THINGS TO DO IN TROMSO IN WINTER

Our flight to Tromsø is early morning at 7.20. With transit time 15 minutes in Leknes we already arrived in Tromsø airport at 9am, collect our baggage and within 15 minutes we are already inside our Taxi.

Tromsø is a city in the very northernmost part of Norway. It is almost 350 km north of the Arctic Circle and is one of the best places to view the spectacular Northern Lights in winter.

In Tromsø you can find art, history, sophistication, good food and an infamous nightlife in a bustling, tiny city. The city is surrounded by spectacular scenery that is visible from everywhere in town. It is home to the world’s northernmost university, as well as research institutes and satellite based industry.

Most of Tromsø is situated on the small island of Tromsøya. Tromsøya is 10km long, and contains both built-up areas and birch forests, as well as the airport. The city centre is located in the south-eastern part of the island. This is where Polaria, the Polar Museum, The Art Museum of Northern Norway, the Contemporary Art Gallery as well as most of the shopping, good eating and nightlife located. The main center of the city is the 1km long Storgata street filled with all kind of shops catered for tourists, where most of the people watching takes place.

Elsewhere on the Island, you would find Tromsø Museum on the southern tip, and the Botanic Garden near the University, on the north-eastern side.

East of the Tromsø Island, across the Tromsø Sound, you would find the mainland with the Arctic Cathedral, the Cable Car, the Military Museum and extensive residential areas. The island is connected to the mainland by the 3km long Tromsø Sound Tunnel (And it is a big tunnel which have a roundabout inside it) and the 1016 metres long Tromsø Bridge.

Weather

Average January temperatures hover around -4. The coldest temperature record of Tromsø is -18C. Rain and temperatures up to +6 are not unusual, even in mid winter. Usually, there are large quantities of snow between December and May. The summer temperatures are highly variable. Overcast, chilly and drizzly days are interspersed with beautiful, warm, sunny days. The July average is at +11C.


There are 3 ways to get from airport to City Center

  1. Airport Express Bus
    The airport express departure time is adjusted with flight arrival time from Monday to Saturday, conveniently waiting as you exit the airport. The same goes for route from city center to the airport except for Sunday where the first bus only departs at 8.30am. The bus drop and pick up at Scandic Ishavshotel, Scandic Grand Hotel and Polaria.
    One way ticket adult: 110 NOK, children below 15yo: 66NOK
    Travel time 15 minutes
  2. Local Bus
    Route 40 and 42 stop at the airport. Bus stop is in front of the airport parking lot.
    Travel time: approximately 15-20 minutes.
    Buy your ticket from the ticket machine at the bus stop or in the apps Troms Billett thru your mobile phone.
    The timetable can be seen in Vy apps https://www.vy.no/en/
    One way ticket adult and children (6-17yo): 20 NOK
  3. Taxi
    The taxi stand is located directly outside the arrival hall. The travel time to Tromsø city center is approximately 10 minutes.
    There are 2 Taxi companies:
    Tromsø Taxi PHONE: (+47) 03011
    Din Taxi, PHONE: (+47) 02045
    Booking thru apps Taxi Fix
    Because Tromsø city center is close to the airport (~5km), Taxi can be cheaper than taking the airport bus if there are 2 of you. We took the Taxi from airport to our Apartment and it only cost us 200 NOK on weekdays. When we left to the airport on Sunday 6am the we ordered Taxi the night before and it cost us 320 NOK. Still cheaper than if we take airport express for the 4 of us.

Tromsø Activities

Tromsø is a winter destination and with being close to arctic, Tromsø has abundant snow which makes many winter activities possible

Chasing Northern Light
Many people flock to Tromsø from Nov to March to see Northern light and you have better chance of seeing the light Vs Lofoten and Iceland because the weather is more stable and less cloud coverage. There are many tour options from the budget big bus, small group tour, private tour and chasing aurora from the ship. My recommendation is always go for small group because they will chase the light for you and they can go as far as crossing Finland border to find a clear sky with less cloud coverage. If you are traveling in a small group, even better to hire a private guide like what we did. I have written about tips on chasing the light in my Iceland posting here.

