Tromso is the gateway to the Arctic in Norway. This is a historic city with a young soul. Tromso is packed with colourful heritage buildings intermingled with contemporary glass structures. Here are some cool things to do in Tromso.
Most visitors travel to Bergen to cruise the fjords in Norway, which are famous and ethereally beautiful but some cruise ships also stop in Tromso and Nordkapp, which is further north.
- 13 Incredible things to do in Tromso
- 1- Learn about Arctic wildlife at Polaria
- 2- See the Nothern Lights
- 3- Learn to be a musher on a husky sled safari
- 4- Feed reindeer and learn about Sami culture
- 5- Get a workout on a snowshoe tour
- 6- Join a snowmobile safari
- 7- Go cross-country skiing
- 8- Go on a fjord cruise
- 9- Join a fishing tour
- 10- Go on a beer safari
- 11- Tour Tromso on the Arctic train
- 12- Visit the Arctic Cathedral
- 13- Ride the Fjellheisen cable car
- Multi-day tours from Tromso
13 Incredible things to do in Tromso
1- Learn about Arctic wildlife at Polaria
Polaria is an Arctic aquarium worth visiting as it is a showcase of Arctic animals such as bearded seals.
The glass tunnel is quite an experience, especially when bearded seals float past.
The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) is an arctic species with a grey-brown body and long whiskers.
To distinguish it from other seals look for a deeply set lower jaw and square front flippers.
This seal is the largest northern phocid seal, where an adult specimen can be as long as two metres and weigh as much as 250kg.
The seal pool is not a large area and if you’re visiting during high season (especially when there’s a cruise ship is in town), it’s probably going to be crowded.
Despite the crowd, it’s still worth seeing.
You’ll soon realise how intelligent these seals are.
With a little inducement of fish treats, it’s a wonder to see these huge seals launch out of the water onto the ground beside the pool.
Then there are oohs and aahs as you marvel at the frolicking and the responses of the seals to the cues from the seal trainers.
If you have the time to tour Scandinavia, here’s a useful post on the best time to visit Iceland.
There are six seal species in the Arctic.
Besides the bearded seal, there’s the harp seal, common seal, hooded seal, ringed seal and walrus.
Climate change and the rise in the sea temperature is becoming a pressing problem for these Arctic species.
These Arctic animals, which include polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and seals, have adapted to freezing temperatures and long winters. Now, they are under threat of losing their habitats.
Some researchers predict that global warming will affect the Arctic much more than anywhere else on earth.
Already, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the USA has listed bearded and ringed seals as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
2- See the Nothern Lights
I would love to visit this place again when the Northern Lights are dancing in the sky.
They say late Autumn and early Spring are the best times to spot the Aurora Borealis.
I’ve seen the Northern Lights in the Yukon in Canada where a green shimmering curtain falling from the sky had an otherworldly feel and I can imagine seeing it in such an isolated outpost in Norway would be quite a bucket list experience.
The scientific explanation of the Northern Lights is when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the earth’s atmosphere above the magnetic poles, both north and south (when this celestial phenomenon occurs in the south it’s called the Aurora Australis).
3- Learn to be a musher on a husky sled safari
Marvel at the winter wonderland scenery as you ride in a sleigh pulled by huskies.
The wilderness around Tromso is perfect for an adventurous sleigh ride and a visit to a husky farm.
4- Feed reindeer and learn about Sami culture
Listen to Sami stories, feed the reindeer and embrace the traditions of Norway’s Sami people.
Half of the world’s 80,000 Sami people live in Norway – the rest are in Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Northern Norway is the traditional home of Sami who support themselves by raising reindeer, fishing and hunting.
5- Get a workout on a snowshoe tour
One of the fun things to do during winter in Norway is to go on a snowshoe safari and Tromso is the perfect place to explore.
Walking with “tennis rackets” on your feet across the snow-covered ground is a great way to burn off some calories and get into the spirit of a northern adventure.
6- Join a snowmobile safari
A fantastic day trip from Tromso is a snowmobile safari across through the most amazing winter scener.
Think Narnia and Lord of the Rings as you wind your way through the winter wonderland landscape of the Lyngen Alps.
A bonus: the ferry trip across the fjords is an enchanting contrast to the snow-covered Alps.
7- Go cross-country skiing
Even if you’ve never tried cross-country skiing before, you’ll enjoy learning to do it in Tromso.
Norway is the land of world-class skiing competitors and learning to ski here is an experience you’ll always remember.
From flat terrain to some hilly country, the conditions are perfect for learners.
8- Go on a fjord cruise
Most people stop in Tromso as a port of call while on a Norwegian coastline cruise from Bergen through the fjords.
If you happen to be one of the few visitors that came by land or air then make sure you book yourself into one of these amazing fjord cruises from Tromso.
9- Join a fishing tour
How about going fishing? Fishing in Norway is a great way to get into the local lifestyle. Norwegians go fjord fishing, deep sea fishing and freshwater fishing.
Here are some luxury fishing tours in Tromso that will allow you to enjoy the stunning scenery on the water near Tromso and the chance to catch a fish or two (not guaranteed!)
10- Go on a beer safari
Yep, you read it right – not a bear safari but a beer safari of Tromso’s pubs.
Norway’s brewing traditions stretch way back into the country’s past and there’s something really cool about sipping a dark lager in the world’s northernmost brewery.
Fancy some reindeer carpaccio? How does 10 beers and Arctic tapas sound?
11- Tour Tromso on the Arctic train
Save your feet and tour through the streets of Tromso on the tourist train, which also heads to the waterfront up to a scenic viewpoint and then back through the streets of Skansen.
12- Visit the Arctic Cathedral
Tromso’s Arctic Cathedral or Tromsdalen Church was built in 1965 and is a landmark that can be seen from Tromsø Sound and Tromsø Bridge.
It’s an architectural creation with 11 aluminium-coated concrete panels and an impressive glass mosaic that was added to the cathedral in 1972.
As an architectural work of art, the cathedral is worth a visit just to see its glass mosaic, oak pews and chandeliers.
Even better if there’s a Northern Lights concert on as the sound of music to the backdrop of the lights is simply magical.
13- Ride the Fjellheisen cable car
Get an eyeful of Tromso from the Fjellheisen cable car, which operates between Solliveien in Tromsdalen to Storsteinen (421 m high).
The trip only takes four minutes and the view from the platform is truly spectacular.
If you have time, have dinner at the restaurant for a romantic treat. Check out the operating times here.
Multi-day tours from Tromso
14- See the midnight sun at Nordkapp
545km north of Tromso, I arrive at a place that looks like it’s at the edge of the world.
I boarded the local bus from Honningsvag, the nearest village, and arrived at Nordkapp (North Cape) visitor’s centre.
Nordkapp sits on a cliff 307m above the ocean.
Near the edge of the cliff is a globe that serves as a landmark.
Nordkapp is Europe’s northernmost point (71°10’21″).
Actually, Nordkapp is not far from the North Pole.
2100km of ocean and the Svalbard Islands separates the two.
Standing at the edge of the cliff, the wind whips my hair and I feel a strong sense of isolation.
It seems incongruous to feel isolated when you’re surrounded by busloads of tourists but looking out at the Arctic Ocean from the clifftop still manages to make me feel like I’m in a remote and distant land.
The visitor’s centre has an underground tunnel and exhibits that describe the history of the North Cape.
There’s also a small chapel and a restaurant and function centre.
Not surprisingly, St Johannes chapel is the world’s northern-most chapel.
The dining area has magnificent views of the Arctic Ocean.