I may be a little (okay, very) biased, but our hometown Tromsø, the capital city of Northern Norway, tucket between tall mountains and fjords high above the arctic circle, is a fantastic city to visit!
During winter the Northern Lights flash across the dark sky, the whales come into the fjords to feed, and the powdery snow is perfect for activities like skiing and dog sledding.
Once summer comes around the Midnight Sun shines day and night and the long days provide plenty of time for exploring nature on a fjord cruise or hiking in the mountains. This time of year the city comes alive with cozy outdoor cafes, festivals, and a nightlife that is famous all over Norway.
Here we have put together a complete travel guide for visiting Tromsø with a list of my favorite things to do in winter and summer, the best attractions, and the best accommodation.
We have also covered everything you need to know for preparing yourself for a trip to the Arctic – including what to pack, when to visit, and how to get to Tromso and around.
We hope you find this Tromso travel guide helpful when planning your trip. Hope you have a fantastic time here in Tromso!
Important: None of the tours and hotels recommended here are paid placements or have sponsored this site in any way. If you book through any of our links, we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep our site going – so thank you in advance for your support! ♥
- See the Northern Lights or Midnight Sun
- Spectacular hikes with amazing views
- Experience the sea and fjords surrounding Tromso – Fjord cruise, fishing trip, RIB-tour, whale watching
- Cozy cafes and excellent top-notch restaurants
- Go shopping, bar crawling, and partying in Northern Norway’s biggest and most urban city
Travel Guide To Tromso – Norway
There is quite a lot to do and see in Tromso. The downtown area is small and compact, and everything is within easy walking distance. Here you find lots of excellent cafes and restaurants, where you can try some of the local culinary specialties like grilled stockfish, cod, halibut, and reindeer meat.
No Tromso trip is complete without taking the Tromso cable car up to the mountain Floya or you can walk up there by using the recently built and very popular stone stairway made by Sherpas from Nepal. On your way to the cable car, you will see the iconic Arctic Cathedral, a landmark of Tromso.
Tromso is surrounded by sea and fjords, so a fjord cruise, wildlife safari, or fishing trip is a must (see our picks for the top 5 must-do activities in Tromso below).
If you are a museums buff and want to learn more about the history of Tromso, like why Tromso is called The Gateway To The Arctic, and learn about the culture of the Sami people, Tromso has several nice museums and galleries, like Tromso Museum and Polar Museum.
The downtown area of Tromso, with the main walking street Storgata, is cozy and intimate with old traditional Norwegian wood houses, many of which are beautifully restored and renovated.
At the north end of the city center, the old historic shipyard has been transformed into the new quarter “Vervet“. Here you find Tromsos best bakery – Vervet Bakery, the excellent vMaskinverkstedet Restaurant, as well as apartment buildings that also houses a hotel.
Tromso is an urban city with a lot going on and has several yearly festivals like the rock festival Bukta, the international film festival TIFF, and the music festival Rakettnatt. There are also often concerts, shows, and theater shows at Kulturhuset and the theater Hålogaland Teater.
Other fun experiences in Tromso (especially if you are traveling with children) are Polaria – an arctic experience center and aquarium (I love the cute seals), Tromso Science Centre – a fun hands-on science experience center where they show a spectacular Northern Lights movie (25 min) in the 360-degree planetarium, and Tromso Waterpark – indoor and outdoor pools and saunas, and the brand new Troll Museum.
During summer, some popular areas to go for a walk include the Botanical Garden (the northernmost in the world), Bukta beach, and Tromso Open-Air Folk Museum.
If you are feeling brave, you can go for a swim in the Atlantic ocean at Bukta beach (although I must warn you, it is freezing cold even in summer!). A better place to go for a swim (at least during winter), is the cool floating sauna “Pust” in the harbor of downtown Tromso.
Top 5 Tromso Highlights
1. Tromso Cable Car
Everyone who visits Tromso should take the cable car Fjellheisen up to the mountain of Floya. From the top, you get a fantastic view of Tromso city and all the mountains and fjords on Kvaloya Island.
If you want a good workout, you can opt for taking one of the hiking paths up to the top, and take the cable car back down. There is a Sherpa stone staircase leading up to the top which is very popular. At the top, there is a cafe (indoor and outdoor seating) with awesome views.
