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Tromsø's mainland side seen from the city centre

Tromsø (Romsa in Northern Sámi and Tromssa in Kvensk; Tromso website in English) 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 humour that the North is known for.


Man reached the Tromsø area 11.000 years ago. We hear about Tromsø 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 heads' strong 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.

WWII and development

For a few weeks in the 1940 campaign, Tromsø was Free Norway's capital. However, the city totally avoided war damage, although the German battleship of the Tirpitz was sunk near Tromsø in November 1944. Since the 1960's, 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 350km.

Most of Tromsø is situated on the small island of Tromsøya, in English often adapted to "Tromsø Island". This low island is 10km 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 as well as most of the shopping, good eating and nightlife. The main artery of the city is the 1km 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 3km long Tromsø Sound Tunnel and the 1016 metres long Tromsø Bridge.


Despite being some 2200 km south of the North Pole, Tromsø enjoys a relatively mild climate. The cold record of Tromsø is -18C, and the average January temperatures hover around -4. Rain and temperatures up to +6 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 +11,8C and the heat record is +30.

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.

Get in

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.

The scenery around Tromsø

By plane

All international and domestic flights land at the small, modern Langnes Airport (TOS). There are about 10 daily departures to Oslo, by SAS [1] and the low cost Norwegian. All flights to Svalbard (Spitsbergen) go through Tromsø, and the city also has connections to Kiruna/Luleå (Barents Airlink) and Murmansk (Arkhangelsk Airlines) several times a week. In summer, charters operate to Frankfurt. The low cost airline Norwegian has just opened a direct route to London [2] on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

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". All flights to Tromsø, however, leave from OSL, Oslo Airport Gardermoen. Connections between Torp and Gardermoen are time-consuming.

From the airport into town

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 approximately NOK 24. 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 (about 50 NOK). Taxis are also available, for about 120 NOK.

By train

Train? This is the best Tromsø can do
There is no train. The Swedish railway network has a sidetrack into Narvik, some 4 hours by bus south of Tromsø. [3]. There are 2-4 buses a day to Narvik, depending on the day of the week.

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. [4]

By car

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 NOK 1000) 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.

From Oslo

The Tromsø Bridge takes you to Tromsø
The E6 goes all the way from Rome through Oslo, Trondheim and Narvik to Nordkjosbotn, from where you take off along the E8 to Tromsø. The distance to Oslo is about 1700 km. 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.

From Sweden and Finland

The E10 from Luleå and Kiruna in Sweden crosses the border to Norway near Narvik, from where there is a 4 hour's drive to Tromsø.

The E8 from Helsinki through Tornio and Karesuvanto crosses the Norwegian border at Kilpisjärvi, a 160km/3hours drive from Tromsø.

From Finnmark

Driving south from the North Cape 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. For ferry schedules [5]

By bus

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 the North Cape, 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.

In Summer, there is a daily bus to Rovaniemi, Finland. From there, you can take the train to Helsinki. However, the rest of the year, there is no public transport across the border with Finland.

By boat

The legendary Hurtigruten (Coastal Express) ferries stop in Tromsø. The northbound ships arrive daily at 14:30 and continues at 18:30 to Skjervøy. The southbound ships arrive at 23:45, and depart at 01:30 in the night, to Finnsnes —all year round.

These ferries depart from the Hurtigrute-terminal (Samuel Arnesens gate 4-5, 9008 Tromsø), less than 290 m (310 yds) 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 [6].

Due to a building project at Prostneset (near Kirkeparken ), this embarkment area will be modified by December 2010. The new “Prostneset” can be seen on this Tromsø Harbor page [7].

Cruise boats for all parts of Europe and North America often often moor in Tromsø, too.

For  Hurtigbåter services, see below: Get in – By boat

Get around

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.

By bus

Buses are plentiful and very reliable. You currently pay NOK 25 for a single ride.

