ferry crossing, Skarberget-Bognes, unless you drive through Sweden. That said, you do not encounter any particular dangers on the way, and the distances between petrol stations, accommodation and shops are not frightening. The scenery is unforgettable.
- 1 Tromsø Airport, Langnes (TOS IATA). All international and domestic flights land at the small, modern Langnes Airport. There are about 10 daily departures to Oslo, by SAS and the low cost Norwegian. There are flights to Svalbard (Spitsbergen), and the city also has connections to Murmansk and Arkhangelsk (Nordavia) several times a week. In summer, there may be flights to Stockholm as well. The low cost airline Norwegian has a direct route to London/Gatwick, going through London may be the cheapest option for getting to Tromsø. From April 2009 AirBaltic has a direct route from Tromsø to Riga. SAS commuter airline Widerøe has routes to several other North-Norwegian airports, mainly STOLports. Both Widerøe and Norwegian offer a direct route from Tromsø to Bergen and Widerøe offers a summer route to Sandefjord. Both SAS and Norwegian have a route, via Bodø, to Trondheim. Check the Avinor webpages for updated information on timetables to/from Tromsø.
Budget-conscious travellers should have the lower summer fares in mind, usually available in July/August. Furthermore, there are plenty of cheap tickets available in the Northern Lights months of January/February. Festivals, however, fill up the planes quickly. Friday and Sunday, planes are full all year. International travellers should bear in mind that some budget airlines promote the rather distant TRF, Torp Airport, in Sandefjord as "Oslo Airport". Nearly all flights to Tromsø, however, leave from OSL, Oslo Airport Gardermoen. Only Widerøe has a direct route from TRF (Summer). Connections between Torp and Gardermoen are time-consuming. Budget-conscious travellers can, if lucky, find last-minute charter tickets to and from Turkey, Spain, Greece and various other charter destinations.
From the airport into town
The distance into town is very short.
- The cheapest public transport option to the city centre is public bus 40 and 42, from across the airport parking lot (wait at the bus stop closest to the sea for transport into town). The bus ride is about 15 minutes, and costs 34 kr if you buy a ticket from the "Point" shop in the airport arrival terminal. It would be wise to buy your return ticket at the same time since the tickets are valid for 2 years, and it costs 50 kr if you buy a ticket on the bus.
- There is also a dedicated Airport Express Bus (Flybussen) that will take you straight into the town centre, only stopping at a few hotels along the way (80 kr in October 2015).
- Taxis are also available, for about 120 kr, about 260 kr on Sundays.
There is no train all the way to Tromsø. Take a bus from the railheads in Fauske, Narvik and Rovaniemi. Check the timetable.
- The Swedish railway network has a branch line to Narvik, 4 hours by bus south of Tromsø. There are 2–3 buses a day to Narvik, depending on the day of the week. As of August 2017, the bus from Narvik to Tromsø costs 375 kr for adults and 188 kr for children, tickets are sold by the driver, you can pay by credit card. As of 2018 the trains arrive at 12:58 and 17:37, but the last bus departure is 15:23 so do take the early train, except on Sundays when the last bus departure is 18:43. The closest bus stop is on Korensgate, in front of the Storsenter, a 5 minutes walk from the train station. Sometimes the train is very late, so then you would need unplanned accommodation in Narvik.
- There are also trains going from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, in the summer time there are bus connections from there to Tromsø, but in the winter time one has to take a taxi or hitch-hike from Kilpisjärvi at the border. The train tickets may cost around €100 per person to Rovaniemi. It is possible to take the car on the train as well, see below.
- To reach the Norwegian network, one goes on to Fauske from Narvik by bus. If you arrive in Fauske by night train from Trondheim, it takes most of the day to reach Tromsø.
The roads up to Tromsø are in good condition, but it is a long drive from Southern Scandinavia. When in Tromsø, renting a car is an option. In June, July and August, prices are high and reservation is a must. The rest of the year, it is relatively cheap (around 1000 kr) for a small car for a whole weekend. Make the reservation in the office hours before 4PM on Friday.
Driving in winter usually poses no problem even for two-wheel drives. However, the occasional snow storm closes the roads for shorter periods. This is broadcast on radio, but if you don't speak Norwegian, the petrol stations along the route are well updated.
The road conditions are good, especially compared to the traffic. Despite the long distances, there are plenty of accommodation options as well as petrol stations along the way, and you encounter no particular dangers. It's also possible to drive the inland road through Sweden, it's longer but may be faster.
From Sweden and Finland
From Stockholm and Luleå in Sweden the recommended route would be E10 to Överkalix, road 392 to Pajala, crossing the border to Finland at Kolari, from where the E8 goes to Tromsø. Luleå–Tromsø is 700 km, 9 hours. Alternative longer routes are E10–E45–E8 over Gällivare–Karesuando or E10–E6–E8 over Kiruna.
The E8 from Helsinki through Tornio and Karesuvanto crosses the Norwegian border at Kilpisjärvi, a 160 km/3hr drive from Tromsø. When coming from southern Finland, one should also consider the car train option (see next section).
From the Baltics
It's just some six hours of actual driving from Tallinn to Tromsø. First there are plenty of ferries going from Tallinn to Helsinki – the slowest ferries are often nicest and cheapest, Tallink has internet on board. The next step is to take a car train from Helsinki to Kolari (alternatively Rovaniemi) – three persons, a cabin plus the car from Helsinki to Kolari costs 116 euro. To drive yourself is around 16 hours of driving from Helsinki, excluding breaks and sleeps, normally 2-3 days.
Driving south from the Nordkapp region is easy and straightforward along the E6. The National Highway 91, with a ferry from Olderdalen to Lyngseidet and again from Svensby to Breivikeidet saves you no time, but is a lot more relaxing. Driving from Kautokeino, Karasjok and parts of East-Finnmark the fastest route is through Finland, take the National Highway 93 to the south from Kautokeino to Hetta in Finland, turn northwards again when you hit the E8 and drive into Norway again in Kilpisjärvi. From the Norwegian-Russian border and the area around Kirkenes in Finnmark the fastest route is driving the E6 until Neiden, follow road 893 until you reach Finland. In Finland the same road changes names to 971, follow it until you reach E75 at Kaamanen. From Kaamanen you can drive to Karigasniemi and Karasjok, then follow the route described above. There is a shorter but more isolated route from Kaamanen; Take the E75 to Inari, then change to road 955 until Köngäs (note that the last 50 km of this road has no asphalt (2009)). From Köngäs take road 956 to Sirkka and Levi, then road 79 until you hit E8 at Muonio. From Muonio, keep heading northwards on the E8 until you reach the border at Kilpisjärvi and finally Tromsø.
