If you’re looking for a winter destination that combines incredible nature experiences, beautiful landscapes, amazing food, and a charming city, Tromso, Norway might just be the perfect place. Many visitors come here specifically to see the northern lights, but there are so many other things to do in Tromso, especially in the wintertime.
About a 2 hour flight from Oslo, Tromso (Tromsø in Norwegian) is one of the northernmost cities in Norway and has been coined the “Paris of the North.” Although it doesn’t have much in common with the City of Lights, it is a charming and spectacularly beautiful city, located in a dazzling fjord and surrounded by snowy mountaintops.
1. Chase the northern lights
Among the most obvious things to do in Tromso in the winter, and the reason why many people come here, is to try and view the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. Although it’s difficult to predict the northern lights, Tromso is a fantastic place to attempt to see them due to its northern latitude and the ability to find clear sky nearby.
While you could rent a car and try to see the lights for yourself, we recommend booking a tour and leaving it to the experts to help you find the northern lights. When I went, I did two consecutive big bus chases with Chasing Lights and highly recommend them.
2. Tour the Arctic Cathedral
Tromso is home to one of the strangest-looking churches in the world, which looks like a bunch of triangles stacked together like dominos. You can see the church from almost anywhere in the city, a beam of white light in the dark of winter. If you’re curious about it, you can take a tour of this historic church and learn more about how it was constructed.
3. Taste some delicious seafood from the Arctic
One thing that some of the coldest areas of the world can boast is incredible seafood. From king crabs to fresh fish, the seafood options in Tromso are to die for. If you’re up for a splurge, head to the waterfront Fish Company (Fiskekompaniet).
4. Visit the Perspective Museum (Perskpektivet)
If you’re tired of trudging through the cold, polar night of Tromso, the Perspective Museum (perspektivetmuseet) is a lovely way to escape the cold and enjoy some of the greatest photography in Norway’s history. The icing on the cake? It’s free to enter and peruse the exhibits.
5. Go to another museum
There are several other museums in Tromsø, including the Polar Museum, Polaria, the Tromso Museum, and more. Whether you like art, science, history, or culture, there is an indoor museum for you to explore and escape the freezing cold of the outdoors.
6. Soak in the views from the Fjellheisen cable car
If you’re a fan of sweeping city views from a bird’s eye view, hop on a bus or taxi to Fjellheisen. There, you can hop on a cable car to the top of the mountain, which boasts dazzling landscapes and a small cafe where you can watch the twinkling lights of Tromso down below.
To get there, take bus 62 towards Tromsøya and get off at Fjellheisen, or hail a cab. The cable car costs 190 NOK and takes less than five minutes each way.
7. Explore the fjords
If you love the outdoors more than the mountains, take a day to get out and explore the fjords and nearby islands. There are several tour companies that will take you around to various villages and nature areas in the surrounding mountains, or you can rent a car and do it on your own. Head to the tourist information center in Tromsø to learn more about the different available options.
8. Dash through the snow on a dog sled
Ever wanted to feel like the mushers you see on TV, riding a sled led by a pack of happy huskies? You can try it in Tromso! If riding isn’t your thing, you can also visit the dog farm and pet some huskies and puppies. Dog lovers rejoice – this Arctic activity is one you shouldn’t miss.
9. Visit a Sami reindeer farm
One of the most unique things about Northern Norway is that it’s home to the country’s reindeer-herding Sami population. The Samis are the only indigenous group from Norway, and have lived for generations in the harsh climate of the Arctic, traditionally raising and herding reindeer for a living. While in Tromso, you can meet some Sami people and hang out with some reindeer. It’s an awesome experience – take it from me.
10. Try your hand at snowshoeing
If you love to hike but fear the knee-deep snow, snowshoeing could be a compelling alternative for you. On a snowshoeing tour, you’ll breeze through forested trails with a guide to lead you. For those that don’t know how to snowshoe yet, they’ll teach you everything you need to know. And, of course, since you’ll be outdoors most of the time, most tours provide a set of warm clothes too.
11. Cast your line through the ice
During certain months of the year, some companies in Tromso offer ice fishing excursions. Yeah, you know, those ones where you drop a line through a sheet of ice? If you’re interested in what it’s like to gather food in the harsh conditions of the Arctic, a day of ice fishing is a unique way to try it.
12. Admire the mid-day sunset on the Tromso Bridge
Activities in Tromso can add up, so you’ll want to throw in a few free activities around the town to balance things out. One lovely way to spend a little while is by bundling up and walking to the Tromso bridge, where the mid day orange light casts beautiful hues over the entirety of the city. Above is just one of the views you can experience from the bridge, but you can also look out to the other side into the rest of the fjord, too.
13. Go whale watching
Whale watching is a huge activity in Tromso because there is so much marine life nearby. There are several tours that offer boat rides to see nearby whales in the surrounding waters, and they’ll teach you about the different species that live in the region. It’s a great way to escape the city and take to the seas for a day of wildlife watching.
14. Catch a boat ride
Speaking of taking to the seas, there are several other boat rides available to visitors besides whale watching tours. You can see the auroras from a boat, try a luxury cruise, or embark on a maritime fjords tour. If you love boats more than you like the land, Tromso is a great place to be, with several options including inter-city transportation.
15. Wander through Storgata
Storgata is Tromso’s main walking street and is home to many shops, cafes, tour operators, and restaurants. It’s also a wonderful place to go people-watching or take some interesting street photography in the polar night. If you have some down time, this street is worth a wander – you might just find an interesting hideout to watch the world go by.
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