If you are lucky, you get to see the Northern Lights dancing above the city – the perfect Instagram shot.
On your way to the cable car, you will go past the Arctic Cathedral, Tromso’s most famous landmark.
2. Restaurants, Cafes & Shops
The harbor area and the main walking street Storgata is lined with some beautiful old wooden buildings, that now house cafes, shops, and restaurants.
There are some typical souvenir shops, especially in Storgata, but also some independent local shops like Glasshytta Blåst with its handblown glass and Husfliden that sell local arts and crafts, and the Norwegian Bunad.
3. Museums & Galleries
Tromso has several nice museums and art galleries. My favorites are the Polar Museum and the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum (North Norwegian Art Museum).
You can read more about Tromso’s museums and art galleries in our article on the best things to do in Tromso.
4. Day-Trips To Ersfjord & Sommaroy Island
If you have the time, I really recommend heading out of downtown and over the bridge to Kvaloya Island (where we live), and on to Sommaroy Island (connected to Kvaloya by a bridge).
On Kvaloya Island, you should make a stop in the beautiful Ersfjord (where they have the cozy cafe Bryggejentene), before heading on to Sommaroy Island. The whole drive takes about 1,5 hours one way (see the driving route on Google Maps here).
5. Tromso Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden
Did you know that Tromso has the world’s northernmost botanical garden? Tromso Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden is located just north of downtown, next to the University of Tromso, and is open from May until October.
There is also a cozy cafe in the garden, inside a lovely old white wooden house (seating outside and inside). Make sure to try their delicious Norwegian waffles with cloudberries. So yummy!
6 Must Do Activities In Tromso
Tromso is all about being outside and enjoying nature. I would say that you haven’t really experienced Tromsø, the gateway to the arctic, without having tried some of the activities Tromso has to offer like being out on the sea on a fjord trip.
Our top 5 Tromso activities:
1. Fjord Cruise
- Season: Whole-year round
The best way to see the fjord and mountain landscape surrounding Tromso is from the sea. Some fjord cruises focus on the wildlife and birds, while at others you can fish from the boat and the captain will make a delicious seafood lunch of your fresh self-caught fish.
There are many fjord cruises in Tromso to choose from, either by a traditional Norwegian wooden boat, a modern silent electrical ship, a speedy RIB boat, or a comfortable luxury catamaran sailboat:
All-Inclusive Wildlife & Bird Fjord Cruise
This 5-hour fjord cruise (10 am – 17:00/ 5 pm) runs the whole year-round. Here you will board a classic Norwegian wooden boat “Fjord Queen“, where local guides will point out wildlife and birds like sea eagles, seals, and maybe whales.
Lunch, beverages, snacks, insulated bodysuits, and safety equipment are included. You can borrow fishing equipment and catch some fish if you want (which will be prepared for lunch).
Click here for info and availability on the All-Inclusive Wildlife & Bird Fjord Cruise
Silent Fjord & Wildlife Cruise By Electric Boat
This 7-hour fjord cruise (8 am – 15:00/ 3 pm) runs in February, March, April, September, and October. The new, modern, and comfortable hybrid-electrical boat “Brim Explorer” will take you on a guided fjord cruise around Tromso.
When it runs on the electric motor, the boat is completely silent, which is perfect for experiencing wildlife like seals, dolphins, eagles, and whales.
The guides will launch an underwater drone where you can see what’s beneath the sea on a big screen. The warm and comfortable saloon inside has huge floor-to-roof windows – perfect for enjoying the landscape while relaxing and staying warm. There is a cafe on board too, serving snacks, beverages, and some dishes. We tried the fish soup and it was delicious.
Click here for info and availability on the Fjord & Wildlife Cruise by Electric Boat
RIB Speedboat Tour of Hella
This 3-hour fjord excursion by RIB Boat is a fun and speedy experience. You will depart from downtown Tromso and go through the fjords surrounding Tromso. The boat will take you to Hella on Kvaloya Island, a beautiful place with old historic buildings famous for the strong Rya current. Here you will be served warm coffee, tea, and muffins.