There is one daily bus to Alta, leaving at 16:00, and arriving at 22:30. If you intend to go on by bus to Nordkapp, you have to spend the night in Alta. There are three daily buses to Narvik, the first one at 06:20 (not week-ends), corresponding with Narvik-Kiruna-Luleå train. The second ones, at 10:30, corresponds with an onward bus Narvik-Fauske, from where you can take the night train to Trondheim. It also corresponds with a train to Sweden.
The legendary Hurtigruten ships stop in Tromsø. The northbound ships arrive daily at 14:30 and continues at 18:30 to Skjervøy, Hammerfest, the North Cape and Kirkenes. The southbound ships arrive at 23:45, and depart at 01:30 in the night, to Finnsnes —, Lofoten, Trondheim and Bergen all year round.
These ships depart from the Prostneset terminal (Samuel Arnesens gate 4-5), less than 290 m (310 yd) from the church.
Be aware of (rare) cancellations of certain departures in winter, when harsh weather prevents any boat or ship to sail. Otherwise, the service is punctual. There is no official luggage storage for the southbound coastal express, but the Rica Ishavshotel has graciously allowed non-guests to store their luggage there. You can check times either with the Tourist Information or at the Hurtigrute website .
Due to a building project at Prostneset (near Kirkeparken), this embarkment area will be modified by late 2018.
Cruise boats for all parts of Europe and North America often often moor in Tromsø, too.
For Hurtigbåter services, see below: Get around – By ferry
Generally, most things in Tromsø's compact centre are within walking distance. However, there is also a good network of buses. In summer, you can rent bikes, and in winter you can rent cross country skis, both allowing you to roam the built-up areas of Tromsø.
Buses are plentiful and very reliable. 50 kr for a one-hour ticket when bought on board the bus. Buying a 1h30 ticket costs 35 kr when bought from one of the locations listed here. Alternatively, you can use the very convenient Troms Mobillett app, that allows you to buy ticket from your mobile phone (beware though that mobile data may be needed!). Choose credit card payment rather than prepay account else you'll have to pay 200 kr upfront. Alternatively, a 24h ticket costs 100 kr.
Note that many routes have the city centre in the middle of their route, therefore it is essential to catch a route in the right direction. If it says 'via sentrum' it might already have been there and drives away from the centre! E.g. 42(Stakkevollan) is driving to a residential area on the Tromsø island, 42(Storelv)is driving to Kvaløya. The ride from Storelva to Stakkevollan takes 45 minutes.
From the city centre:
- Bus 28(Solligården), 26, 20 (Kroken), and 24 (Kroken) are found in the Sjøgata/Havnegata street just down below the Torget (Main square). Any one of these is good for the Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen).
- Bus 26 goes to the Cable Car from Peppe's Pizza near Torget (The Main Square). Ask for a "Fjellheisbillett" (Cable Car Ticket). This includes a return bus ticket and the Cable Car ride, and is cheaper than buying each ticket individually.
- Bus 37 goes to The Tromsø Museum. It leaves from Fredrik Langes Gate, just down below the Åhléns outlet.
- Bus 20 (Stakkevollan) and 21 (UiT/UNN) goes to the University. For the Botanic Garden, take the 20/21 to the (Bankrupt) Planetarium, walk down the nice foot path, enjoy the Garden and take bus 20 or 42 (Storelv) back into town.
- Bus 34 from the southern end of Sjøgata (opposite Dolly Dimple's), just up from the Tourist Information for a tour of the Island. It takes you around the southern tip to the shopping centre of Jekta, from where there are lots of buses back into town: 24 (Kroken sør) and 26 (Kroken) tae rather long detours through several residential areas (26 also passes the Carmelite nunnery), 28 (Solligården) and 40 (Sentrum) take a somewhat more direct route, while 42 (Stakkevollan) takes you to Polaria and then downtown through a tunnel (with two roundabouts inside). Lots of scenery and cityscape for 34 kr.
- Bus 20 (Stakkevollan) from Fredrik Langes gate or 42 (Stakkevollan) from Sjøgata to Stakkevollan Skole, walk up the hill at the water reservoire and watch Northern Lights to the north (less light pollution than elsewhere on the island).
- Bus 20 (Kroken) or 24 (Kroken) from Havnegata to Tromsø alpine centre
There are plenty of taxis all over town, however, you will probably have to wait in line if you plan on taking a taxi home after a long night out. This especially goes for Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays as these days are particularly busy.
The rest of the time, there are plenty of taxis. Call them at 77 60 30 00. It is, however, cheaper to just go to a taxi stand and pick one up. Taxis are metered, and completely safe.
There is no train, although there is a pub called Jernbanen (the train station), 3,48 metres above sea level. The project planned in 1872 has never been built.
- Hurtigbåtene (The express ferries) are quick catamaran boats, of great benefit for those living here or visiting the area: they ply the waterways north and south of Tromsø. There are four daily departures from Tromsø to Harstad via Finnsnes, Brøstadbotn and Engenes (two services only on Saturdays and Sundays). The catamaran to Lysnes departs twice a day (once on Sundays), making a loop between the peninsulas south of Tromsø, with calls at Vikran, Lysnes and Tennskjær, and is a scenic boatride and back. A single daily service links Skjervøy to Tromsø once a day, via Finnkroken, Vannvåg, Nord-Lenangen, Arnøyhamn, Nikkeby and Vorterøya (two departures from Skjervøy to Tromsø on Tuesdays and Thursdays). The route differs according to the day. The boats are operated by Torghatten Nord. The Hurtigbåter depart from the pier facing Kaigata, by the Hurtigruten terminal
- Fergene (ferries) ride four to six times a day from Bellvika (also called Belvik, on the northeastern peninsula of Kvaløya), a 25 minute's drive northwest of Tromsø, to Vengsøya (70 inhabitants, according to the last census), Musvær (a tiny island where just 2 inhabitants live), Laukvika (Hersøya), Risøya and Mjølvika (Sandøya). Expect no on-board service, “just” a lovely ride between the islands and the occasional possibility to buy coffee. The ferries are operated by Torghatten Nord.
Note: Where the places above are not islands (øy in Norwegian bokmål and nynorsk, singular indefinite form, suolu in Northern Sámi) by themselves, the name of their island is given in brackets. Names may differ from what timetables indicate, e.g. Bellvika is also spelt (and pronounced) Belvik, Risøya may be Risøy, etc. This depends on the use (or not) of the definite article -a, in many cases, and on the fact that various dialects coexist, together with the Sámi language.
For Hurtigruten services, see over: Get in – By boat
Tromsø's most visited attractions include Polaria, The Arctic Cathedral, The Cable Car, The Tromsø Museum, the Polar Museum and the Botanic Garden.
Tromsø is very favorably located for viewing the Northern Lights, but you cannot see the aurora at all times.
- The aurora is visible mostly between 6PM and midnight, occasionally between 4PM and 2AM.
- It has to be dark for you to see it. Between late September and late March, it is dark after six, and you have maximum chances of seeing the lights.
