Tromsø, a city in the north of Norway, is also known as the Paris of the North today. The city center is located on a 10-kilometer-long island called Tromsøya. It is approximately 6 meters above sea level. Since it is located in the north of the Arctic Circle, it is one of the popular destinations for those who want to see the northern lights, nature tourism lovers and astrophotographers.
History of Tromsø
Archaeological excavations carried out in the area show that Tromsø and the surrounding area has been inhabited by humans for at least 9000 years.1
The area around Tromsø was the border region between the Norse and Sámi peoples in Antiquity. The first church in this area was built in 1252, during the reign of King Håkon Håkonsson. The church in question is considered to be the northernmost church at that time.
During the Middle Ages, Tromsø looked more like a town than a city. Over time, the city became the center of arctic trade.
Geographical Features of Tromsø
A large part of the city of Tromsø is located on the island of Tromsøya. The other part is located on the mainland to the east of the island. This part of the city is known as Tromsdalen and is connected to Tromsø by a bridge and tunnel.
To the west of the island of Tromsøya is Kvaløya, the fifth largest island in Norway. Tromsøya is connected to Kvaløya by a bridge near the airport.
The area around Tromsø is rich in mountains and hills. The most important mountains over 1000 meters high are Jiehkkevárri, Hamperokken, Stortinden, Tromsdalstinden, Bentsjordtinden and Lavangstinden. These mountains are indispensable for both trekking lovers and adrenaline lovers.
The subarctic climate, also known as the boreal climate, is dominant throughout Tromsø. Although it is located north of the Arctic Circle at the 69th parallel north, it is not as cold as expected due to the Gulf Stream. The average temperature in January is between -6°C and -3°C. (21°F – 27°F) The average temperature in July is around 10°C to 15°C. (50°F – 59°F)
Flora and Fauna
Prominent species around Tromsø are sea eagles, reindeer, huskies, bears, wolves, elks and ravens. Whales, seals, dolphins and sea urchins are the most important marine species.
The most common trees in Tromsø are Betula pubescens (a species of birch), Salix glauca (a species of willow) and Juniperus communis (a species of juniper). You can also see many plants and flowers in the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden in the city center.
The population of Tromsø is approximately 77,399 people as of 2021. So the population density is 31 people per km².2
Best Things to Do in Tromsø
1. See the northern lights. Tromsø is one of the best places to see the northern lights. However, because it is located north of the Arctic Circle, the nights are not completely dark in the summer. For this reason, it is almost impossible to see the northern lights in summer. October to April is the ideal period to see the northern lights. In other words, you have to take the long and cold nights to witness this unique natural phenomenon.
2. If it is summer, see the midnight sun. As Tromsø is located north of the Arctic Circle, some days in the summer the sun never sets. If your holiday is in June and July, you can witness the midnight sun instead of the northern lights and capture interesting shots.
3. Learn about the culture of the Sámi people. The Sámi people are a Finno-Ugric community living in northern Scandinavia. You can research about them on the internet and visit the ethnography museums in the region.
4. Join the fjord tours and enjoy the nature of Norway. Fjords are one of the most important natural beauties in Norway. To see the fjords near Tromsø, you should join the daily tours organized by the agencies.
5. Ride the husky and reindeer sleds. Husky and reindeer sleigh rides are very popular among tourists visiting Tromsø.
You can click on Visit Tromsø to get more information about Tromsø and to take a look at the activities you can do.
Places to Visit in Tromsø
Tromsø Cathedral (Tromsø Domkirke) – The architect of the cathedral, which was built in neogothic style in 1861, is Christian Heinrich Grosch. The cathedral was built with wooden material. It is located in the city centre. There is also a bust of the Norwegian composer Adolf Thomsen, who died in 1903, on the north side of the cathedral.
Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen) – The Arctic Cathedral, located in Tromsdalen, on the east side of the city, was built in 1965. The architect of the building, which draws attention with its triangular form, is Jan Inge Hovig. On some days, midnight concerts are also held in the cathedral.
Storsteinen – It is a scenic viewpoint that is approximately 420 meters above the sea surface. You can reach it on foot or by cable car. Storsteinen, one of the most popular destinations for tourists, is an ideal place to see the city center and fjords panoramically.
Polar Museum (Polarmuseet) – An ethnographic museum depicting arctic life. You can learn about the current exhibitions, opening hours and entrance fees on the official website of the museum.
Northern Norway Art Museum (Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum) – It is a museum where visual works of Norwegian artists are exhibited. There is also a monument to Roald Amundsen right across from the museum. You can learn about the current exhibitions, opening hours and entrance fees on the official website of the museum.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden (Arktisk Alpin Botanisk Hage) – The botanical garden, which opened in 1994, is managed by the University of Tromsø. It is open 24/7 and is free. It should be noted that the botanical garden, where arctic plants and flowers are exhibited, is usually covered with snow from December to March.
Hildr – A cozy gastropub located on Skippergata Street. Here you can try venison, various seafood and Norwegian cheeses. There are also vegan options, but you have to specify at the time of booking.
Ølhallen – A historic brewpub* located on Storgata Street. It was opened in 1928. It is one of the best places to taste local beers. There are 72 different beers to choose from. It is a little more expensive than other pubs. It is closed on Sundays.
*Pubs that produce and serve their own beer.
Agenturet Øl Og Vinbar – A bar located on Sjøgata Street. The bar, which serves many types of beer such as wheat beer, stout and IPA, also has a great wine selection. It is open all days of the week until late.
Vertshuset Skarven – A seafood restaurant located on Strandtorget Street. You can taste many seafood by enjoying the sea view. Fiskekompaniet and Arctandria Restaurant are other notable restaurants for seafood lovers.
Risø – A cafe located on Strandgata Street. The menu includes a variety of delicious coffees and snacks. It is open until 17.00, closed on Sundays. You can choose this place for breakfast. Smørtorget and Kaffebønna are other popular cafes in Tromsø.
As of 2022, non-stop flights are available from Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Helsinki, Gdańsk and London to Tromsø. Indirect flights are usually available via Norway’s capital, Oslo. It takes approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes by plane from Oslo to Tromsø. Tromsø Airport is approximately 5.4 kilometers (3.3 miles) from the city centre.
Where to Stay
Tromsø is a small city, so almost all hotels are fairly close to the city centre. Hotels in Tromsø can be a bit expensive for many people from abroad. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on hotels, you can choose Smarthotel, Enter Viking Hotel and Comfort Hotel Express. These three hotels are all three-star and their prices are between 130€ and 140€ per person. Other notable hotels in Tromsø are the Radisson Blu Hotel, Clarion Hotel The Edge, Quality Hotel Saga and Scandic Ishavshotel.
- Hans Peter BLANKHOLM, “Målsnes 1: An Early Post-glacial Coastal Site In Northern Norway”, Oxbow Books, ISBN: 9781842173435^
- “Tromsø (Troms Og Finnmark – Romsa Ja Finnmárku – Tromssa Ja Finmarkku)” Statistisk Sentralbyrå^