The boat is relatively small and can speed up to 45 knots. You will be a maximum of 12 people on the boat.
Everything is included for a safe, dry, and warm sea tour, like insulated safety suits, goggles, hats, gloves, and boots. This tour is only available during spring, summer, and autumn.
Click here for info and availability on the Fjord Excursion by RIB Boat to Hella
Fjord & Islands Luxury Catamaran Cruise
This 3-hour cruise runs the whole year round and takes you sailing around the beautiful fjords and islands of Tromso onboard the modern, luxury catamaran “Arctic Princess“. You get to borrow warm thermal suits and get served coffee, tea, and snacks as well as a delicious fish soup inside the cozy and warm saloon.
You can fish from the boat if you want (fishing equipment is onboard). They do two cruises per day: a morning cruise (10 am – 13:00/ 2 pm) and an afternoon cruise (14:00/ 2 pm – 17:00/ 5 pm).
Click here for info and availability on the Morning Fjord Cruise by Catamaran Sailboat / Afternoon Fjord Cruise
2. Northern Lights Tour
- Season: September – April
If you’re in Tromso in the wintertime then a Northern Lights tour is your best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. On these tours, the experienced guides chase clear skies based on the weather and the Northern Lights forecasts. They will drive to the areas with the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, sometimes as far as to Sweden and Finland.
From Tromso: Aurora Borealis Tour
On this popular 6-hour Northern Lights tour, two professional northern lights guides will help you take excellent Northern Lights photos in a beautiful mountain, lake, and fjord landscape. You get hot drinks, warm thermal clothes/suits, a hat, gloves, boots, and a tripod for your mobile phone or camera.
The professional northern lights guides will take you to the mountains, fjords, and valleys outside Tromso. The guides will help you take stunning northern lights photos during the trip.
Click here for the latest prices on the Tromso Aurora Borealis Tour
4×4 Small-Group Northern Lights Photography Tour by Minibus
Also, on this 6-hour Northern Lights tour (max 8 people) an experienced Northern Lights guide and photographer will show you how to take great Northern Lights photos with your phone or camera. You will also get professional photos from the tour afterward. Warm homemade soup, bread, sweets, and hot beverages will be served in front of a campfire. Warm thermal suits and hand- and foot warmers will keep you warm and comfortable.
Click here for info and availability on the 4×4 Small-Group Northern Lights Photography Tour
Another option is to go on a Northern Lights tour, which includes a fun activity. That way, if the Northern Lights don’t show up, you will still have a great experience:
- Northern Lights Cusine Cruise By Electric Catamaran (3,5 hours, including dinner)
- Overnight Aurora Camp and Dog Sledding in Tromso (full day, including dinner)
- Northern Lights and Husky Experience with Dinner (4 hours, including dinner)
- Northern Lights Reindeer Feeding & Sledding Tour (7 hours, including dinner)
- Northern Lights Sailing Tour (4,5 hours)
- Northern Lights, Hot tub, and Dinner Cruise in Tromso (4 hours, including dinner)
- Northern Lights Snowmobile Tour (7 hours, including dinner)
- Night Snowshoeing Tour (5 hours, including dinner)
3. Whale Watching
- Season: October – February
Every winter, from around October/ November until February, huge troops of whales arrive in the fjords near Tromso to feast on herrings. When and where you can see them vary each year. In the last couple of years, the whales have been a few hours by boat from Tromsø, outside the island Skjervøy and in the fjord Kvænangen.
Your best bet on seeing whales is on a whale safari. The boats will take you to the fjords where the whales have been seen, although whale sightings can never be guaranteed. But once you spot them, it is so exciting. Seeing the huge gracious humpback, sperm, and killer whales, as well as orcas, glide through the sea and come up to breathe is fantastic.
The whale tours are regulated by Norwegian authorities to follow guidelines to ensure the well-being of the whales.
There are several types of boat tours doing whale watching safaris. The small inflatable RIB boats get close to the whales but can be a cold experience (you get to borrow insulated floatation suits). A great tour is this Whale Watching in Magic Skjerboy By Rib Tour. On this tour, you are driven to Skjervoy Island by bus, a scenic 3,5-hour bus ride through fjords, valleys, and mountain landscape. Once you get to Skjervoy, you go on a 2,5 hour RIB boat tour out to the whales.