- Clouds obstruct the view of the Northern Lights. October and November are humid autumn months, and often you don't see the lights. From December onwards, the weather is drier. March is the driest month in this six-month period of good chances.
- Conclusion: December to mid/late March are the best times. Pick December/January for atmospheric visits in the dark, or February/March for thrilling outdoor activities. Sporty, outdoorsy people are recommended to come in March, as this month gives the opportunity to do outdoor activities in plenty of sunshine and good weather, and still observe the aurora after dark. The mid term holiday in February in many European countries is also a good time to come.
Tromsø's inhabitants are overwhelmingly Lutheran, and at the same time overwhelmingly secular in attitude. Small communities of other faiths are also present, like around 400 Catholics, and probably a similar number of Muslims. Various non-Lutheran Protestant churches and Lutheran dissenters are also important.
- 1 Ishavskatedralen (Arctic cathedral), Hans Nilsens vei 41, ☎ . The city's most photographed building. The striking 1965 structure contains one of the biggest stained-glass windows in Northern Europe, and enjoys a fantastic location on the mainland, just opposite the city centre.
Other churches in town of note include:
- 2 The Lutheran Cathedral (Tromsø Domkirka), Storgata 25, ☎ . The world's northernmost Protestant cathedral, built in 1861. With 800 seats, it's one of Norway's major wooden churches.
- Our Lady Church (Vår Frue Kirke), Storgata 94, ☎ . This tiny church is the seat of the world's northernmost Catholic bishop, and also dates from 1861.
- 3 The Church of Elverhøy (Elverhøy kirke), Barduvegen 20, ☎ . Dating back to 1803, it's the oldest church in town. It was built in the city centre, but b was moved to a residential area on top of the island.
- The Carmel Monastery (Totus Tuus), Holtveien 38, ☎ . The world's northernmost Carmelite nunnery. The nuns have recorded several CDs, and any mass in their chapel is a musical experience.
Occasionally, Orthodox masses are held on the premises of Kirkens Bymisjon on Jaklins plass. The most welcoming of the two mosques in Tromsø is the Alnor Senter, with prayer rooms for both men and women.
Museums and galleries
- 4 Tromsø Museum (University Museum), Lars Thørings veg 10 (Take bus 37 from Fredrik Langes gate), ☎ . A rather large museum with a number of different exhibits on the North. Look out for their Sami exhibits, the Archaeological Exhibit, Religious art and Northern Lights machine. Avoid Sundays, as weekend daddies let their little monsters run screaming through the exhibits.
- 5 Polar Museum, Søndre Tollbodgaten 11, ☎ . Displays the Arctic hunting that took place from Tromsø, as well as the expeditions to the Arctic. The museum is housed in an old warehouse from 1830.
- 6 Polstjerna, Hjalmar Johansens gate 10, ☎ . 1100-1700 June 15th-August 15th (Summer only). A preserved seal hunting vessel, right next door to Polaria. Combined entry with Polarmuseet, Tromsø University Museum or Polaria available. 40NOK.
- 7 Perspektivet Museum, Storgata 95, ☎ . Has temporary exhibits on the North. Their location in an 1838 building in the main street is superb, and there is free admission.
- 8 The Northern Norwegian Art Museum (Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum), Sjøgata 1, ☎ . Has art from Northern Norway from 1800 onwards, and Norwegian art in general. Look out for their temporary exhibits.
- 9 The Tromsø Gallery of Contemporary Art (Tromsø Kunstforening), Muségata 2, ☎ . Has temporary exhibits of contemporary art
- Tromsø War Museum (Tromsø Forsvarsmuseum), Solstrandveien (Bus 28 from the main square), ☎ . Situated in a wartime German bunker, focuses on the sinking of the "Tirpitz" in 1944. It's open in summer only, because of the temperature.
- 10 Telemuseet i Tromsø (Norsk Telemuseum), Kvaløyvegen (between the airport and the bridge to Kvaloya). wednesday 10–14. It is situated in the sender house of the defunct shortwave broadcaster, stuffed with telecommunication apparati of two centuries, some of them working and set up to be demonstrated by a staff person who has lots of experience and knowledge in the field. Numerous samples of models from different years show the evolution and the introduction of new game-changing inventions in, e.g., telephones or teletype machines or telephone exchanges. free.
- Mack Brewery (Macks Ølbryggeri), Storgata 5 (just in front of the Hurtigbåter quay). Offers guided tours of the world's northernmost brewery. Established in the town's center in 1877, the brewery remains in the ownership of the same family. Monday to Thursday, they offer guided tours at 13:00 if there are at least four visitors. So you risk coming there for your tour, and not getting it. This brewery is looking for an alternative place to set up a new factory, seemingly in Nordkjosbotn (Balsfjord municipality), 70 km (45 mi) to the south. But the town council is striving to keep the brewery in or near Tromsø, insisting on their ties with another famous place in Tromsø, Ølhallen — see below: Drink – Bars and pubs. The debate and the population's relationship with Mack is getting so passionate that some threaten the brewery to boycott their products if they leave town.
- 11 The Arctic Alpine Botanic Garden (Arktisk-alpin botanisk hage) (By the university (bus 20)), ☎ . Open 24h. The world's northernmost botanic garden. Although not a particularly big garden, it has some interesting features: Free.
- The Rhododendron Valley with specimens from the China and the Himalayas, as well as the local variety rhododendron lapponicum.
- The Himalaya section with the blue poppy (Meconopsis).
- The friendship garden, with plants donated by the Kirovsk Botanic Garden in Russia, previously the world's northernmost.
- Various sections of alpine plants and southern hemisphere plants.
- The pond, surrounded by giant perennials.
- The traditional garden with plants used in traditional medicine, magics and even as aphrodisiacs.
Café inside the garden (open 11:30–15:30 daily in summer, on Sunday only otherwise).
- 12 The Cable Car (Fjellheisen), Sollivegen 12, ☎ . in winter, half-hourly11:00 to 15:30. On Mount Storsteinen. Offers a fantastic view from 421metres/1382feet above sea level. In summer, make sure you go up there at midnight. The view from the top is amazing in winter also. You can walk (less than 1h one way). 210 kr (return).
The extent and quality of parks in Tromsø is no great draw for travellers. There are only a few parks in Tromsø, and they are not very large. Your best shot would probably be the Kirkeparken ("Church park") surrounding the Domkirken. Whenever the temperature exceeds +18C, bluish white flesh is frying in the sun.
Kongeparken, the Royal Park, a couple of blocks up from the main street, is curiously empty on warm days. There is also a patch of park down below the Art Society, just south of the city centre. But don't let the kids run wild there; this park is surrounded by heavy traffic.
