Things to Do Tromsø
Things to do Tromsø - Understand
Tromsø is located a whopping 69 degrees north - that is further north than the Northern Alaska shoreline (or all of Iceland!)! However, with the warming gulf stream and a location near the sea, the temperatures are much less frigid than what this suggests.
This small city is surprisingly well-off (Norway is the world's most productive country, though) and while it lives off tourism, it's never touristy. Tromsø has all the amenities of a modern city but all the feel of a small town. That's quite a find in my book!
Tromsø is located on an island just a bit south of Hammerfest and Nordkap - two other major stops on the Hurtigruten ferry that (used to) form the lifeblood of the northern communities.
Like the rest of Norway, Tromsø isn't cheap, but you can always find decent options if you keep looking.
Things to do Tromsø - Get Around
The airport bus will cost you $15 for the short return trip to town. It's all perfectly organized and buses are seemingly always on time.
In town, walking is your best bet, followed by the local bus. The local bus is included in the Tromsø Pass, which you can read about below.
Things to do Tromsø - Sights
The Midnight Sun
This natural spectacle is a big draw all over northern Norway and for about a month the sun never sets in Tromsø. For another two months, it sets just around midnight. When I was in town, sunset was at 12.30AM and sunrise at 1.15AM. The sunrise lasts for hours and many bars are open until 3.30AM. I loved to sit outside and ogle at the sky display.
I enjoyed this tremendously (though it robs you of sleep) and found it the most exciting part of my trip.
The Tromsø Pass
Tromsø is happy to sell you a package deal for the Tromsø Pass, which costs $50 and allows free entry into a number of local sights.
Ishavskatedralen Arctic Cathedral
Polaria Science Museum
Fjellheisen return cable car ride
The pass also includes your local bus tickets and more sights.
These aren't such must-do local attractions, but if you have time and some money to burn, then certainly do.
Things to do Tromsø - Excursions
You don't come that far past the Arctic Circle to not take some trips through the magnificent fjords. Fjords make for excellent scenery as they combine steep green hills (that are white in winter), blue water and small passageways. The company that has a virtual monopoly on cruising these fantastic waterways is Hurtigruten. Originally a cargo and ferry boat, it was upgraded to a cruise ship in the 1980s. You can still book sections as one-ways and explore just the parts you want without the need to be stuck on a long journey.
We chose to go for the route from Tromsø to Skjervøy by bus and then return via Hurtigruten. While long, this proved to be an amazing experience using (semi) public transport all along the way. It's not cheap at $100, but gives you a close-up experience to see some of Norway's amazing beauty. You can buy these tickets at the Tromsø bus station.
The tour is not guided and just a handful of other passengers joined us (though the bus was rather full of locals). The bus tour includes amazing scenery along the fjords and we crossed two huge fjords by ferry on the way to Skjervøy. The small town of Skjervøy rests on its laurels as a major trading port and has two underwater tunnels and bridges connecting it to the mainland. The amount of infrastructure investment in Norway is just mind-blowing.
You can't pre-book the tour and reservations are only accepted the same day before by 1.30PM. Seemingly weather plays a big role and the Hurtigruten ferry skips Tromsø under certain conditions.
Things to do Tromsø - Eat & Drink
Rå Sushi & Bar
I did not find the time to stop by this highly-rated sushi place during my visit. Expect fantastic sushi and a killer price tag as well.
The town's only brewery has temperamental opening hours and I missed it twice. It looks great, though.
Risø mat & kaffebar
Risø is a top-notch coffee shop that would compete well anywhere in the world, including San Francisco. Ask for a special animal on your cortado and you will be surprised. The setting and staff add to the wonderful experience. Loved this place. If only the coffee were a bit better...
knoll og tott
This is your best bet to escape McDonald's and Burger King and still get a great value meal in town (for $10). The seafood sandwich seems to boast as much seafood as there is in the harbor and the staff are friendly too.
Kaffeebønna has a beautiful setting along the marina with lots of outdoor and indoor seats. It features stylish design, lovely pastries (in the adjacent bakery) and great coffee. You guessed it, though - it's expensive.
Things to do Tromsø - Where to Stay
I chose the Radisson Blu Tromsø and liked the hotel quite a bit. It's also surprisingly affordable, with rates of $120 in the main summer season.