  • Bus 28, 26, 24, and 24 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.
From the top of the cable-car
  • Bus 37 goes to The Tromsø Museum. It leaves from Fredrik Langes Gate, just down below the Åhléns outlet.
  • Bus 20 goes to the University. For the Botanic Garden, take the 20 to the (Bankrupt) Planetarium, walk down the nice foot path, enjoy the Garden and take bus 42 back into town.
  • Take 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 you pick up the 24 back into town. Lots of scenery and cityscape for 23 kroner.

By taxi

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.

By train

Tromsø has no train, but there is a railway station
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.

By ferry

  • 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. All details are available in English at the Express boats Hurtigbåter [8] website. Though operated by the Hurtigrute Company, their role is distinct from the Coastal Express service. 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 (1 inhabitant) and Mjølvika (Sandøya). Expect no on-board service, “just” a lovely ride between the islands. Timetables for this line and others are available on the Hurtigruten - Ferry [9] pages.

NB: 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 around – By ferry


Tromsø's most visited attractions are Polaria, The Arctic Cathedral, The Cable Car, The Tromsø Museum, the Polar Museum and the Botanic Garden.


The Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights is a natural light phenomenon in the night sky.

Tromsø is very favorably located for viewing the Northern Lights, but you cannot see the aurora at all times.

  • Tromsø is within the aurora belt mostly between 6pm and midnight, occasionally between 4pm and 2am.
  • It has to be dark for you to see it. Between early October and mid 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.
  • 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 as well as Lutheran dissenters are also important.

Arctic Cathedral
  • The Ishavskatedralen ("Arctic cathedral"), [10], is 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:

  • The Lutheran Catheral (Domkirka) is the world's northernmost protestant Cathedral from 1861. With 800 seats, it's one of Norway's major wooden churches.
  • The tiny Our Lady Church (Vår Frue Kirke) is the seat of the world's northernmost Catholic bishop, and also dates from 1861.
  • The Church of Elverhøy (Elverhøy kirke) dating from 1803, is the oldest church in town. Originally located in the city centre, it is now found in a residential area on top of the island.
  • The Carmel Monastery Totus Tuus' is 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 [11], with prayer rooms for both men and women.

Museums and galleries

  • The Tromsø Museum (University Museum) is a rather large museum with a number of different exhibits on the North. Look out for their Sami exhibits, the Archaelogical Exhibit, Religious art and Northern Lights machine. Avoid Sundays, as weekend daddies let their little monsters run screaming through the exhibits. In the summer of 2008 they invited everyone to a cup of coffee in "gammen", a traditional Sami turf house built outside the building. Take bus 37 from Fredrik Langes gate. [12]
The Polar Museum is housed in a warehouse from 1830
  • The Polar Museum displays the Arctic Hunting that took place from Tromsø, as well as the expeditions to the Arctic. The museum is houses in an old warehouse from 1830. [13]
  • Perspektivet Museum has temporary exhibits on the north. Their location in an 1838 building in the main street is superb, and there is free admission. [14]
  • The Northern Norwegian Art Museum has art from Northern Norway from 1800 onwards, as well as Norwegian art in general. Look out for their temporary exhibits.[15]
  • The Tromsø Gallery of Contemporary Art has temporary exhibits on contemporary art. [16]
  • The Tromsø Military Museum, 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. Bus 28 from the main square.


  • Mack Brewery (Norwegian: Macks Ølbryggeri AS — Storgata 5, 9008 Tromsø, just in front of the Hurtigbåter quay) - offers guided tours of the world's northernmost brewery. Established in the town's center since 1877, 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 the town.. (Sources:«Mack ut av Tromsø?» [17](NRK, March 5, 2008: «Mack leaving Tromsø?»), «Straffer Mack med boikott» (Dagens Næringsliv, March 5, 2008: «Mack to be boycotted») [18], Adressa [19], and others).
  • The Arctic Alpine Botanic Garden is the world's northernmost botanic garden. [20] Although not a particularly big garden, it has some interesting features:

- 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.


The extent and quality of parks in Tromsø is no reason to come to Tromsø. 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.