A much larger park is Folkeparken (The Popular Park), surrounding the Tromsø Museum. This, though, seems like a patch of wild forest saved from development by its park status. When you visit the University Museum, take a stroll down to the Folk Museum, with a few old houses moved here from various parts of the county of Troms. The Telegrafbukta beach is also within easy reach. There is no lack of greenery in the residential areas, and the "Lysløypa" (floodlit ski track) runs from around the Tromsø Museum to the Northern tip of the island. In winter, this is perfect for cross country skiing; in summer the locals enter it on sneakers, mountain bikes and horses. The residents of the residential areas on the mainland and on the Kvaløya Island usually have less than 5 minutes' walk to reach the surrounding forests and mountains.
The nature surrounding Tromsø is spectacular. Mountains, fjords and fauna in an arctic perspective. Just outside Tromsø you can find various birds (sea eagles, puffins, fulmars), musk oxen and the world's largest mammals - the whales.
Most activities take place in the sheltered waters around the city area, or in the mountains surrounding the city. Check out the website of the Tourist Information for all the details. The Tourist Information also has a number of organised tours on offer.
Some activities are easy to do without assistance, whereas others require the guidance of a trained guide. Make sure you know what you're doing before setting off on your own.
The reason people go to Tromsø in the winter is to experience the Northern Lights and the spectacular winter landscapes. It's good to come for the Northern Lights between December and March. March and April are good for cross country treks and off-piste skiing.
The winter temperatures hover around -4°C, occasionally dropping to -12/-15°C, or rising to around +5°C. This means it's never too cold to do outdoor activities. Snowmobiles are not allowed in the borough of Tromsø, but in neighbouring Lyngen, you can speed up assisted by Natur i nord
The Tourist Information has a number of activities on offer, and they can usually be reserved on short notice, i.e., Northern lights visits.
The Lyngen Alps and other mountains around Tromsø are among the best places in the world for Off piste. The catamaran Cetacea of Arctic Cruises offers rides from town to the Lyngen Alps in March/April, or you can stay in the Lyngen Area in huts.
- Tromsø Alpinsenter, Jadevegen, ☎ . The city's ski station. It's not the best ski station in the world, but is more than steep enough for most people.
- Dog-sledding at the Tromsø Villmarkssenter, Arctic Adventures or Lyngen Outdoor Adventure
- Snowmobiles are not allowed in the borough of Tromsø, but in neighbouring [Lyngen], you can speed up assisted by Natur i nord
- Reindeer sledding at Tromsø Friluftsenter or with Lyngsfjord Adventure in neighbouring Tamokdalen
Seasoned mountaineers should seek out the Lyngen Alps as well as the Keel range close to the Finnish/Swedish border. This requires membership in the Troms Turlag (or its mother organisation, the Den Norske Turistforeningen) and careful planning (help provided by Troms Turlag).
- On a warm summer day, visit the beach Telegrafbukta near the Tromsø Museum. Bring a picnic or barbeque (small disposable grills, available in grocery stores, are popular here). If you dare, take a dip in the water—it may just have reached 11°C/52°F.
- Watch a soccer (football) match. Tromsø's team is in the Tippeliga (the highest division). 
- Go fishing! You can try from the shore or even better from a boat. Fewer species are fished than in Southern Norway, but the amount and the size is far better. Common fish are coalfish, cod, halibut and seawolf. Fishing trips are organized by the Tourist Information in summer, but you can just as well go to Hella, next to an ocean current half an hour's drive out of the city.
- Glacier walks in the Lyngen Alps are on offer from Tromsø Villmarkssenter and Lyngsfjord Adventure. Do NOT go glacier walking without a guide, you might fall into a crack.
- Kayaking is a good idea between the islands off Tromsø, and trips are offered by both Tromsø Villmarkssenter and Arctic Adventure
Hiking is safe and beautiful, although strenuous due to the topography. Troms Turlag in Kirkegata 2 (same house as the Tourist Information) offers maps and good information.
- The mountains nearest to the city are suited for beginners : hiking to the top station of the cable car takes less than 1h from the bottom station. Hiking to the Fløya summit (675m) takes at most 2h one way (from the base cable car station). Bønntuva (776m) can be reached another 45min further. Many further paths are available nearby.
- Troms Turlag operates mountain refuges in the mountains on the mainland side, from North to South Trollvassbu, Nonsby, Blåkollkoia and Skarvassbu. Non-members can stay here from kr 200/night. You just leave the sum there, and make use of woodfire and gas for cooking. Bring a sleeping bag. This is a trust thing, so don't cheat!
- Arctic Adventure, Tisnes, Kvaløysletta, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Dog sled tours, glacier walks, kayaking expeditions and hunting. Your best bet if you are looking for more adventurous options.
- Chasing Lights, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Northern Lights chases with professional photographer and aurora hunter. The only company that provides personalized all-inclusive northern lights holiday packages including accommodation, airport transfer, dog-sledding, reindeer sledding, snowmobiling, fjords excursion, whale watching and ice fishing.
- Lyngsfjord Adventure, Gamle Helsehus, Oteren, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. In winter, dog sledding, reindeer sledding and snowmobiling, along with Northern Lights visits are available at this dark location in a dry climate, good for Northern Lights watching. In summer, the adventurous can join glacier walks, mountain hikes, mountain biking and canoeing.
- Natur i Nord, Nansenvegen 34, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fishing, Hiking, cross-country skiing courses and snowshoeing. The "Northern Lights Bus" in winter has a high hit rate.
- Tromsø Friluftssenter, Risvik, Kvaløysletta, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Reindeer sledding and Northern Lights visits. Their location to the north of the city lights means they are a good place to watch the Northern Lights.
- Tromsø Villmarkssenter, Håkøybotn, Kvaløysletta, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dog-sledding, Hiking and Sea kayaking. In winter, they run a smooth operation with two daily dog sleddings, in the morning and in the evening. They are 25 mins outside the city.
Most locals will be happy to teach you a few Norwegian words and phrases over a few beers at one of the many pubs and bars. Use them with care down below the Arctic Circle, as the local lingo is peppered with colourful profanities.
The University offers several Master programs in English, including the Peace Studies, Visual Anthropology, the International course of linguistics, Indigenous studies etc. Check if your university has some kind of co-operation with or recognition of the University of Tromsø.
Norwegian classes are hard to come by. Immigrants receive basic education at Voksenopplæringen i Tromsø kommune. The University organizes classes for its international staff. Foreigners who just want a quick introduction, have few or no options. Neither is there anything on offer for short term visitors who would like to learn Sami.
The University of Tromsø (UiT) and the nearby University Hospital of Tromsø (UNN) are situated at the northern end of the Tromsø island, and are the two largest workplaces in Tromsø. The Norwegian Telemedicine Centre at UNN is a WHO collaborating center. The Norwegian Polar Institute is another major institution. All these institutions employ a good many foreign nationals.
In Tromsø, more than 100 nationalities are represented. However, getting a job for someone with no special skills or no knowledge of Norwegian is difficult. Hotel housekeeping and cleaning, along with fish processing are often the only options. Health workers are much in demand, though.