If you want to keep warm and comfortable and maybe have a cup of coffee or tea and something to eat on board, you can opt to go on a more regular boat tour.
This Silent Whale Watching Excursion From Tromso is a fantastic and comfortable tour where you head out to sea on a modern hybrid-electrical ship. The lounge contains a cafe and has huge panoramic floor-to-roof windows, perfect for spotting the whales while being warm. The boat will run on the electric motor once the whales are spotted, so it runs silently and doesn’t upset the whales.
4. Dog Sledding
- Season: November – April
Going dog sledding is the ultimate way of experiencing the landscape of Tromso. The huskies love to run, and it is great fun to stand or sit on the sled being pulled by the dogs.
You can choose to drive the sled yourself (which is the most fun) or just to be seated on the sled if you want a more relaxed experience. The experienced guides will teach you everything you need to know to drive the sled yourself, and you will get to wear comfortable and warm boots and suits.
On this evening dog sledding tour, you can see the Northern Lights (choose the evening excursion tour).
- Season: November – April
Tripadvisor’s readers have rated reindeer feeding as one of the top three best experiences in Tromso. Reindeer are such adorable and cute animals, so peaceful and friendly.
You can get lucky and see reindeer roaming the streets on Kvaloya Island in Tromso. But to feed them and go reindeer sledding, you should join a reindeer tour where you get to visit a reindeer camp.
On this tour, you also get to meet and learn about the Sami people (the reindeer owners) and have a traditional Sami meal around a bonfire. If you do this reindeer tour in the evening, you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights too (if the sky is clear).
- Season: Whole-year round, but best May – September (snowshoes or skis in winter)
Tromso has some of the best hiking routes in Norway with spectacular views, suitable for all levels. If you are an experienced hiker, you can also opt for the Lyngen Alps or Senja Island. If you visit Tromso in winter, you can go snowshoeing or skiing.
Preparing For Tromsø
When To Go
The best time to visit Tromsø depends on what you want to see and experience. Tromsø is an entirely different experience depending on the season.
We have lots of snow in winter, no sun for two months (Polar Nights), and Northern Lights. In summer, the sun is up day and night (Midnight Sun) for two months, and the hiking is fantastic.
Winter – Northern Lights
The Northern Lights season in Tromsø is between mid-September and mid-April.
If you want snowy landscapes and want to do winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, reindeer sledding, snowmobile driving, or visiting Tromso Ice Domes, you should visit Tromsø between December and April.
The Polar Nights season in Tromsø is from 21. November until 21. January. These two months, the sun never rises, although if it is a clear sky, it sometimes explodes in pink and purple during the day.
From mid-November and all of December, Tromso is a Christmas wonderland! The entire city is covered with Christmas decorations, Christmas spirit, and Christmas markets, and you will find special Norwegian Christmas food, cookies, pastries, candy, and drinks at cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Summer – Midnight Sun
The Midnight Sun season in Tromsø is from 20. May to 22. July. During these two months, the sun never sets (it is the same sun as during the day, however).
This is a fantastic time of the year for hiking and being outdoors. You can go hiking, fishing, boat riding, and camping day and night without worrying about darkness.
In recent years winter has also become a more popular time to visit Lofoten. Many people come to experience the Northern Lights/ Aurora Borealis, the spectacular light show that can light up the dark winter sky on a clear night.
From early December to early January is what we refer to as the “dark season”, when the sun never rises above the horizon and night lasts for 24 hours a day.
If you want to experience the Northern Lights, I recommend February and March when it is still winter and dark enough to see the northern lights at night, but the sun shines during the day.
How to Get There
Tromso has a centrally located international airport – Tromsø Lufthavn, which is only a 10-min ride (by taxi, bus, or car) from downtown Tromso and all the hotels.
You can find direct flights to Tromso from European cities like Frankfurt, Helsinki, London, München, Gdansk, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. As well as direct flights from/ to Norwegian cities like Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Bodø, Longyearbyen (Svalbard), Alta, and a lot more. So it is easy to get to Tromsø.