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), Muskoxen and the worlds largest mammals - the whales. For whale watching in Tromsø - Whale watching in Norway [21]


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-pist skiing.

The winter temperatures hover around -4C, occasionally dropping to -12/-15, or rising to around +5. This means it's never too cold to do outdoor activities.

The Tourist Information has a number of activities on offer, and they can usually be reserved on short notice.

  • Sportshuset rents out cross country skis. There is a flod-lit cross country track all along the Island of Tromsø, and both on Kvaløya Island and on the mainland, there are plenty of tracks for the sunny late winter, in March/April. Natur i nord offers cross country crash courses. [22]
  • Tromsø Alpinsenter is the city's ski station. It's not the best ski station in the world, but is more than steep enough for most people.
  • The Lyngen Alps and other mountains around Tromsø are among the best places in the world for Off piste. The catamaran Cetacea offers rides from town to the Lyngen Alps in March/April, or you can stay in the Lyngen Area in huts. [23]
  • Dog-sledding at the Tromsø Villmarkssenter. [24]
  • A rougher dog-sledding with Arctic Adventure [25]
  • Reindeer sledding at Tromsø Friluftssenter [26]
  • Whole day dog-sledding in the Lyngen Alps is a good option for the adventurous, Lyngen Outdoor Adventure is the company.
  • Snowmobiles are not allowed in the borough of Tromsø, but in neighbouring [Lyngen], you can speed up assisted by Natur i nord. [27]
  • Northern lights visits are organized by the Tourist Information.


  • Whale Watching goes on in the Summer from Tromsø. The sperm whales get in to the coast to eat squid. Daily departures in June/July/August. [28]
  • 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 11C/52F.
  • Watch a soccer (football) match. Tromsø's team is in the Tippeliga (the highest division). [29]
  • Go fishing! You can try from the shore or even better from a boat. Fewer species are fished than in Souther 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 [30] 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 are offered by both Tromsø Villmarkssenter [31] and Arctic Adventure [32]
  • 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. Troms Turlag [33] 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 NOK 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!

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 [34]) and careful planning (help provided by Troms Turlag).


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 colorful profanities.

The University [35] 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) [36] and the nearby University Hospital of Tromsø (UNN) [37] are situated at the northern end of the Tromsø island, and are the two largest workplaces in Tromsø. The Norwegian Telemedicine Centre [38] at UNN is a WHO [39] collaborating center. The Norwegian Polar Institute [40] 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.


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.

A fleamarket, organised on regular intervals to promote recycling

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).

  • Steen & Strøm in the city centre allows shopping until 8 at night.
  • Jekta, near the airport, is the biggest shopping mall in Northern Norway.
  • Pyramiden on the mainland side is also a sizable center.


Original buys include:

  • Arppa[41] is the place for Sami (Lap) art and duoddji (handicraft). This is also the place to look for fiction and poetry in Sami language, explaining the number of Sami customers.
  • Blåst, [42] the world's northernmost glass factory makes original glass objects. They also ship.
  • Kranes Kunstgalleri og rammeverksted is the place to look for paintings and scultures from Northern Norway.
  • Tromsø Gift and Souvenir Shop is the ultimate souvenir shop in town, and offers glitzy kitsch with a wink. Great fun, and the place to look for a gift to the person that looks after your cat.
  • Snarby Strikkestudio has knitwear from Norway, as well as a vast array of souvenirs. Look for seal skin slippers.
  • Husfliden is 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 is the best place on 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 NOK 100 (USD 15), so you might consider bringing them from home instead.


The Main Square during Farmer's Market

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. Look for Gavin from Palmerston North, New Zealand, who sells lots of fun stuff, and is also very talkative. Russians also sell souvenirs, and you even get some knitwear and Sami souvenirs. 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.
  • 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.


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 NOK 100 for a filling meal.