Anyone who wants to work in Norway, needs a valid permit. These are readily available for residents of the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland. For anyone else, getting a work permit means an endless papermill and probable rejection.
Most shopping takes place in the busy main street, Storgata. These days, we can thank the Chinese for most souvenirs, but the attentive shopper will find locally made stuff. Keep in mind that business hours are traditional; most main street shops close at 5PM, although they usually stay up until 7PM on Thursdays. They close at 3-4PM on Saturdays, and remain closed all Sunday. Department stores stay open longer, though.
Department stores and shopping malls
Department stores in Tromsø are easy to overview, and hold no surprises. They are convenient for any necessity, though, since they stay open until 8PM (6PM on Saturdays).
- Nerstranda (Steen & Strøm), Nerstranda 9 (city centre). Allows shopping until 8 at night.
- Jekta, Heiloveien 19 (near the airport). The biggest shopping mall in Northern Norway.
- Pyramiden (Amfi), Solstrandveien 47. Sizeable shopping centre on the mainland.
Original buys include:
- Blåst, Peder Hansensgate 4, ☎ . The world's northernmost glass factory makes original glass objects. They also ship.
- Kranes Kunstgalleri og rammeverksted, Strandgata 30. The place to look for paintings and sculptures from Northern Norway.
- Tromsø Gift and Souvenir Shop, Strandgaten 36, ☎ . Souvenir shop, offers glitzy kitsch with a wink. Great fun, and the place to look for a gift for the person that looks after your cat.
- Snarby Strikkestudio, Fredrik Langes Gate 18, ☎ . has knitwear from Norway, as well as a vast array of souvenirs. Look for seal skin slippers.
- Husfliden, Sjøgata 4, ☎ . Part of a national chain of craft shops. The quality is high, and so are the prices.
The production of interesting books about the north in Norwegian language is huge. However, the selection of good titles in English is limited.
- Bokhuset, Storgata 86, ☎ . The best place in town to look for books on Norwegian themes. Most books are in Norwegian, though.
- Tromsø Museum, part of the University of Tromsø, has a rather good selection of scientific books on the north, again mostly in Norwegian.
- For English-language pocket books, many Narvesen kiosks stock the latest best-sellers (Norwegians buy them too). Bookshops like Bokhuset, Ark and Tromsø Bokhandel (all in the main street) have a bigger selection. Prices hover around kr 100, so you might consider bringing them from home instead.
Since Tromsø has a refreshing climate, the outdoor markets are not all that impressive. Look for the following, though:
- The Main Square (Torget) has numerous souvenir sellers in summer. Russians sell souvenirs, and you get some knitwear and Sami souvenirs (sold by real Sami people). Due to the northern location, local vegetables are of limited volume. However, in August and September, little turnips and carrots that are really crunchy and tasty are for sale. In late July you might want to look for northern strawberries.
- The fish port sells cod, coalfish and shrimps directly from the boat. This is not the biggest fish market in the world, but the catch is straight from the sea. If the boats are all gone by the time you come, go to Dragøy next to the dockside. Here you get good quality fish, they can even make you a picnic of varied fish and seafood. Another interesting place to purchase interesting food are the lorries selling fish, particularly during the winter cod fishery. Cod flesh, liver, roe, tongues, stomachs and chins are on sale. Ask how to bread your cod's tongue right to get that crunchy taste!
- Before Christmas, the farmers from the inland valleys visit. In addition to Christmas trees, they sell local cakes and sweets.
- Julemesse is another pre-Christmas specialty, meaning a little fair of craft. The knitting ladies from the whole area sell their mittens, tablecloths etc., and the income is often for some charity. An excellent way to stock up on original Christmas presents, and a deep dive into traditional craft.
A number of good seafood restaurants are worth the extra kroner, and especially in the winter, when the cod reaches the coast, there is a lot of good eating. It all comes at a price, though. Do note, however, that cheap food is relatively expensive in Tromsø (as in Norway in general), whereas exclusive food is relatively good value. In other words, a little extra money increases the experience immensely.
Vegetarians have a hard time in Tromsø, as the knowledge of vegetarian food is limited (however, there is at least one cafe with a vegetarian menu in town, see below). Most places can cook something up, but be prepared to explain your food requests in detail. There is probably no point in going to an expensive restaurant. Chinese places have stir fries, etc., that can be filling enough. Vegans and vegetarian Hindus have to take special care.
Budget-conscious visitors should avoid anything named "restaurant". Instead, all the cafés in town are good for a quick bite. Expect friendly service at the counter; table service is a luxury in Norway. Expect to pay around 100 kr for a filling meal.
The canteen for employees in the town hall serves reasonably cheap food, and there is also the student canteens at the university campus. It's possible to buy hot food in many supermarkets, and the price may be a bit lower than buying something in a café. Several greasy spoon bakeries and cafés serve the infamous tacobolle (taco bun), a doughy bun with mince, tomato sauce and cheese. Highly uncultured, but yummy, for 30 kr. Both Yonas and Peppes Pizza have lunch buffets (eat as much as you can) during the daytime on weekdays, for around 100 kr. Peppes Pizza has free internet as well.
- Allegro, Turistvegen 19, ☎ . Su–Th 15:00–23:00, F–Sa 15:00–24:00. in Tromsdalen (behind the Arctic Cathedral) has thin, Italian pizzas for a good price
- Blå Rock, Strandgata 14–16, ☎ . Daily 11:30–02:00 except F 11:30–03:30 and Su 13:00–02:00. The best burgers in town with their infamous fried potato skins. Don't ask for a Diet Coke with it, it makes little difference.
- Aunegården (OL Aune), Sjøgata 29, ☎ . 11:00–23:00. Café in the front, with counter service. Restaurant with table service in the back. International menu, also a few local specialities. The cakes have many fans in Tromsø. 80–250 kr.
- Dolly Dimple's, Heiloveien 4. M–F 10:00–20:00, Sa 10:00–18:00. The "Pizzabuffet" (All you can eat pizza buffet) is OK and cheap
- Driv, Storgata 6 (Walk south on storgata until the end of the shops), ☎ . M–Th 14:00–01:30, F–Sa 12:00–03:00. Offers great food at a reasonable price in a nice atmosphere, and have discounts for members of the student society.
- Gründer, Storgata 44, ☎ . M–Th 11–2, F–Sa 11–3.30. The international menu is tasty and good value, and the service is amusingly informal.
- Peppes Pizza, Stortorget 2, ☎ . daily 11:00–23:30. Part of an international chain, but the lunch specials are cheap.
- Sivertsens Kafekooperativ, Rådstua Teaterhus, Vestregata 48. W–Sa 12:00–17:00. Vegetarian cafe with a small but good and affordable menu.
- Skarven, Strandtorget 1, ☎ . Daily from 11:00. Has fish casseroles and other local specialities at good prices.
