An Arctic city of natural beauty and auroral adventures
Tromsø is located in the far north of Norway, in the Troms og Finnmark county. Known as the 'Gateway to the Arctic', its history dates back thousands of years when the indigenous Sami populations left their indelible mark, engaging in hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding, deeply connected with nature.
Tromsø  Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Tromsø  Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Founded in 1794 by the Norwegian king Gustav IV Adolph, Tromsø later became a vital center for fishing and trade in the Arctic, owing to its strategic location on the Norwegian Sea, making it a launch point for polar explorations. Over the centuries, the city has grown as a commercial and scientific hub for Arctic activities, including fishing, seal hunting, polar research, and a prime location for witnessing the Northern Lights.
Tromsø  Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos Tromsø  Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Today, Tromsø is a modern and vibrant city, offering various ways to explore its past and history, starting with its historic wooden houses, churches, and museums. The city center features a collection of typical wooden houses dating back to 1789. Also of ancient origin is Skansen, a former medieval fortification area, likely constructed between 1000 and 1400 AD, which preserves old wooden buildings along the waterfront.
Tromsø  Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Tromsø  Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
The Norwegian city abounds with tourist attractions, catering not only to nature and adventure enthusiasts but also to those eager to explore its culture and history. A Tromsø icon is the majestic Tromsdalen Church, known as the Arctic Cathedral, with its modern design, constructed in 1965 by architect Jan Inge Hovig along the waterfront, celebrated for its architecture and mosaic windows.
Chiesa di Tromsdalen  Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Chiesa di Tromsdalen, Arctic Cathedral  Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Tromsø's cathedral, built in 1861, boasts a neo-Gothic architectural style and is located in the city center, representing the only wooden Protestant cathedral in Norway. The Catholic Church of Tromsø, erected in 1861 (the same year as the cathedral), survived the city's 1969 fire and overlooks the market square, where the Catholic bishop's residence is found - it hosted Pope John Paul II in 1989. The Elverhøy Church is also worth a visit, originally constructed in the city center in 1803 and later restored and relocated to its current position atop the island of Tromsø.
Polar Museum of Tromsø Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Museums also contribute to the city's historical narrative, such as the Polar Museum of Tromsø, providing an immersive experience into the history of polar expeditions and Arctic exploration. It narrates the lives of explorers Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen and exhibits a collection of items linked to the Arctic and the cultural history of Svalbard. Meanwhile, the University Museum of Tromsø focuses on the culture and history of the Sami people, the Arctic indigenous population, offering insight into their culture, traditions, and art.
Visitors can also explore the Arctic University Museum of Norway, providing a glimpse into the history and nature of northern Norway, from wildlife to the region's geological history, as well as the Sami culture, Stone Age inhabitants, and Vikings in the north. The museum also houses an art collection from northern Norwegian churches and a section dedicated to the Northern Lights.
Museo Polare Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Museo Polare Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos​​​​​​
Museo Polare Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Museo Polare Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Polar Museum Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
During the summer season, the Perspektivet Folkeparken Museum displays large fishing boats typical of northern Norway and tools that tell the story of their history. Meanwhile, the Perspektivet Museum hosts exhibitions by various artists working in different artistic mediums. The Northern Norwegian Art Museum offers a 200-year journey through art, from 19th-century romantic landscapes, graphic art, and photography to contemporary art, contemporary knitting, and Sami crafts.
For enthusiasts of contemporary art in the circumpolar north, there's the Tromsø Kunstforening, the oldest art institution in northern Norway, founded in 1924, which organizes thematic exhibitions and events.
Aurora enthusiasts can visit the Northern Norway Science Centre with the Aurora Planetarium, explaining the natural phenomenon through a dome-wide documentary. Both are situated on the campus of UiT, the Arctic University of Norway. Finally, there's also the Troll Museum dedicated to trolls and fairy tales, located in the city center.
Tromsø Foto: Copyright © Baard Loeken Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Tromsø Photo: Copyright © Baard Loeken Northern Norway Tourist Board -
For breathtaking panoramic views of the city, the sea, and the surrounding mountains, one can take the Fjellheisen cable car to reach the summit of Storsteinen, an excellent spot for spotting the Northern Lights during winter nights.
The city offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, and fishing, making it a captivating destination for those looking to explore the heart of the Norwegian Arctic. Depending on the season, adventure enthusiasts have a plethora of activities to choose from.
Tromsø Foto: Copyright © Konrad Konieczny Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Tromsø Photo: Copyright © Konrad Konieczny Northern Norway Tourist Board -
In the winter season, various activities are available to experience the Northern Lights, including reindeer encounters and meetings with the Sami people. Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy skiing and snowshoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, as well as fjord excursions (some of which include fishing), and whale-watching tours. In summer, visitors can primarily opt for fjord excursions and tours, which can be done by bus, car, or boat.