  • 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 NOK 30.
  • The daily special at Café Mirage is tasty and filling, or look out for their standard menu. [43]
  • The best burgers in town are at Blå Rock, with their infamous fried potato skins. Don't ask for a diet coke with it, it makes little difference! [44]
  • The international menu at Gründer is tasty and good value, and the service is humourously informal. [45]
  • Skarven has fish caseroles and other local specialities at good prices. [46]
  • The "Pizzabuffet" (All you can eat - pizza buffet) of Dolly Dimple's is ok and cheap.
  • Yonas 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.
  • Allegro in Tromsdalen (behind the Arctic Cathedral) has thin, Italian pizzas for a good price.


In this category expect sit-down friendly service and prices varying from NOK 150 to NOK 230 for a filling plate of food.


There is no "Norwegian" restaurant per se. The following, though, are good for trying Norwegian specialities.

  • Arctandria 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.
  • Store Norske Fiskekompani has excellent fresh fish.
  • Sjøgata 12 makes use of one of Norway's most prominent export articles, the bacalhau or klippfisk (dried and salted cod), preparing international and Norwegian specialities.
  • Peppermøllen is Tromsø's oldest restaurants, and has both French/International cuisine and local raw materials, served in the house where Roald Amundsen used to stay when he was in Tromsø.


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.

Neighbourhood places

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.


Vegetarians have a hard time in Tromsø, as the knowledge of vegetarian food is limited. 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.

Recently, the vegetarian café "Sivertsens kafé" opened in the basement in the old building Rådstua, which lies next to Rådhuset (the Town Hall).


Steakhouses are vastly popular (many people that cook good fish at home, prefer a good steak when they go out). Expect no local character.

  • Skarvens Biffhus, in a 1820'ies wharf house, has thick steaks, but also specialises in goat meat. The waiters are humourous and professional.
  • Steakers, 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 good value.

  • Emmas Drømmekjøkken [47] is a fantastic restaurant that has got excellent reviews in the Oslo press. A main course is around NOK 280, 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.
  • Compagniet is situated in a merchant's home from the 1830's.


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.

To look out for

Mack is the local pride
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 20 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!

Who goes where

Don't take the age and crowd indications too seriously; in Tromsø the stylish set mixes easily with fashion victims and nerds, and young and ex-young people can actually talk to each other.

The ultimate Tromsø recommendation

  • 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 5pm, 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.

  • Artur is a coffee bar during the day, and a crowded bar at night. The bartender with the square glasses makes excellent daiquiris etc.
  • Blå Rock is 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
  • Driv is 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. Look out for their "Fucking North Pole Festival" in April (if you curse in a foreign language, it doesn't count).
  • Flyt 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.
  • Le Mirage (Mirra) is a hangout since the mid 80'ies, and some people seem never to have left it since then. Lunches, dinners specials, cognac and beer. The staff is friendly, and the ages are mixed.
  • Meieriet is a young place, with lots of beer types and a good value menu.
  • Paletten
  • Kaffebønna
  • Nye Bønna
  • Solid
  • På Byen is 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 is 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. Friday and Saturday night, the place turns into a cool, crowded hangout. Mixed crowd, mixed ages.
  • Åpenbar serves tapas made of seal and other arctic foodstuffs. Nice way to try it out... Rather stylish hang-out in the week-end.
Any excuse to move out in the sun
  • Skarven is another long-timer, and serves good food, including loads of fish, and loads of beer way into the night in a 1920's margarine factory. The crowd is grown-up and well-heeled, but just as loud as the rest.

Bars and pubs

  • Abboteke, housed in the back room of a 19th c. chemist (same as Mirage). A hit over the last couple of years, it offers drinks, good cocktails and cognac for the elegant 25+ set.
  • Kaos is a student's den, and the place to go for garage bands, they in fact maintain an ambitious concert programme. Beer is all the rage. Backpackers fit right in. The place looks shady, but it isn't! Its legendary predecessor, Middagskjelleren (The Dinner Cellar, where no dinner was ever served) was, though.
  • Fun Pub is a football place, and can be a fun pub for the not overdressed during week-ends.
  • Grand Baren 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.
  • Skibsbroen 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), both well-known and much cherished by the population, undoubtedly linked to the Mack beer.