- Yonas, Sjøgata 7, ☎ . Daily 11:00–24:00. has good deep-pan American pizza. Taco-pizza is unknown in Mexico, but is a normal pizza with shredded Chinese cabbage and a mustard dressing. You love it, or you loathe it.
In this category expect sit-down friendly service and prices varying from 150–230 kr for a filling plate of food. Italian food is not found in the city centre, but a few neighbourhood places in residential areas serve up thin, Italian pizza and pasta. Picando and Allegro are found on the mainland side, and La Speranza is found at Håpet on the west side of the Island. On Kvaløya, genuine Thai food is found at Ban Thai where Kusaya prepares tasty home cooking from her homeland in a rather unassuming neighbourhood restaurant (Bus 42 takes you there, well worth the trip!). Finish off with some Thai karaoke. Chinese food is represented by Choi's Kjøkken and Shanghai, both situated in the north of the city. Mains here start at NOK 130. More upmarket alternatives include Tang's, Lotus and Il Mare. Authentic Thai food is found at Thai House Restaurant. Steakhouses are vastly popular (many people that cook good fish at home, prefer a good steak when they go out). Expect no local character.
- 1 Arctandria, Strandtorget 1, ☎ . M–Sa from 16:00. has a lot of local fish specialities, as well as a humourous menu. Before Christmas, their lutefisk buffet is heaven for some, and hell for others.
- 2 Fiskekompaniet Sjøsiden, Sjøgata 17B, ☎ . Daily 15:00–23:00. has excellent fresh fish, and a menu of modern Norwegian cuisine. Seafood is considered an aphrodisiac, and after their delicious seafood platters, you're ready for anything.
- 3 Skarvens Biffhus, Strandtorget 1, ☎ . Daily from 15:30. In a 1820s wharf house. Has thick steaks, but also specialises in goat meat. The waiters are humourous and professional.
- 4 Steakers, Fredrik Langesgate 13, ☎ . M–Sa 15:00–23:00, Su 14:00–22:00. lining the inner port, offers no local character, but is constantly full of meat-hungry locals, and the American theme is matched by the enormous portions. The young staff is friendly and offers really good service.
The price difference between mid-range and splurge is not that big, making the occasional splurge a good value.
- 5 Compagniet, Sjøgata 12, ☎ . M–Sa 17:00–23:00. Situated in a merchant's home from the 1830s. Doubles as a nightclub in the weekends after 22.
- 6 Emmas Drømmekjøkken, Kirkegaten 8, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. M–Sa from 18:00. A fantastic restaurant that has got excellent reviews in the Oslo press. A main course is around 280 kr, but compared to what you get and the standard of service, it's not that much. Look out for their excellently matched 5-course menus. The lunch menu isn't bad either, and comparatively cheap!
Tromsø is known throughout Norway for its hefty nightlife, and there's always room for one more barfly. Throughout the week, people hang around in cafés, and in the week-ends, it's always full at every dance floor.
People in Tromsø have an emotional relationship to their beer. Mack continues to resist takeover attempts from the dark forces of Southern Norwegian capitalism, and locals expect outsiders to join in on the battle. Other Norwegian beers are difficult to get, but a few places specialise in international brands. Blanding is half a pilsner and half bayer, a dark beer, in the same glass. Try it out!
The per capita consumption of cognac must be among the highest in the world, and don't be surprised to see 2- year-olds nursing a fine VSOP at 2AM. Daiquiris, caipirinhas, mojitos, etc., are in fashion, but not all places serve good ones, so look at the recommendations below!
Don't take the age and crowd indications too seriously; in Tromsø the stylish set mixes easily with everyone, and young and ex-young people can actually talk to each other.
The most original place to hang out in Tromsø is definitely Ølhallen, the Beer Hall. It opened its doors in 1928, and has hardly changed since then. Their only concession to modernity was the installation of a ladies' room in the seventies (in fact, they made a swanky, new toilet for the blokes, and gave the old one to the ladies...). They open at 9AM, and close at 6PM (Mon-Fri) and 3PM (Sat), and that's the way it is. Promise not to ask for Chardonnay...
Cafes stay open from lunchtime to 3AM, and typically serve good value food and coffee specials before they turn into crowded bars at night. Being flexible is the key to survive the stiff competition in Tromsø.
- Blå Rock, Strandgata 14, ☎ . Daily 11:30–02:00 except F 11:30-03:30 and S 15:00–02:00. The place for burgers, lots of international beer, rock'n'roll and concerts. A piercing in your ear (or somewhere else) will make you fit in.
- Circa, Storgata 36, ☎ . A very popular place, with the winning concept in Tromsø of lunch dishes, coffee specialites and beer at night. Students and younger professionals.
- Driv, Storgata 6, ☎ . M–Th 14:00–01.30, F–Sa 12:00–03:00. The Student House. An ambitious concert programme, quiz nights, etc. Excellent place for the 18–30 years old, but far better in winter than in summer. The amount of visitors varies drastically depending on the occasion.
- Flyt, Sjøgata 25, ☎ . M–Tu 11:00–23:00, W–Th 11:00–24:00, F 11:00–03:30, Sa 12:00–03:30, Su 15:00–23:00. content=sports a sport's theme, with off-piste skis decorating the walls, and cool recordings from the slopes entertain on every flat screen. Go there for a burger in the afternoon, or to hang around with the extreme sporters at night..
- Paletten, Storgata 51, ☎ . M–Th 11:00–01:00, F–Sa 11:00-03:00,Su 12:00–01:00. A football pub with two large outdoor terraces, also serves food during the day
- Kaffebønna, Strandtorget 1 & Stortorget 3, ☎ . M–F 08:00–18:00, Sa 09:00–18:00, Su 11:00–18:00. serves no alcohol, but serves up smart coffee, Italian ice cream, pain au chocolat and plenty of sandwiches. Minimalist décor and cool staff (occasionally too cool).
- Perez, Skippergata 6, ☎ . at the northern end of the city centre, is tiny, but manages to offer lunch specials, coffees and a sophisticated wine selection. Loud and full in the evening, so keep your stomach in!
- Skansen Kafé, Tollbodgate 8. M–W 11:00–18:00, Th 11:00–22:00, F 11:00–02:00, Sa 12:00–02:00, Su 12:00–18:00. Housed in the annex of the oldest house in town. In summer, they serve fantastic shells and other lunch specials, along with good wine and coffee. In winter, they close, though.
- Skarven, Strandtorget 1, ☎ . Daily from 11. Another long-timer. Serves good food, including loads of fish (an welcome respite from the feta cheese and olive fare of the other cafés), and loads of beer way into the night in a 1920s margarine factory. The crowd is grown-up and well-heeled, but just as loud as the rest.
