Tromsø, Norway: Full Travel Guide
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
The city of Tromsø is located in northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. With over 75,000 inhabitants, it’s the biggest city in northern Norway and is often referred to as the “Arctic’s capital”. It’s a year-round travel destination thanks to its young, vibrant city center and many cultural events. And while the summer season provides more nature-based activities, such as hiking in the surrounding mountains and boating in the beautiful fjords, the winter season offers dog sledding, skiing, snowshoeing, and Northern Light experiences. We visited Tromsø during the summer, and in this article we will cover the main things to do, where to stay, where to eat, and other things you need to know before you go. At the end of this blog post, we also highlight winter-only activities.
Check out our video on Tromsø to get a sense of what it's like there!
Tromsø Table Of Contents
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Important things to know before you go to Tromsø
There are a few things you should know before visiting this beautiful destination in Norway. We wish we would have known these things before our own trip to Tromsø!
Tromsø is located above the Arctic Circle. That means that the weather can be very unpredictable and can change quickly! When we visited in the summer, we had multiple rainy days. In fact, one day it started off with blue skies and sun. Then, by the afternoon, it was pouring rain and dropped 5 degrees celcius. Thus, you need to bring rain clothes with you on all days! You can check the Tromsø weather forecast here.
Best time to travel
Tromsø is a year-round travel destination. That means you can visit in both the summer and the winter! Summer is better for hiking and seeing the Midnight Sun (mid-may until end of July. And winter is better for viewing the Northern Lights (September until April).
Cost & currency in Tromsø
Tromsø (and Norway in general) is extremely expensive. It's one of the most expensive places to travel to in the world. Especially the cost of food, drinks (alcohol prices are extremely high!), accommodations, and tours. A beer in a bar often costs over $10 USD and a typical meal comes in around $30 USD. The best way to save money is to get a place that has a kitchen so you can cook your own meals. The Norwegian currency is the Krone, and it is quite strong. That said, you don't need to bring cash. Every place accepts credit and debit cards. During our 4 weeks trip around Norway, we didn't get out cash once. We literally didn't need it, not even to pay for the ferry!
Safety in Tromsø
Tromsø is a very safe place. It's located on an island and the culture of the town is very relaxed. We never felt unsafe during our visit. Plus, Norway in general is quite a wealthy country and citizens are generally satisfied with their quality of life. That means there are not many reasons for locals to cause problems for tourists.
Where to stay in Tromsø
It's best to stay in the city center of Bergen as most of the touristic highlights can be found here. A few recommendations are:
Scandic Grand - Most comfortable option. Comes with amazing breakfast!
Smart Hotel - Nice budget option that is close to everything in the center
Radisson Blu - More expensive option, but more luxurious
Ami Hotel - Most budget option available
Where to eat and drink in Tromsø
There are many food and drink options in Tromsø. Here are some more affordable options that we liked:
Raketten - Little drink bar at the main square. Claims to be the tiniest bar in the world!
Fiskekompaniet - Best seafood in town and located right on the inner harbour.
Graffi - Best burgers! A little expensive, but worth it if you've been hiking a lot in the area and are hungry.
Casa Inferno - High quality pizza restaurant
Kaffebønna - Good coffee and pastries
This list is rather short as we cooked many of our meals due to the high cost of food and drinks!
Tromsø Best Things To Do
There are tons of great things to do in Tromsø and we highlight 7 of our top activities below. These can definitely be done within 2-3 days if you're visiting Tromsø for that amount of time. If you've got more time, you could spread out the activities and do 1 or 2 of them per day (especially for the Lyngen Alps section). If Tromsø is a stop along your road trip to the Lofoten Islands, make sure to check out our 10-14 days Lofoten Islands & Northern Norway road trip itinerary highlighting the places you must visit.
If you're traveling to Tromsø and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!