Husky Sledding
You can have the most beautiful adventure in the fairytale Arctic wilderness in a sledge or even be a musher pulled by adorable Alaskan huskies. I personally think this is a must do if you are traveling winter because 1. I love huskies and 2. You can only have this experience in Tromsø and Lapland (Finland and Sweden). You can choose to sit in a sledge led by professional musher or self ride and learn to be a musher. You need to be minimum 16 years old and physically fit for the self drive sled. The tour is usually inclusive with hot meals and you get to play with the Huskies and visit the puppies. There are several tour operators offering husky sledding. Our family went with Tromsø Villmarkssenter. My daughter and I took the guided sled while Hubby and Son did the self drive sled and we had the best time of our life. The dogs are so friendly and adorable. Read our experience here.

Snow Mobile
Snowmobile safari gives you the opportunity to venture far into the wilderness and experience the mountains of the far north. In order to drive the snowmobile, you need to be a minimum of 18 years old and hold a valid driver’s license. And similar like dog sledding, In order to drive the snowmobile, snowmobiles are shared with 2 people (even if booking as 1 person)

Arctic Fjord Tour
You can either do Arctic fjord tour by road trip or or take the boat tour/cruise which can be combined with fishing tour or whale and wildlife watching. We chose to do the Arctic Fjord tour by road trip with Creative Vacation because we have missed the season to see whale (the best time is early November to early February) and we chose them because they are running small group with maximum 8 people.

Snow Shoe Hike
This trip is a great option for those who are looking for an active and outdoorsy experience with great views and you can experience the nature of Northern Norway closer than you ever could from the road or inside the city. This program requires active participation and good physical condition. It is therefore recommended for children over 13 years of age.

Reindeer sledding tour
A different experience with Dog sledding. Here you’ll learn about the indigenous Sámi people who were traditionally reindeer herders. As part of the tour you get to enjoy a hot meal in a Sámi tent and feed the reindeer, too.

Places of interest

Visit the arctic Cathedral
This incredible structure is one of Tromsø’s most iconic landmarks. Officially named the Tromsdalen Church, but also known as the Arctic Cathedral, its daring design was inspired by ice and snow. The church, which was opened in 1965, is visible from all over Tromsø, thanks to the strip lights integrated between the 11 panels that make up the walls, which shine as darkness falls. One of the most unusual features of the church is the east-facing glass mosaic which makes for a spectacular sight when Tromsø’s famous Midnight Sun glimmers through it. To get here you can take Local Bus no 20 or 24 from Kystens hus or walk thru the Tromsø bridge. It is just after the bridge.

Arctic Cathedral
Tromsø Bridge in the backdrop

Fjellheisen cable car
A visit to Tromsø isn’t complete without a ride on the Fjellheisen cable car up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge. The journey only takes around four minutes and the views from the top are truly breathtaking. Always check their website first to see whether the are open or not. We made the mistake in coming without checking and found that it is closed due to the strong wind.
Opening hour: 10.00-23.00
Ticket Price
Round Trip: Adult 260 NOK, Children (3-15 yo) 130 NOK, Family 2+2 570 NOK
One way: Adult 170 NOK, Children (3-15 yo) 85 NOK, Family 2+2 360 NOK
If you’re feeling peckish, you can enjoy a bite to eat at the Fjellstua restaurant while soaking in the panoramic vistas of Tromsø, the surrounding islands, the mountains and the fjords.
You can also hike 1,200 sherpa steps up to the ledge or take the cable up and hike your way down.
Local Bus no 20 or 24 from Kystens hus

