Tromso: Gateway to the Northern Lights

Tromso Travel Guide

We are in Tromso, the largest city in Northern Norway, and one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for observing the famous Northern Lights, a unique phenomenon where the sky is filled with surreal colorful beams, which draws crowds of adventure seekers every season to the outskirts of the North Pole. We’ve teamed up with SmartHotel Tromso and Arctic Explorers to bring you this comprehensive guide of this interesting arctic city and its various attractions.

Tromso Travel GuideLooking up at the sky is not the only activity for anyone visiting this city.  Amazing natural landscapes surround Tromso, with majestic Fjords, black snow-capped mountains, historical landmarks, and colorful houses that seem quite proud of their isolation.

Tromso Travel GuideTromso is located in the North of Norway, more than 300 Kilometers inside the Arctic Circle, and with a population exceeding 70,000 inhabitants, which makes it one of the largest northernmost cities in the world, and the starting point of many historical polar expeditions which are still happening to this day. But what’s interesting is that its isolation and proximity to the north pole did not prevent it from being a bustling urban center with plenty of activities to enjoy, such as snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, or simply enjoying a Sauna, as well as a lively nightlife, some great trendy hotels, restaurants and interesting architecture.  So if you’re in town to catch the light show and you need to wait a few days for the weather to clear up, don’t worry! This arctic city has a lot to offer!

Tromso Travel GuideFor example, Tromso offers something that people wouldn’t expect in a Northern town. There is a botanical garden of Arctic and Alpine flowers and plants where you can see flora that literally can’t be seen in any other place in the world. Definitely a must-see for nature enthusiasts!

Tromso Travel GuideThis town even has an Art museum featuring the works of some excellent International, Scandinavian and Norwegian artists such as Edvard Munch, and the best thing is that it’s absolutely free to visit! Also worth a visit is the Polar Museum which tells the history of all the polar expeditions and their pioneers.

Tromso Travel GuideThis little town also features the Science Center of Northern Norway, where you can see the region’s largest planetarium and gaze upon the endless universe… the perfect stop to set up the mood to watch the Northern Lights later with your own eyes. It also tells you a lot about the natural phenomena in detail.

Tromso Travel GuideLast but not least, and my personal second favorite thing about Tromso, is that you also have the rare opportunity to go on a whale safari and witness the most majestic and gentle giants of the oceans. Keep in mind that there is no whale hunting involved in this! It is meant to raise awareness about the beauty and the protection of these mysterious and beautiful animals. I mean who hasn’t seen a whale in a movie already and thought ” I would love to see that!” Well, now you have the opportunity. And believe me when I tell you that seeing them in real life is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever experience!

While you spend time in town, it’s best to keep an eye out for the Northern Lights forecast. Locals are very familiar with the phenomenon and such information is available everywhere, such as at the Tromso tourist information office, so you can’t miss it.

Top things to do

Chasing Northern Lights: The absolute number one reason to visit Tromso is of course trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. There are plenty of tour operators spread out all over the city which can offer you a chance to join the chase. I for one chose to go on a two day excursion with Arctic Explorers, and for good reason. Their tours are extremely well organized, their guides very experienced, and they offer an all inclusive experience, from special gear, clothing, dinner and snacks, and they even offer hotel pick-up and photo sharing. So you do not need to worry about a thing, all you need to do is basically show up on time!

Whale Watching: An absolutely outstanding once-in-a-lifetime experience is getting an up-close look at these majestic creatures of the deep. It’s quite the humbling experience that makes you feel grateful that these gentle giants grace you with their presence. You wonder if perhaps it is out of their own curiosity that they decide to swim by you without worrying about their safety…This tour has two features; the whales themselves, and the beautiful black fjords just off the shore of Tromso that you’ll also be able to explore. Another great excursion I decided to do with Arctic Explorers.

Tromso Historical Walking Tour: In this walking tour you will get acquainted with the city of Tromso and its century long history full of stories and anecdotes. You will encounter Tromso’s most important landmarks, including several Northern superlatives and charming wooden houses from the city’s time as the central trade hub in the North.

Top places to stay

Smart Hotel Tromso: They call it smart for a reason, it’s cozy and comfortable but also budget friendly. Smart Hotel is located right smack in the middle of town. The place really has it all. From modern and well equipped rooms with cable TV and great showers, to a delicious Nordic and international breakfast, and friendly accommodating staff ready to help you in any way possible whether it’s related to your stay or regarding excursions and tours around the area. What more could you ask for from a budget hotel?

Top places for food and drinks

Hildr Gastrobar: Tucked away in one of the central streets of Tromso is this quirky and cozy little bar/restaurant which immediately caught my attention as I was walking by. The interior is quite charming, warm and welcoming, something that is well needed when it’s -5 degrees outside I can tell you that! The menu is short and sweet and the food is quite scrumptious. But the highlight of my evening was the cocktails! Fantastic concoctions prepared meticulously and with the freshest of ingredients. Cheers Tromso!