During week-ends, the places fill up. However, on a dull Monday, go to cafés to find people.

  • Strut caters for the 20-somethings, with a retro theme. Make sure you wear cool clothes.
  • Compagniet is vastly popular with the 25-40 crowd, with lots of '80ies music. This is the place to get back in circulation after the divorce/break-up.
  • Level44 is for the mature audience, and is the place to dance swing and rock'n'roll. Popularly named "Jurassic Park", the crowd is way beyond being cool for coolness' sake, and concentrates on having fun. Don't go there if you're too cool, you'll just spoil the atmosphere.


  • 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. Check out: [48]. The first gay festival, Homsø, took place in October 2007.


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 [49] 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.

Rock bottom

The ultra-tough back-packer has a hard time in Tromsø, since there are few of the really cheap dorm-style places. Try these.

  • The Right to access means you can camp mostly anywhere (outside the city centre) for free!
  • The Youth Hostel is only open from mid June to mid August. Since they are housed in a student's dorm, their standard is rather good. Slightly inconvenient location some 40 minutes from the city centre on foot, but rather frequent buses. [50]
  • Fjellheim Sommerhotell is a bible school in winter, and a good alternative in summer, near the city centre. [51]. Good-size bedrooms, shared facilities.
  • Anemone Bed and Breakfast is located near Prestvannet, half an hour away from downtown, with frequent buses. Simple standard, low fares. [52]
  • Tromsdalen Camping has cabins from simple shacks to two-bedroom bungalows. [53]


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.

  • AMI Hotel, a few minute's walk up the hill from the main street offers tidy, spotless rooms with private or shared facilities. [54]. The east-facing rooms have a fantastic view.
  • ABC Hotel Nord is similar, and slightly closer. [55].
  • The Thon Polar Hotel [56] is a substantial step up, with rooms on the small side, but always private facilites. Excellent, central location. Fixed low prices; 695 NOK single room, 895 NOK double room.
  • Home Sleep, run by the friendly Dane Kirstine, has spotless, excellently furbished rooms in a residential area near the city centre. [57]. Two doubles and two singles share a fantastic bathroom and an even better kitchen.
  • Sydspissen, with a slightly inconvenient location 30 minutes' walk south of the city centre, has fairly well-apointed rooms. mailto:[email protected]%20. A bargain mid-week, and recommended if you drive a car. Closed in July.
  • Private accommodation can be a good alternative. Check out hte home page of the tourist board. Most places, though, are rented to students in the school year, and only available in the summer months. [58]


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 NOK 1200 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.

Medium minus:

  • Viking Hotel has the ambience of a small, continental city hotel, and is recently renovated with lovely rooms. The breakfast room and the reception look more like a guest house, though. Their

Medium plus:

  • Quality Hotel Saga is spotlessly refurbished, and has a friendly ambience. [59]
  • Amalie Hotel doesn't look much from the outside, but has good-size well-equipped rooms. [60]
  • The Grand Nordic is the oldest in town, but has recently been completely renovated. Some of the rooms are huge.[61]
  • Quality Hotel With (pronounced Vitt) is small, friendly and smart, and a favourite for many business people. [62].


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.

  • The Radisson SAS Hotel has just reopened after a major spruce-up and enlargement, and it is stylish and modern with a restaurant, a popular pizzeria and a bar. [63]
  • The Rica Ishavshotel is another full service hotel (bar, restaurant) with a lovely view from the rooms. [64]. They plan to renovate during the winter of 2007-08.
  • The Clarion Hotel Bryggen is decidedly smaller, but with modern, stylish rooms, a restaurant, a lobby bar and an outdoor hot tub to kill for. [65]
  • The Scandic Hotel near the airport has good-size rooms with a fantastic view, as well as a restaurant. [66]. If you drive your own car (free parking!), frequent week-end and summer offers can be a (relative) bargain.


Free internet is found at the Public Library in the city centre. 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.

Stay safe

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).

Get out

  • 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. [67]. 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 [68] a peninsula an 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.
  • 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 [69]. 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.

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