See the seals at Polaria
If you’re visiting Tromsø with little ones, then a trip to Polaria aquarium makes for a perfect afternoon of entertainment. Polaria’s unusual building, which represents blocks of ice pushed on land by the Arctic Ocean, can be found in the city centre, and houses a variety of Arctic marine life, from tiny sharks to catfish. It’s also one of the only places in Europe where you can get up-close and personal with the Bearded Seal. There are two of these northern species of seal at the aquarium, plus two Harbour Seals, and the daily feeding and training exercises allow you to get up close to these playful animals while learning all about life in the Arctic.
Opening hour: 10.00-16.00
Ticket fee: adult 210NOK, children (3-16 yo) 105 NOK, Family of 3 children (3-16 yo) 525 NOK

Enjoy strolling and shopping on Storgata Street
Tromsø’s main pedestrian street is packed with cafés, restaurants and shops and they open quite late to cater for tourists who were doing activities in the morning and afternoon. Here you can pick up some souvenirs, local handicrafts and Norwegian-design clothing before heading for a delicious lunch at one of the many eateries on the street. And if you’re up for a big night out in Tromsø, Storgata is the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. Tromsø’s city centre is relatively compact, meaning you can walk across it in around 10 minutes.

Explore Tromsø Ice Domes
Set among the mountains of Tamok Valley, around 90 minutes outside Tromsø, this winter wonderland is built every year as the Polar Night approaches, and is open from December to March. Here you’ll find everything from ice bars to an ice cinema, and you can enjoy a delicious meal in the ice restaurant. Those looking to make the most of the experience can even choose to stay overnight in the extraordinary ice hotel, where you’ll be provided with reindeer skins and a polar expedition sleeping bag.

Polar Museum
Tromsø has its fair share of museums but I find that Polar museum is an interesting one to visit. Polar museum tells the exciting story of the courageous trappers (men and women!) and the hazardous journeys of discovery in the arctic on a red-painted wharf dating back to 1830. From the end of the 1800s to the 1950s, many trappers overwintered in Svalbard. A trapper’s cabin from around 1900 has been constructed at the Polar Museum, and you can see how two men could live through an arctic winter with no supplies or contact with the outside world. They spent their days tending their fox and polar bear traps, and hunting reindeer and seals. They probably also played quite a lot of cards.
Opening hours: 11.00-17.00
Ticket fee: Adult 100 NOK, children (below 18yo) free

Where to stay

If you are looking to stay in Hotels these are Hotels with the best view looking over Tromsø harbor: Scandic Ishavshotel, Clarion Collection Hotel with , Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora, Clarion Hotel The Edge and Radisson Blu Hotel. All Hotels provide breakfast and both Clarion Collection Hotel with and Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora even provided breakfast and dinner as part of their package. Tromsø is a compact city so the other hotels are located slightly further away but still within walking distance from the harbor and are priced less expensive. Tromsø also has many apartments which can be booked thru Booking.com or Air BnB.

If you are staying in apartment and your flight is early, you can store your luggage in Tromsø Harbor Prostneset located in Samuel Arnesens gate 5.

SizeDurationPrice
Normal lockbox (50x45x80 cm)24 hoursNOK 80,-
Large locker24 hoursNOK 100,-
Ski locker24 hoursNOK 100,-

Alternatively if your apartment is managed by Hotel such as Enter Tromsø , you will be able to store luggage in their Hotel. Their apartments are also located near to the Hotel in a central location in Gronnegata road. This was where we stayed as we prefer to stay in apartment with kitchenette if we stay for more than 3 nights. We loved the apartment but be aware that they don’t have elevators. Only the new buildings have elevators, so you need to ask when booking.

Accommodations in Tromsø get booked up quickly during northern light season so book in advance especially if you want to stay right in the city center.

Our apartment in Gronnegata street

All of tour operators for activities in Tromsø offer pick up at the city (most of them in front of Radisson Blu Hotel) so you really don’t need a car if you stay in the city center.

Tromso Harbor. Prostneset on my left

There are many things you can do in Tromsø in the winter. And if your ultimate goal in coming to Tromsø is to see northern light, then allocate 4 days so you have better chance. We stayed for 3 days throughout our whole trip to Norway and wished we had stayed longer.

Our video recap in Tromso City

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