Tromso, the city in my heart where I have spent most of my life, is located at 69°North in the Arctic part of Norway. Although it is relatively small with its 73 000 inhabitants it has much to offer visitors, with plenty of things to do all year round.
In the winter, people come to Tromso to witness the amazing northern lights that ripple across the sky in the dark winter nights. Surrounded by unspoiled wilderness on every side Tromso is a fantastic place to experience some of nature’s wonders such as the sight of the hundreds of whales that every winter enter the fjords around Tromso to feast on herring. The abundance of snow during winter, also make it a perfect place for skiing from November to late May.
The summer is all about the midnight sun and the long bright nights, hiking, fishing, and basically just enjoying the beautiful nature that Tromso has to offer.
Tromso is also, surprisingly for such a small city, famous for its party life and pubs. The city has more pubs per inhabitants than any other city in Norway and the main street Storgata is packed with happy partying people on Friday and Saturday nights. Maybe the University of Tromso’s 16 000 students has something to do with it.
Tromso really has something to offer for everyone all year round! Knowing what to bring for a trip to Tromso can be challenging due to the cold and shifting weather, but don`t worry. Here you get a complete packing list of what to pack for a trip to Tromso summer and winter.
How To Get Around Tromso
The Best Festivals In Tromso
Every year Tromso plays host to some excellent festivals that often draw top international artists from all around the world.
Bukta Open Air Rock Music Festival
A rock music festival held in a scenic place – Bukta Beach, with an awesome view over the sea and the midnight sun.
- When: Middle of July every year
Tromso International Film Festival – TIFF
The biggest film festival in Norway with incredible 60619 people attending in 2016. Do not expect to see any blockbuster Hollywood movies here, they mainly screen more challenging films from all over the world.
- When: Middle of January every year
A music festival, “Music in the Arctic”, that has classical music concerts from all over the world.
- When: End of January/ beginning of February
A pop/rock music festival in the middle of downtown Tromso, with Norwegian and international super stars.
- When: Last weekend of August
Midnight Sun Marathon
The biggest marathon competition in Norway, where you can run the full marathon, half-marathon or 10 km. If there are no clouds, then you can even enjoy the Midnight Sun while you run.
- When: Middle of June
A jazzy weekend where you can enjoy concerts by some of the best jazz musicians, both Norwegian and international artists.
- When: Beginning of August
Smak – Tromso Food Festival
A food festival where you can walk around eating your way through Storgata and pop into the restaurants in Tromso getting a special dish at a reduced price. A great way to try out some North Norwegian specialties.
- When: End of September
A techno/ electronic/ dance festival hosting some of the biggest techno artists in the world.
- When: End of October
The Best Day Trips From Tromso
Sommarøy (Summer Island)
The small island Sommarøy, located on the outside of Kvaloya, is a beautiful and charming little fishing village, surrounded by white sandy beaches, and the azure blue ocean.
There is also a hotel on the island, Sommarøy Arctic Hotel, where you can choose between sleeping in hotel rooms or cabins by the sea (Rorbu). The hotel also has a lovely restaurant serving breakfast, lunch or dinner. The hotel can arrange fishing trips by boat, sailing, and kayak trips.
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There are some great hiking options in the area around Sommarøy.
- How to get to Sommarøy: It is easiest to get to Sommarøy by car (1 hour). From Tromsø, drive to Kvaløya and follow the signs to Sommarøy. You can also take bus no. 420 from downtown of Tromsø to Sommarøy. The bus leaves from the downtown of Tromsø (bus stop Prostneset next to the tourist information center Visit Tromsø). The bus ticket cost 100 Nkr with the free app “Troms Mobillett”.
Ersfjord is a beautiful fjord located on Kvaloya, a half an hour drive from downtown Tromso. The fjord is surrounded by jagged mountains that run straight down into the sea.
In Ersfjord is Tromso`s coziest cafe – Bryggejentene which serves delicious cakes, biscuits, coffee, tea, soda, ice-cream and everything a cafe should serve. The cafe is right on the pier with an amazing view over Ersfjord and it` surrounding mountains.
Ersfjord is a great place to take Northern Lights photos, or just go for a walk along the shore.
- Opening hours Bryggejentene cafe/ shop: Monday – Friday 11 – 16, Saturday 11 – 17, Sundays closed
- How to get to Ersfjord: It is easiest to get to Ersfjord by car (30 min). Drive to Kvaløya, take right when you get to Eidkjosen and follow the signs to Ersfjord. You can also take bus no. 425 from the downtown of Tromsø (bus stop Prostneset next to the tourist information centre Visit Tromsø) to Ersfjordbotn. The bus ticket costs 42 Nkr with the free app “Troms Mobillett”.
Senja, being the second largest island of Norway, has a great contrast of mountains, sea, beautiful sandy beaches, and fishing villages. It is a very nice day trip from Tromso, both winter and summer, or you can stay a night or two at some of the guesthouses and private cabins or bring your own tent.
