As the capital of the Arctic Circle, and, to some, the quirkiest town in Norway, Tromsø has quite the reputation to live up to. This is the place where all Nordic adventures begin, where history meets Scandinavian art de vivre, and where thrill meets unadulterated awe.
Tempted to explore Tromsø for a long weekend? Here’s everything you need to know in order to spend a worthwhile, activity-packed 72 hours in Norway’s northernmost city.
Coffee at Kaffebønna
This adorable coffee shop has two locations in Tromsø, both equally easy on the eyes and with coffee that will shy the inevitable shivers away (this is the Arctic, after all). Don’t fight your inner voice that begs you to get their mouth-watering sweets; Kaffebønna also owns a bakery downtown where they do everything themselves in the utmost Norwegian tradition.
The aptly-named museum is dedicated to Northern Norway and its many aspects, from the daring expeditions to the Svalbard islands to the science behind the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights, and, for the little ones and their young-at-heart parents, the cold fish aquarium and its now famous trio of seals.
Snowshoeing with Tromsø Outdoor
Tromsø Outdoor does not bother to take visitors very far out of the city for their 2-hour long snowshoeing adventure; instead, they took me straight to Tromsø’s backyard where my little group and I mingled with locals on their daily ski outing.
Let it be known that snowshoeing might actually be the only sport I enjoy doing. If you know me at all, you know this is quite the statement!
Northern Lights tour with Guide Gunnar
This is what most people who travel to Northern Norway come to see. With Gunnar, you are getting the experience and knowledge of an ex-Norwegian military no-nonsense character who’s been doing Northern Lights tours for the last ten years. In his own words, “he’ll take you to Finland if he has to!”, should the Tromsø weather forecast not ever be in your favour.
Coffee at Smørtorget
This is one of my favourite places in the city. This café / artist studio / vintage shop is so incredibly Scandinavian and oozes cool with its indie playlist and ample candles. Their soy latte is particularly good. Their gigantic floor-to-ceiling windows make for ideal people-watching opportunities.
Dog sledding with Tromsø Villmarkssenter
Before you even think about saying that dog sledding is cruel, watch this video. If these dogs are not the very incarnation of eagerness and excitement, then I don’t know what is. This is what they live for, and what they love to do. It’s so much fun to see them get ready and pumped up for the ride!
It should be noted that self-driven sleighs can be hard labour, however, especially with a fresh layer of snow. These dogs can only get you so far with a foot of powder, and you’ll have to help them uphill. My experience was quite a workout!
But you know what made it all worth it?
Post ride cuddles >>> sleigh rides.
Eat at Pastafabrikken
Because you can only eat fish so many times a day! This restaurant offers fresh pasta dishes in a beautiful atmosphere, the ideal place to wind down after a long day of activities.
Snowmobiling and reindeer sledding with Lyngsfjord Adventure
Getting to Lyngsfjord Adventure‘s basecamp takes over an hour and a half; far from being a deterrent, the drive further in the Arctic mainland is rather spectacular, and the final result is well worth the detour. At Camp Tamok you will meet the indigenous Sami people and their reindeer herds, which will take you on a 4-kilometres long ride around some of Finnmark’s most beautiful scenery. You can also stay for a little while longer and get your adrenaline pumping on a lengthy roaring snowmobile ride!
Eat at Skirri
This restaurant hits all the right notes: a wonderfully modern decor, gorgeous views of the Tromso fjord, and an extensive and affordable lunch menu. If the fish gratin is available, you’re in luck!
Shop for Norwegian delicacies at Mathallen
If you just can’t get enough of Arctic cuisine and Norwegian food, then plan for a stop at Mathallen’s deli, adjacent to their well-respected restaurant. Here you will find plenty of fish products, cheeses, savoury and sweet treats, all inspired by traditional northern Norwegian culinary tradition.
Northern Lights tour with Tromsø Friluftsenter
Although you can’t judge a Northern Lights-oriented tour operator by the show you’re getting (these displays are notoriously difficult to predict, as they require a very precise combination of both clear skies and strong solar winds), I did end up sitting in the snow crying out of sheer amazement during my outing with Tromsø Friluftsenter. This expedition to one of their base camps included warm beverages and cake, as well as a sheltered lavvo tent with a roaring fire.
Tromsø travel tips
- If you’re on a budget, lunch deals will be your new favourite thing. Dinners are quite expensive in Tromsø but most restaurants will offer several fairly-priced options at lunchtime with prices valid until 5 PM.
- A few other great places to get a good meal: Bardus Bistro, Emmas Drømmekjøkken and Hildr Gastro Bar.
- Don’t think twice about wandering in the streets of Tromsø to get the best views. I