Travel Books Norway
What to see in Tromso
Tromso’s main attraction is undoubtedly the magnificent nature around the city. Situated on an island, surrounded by snow clad mountains and fjords, the location couldn’t be more exotic.
In summer, the midnight sun lights up the town 24 hours a day, and it is a great time to explore the many mountains and hiking trails around town.
More or less everything in Tromso centre is within walking distance, so you can easily tick off many of the town's best sights in a day.
Top Sights in Tromso Centre
Architecturally Tromso is a mish mash of various attempts at different styles. The aesthetics are definitely up for discussion, but it does make the city an interesting place to wander around.
Being the largest wooden city north of Trondheim, there are many buildings dating from the 1800s – often right next to a modern block.
Starting in the south of the town centre, you find the famous Polaria centre which is built to resemble blocks of ice culling into the sea. Here you can learn about the fauna and animal life in the Arctic, watch a beautiful film about Spitzbergen and meet the resident seals living in its aquarium.
Polaria is open all year round, and you can find out more on their website.
Continuing north along the high street, just before you get into the town centre you will find the Mack brewery. This is the world's northernmost brewery, so you should definitely stop off for a cheeky pint in the Oelhallen pub, the oldest in Tromso. It is conveniently placed in the same building as the brewery and they open the doors at 9am! They also arrange guided tours of the brewery which is well worth it if you like your beer. Find out more on their website.
Further north along the high street you will come to the Tromso Cathedral. The church was built in 1861 and is the only wooden cathedral in Norway.
Continuing past the church you will see the local bank building (Sparebank 1 Nord-Norge) which is one of the prettiest buildings in Tromso, built in art nouveau style. if you look up to your left as you continue further along the high street, the grand Kongsbakken school lies at the top of the hill, and is built in similar style.
The Main Square
Still on the high street, you will now have entered the pedestrianised part of it, which makes for a pleasant stroll down towards the lively main square in Tromso.
This is where you will find numerous stalls selling everything from Sami handicrafts and locally grown vegetables, to Thai spring rolls and seal skin waistcoats. The square also hosts a large Christmas tree in December, and during the Tromso Film Festival in January there is an ice cinema put up too.
Make sure you notice the tiny kiosk, nicknamed "the rocket kiosk" on your left, it surely must be one of the smallest shops in the world!
Just before the high street ends you will come to Verdensteateret (The World Theatre) on your right. This is actually Norway's oldest running cinema, and has a cozy cafe/bar in the front. It is well worth a stop for a coffee and a look around. The place also gets lively in the evenings, with DJs and special events such as live streaming of Operas from around the world. Find out more on their website (sorry, Norwegian only).
The Polar Museum
If you keep to the left as you come out of the high street, and then take a left across Skippergata and onto Sonde Tollbodgate you will get to the infamous Polar Museum.
Here you can learn more about how life in the Arctic used to be, particularly focusing on hunting. This museum is not for the faint-hearted, and was voted among the top ten worst museums in the world by Lonely Planet, but it is a very interesting look into the reality of life and survival in the Arctic. Read more about it on their website.
Across the road, you will find the Skansen building, Tromso's oldest. In the summer there is a cafe here well worth visiting for some lunch or a drink. This area also hosts some of the oldest houses in Tromso, and the street opposite Skansen is a picture of how Tromso looked in the old days.
The Arctic Cathedral
If you still feel up for it, it is not too far to continue north to the Tromso sound bridge that leads to the mainland. The walk across takes about 20minutes and can be quite chilly especially if the wind is blowing. On the other side you will be met by the magnificent Arctic Cathedral, featured in most postcards from Tromso.
The iconic church was built in 1965 and resebles a giant ice berg. Inside you will find a massive glass mosaic by artist Visctor Sparre. The Arctic Cathedral hosts many concerts throughout the year. Check their website for more info.
The Cable Car
About 10 minutes walk south from the Arctic Cathedral you find the cable car that will take you up to the Floya mountain. Here you will get amazing panoramic views of the city and its surroundings, and is a great place to see the northern lights and the midnight sun.
You can even enjoy dinner or a glass of wine in the panoramic restaurant at the top. Find out more on their website.
Once back down you can catch the bus back into town if you don't fancy walking all the way back.
Sights outside Tromso town centre
Outside the town centre in Tromso there is mostly beautiful nature, mountains, fjords and beaches to be seen, most of which you will have to get to by car.
The Botanical Gardens
The university in Tromso lies on the north end of the island and there are many buses here from the town centre.
Here you will find the northernmost botanical garden in the world - recently featured in the BBC programme Around the World in 80 Gardens.
It is free, and well worth a visit if you are into your botanics.
Hella and Sommaroy
If you have a car, it is well worth heading across to Kvaloya and drive out towards the scenic spots at Hella and Sommaroy.
Hella is a popular spot for fishing, as the strong Rya current runs past this idyllic spot. Just be careful on the rocks as they get slippery, and the current is dangerous.
Just before you get to Hella you can stop and look at some old petroglyphs dating back 8,000 years.
Further out, Sommaroya is one of the most scenic spots around Tromso. This small island has some great white sand beaches and a popular hotel.
The drive to Sommaroy takes about one hour from Tromso.
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