- Sånn, Erling Bangsunds plass 1, ☎ . M–Th 11:00–24:00, F 11:00–01:00,Sa 12:00–01:00. at the upper end of the Main Square is another example of the Tromsø receipt: A good lunch menu (with realatively good prices), coffee specialities and a cool bar in the evening.
- På Byen, Strandgata 24, ☎ . M-Th 11:00–02:00, F–Sa 11-03:30, Su 13:00–02:00. For the 20- or 30-somethings, usually well-dressed. Their sheltered outdoor terrace with winter heating circumvents the smoking ban. Have some pasta with the after-office crowd, or taste some wine in the evening.
- Kafé Verdensteatret, Storgata 93b, ☎ . M-Th 11:00–02:00, F–Sa 11:00-03:30, Su 13:00–02:00. A friendly, sophisticated, ultra-modern place in the 1916 cinema "Verdensteatret", the oldest functioning cinema in Northern Europe. The sandwiches are good, but the main reason to come here is to hang about for a glass of wine and endless conversation. Thursday night has cheap drinks, with a Mack Pilsner for 55 kr. Friday and Saturday night, the place turns into a cool, crowded hangout. Mixed crowd, mixed ages.
- Åpenbar, Grønnegata 81, ☎ . Tu-Th 16:00–01:30, F 15-03:00, Sa 14:00-03:00. serves tapas made of seal and other arctic foodstuffs. Nice way to try it out... Rather stylish hang-out in the week-end
Bars and pubs
- 1 Bastard Bar, Strandgata 22, ☎ . M-Th 18:00-02:00, F 18:00-03:30, Sa 13:00-03:30, Su 13:00-02:00. In a cellar next to the Nerstranda shopping centre and offering one or two live concerts each week, a jam session every other Tuesday and showing English, Norwegian and European football. The only food offered is sausages with mustard. Bastard has a collection of international beers as well as Tromsø's own Mack.
- 2 Victoria Fun Pub, Grønnegata 81, ☎ . M-Th 15:00-02:00, F 15:00-03:30, Sa 14:00-03:30, Su 19:00-02:00. A football place, and can be a fun pub for the not overdressed during week-ends; has a billiards table.
- Skibsbroen, Fredrik Langesgate 2, ☎ . Inside the Rica Ishavshotel offers a fantastic view towards the north, and is among the more elegant places. Armani-clad visitors from Oslo's west end rub shoulders with trawler crews with loads of money to spend.
- Ølhallen (The Beer Hall), Storgata 4, ☎ . M-F 09:00–18:00, Sa 09:00–15:00. Both well-known and much cherished by the population, undoubtedly linked to the Mack beer.
- 3 Tromso Jernbanestasjon (Tromsø Railwaystation), Strandgata 33, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This bar established itself early as the cool place because of its complete railway thematic décor - especially since there is no train that comes to Tromsø. There are waiters in conductor uniforms and departures to places like Murmansk and Kautokeino are announced regularly through the speaker system.
During week-ends, the places fill up. However, on a dull Monday, go to cafés to find people.
- 4 Compagniet, Sjøgata 12, ☎ . F–Sa 22:00-03:30. Vastly popular with the 25-40 crowd, with lots of 1980s music. This is the place to get back in circulation after the divorce or break-up.
- 5 Gründer By Night, Storgata 44, ☎ . M-Th 18:00-02:00, F–Sa 18:00-03:30. In the Scandic Grand Hotel. Caters for the more mature audience, and combines style and informality. Their heated smoking terrace with a view might tempt you to pick up the habit.
- The Chinese restaurant Il Mare doubles as a Latino dance hall on Saturdays. The crowd falls into three categories: the Latino community that always knew how to salsa, the salsa class Norwegians with more sedate hips counting their steps and the curious onlookers. ¡Que empiece la fiesta!
- Despite Tromsø being a tolerant and open minded city, no gay place has managed to stay afloat. Open gays are possibly too well integrated, and closeted gays may be too visible in this, after all, small city. However, gay parties are occasionally organised. The first gay festival, Homsø, took place in October 2007.
Culture and festivals
The cultural centre of the high north of Norway offers some interesting festivals.
When temperatures are freezing and the night seems endless, enjoying culture is a good idea.
- Tromsø International Film Festival takes place the 3rd week in January.
- The Northern Lights Festival happens in late January/early February
- The Sami week is centered around the Day of the Sami people, on February 6.
- No Siesta Fiesta is a festival of Latin Music, starting with a Samba parade in the snowy main street.
- The Polar Night Half Marathon in early January
Luminous summer festivals
The summer festivals celebrate the endless days, and are preferably outdoor.
- The Midnight Sun Marathon in mid-June. This festival fills up the city until bursting point. NEVER arrive without a hotel reservation.
- The Bukta festival of rock in mid July
- The Beer Festival in late August
- Ordkalotten festival of literature in October.
- Døgnvill outdoor music festival in September.
Tromsø's main bulk of hotel rooms are in the upper mid range, since they mainly cater for business people. There are no five-star luxury hotels, no old-world hotels, no spa hotels and no boutique hotels, and there is one whole swimming pool. Expect multi-lingual, friendly and professional, if overworked, staff, and breakfast is usually very good. Rooms and baths are often renovated.
Tromsø is a popular place to stay, and consequently it can sometimes be hard to find a place to stay. In June, it's full all the time, and the Midnight Sun Marathon week-end  people practically sleep in hotel elevators. July is a lot easier, August even more so, and you can benefit from lower summer rates. September, October and November are usually rather full, as are March/April. December, January and February (except the January Film Festival) are less full, with possibilities for a bargain. Also the Easter week (between Palm Sunday and Easter Monday), the Ascension long week-end (Thursday to Monday) and occasionally the Whitsun week-end are less busy. Timing your visit to low season will save you some kroner, and many of the low seasons are good times to visit (Easter, Whitsun, August etc.).
The ultra-tough back-packer has a hard time in Tromsø, since there are few of the really cheap dorm-style places, but the Right to access means you can camp mostly anywhere (outside the city centre) for free! (nearest spot 10min walk uphill from the centre), otherwise try these:
- Tromsdalen Camping, 9020 Tromsdalen, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. has cabins from simple shacks to two-bedroom bungalows. Cabins:465–1025 kr, Tents:125–220 kr.
Make sure to contact some of these places as early as possible, since they fill up early. These places more or less have the same rates mid-week and week-end, and do not give particular summer discounts. Private accommodation can be a good alternative. Check out the home page of the tourist board. Most places, though, are rented to students in the school year, and only available in the summer months. 
- AMI Hotel, Skolegata 24, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. a few minute's walk up the hill from the main street offers tidy, spotless rooms with private or shared facilities. The east-facing rooms have a fantastic view. 540–1090 kr, discounts for students and longer stays.
- ABC Hotel Nord, Parkgata 4, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Similar, and slightly closer. 550–1050 kr.