- How to get to Senja: You can either drive to Senja with a rental car (3 hours one way), or take the Express boat (no. 4) from downtown Tromso to Lysnes on Senja. The round-trip from downtown of Tromso (the brand new harbour building at Prostneset) to Lysnes and back to Tromso takes about 2 hours and runs on Monday and Wednesday (Tromsø – Lysnes – Tromsø 07:10 – 09:05 and 16:20 – 18:15), Friday (Tromsø – Lysnes – Tromsø 07:10 – 09:05 and 16:00 – 17:55), and Sunday (Tromsø – Lysnes – Tromsø 20:20 – 22:20). The fare is NOK 260.
If you choose to drive, you can take the route through Brensholmen (close to Sommarøy) and take the ferry across the fjord to Botnhamn on Senja. It is a beautiful ferry trip! The car ride takes about 1 hour and the ferry trip takes 35 min (ferry no. 181: Sommerferge Botnhamn-Brensholmen) and operates from April to August.
Lyngen with its peaky mountains that go straight down into the sea is an awesome area north of Tromso, about an hour and a half with car and ferry.
First, you must drive from Tromso to Breivikeidet (1-hour car ride). The ferry trip from Breivikeidet to Svendsby in Lyngen takes 20 min and is well worth the trip in itself as it is a beautiful ferry trip across the fjord with an amazing view of the Lyngen Alps. From Svendsby you can drive through Lyngen and take another ferry from Lyngseidet to Olderdalen. From Olderdalen you can drive back to Tromso, the drive takes 2,5 hours (without taking any ferries).
Some great places to stay in Lyngen are:
- The Magic Mountain Lodge
- Lyngen North – spend the night in a glass igloo watching the northern lights
- Lyngen Lodge (on the Olderdalen side, the other side of Lyngseidet, take the second ferry)
- Sørheim Brygge
If you want a guided tour, AscentDescent offers trips both winter and summer. Lyngen is great for mountain hiking, ice climbing, glacier trekking, skiing, kayaking, fishing, and biking.
North of Tromso lays the beautiful island Skjærvøy. You can do a round-trip from Tromso to Skjærvøy by express boat and/or Hurtigruten through the stunning Lyngen Fjord that runs through the Lyngen Alps.
The express boat (no. 3) does round-trips to from downtown Tromsø to Skjervøy on Tuesdays (Tromsø – Skjervøy – Tromsø 16:00 – 20:05), Thursdays (Tromsø – Skjervøy – Tromsø 16:00 – 20:15), Fridays (Tromsø – Skjervøy – Tromsø 18:10 – 23:20), and Sundays (Tromsø – Skjervøy -Tromsø 14:30 – 19:50). The round-trip fare is NOK 560.
Another option is to take the express boat that departs from Tromso Tuesdays at 16:00 or Thursdays at 16:00 or Sunday at 14:30, and then the southbound Hurtigruten back from Skjervøy to Tromso. The Hurtigruta departs from Skjervøy at 19:45 (18:30 in April and May), and arrives in Tromso at 23:45.
Ferry round-trip to islands outside of Tromso
If you want to see some of the many beautiful small islands outside of Tromso and Kvaloya, you can take a ferry round-trip from Belvik in Skulsfjord on Kvaloya. The ferry goes to the islands Vengsøy, Musvær, and Risøy before returning back to Belvik and it is a beautiful trip. The round-trip takes about 2-3 hours and has several departures every day.
Phew, there you go, our ultimate guide to my hometown Tromso!
To sum up, the cable car is a real must when visiting Tromso, along with the Polaria and the Polar Museum. Then it depends whether you visit in the winter or summer. In winter the highlights are: Northern Lights, skiing, dog sledding, fjord boat trip/whale watching. In summer the highlights are: hiking in the midnight sun, boat trip, and fishing.
By the way, have you seen the movie Insomnia from 2002 starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hillary Shcwank? Did you know that it is actually a remake of a Norwegian film also called Insomnia from 1997 which was filmed in Tromso? The police officer played by Stellan Skarsgård is really struggling with the midnight sun and cannot sleep due to the bright nights, as the title refers to. You can watch the trailer of the original Insomnia from Tromso here.
Facts about Tromso
What is this article about?
A complete travel guide to my home city Tromso
Where is this?
Tromso is located in the northern part of Norway
How to get there
Fly from Oslo (2 hours), SAS or Norwegian have many departures each day
When to go
Whole year round, summer for the midnight sun and hiking, winter for the northern lights, skiing, and whales
Population: 73 000
Located at 69 degrees north
Northern Lights season: September – March
Whale season: November/ December – February
Midnight sun season: 20th of May – 22nd of July
Skiing season: December – June
Tromso is also called Paris of the North due to the fashionable women
Have you been to Tromso? Is there something I have missed? And if you have not been to Tromso, would you like to go? Please leave a comment below, and if you find this useful please share on social media. Thanks a million! 🙂
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