Tromsø Airport is currently under renovation (but it is still open at a temporary terminal). A new, modern, and bigger airport will open in December 2023.
From Tromso Airport to the center of Tromso, you can take a taxi (there is a taxi stand right outside the arrivals, it costs approximately 200 NOK to downtown). Or you can take the Tromso Airport Express Bus (100 NOK for adults, 180 NOK return ticket), or the Tromso city bus no. 42, 40, or 24 to downtown (45 NOK for adults one way).
A popular way to see the beautiful coastline of Norway is by taking the cruise ship Hurtigruten. Both the northbound and the southbound Hurtigruten stops in Tromsø.
You can take the northbound Hurtigruten from Bergen to Tromsø (with several stops along the way), which arrives in Tromsø at 14:15/ 2:15 PM every day. It then stays in the harbor for four hours and departs from Tromsø at 18:15/ 6:15 PM.
Or you can take the southbound Hurtigruten, which starts north in Kirkenes and arrives in Tromsø at 23:45 every day. It lays in Tromsø harbor for one h and 45 min and departs at 01:30 AM at night.
How to Travel Around
Within Tromso city (Tromso Island, Tromsdalen, and Kvaloya Island), you can easily get around by bus.
There are ferries (where you bring a car) and express ferries (passengers only) from Tromso to several places, like south to Senja, Harstad, and Finnsnes, and north to Skjærvøy, Lyngen, and Kvænangen.
Or you can take local ferries from Kvaløya Island in Tromso to nearby islands like Vengsøy, Reinøy, Vannøy, and Karlsøy.
Public transport is sparse if you want to head out of Tromso to see the awesome nature surrounding the city (like further out on Kvaløya Island, Sommarøy Island, or the Lyngen Alps).
Therefore I recommend that you rent a car. We like Rentalcars.com, where you can compare prices at the biggest car rental firms. You can rent a car any time of the year. In winter, rental cars have winter tires.
Where To Stay
The downtown part of Tromsø is small and compact, and everything is within an easy walk, including all hotels.
The best hotels in Tromsø lay in the harbor area of downtown – Hotel With, Hotel Aurora, The Edge Hotel, Scandic Ishavshotell. They all have fantastic views of the sea, the Tromso bridge, and the Arctic Cathedral.
Cheaper, and just as centrally located as the harbor hotels (although not with the same amazing sea view) are the hotels located around the main street Storgata of Tromsø – Radisson Blu Hotel, Hotel Saga, Enter City Hotel & Apartments, Thon Hotel Polar, XPress Hotel, with the last three being good budget hotels.
You have to head out of the city to be able to see the Northern Lights fully, to remote areas like Kvaloya Island. The best Northern Lights hotels in Tromso are: Yggdrasil Farmhotel, Ersfjordbotn Brygge, Vengsoy Rorbuer, and Sommaroy Arctic Hotel.
A unique place to stay during winter (and an excellent place to see the Northern Lights) is the Tromso Ice Domes Hotel, where the entire hotel is made of snow and ice.
The 5 best hotels in Tromsø (in our opinion) are:
- Clarion Collection Hotel With
Great location right by the harbor with fantastic view. Good value for money with complimentary breakfast buffet, dinner buffet, and afternoon cakes, and free tea and coffee 24/7. Gym and sauna, parking at the neigboring sisterhotel Aurora. Pet friendly (250 NOK per stay).
Click here for information and prices on Hotel With
- Clarion Hotel The Edge
The newest, biggest, and fanciest hotel in Tromsø. Has an excellent restaurant – Kitchen & Table, and Tromso’s only sky bar (on the 11th floor). Guests get to use the full gym Sky Fitness 24/7. No parking. Pet friendly (250 NOK per stay).
Click here for information and prices on Hotel The Edge
- Radisson Blu Hotel Tromsø
Rooftop sauna and gym with a fantastic view of the fjord. Tour operator office at the main lobby. All rooms were renovated in 2018 and are fresh and stylish. Free tea & coffe 24/7. Has two restaurants: Charly’s Restaurant & Bar, Yonas Pizzeria, and Tromso’s most famous pub – Rorbua (hosted the popular Norwegian TV-show “Du skal høre mye” from 1987 until 2003).
Click here for information and prices on Radissson Blu Hotel
- Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora
Great location by the harbor, great sea view, Tromso’s only rooftop jacuzzi with sea view, gym & sauna, parking right outside the hotel, good value with breakfast and dinner included, and you can make your own waffles for free in the lobby at noon, free coffee and tea 24/7, afternoon cake. Pet friendly (250 NOK per stay).
Click here for information and prices on Hotel Aurora
- Thon Hotel Polar
Fantastic breakfast buffet with a wide range of food and dishes. A small gym, free coffee 24/7 in the reception. Pet friendly (400 NOK per stay). Parking in the parking tunnell close by (for a fee).
Click here for information and prices on Hotel Polar
=> READ MORE: See our complete guide on Where To Stay in Tromso for more accommodation options
Money & Costs
Norway is an expensive country, and Tromsø is no exception.
Most of your costs will be accommodation, food, and transport.
Eating at restaurants in Tromsø is quite expensive. I would say that you should budget for US$80 and up per day. Obviously, it will depend on what kind of restaurants you eat at, what kind of food you order, and if you eat all your meals out or do some cooking yourself.
You can cut down on your food expenses by shopping at the grocery store and doing some of your own cooking (if you rent an apartment, for instance at the Enter City Hotel & Apartments which is centrally located in downtown Tromsø).
Most hotels and accommodation in Tromsø include free breakfast (normally a huge breakfast buffet where you can also make yourself a packed lunch for later).
A “food hack” for Tromsø is to take advantage of the lunch deals most Tromsø restaurants offer (usually until around 15/3 pm or 16/ 4 pm. These warm lunch dishes are big and almost like a dinner portion, but cheaper. So instead of having dinner in the evening, you can opt for a late afternoon lunch and save some money.
Another “food hack” is to download the free app “Too Good To Go” on your mobile phone (App Store or Google Play). Many of the cafes in Tromso put out their leftover food for a very cheap price through this app. This helps save food waste and is a good value for your wallet!
In the summer, you can help minimize your expenses by sleeping in a tent at Tromso Lodge & Camping or a camper van (which you can rent in Tromsø).
Approximately daily costs
- Budget: minimum 160 Euro (dorm bed in hostel 35 Euro per night, a double room in B&B from 80 Euro, cheap lunch and dinner (shop at a grocery store and cook yourself).
- Mid-range: 160-240 Euro (double room in a mid-range hotel 80-150 Euro per night, lunch or dinner in a local restaurant 14-22 Euro, car rental from 90 Euro per day
- Top-End: Over 240 Euro (top-end hotel from 150 Euro per night, lunch or dinner in a decent restaurant from 22 Euro per person,
Safety & Insurance
Tromsø is a safe place with a low crime rate.
Tromso has some of the best hikes in Norway, and some of the mountains have become very popular. Although hiking in Tromso is fantastic, remember that the weather can change in an instant so always bring warm clothes (rain and windproof) and something to drink and eat.
If you want to do some winter hikes or go skiing/ snowboarding in the mountains, talk to the locals for recommendations, or join a guided tour. Tromsø is sadly one of the places in Norway with the biggest deaths from avalanches and almost every winter people die in the mountains on Kvaloya Island and the Lyngen Alps.
It is important to get travel insurance, now more than ever. We always use World Nomads Travel Insurance and have good experiences with them.
What To Pack
As a tomb of rule, bring practical, comfortable, and warm outdoor clothing and shoes that are both waterproof and windproof when going to Tromso.
And dress in layers so that you can easily add and take off some clothes when the weather changes. Even in summer, the temperatures can get down to around 5 °C/ 41 F, so bring warm wool sweaters and a down jacket. You can leave your summer sandals back home. 🙂
You can find my complete packing list for Northern Norway here.
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Further Reading / Guidebooks
A great place to start planning your Tromso trip is our guide on what to do in Tromso. It has all the Tromso highlights including tips on what to see, the best activities, where to stay, attractions, and more.
As for guidebooks there sadly aren’t that many great ones on Tromsø, especially in English. The Lonely Planet guide to Norway has a chapter on Tromsø.
Latest Tromso Articles
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