- Thon Polar Hotel, Grønnegata 45, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A substantial step up, with rooms on the small side, but always private facilities. Excellent, central location. Fixed low prices; 695 kr single room, 895 kr double room..
- Home Sleep, Nansenvegen 32, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. run by the friendly Dane Kirstine, has spotless, excellently furbished rooms in a residential area near the city centre. Two doubles and two singles share a fantastic bathroom and an even better kitchen. 450-695 kr, complete apartment 1995 kr.
- Sydspissen Hotel, Strandvegen 166, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. with a slightly inconvenient location 30 minutes' walk south of the city centre, has fairly well-appointed rooms. A bargain mid-week, and recommended if you drive a car. Singles 645 k, Doubles 845 k, Triple 900 kr.
Although Norway has no star-rating system, the hotels in this category could be called three star. Expect well-furnished rooms with tiled bathrooms and a good buffet-style breakfast. Double room rates hover around 1200 kr mid-week, but expect substantial discounts in week-ends, especially in winter, and during the July/early August holiday period, when business people stay away. The price difference between budget and mid range might be narrowed by major discounts in the mid-range places in July/August and during week-ends the rest of the year.
- Amalie Hotel, Sjøgata 5B, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. doesn't look much from the outside, but has good-size well-equipped rooms. 795–1395 kr.
- 1 Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora, Sjøgata 19–21, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. small, friendly and smart, and a favourite for many business people. 1120–2415 kr.
- 2 Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromso, Grønnegata 35, 9008 Tromsø, ☎ . Check-in: 15h, check-out: 12h (18h on Sunday). A new hotel somewhere in between a hostel and a three-star hotel. Free Wi-Fi. From 499 kr.
- 3 The Grand Nordic, Storgata 44, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The oldest in town, but has been completely renovated. Some of the rooms are huge. 790–1340 kr.
- 4 Quality Hotel Saga, Richard Withs Plass 2, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Spotlessly refurbished, with a friendly ambience. 995–1475k kr.
- Skansen Hotel, Storgata 105, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Close to the city centre. Quality rooms with breakfast and wireless Internet included. 650–1100 kr.
- Viking Hotel, Grønnegata 18–20, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. has the ambience of a small, continental city hotel, and has been renovated with lovely rooms. The breakfast room and the reception look more like a guest house, and the exterior is modest. 650-980 kr.
The top-end hotels are but a small step up from the mid range in price and quality. No hotel in Tromsø is in the absolute top division in the world. Week-end discounts and favourable summer rates can make these hotels an affordable alternative.
- Clarion Hotel Bryggen, Sjøgata 19–21, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Decidedly smaller, with modern, stylish rooms, a restaurant, a lobby bar and an outdoor hot tub to kill for 945–2095 kr.
- Radisson SAS Hotel, Sjøgata 7, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: it is stylish and modern with a restaurant, a popular pizzeria and a bar.. 1295–2500 kr.
- Rica Ishavshotel, Fredrik Langesgate 2, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Another full service hotel (bar, restaurant) with a lovely view from the rooms. Their "Skipsbroen bar" is a good place to wait for the Midnight Sun or the odd glimpse of the Northern Lights (the more you drink, the better the chances). 1595–1845 kr.
- Scandic Hotel, Heiloveien 23, Håpet, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4 km out of the city centre, near the airport and the biggest shopping centre in town, has good-size rooms with a fantastic view, as well as a restaurant. If you drive your own car (free parking!), frequent week-end and summer offers can be a (relative) bargain 790–1080 kr.
Free internet is found at the Public Library in the city centre (ask the main desk for WiFi access). Burger King also has free WiFi. The student house Driv (see Cafes section) offers eduroam, and unlike the library they stay open a lot longer. Coin operated machines are found at Dark Light and at Meieriet.
Free wireless zones are found in many places around town, including Peppe's Pizza and Kafé Verdensteatret, where it is free of charge. Many hotels also have it, but often charge you.
- Norway is a fairly safe country in general, and Tromsø is no exception. Violence is usually limited to drunk 19 year olds fighting in the taxi line at 4 in the morning. Theft is not unheard of, though, and don't leave your camera unattended.
- Earlier, the local drug addicts used to beg for money along the main street. They have now started selling "Virkelig", a local version of The Big Issue, and they have now been replaced by beggars from the Balkans. Neither represent a danger, though.
- Far more life-threatening are outdoor activities. Tourists occasionally try unguided glacier walks, deep sea fishing, hiking and off-piste skiing without being properly trained or equipped, once in a while with fatal results. Do not try any glacier walks on your own. Deep sea fishing and off-piste need good training. Don't over-estimate yourself when hiking in the mountains, although there is a mountain for any level. Most accidents could be avoided by seeking local advice (tourist information, Troms Turlag etc.).
- In winter, the city centre is occasionally a giant ice rink. Or bobsleigh track. To save your neck, make sure your shoe soles have plenty of rubber (as opposed to plastic), and consider purchasing a pair of crampons.
- If Tromsø isn't far enough north for you, it's only a short flight up to Longyearbyen on Svalbard. This should be planned ahead, though, as flights vary incredibly in price. . On short notice, your best bet is a flight-hotel package delivered from one of the tour operators up there.
- Sommarøy is a fishing village south-west of Tromsø, with lovely, south-sea beaches and a fantastic view towards the island of Senja as well as the numerous islands belonging to the borough of Tromsø. No bus connection for day trips, except in summer.
- Island Hopping in the north western archipelago goes with a local ferry from Belvik, a 50 minutes' from Tromsø. Islands visited are Vengsøy (100 inhabitants), Musvær (5 inhabitants), Risøy (only inhabited in summer) and Sandøy (3 inhabitants). Bring your own food, and lots of clothes. Sadly, there is no bus to the ferry (or if there is, no bus going back), so you need your own transport, which might be a rental car or a bike.
- Lyngen  a peninsula 2 hour's drive east of Tromsø. The mountains rise 1800 metres dramatically from the sea. Plan well ahead, as there are few buses. Excellent destination with a rental car, though. Steindalsbreen is the most easily accessible glacier in the Lyngen Alps, found a few hours' walking distance from the road. It's a recommended sight, but hurry up - the glacier is disappearing rapidly! The walk up to the glacier is safe, but do not walk ON the glacier without a guide.
- Senja is a bigger island just south of Tromsø. The area of interest is the outer side of the island, with a dramatic, rocky coastline dropping straight into the ocean. The fishing villages, notably Husøy, Mefjordvær, Bøvær, Torsken and Gryllefjord all enjoy fantastic locations. In summer, there is a ferry from Brensholmen near Tromsø to Botnhamn on Senja. The rest of the year, you drive inland through Nordkjosbotn and Finnsnes to reach the island. If by public transportation, plan well ahead.
There are very few buses into the immediate surroundings of Tromsø. It is difficult to find a bus that goes out of town in the morning, and back again in the afternoon.
|Routes through Tromsø|
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