Tromsø Foto: Copyright © Baard Loeken Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Tromsø Photo: Copyright © Baard Loeken Northern Norway Tourist Board -
For those interested in learning about fishing and hunting traditions, getting up close with reindeer, and discovering Sami culture, one can venture into the Sami Villages of Tromsø or attend the Sami Week in Tromsø, celebrated on the national holiday (February 6th). This event features reindeer racing, Sami concerts, traditional Sami dishes, and even a national lasso-throwing championship in the market square.
For those with a penchant for boating adventures, a trip on the Hermes II, a restored wooden boat dating back to 1917, offers an opportunity to explore the surroundings of Tromsø, the serenity of the sea, and the fascinating history of this wooden vessel.
Tromsø  Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Approximately 30 kilometers from the center of Tromsø lies Hella, where visitors can explore the Stone Age rock carvings at Skavberget, with picturesque rocks facing Rystraumen. Discovered in 1950, these carvings are believed to date as far back as 7000 B.C. In Hella, you can also try your hand at rock fishing and enjoy panoramic views of Ryøya Island and the Bentsjordtinda Mountains. Further rock carvings can be found in Tennes (about a 2-hour drive from Tromsø), created by hunters and fishermen between 7000 and 4000 years ago. This outdoor site is located near Tennes Kirke, Storsteinnes, and Balsjord.
What to Eat in Tromsø
The city of Tromsø reveals itself through a vibrant culinary scene that reflects the flavors of northern Norway. Its restaurants and cafes offer a taste of Tromsø's typical cuisine, featuring fresh Norwegian fish, seafood, rokt las (smoked salmon), gravlak (salmon cured with dill, pepper, salt, and sugar, served with sour cream, mashed potatoes, and spicy mustard sauce), brunost (brown cheese made from whey with a caramel-like flavor), Norwegian meatballs (spiced meatballs with ginger or nutmeg, served with pea purée or cabbage cream), sursild (pickled herring), Torrfisk (dried Norwegian cod), rakfisk (freshwater trout), pinnekjott (dried lamb steamed with birch branches), pan-fried reindeer with lingonberry sauce (finnbiff), bidos (stew with carrots, potatoes, and reindeer meat), and traditional dishes of the Sami nomadic people.
Gravlak Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Brunost Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Kjøttboller norvegese Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Torrfisk Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Lefse Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
kanelboller Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Don't miss the Norwegian flatbread lefse (made with flour, potatoes, butter, and cream), available in both savory and sweet variations, the cone-shaped waffle filled with whipped cream (krumkake), rømmegrøt (a dish made with sour cream), and kanelboller, a kind of cinnamon bun. You can pair these delights with Aquavit, the Norwegian national beverage made from oak-aged vodka infused with dill or cumin. Beer enthusiasts can visit the historic Ølhallen pub, dating back to 1928, which is the oldest pub in Tromsø, or take a tour of the historic Norwegian breweries founded by Ludwig Mack.
At the Tromsø Market, you can discover fresh Norwegian food products, locally crafted and Sami souvenirs (known as "duodji," typical for traditional beadwork, shoelace weaving, carved wood, and handmade knives), as well as gloves, shoes, and other reindeer leather products.
Tromsø Foto: Copyright © Konrad Konieczny Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Tromsø Photo: Copyright © Konrad Konieczny Northern Norway Tourist Board -
Tromsø is a captivating destination for nature and adventure enthusiasts and for those seeking to immerse themselves in the culture and history of the Arctic, offering a unique experience in any season, whether under the midnight sun of summer or the enchanting Northern Lights of winter.
Text by Nicole Villa, Avion Tourism Magazine
Photos: Copyright © Northern Norway Tourist Board -
Photos and visual: Copyright © / Depositphotos
Video: Copyright © Northern Norway Tourist Board -
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Video: Copyright © Northern Norway Tourist Board -
Tourism Board -
Where to sleep in Tromsø
Tromsø Foto: Copyright © Yngve Olsen Saebbe Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Tromsø Photo: Copyright © Yngve Olsen Saebbe Ente del Turismo Visit Tromsø -
Hotel by stars, divided by the type of services offered:
Stays in houses, resorts, B&Bs and hostels:
Churches in Tromsø
Chiesa di Tromsdalen, Tromsø. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Tromsdalen Church, Tromsø. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Tromsdalen Church.
Built in 1965 by architect Jan Inge Hovig, the Tromsdalen Church known as the Arctic Cathedral has modern architecture inspired by Arctic nature with a glass facade and inside a glass mosaic titled “The Return of Christ” by the artist Victor Sparre. The oak pews, the prism chandeliers, the altar balustrade, the pulpit and the organ built in 2005 by Grönlunds Orgelbyggeri, are the most significant furnishings.
Chiesa di Elverhøy, Tromsø. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Elverhøy Church, Tromsø. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Elverhøy Church
Elverhøy Church is located in the city of Tromsø and was built at its current location in 1974. The church was originally built in 1803 on the site of the current Tromsø Cathedral. In 1974, it was reopened as Elverhøy Church, approximately 1.5 kilometers from the city center of Tromsø on the island of Tromsøya. Unlike its original design, the church is wooden and red in color and features a parish hall and a new bell tower.
Tromsø Cathedral
Tromsø Cathedral has neo-Gothic architecture and was built of wood in 1252 by King Haakon IV of Norway as a royal chapel. In 1711 a new church was built on the site of the current cathedral, replaced in 1803 by another building, then moved out of the city in 1860 to make room for the construction of the cathedral. Completed in 1861 to a design by architect Christian Heinrich Grosch, it is located in the center of Tromsø (on the island of Tromsøya), where there has been another church since the 13th century. The bell tower was completed in 1862 while the internal decorations were completed in 1880. Info and booking for a guided walking tour of the city's highlights.
Museums in Tromsø
Polaria, Tromsø. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
 Polaria, Tromsø. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Polaria is the perfect place to learn about life in the Arctic - bearded seals, harbor seals, catfish, small sharks and ocean species. Seal pool, aquariums with fish species, molluscs from the polar regions, Arctic underwater flora. Polaria exhibits exhibitions with Fram Center on the Arctic climate and environment. Booking info: Entrance ticket to Polaria.
Polar Museum, Tromsø. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Polar Museum
The Polar Museum in Tromsø offers a glimpse into Arctic expeditions and adventures from the 17th century to the present. Exhibits tell the stories of explorer Willem Barentsz's first encounter with a polar bear, hot air balloon expeditions over the polar regions and polar history. Permanent exhibitions on hunting, polar expeditions and the cultural history of Svalbard.
Planetario di Tromsø. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Tromsø Planetarium. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Tromsø Planetarium
The Tromsø Planetarium in the Northern Norway Science Center offers film screenings about the Northern Lights, the origin of life, stars, the universe, the Earth's climate and the body's cells. Under the vault of the planetarium it is possible to admire the Northern Lights. Extreme Auroras is a documentary about the science, history and myths of the Northern Lights as if they were outdoors. The ticket includes films and visits to the Science Center. 
Troll. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos  
Troll Museum
The Troll Museum Tromsø is the first museum in Norway dedicated to trolls, fairy tales and Norwegian folklore. The museum combines handmade art with technology. The visual art exhibitions are accompanied by augmented reality and sound. The museum tells the story of trolls, Vikings, themed fairy tales, the Tromsø Sea Troll, myths, folklore sea creatures and the Sami people. Info for ticket booking for the Troll Museum.
Excursions in Tromsø and surrounding areas
Reindeer, Tromso. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Reindeer sledding, dinner and Northern Lights excursion from Tromsø
Arctic adventure. Evening excursion by reindeer sleigh to see the Northern Lights. Transfer by bus or minivan from Tromsø. Traditional Sami dinner with reindeer herders in a Sami camp. Cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate around the fire in a traditional Sami hut lit by candles. 3-course meal including bidos (traditional Sami stew) cooked over the campfire. Lavuu (Sami tent), around the fire, where you can listen to stories about Sami culture and reindeer herders and joik (traditional Sami singing). Return to Tromsø at the end of the tour. Reservation with free cancellation up to 24 hours before. Information and reservations: Reindeer sledding, dinner and Northern Lights excursion departing from Tromsø.
Northern Lights. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos  
Northern Lights hunting Tour in Tromsø
Hunt for the Northern Lights with an expert guide. Experience with travel companions around a campfire. Departure from central Tromsø towards the Arctic in search of the Northern Lights. Tales of local myths and stories about the lights, admiring the landscape of towering mountains and deep fjords. Hot drinks, snacks and locally produced stew, marshmallows on the fire. Tripod supplied for taking photos. The guide offers tips for setting up your camera and takes photos of the group with the Northern Lights in the background. Return to Tromso. Reservation with free cancellation up to 24 hours before. Information and reservations: Northern Lights hunting tour in Tromsø by minibus.
Fjords Northern Norway. Photo: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Arctic landscape and fjord tour departing from Tromsø  
Arctic landscape and fjord tour departing from Tromsø to experience Arctic nature and admire the region's fjords, valleys, mountains, lakes, islands and viewpoints. You admire the coast of the Norwegian Sea with green waters and white sand beaches, the wildlife of the region (reindeer, moose, seals, sea eagles and otters). Hot chocolate and traditional Norwegian Lefse cake. Reservation with free cancellation up to 24 hours before. Information and reservations: Arctic landscape and fjords tour departing from Tromsø.
Whales, Tromsø. Foto: Copyright © / Depositphotos 
Whale watching in Tromsø by catamaran
Hybrid electric catamaran cruise through the Arctic waters to observe orcas, humpback whales and whales. Depart Tromsø in the morning to admire views of the frozen landscapes. Food and drinks to purchase on board. Sailing for about 3-3.5 hours to reach the whales and about 1-1.5 hours with the whales. Boat with silent electric hybrid engine. Duration: 8 hours. Reservation with free cancellation up to 24 hours before. Information and reservations: Whale watching in Tromsø by catamaran.
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