7. Tromsø Harbour Walk
To get a lay of the land, we recommend walking around the harbor and city center first. Tromsø’s city center is relatively compact and you can easily walk across it in around 30 minutes. The main pedestrian street (“storgata”) is packed with cafés, restaurants and shops. Here you can pick up some souvenirs and local handicrafts. The harbourside has many cozy wooden houses and is the gateway to the fjords, with many fishing boats and local tour boats docked here. You can also decide to go on a guided city walk, during which you’ll visit Tromsø’s most iconic places, statues, and historical buildings.
6. Visit Tromsø's Iconic Churches
The Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø is a true icon of Northern Norway. There are regular church services here and midnight sun concerts aimed at tourists during the summer. Another church is located downtown, known as the Tromsø Cathedral, and is a wooden building surrounded by parkland.
5. Taste Beer From The North
The Mack Brewery claims to be the northernmost brewery in the world. Although there is also debate about the Svalbard Brewery taking that spot in recent years. It was founded in 1877 and grew to be what is today one of the largest breweries in all of Norway. And although the main production is not in Tromsø anymore, you can visit Mack’s historical sites. These include the beer shop (Kjeller 5), the pub where you can do beer tasting (Ølhallen), and the Mack microbrewery.
4. Day Trip To Kvaløya & Sommarøy
When you are visiting Tromsø during the summer, you should definitely venture into its surrounding nature and mountains. The small fishing islands of Sommarøy are only an hour drive from here, while Kavaløya can be reached within 15 minutes. When driving through these islands, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the immense mountains, the crystal clear waters, and white sand beaches. There are tons of hiking trails and water activities to enjoy here! It’s easiest to rent a car to get here and you can find the best car rental deals via the link in the description below. Our favorite hike in the Kavaløya area was Brosmetinden, which was about 4km with 240 meters of elevation gain and took us 1.5 hours total.
3. Visit The Museums
Having such unique history and nature, the museums in Tromsø are more than your average galleries. We highly recommend visiting the Polar museum to learn about polar expeditions. Here, you’ll learn about famous polar explorers, such as Roald Amundsen. Another museum we really enjoyed was Polaria, an Arctic experience center where you can see the Northern Lights on screen as well as see bearded seals up close.
Top museums in Tromsø:
Northern Norwegian Science Center
Tromsø Center For Contemporary Art
Krane Art Gallery
2. Day Trip To The Lyngen Alps
Another great day trip is to the Lyngen Alps. You can reach the town of Lyngen within about a 2 hour drive from Tromso. Home to about 140 glaciers, this mountain range is absolutely outstanding. It’s a true magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of hiking, climbing, biking, and skiing opportunities. We hiked to gorgeous Blåisvatnet, which translates to Blue Lake. It’s about 8km to get to the glacial lake and back, with very minimal elevation gain. This makes it a perfect hike for young and old alike and it took us about 3 hours total to complete. But if you’re into something more thrilling, you can also do a glacier hike in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter here.
1. Cable car or hike to Fjellstua viewpoint
A visit to Tromsø isn’t complete without a beautiful view over the city. You can hike the sherpa steps or ride on the Fjellheisen cable car up to the mountain ledge. The views from the top are truly breathtaking, especially during sunset! In summer, the viewing deck provides a great opportunity to enjoy the Midnight Sun, while in winter it’s an ideal place for hunting the Northern Lights.
Bonus: Tromsø In Winter
Tourism in Tromsø outside the summer months is primarily focused around seeing the northern lights. Chances of catching this natural phenomenon are usually high during autumn and winter when it's the polar night season. The Northern Lights can be seen best when you’re away from the light pollution coming from the city. Besides the northern lights, Tromsø also offers a wide range of fun winter activities, including reindeer or dog sledding, Sami experiences, skiing or snowshoeing, and much more. Click any of the links below to see tour options.
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Tromsø Trip
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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Other Top Tromsø resources:
If you're looking for some other suggestions and tips on Tromsø, here are some great articles that will help you:
1. The official Visit Norway website with general information on Tromsø
2. More things to do in Tromsø by HeartMyBackpack
3. 12 Tromsø Activities by Norwegian Reward
Need more travel inspiration? Check out our other destinations and other articles about Norway: