Tromsø - "Paris of the North"
We liked this surprisingly lively little city with lots of good cafes & restaurants, live music, several museums and the Ishavskatedralen - and a main shopping street which is heated and therefore ice-free all year round
Last update May 2018, weekend trip
When you think of cities in Norway it is usually Bergen, Oslo or Trondheim that come to mind, not Tromsø. But this little "Paris of the North" is absolutely worth a visit.
During the second visit we saw by the way our first Northern Lights. Not as big as in the travel magazines but still!
Tromsø is a surprisingly nice and lively town - for a place 400 km North of the polar circle. That also means there is midnight sun in the summer for quite some weeks and a good chance to see the Northern Lights during winter.
The city was and still is the gate to the arctic region. It also has a big university what attracts travelers, students and scientists from all over the world.
It has a heated main shopping street, which looks funny with all the snow right and left of it in the winter, a couple of good museums, which we visited during bad weather and enjoyed a lot, traditional wooden houses and last but not least the famous and gorgeous Ishavskatedralen / Arctic Cathedral on the other side of the fjord.
Visit the MS Polstjerna museum which hosts an original, full size seal hunter boat from 1949. You can walk around and get inside it - and take the audioguide for a lot of interesting information. Very educative and entertaining.
MS Polsterna in its "garage"
Snow scooter trip
Driving a snow-scooter was quite high up on our activity list, so when we found an agency in Tromsø that looked like they know what they are doing, we booked the tour right away.
We were picked up at the hotel by bus on a sunny Sunday morning, together with 20 others and drove 50-60 min out of town to the place where the tour started.
After dressing up in huge arctic jump suits, big boots and fitted with helmets, we got a short introduction in how to drive a snow scooter - We love that in Norway: very uncomplicated instructions that took about 2 min ("Right, left, throttle, break, don't crash") and off you go.
In a group of 10 snow-scooters we drove around 15 km slowly up the mountain, first through woods, then along a mountain side, where one of the scooters flipped. These beasts weigh up to 250 kg, so you better don't get under it. Luckily the driver didn't and after some tossing and towing we continued.
The destination was a saddle at a mountain range where we were very close to the border triangle of Norway, Sweden and Finland. As we reached the top, the sun was peeking towards us between two big mountains in the distant and put everything into a warm light. Fantastic view. But it did not change the temperature much, which still was at freaking -25 degrees Celsius.
After a break up there with lots of selfies, we drove back again, a slightly different route, and at quite some speed I must say (FUN!). Back in the base camp, we had simple lunch and coffee served in a tipi-style tent and the chance to chat a bit with each other. The participants were from all over the place, Norwegians were actually the clear minority. The day ended with getting undressed again and driving back to the various hotels, already in the dark.
Blue hour - Blå time
Imagine: a crystal clear, very cold day out in the snowy Norwegian countryside, with kind of blue hour the whole day long. Great for taking fantastic landscape pictures!
A couple of really good restaurants with excellent local (sea) food, a cinema and several cafes complete the sightseeing. We could imagine to live here for a short period: it's not spectacular, but really nice in a total undramatic way.
Due to its fantastic location Tromsø is a good starting point for day trips to untains and a lot of great outdoor activities.
Overnight stay we can recommend
Lots of other chains represented as well, usually no shortage of rooms
Lyngsfjord was a good tour operator for us: lyngsfjord.com
Distances from Oslo
1700 km / 24 hrs by car - better: 2 hrs by plane
The city itself offers the polar museum, the MS Polstjerna boat, the nord norsk art museum as well as the arctic cathedral often featuring concerts and the cable car up to Fjellheisen, with a great view over the city
Lots of outdoor activities possible: snow scooter, dog sledding, hiking, cross country skiing...
Best city in the north to see the Northern Lights
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