Things to do in Tromsø

7 min read

Tromsø – the Arctic Capital – is a vibrant city offering a huge variety of activities to accommodate anyone and everyone. In Tromsø you get the best of both worlds – spectacular nature experiences, a bustling nightlife, amazing restaurants and exciting wildlife. Every year people travel to Tromsø from all over the world to chase the Northern Lights, go on whale safaris and husky tours, eat amazing food and check out what the city has to offer.

D ubbed the “The Paris of the North'', the streets in Tromsø are filled with shops, cafés and restaurants – and if you’re interested, you can check out the dynamic nightlife. When you are ready for a little escape from the city, there are plenty of nature activities just outside the centre of town. Below we have put together a list of things to do and see to help you decide what to prioritize when visiting the Arctic Capital.

Spend a Night at Tromsø Ice Domes

Every year, as the polar night approaches, Tromsø Ice Domes are built in the gorgeous Tamok Valley, situated a 75 minute drive from Tromsø city centre. Every year new ice sculptures, carvings and themes are created, so each year will be a brand new experience. The art work represents the local history, culture and wildlife, making it the perfect winter wonderland full of frosty magic. Something that's quite unique about the Ice Domes is that they allow you to combine loads of different activities with your visit, meaning you can tailor the trip the way you want.

bed of ice at Tromsø Ice Domes
An Ice bed at Tromsø Ice Domes

The exclusive Ice Domes Overnight Stay package includes a three course dinner over an open fire, snowshoeing, a Northern Lights trip and dog sledding. This allows you to combine some of the most iconic Tromsø activities in one package for a complete Northern Norwegian experience. There are also many other tours where you can combine a trip to the Ice Domes with a reindeer visit, dog sledding, reindeer feeding and more.

Chasing the Northern Lights

If you are travelling to Tromsø during the winter season, catching a glimpse of nature’s own fireworks is a must. In Tromsø the Northern Lights season lasts from approximately 21st of September to 21st of March and if you are in the area for a period of five days or so during this time, you have a pretty good shot of catching them. To maximise the chances of seeing the lights, you can go on an organised tour.

Northern Lights nature scene in Tromsø Norway
A Northern Lights Evening in Tromsø

The great thing about the Northern Lights tours is that you have a lot of options to choose from, allowing you to tailor the trip to your own preferences. You can venture out into the wilderness on a snowmobile, drive an arctic truck or go by husky or reindeer. If you want a more relaxing experience you can take it easy on a bus or a cruise while the lights dance above you. You could also combine more trips if you have enough time – there’s no such thing as seeing “too much” of Aurora Borealis. Getting a proper view of this spectacular light show in the city can be tricky due to light pollution from buildings, cars and signs. That’s why the guides will take you far out of the city to find the best places to spot the lights

Reindeer Sledding

What is a trip to the Arctic Capital without taking part in a true authentic experience? Reindeer herding has long been an important industry in the Northern parts and it’s closely linked to the indigenous people of Norway; the Sami people. On a reindeer sledding tour you’ll get to meet the Sami, learn more about their culture, try lasso throwing and feed the reindeer in addition to going on a unique sledding trip through the beautiful snowy areas.

Reindeer sledding winter landscape
Reindeer Sledding in Tromsø

In Tromsø you can go reindeer sledding in daytime and explore the arctic scenery. If you go reindeer sledding in the evening, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Dog Sledding

Another unique form of transport in Norway is of course dog sledding, and this is yet another way to ensure you get an authentic experience in Tromsø. Here you will be taken on an adventure through the snowy terrain, surrounded by arctic mountains and scenic fjords. On these trips you’ll even get the chance to be a “musher” for a day. A musher is the person who drives the dog sled and if you’re up for it, you get to take charge of the dog team as you set off on your adventure. When the sledding trip is over, you’ll be served a hot meal around the open fire in a reindeer herder’s tent.

dogsledding winter tromsø norway
Husky Tour in Tromsø

Tromsø offer dog sledding trips in the day time and in the evening. If you go dog sledding in the evening, the Northern Lights may appear in the sky above you making the trip even more memorable.

Dining in the Paris of the North

Teomsø is known for having cafés and restaurants on every corner and whether you are looking for a coffee break between shopping or a nice meal at the end of the day, you’ll be spoiled for choices. At Bardus in Cora Sandels gate the menu is based on the culinary history of the North and you get to enjoy home style meals made from fresh local ingredients. This restaurant has an ever changing innovative menu that includes produce like moose, reindeer, king crab, fish and whale. Smak Restaurant in Skippergata is another restaurant serving arctic food. Their seasonal menu consists of local ingredients reflecting the Northern Norwegian fauna.

plates of arctic food
An Arctic Meal in Bardus

In Mathallen (the Food Hall) Northern Norwegian chefs create amazing dishes from scratch based on the arctic ingredients that are in season. The hall is open for both lunch and dinner and whether you are looking for a meat dish, seafood or a nice dessert, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

PS: If you’re not up for an arctic menu, Tromsø has a huge range of international restaurants, anything from pizza restaurants to Indian, Thai and Chinese cuisine, so you can be rest assured you’ll never go hungry in this city.

Explore the Wildlife in the Arctic Capital

Seeing animals in their natural habitat is becoming more and more popular and experiencing the local fauna is high on the list for many when visiting a new country. From mid October to January, some of the world’s largest mammals visit the coast outside Tromsø to feed on the Atlantic Herring. If you set sail on a wildlife safari from Tromsø you might see humpback whales, killer whales, harbour porpoise, and sometimes even the fin whales.

two killer whales swimming in the water
Two Killer Whales off the Coast of Tromsø

You can also go on a wildlife safari on a hybrid-electric boat cruising in silence causing minimal disruption to marine life. During some trips the guides will deploy an underwater drone allowing you to get a closer look at the sealife below you. The guides will also share stories and knowledge about local culture, history and nature along the way. In addition to whales you might also stumble upon seals, dolphins, eagles and other local birds.

Festivals and Culture Events

As mentioned before Tromsø is a vibrant city and there are loads of different festivals and cultural events happening throughout the year. Every year (normally the third week of January) Tromsø International Film Festival (TIFF) kicks off. This is the biggest film festival in Norway showing a huge range of movies in selected venues. Among the venues is an improvised snow cinema and a cinema called Fokus offering Norway's most advanced cinema system.

There are also numerous music festivals happening throughout the year and chances are you’ll find some sort of music event to explore every month. You can also go on a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral or learn more about arctic exploration in the Polar Museum.

Where to Stay

In Tromsø there are plenty of options allowing you to stay right in the heart of the city. Scandic Ishavshotel has previously won the award for the county's best hotel breakfast and is located in Tromsø quayside. Scandic Ishavshotel is located in the heart of the city – the perfect base for experiencing city life, nature, activities and attractions. If you are looking for an experience out of the ordinary you can of course spend a night at Tromsø Ice Domes and If you just want to relax and kick back after a long day exploring the city, you might want to check into Scandic Grand Tromsø offering nice food and comfortable lounges in the city centre.

bed hotellrooom ishavshotel tromsø
Scandic Ishavshotel in Tromsø

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