Set in a majestic landscape and packed with culture and history, the splendor and vitality of Tromsø often surprise many visitors.
Tromsø’s numerous attractions include wildlife and impressive vistas, and also history, culture, and daring architecture. Often described as the Paris of the north, Tromsø offers a lively nightlife, friendly locals and a range of restaurants specializing in the fresh produce of the region. The city center offers great shopping - from locally made specialties to Nordic and international brands.
When it comes to attractions and activities, Tromsø is out of the ordinary. The city's most recognizable landmark is the Arctic Cathedral. It was built in 1965, featuring a huge original glass mosaic. Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car to the top of the Fløyfjellet Mountain (1,400 feet) and enjoy breathtaking views of the city, mountains and fjords. The experience center, Polaria, lies five minutes from the city center. Here you’ll find an Arctic aquarium, interesting knowledge-based exhibits, a panoramic cinema and a gift and souvenir shop. If you like plants and flowers you should visit the world’s northernmost botanical garden, run by the University of Tromsø, where you also find the University Museum of Tromsø. It shows the depth of North Norwegian nature and culture, focusing on the indigenous Sami culture, as well as archaeology, religious arts, geology, and the northern lights, all in a family-friendly manner.
Tromsø was the starting point for several Arctic expeditions back in the days, and sealers and hunters roamed the streets. In a traditional wharf house from the 1830s, you’ll find the Polar Museum where you can learn more about Tromsø's polar history. You can also visit the world’s northernmost brewery, Mack, and have a taste of the products they make at Ølhallen.
Tromsø is situated almost 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, but its climate is pleasantly moderated by the Gulf Stream. The long winter darkness, with loads of snow and skies lit up by the northern lights, is perfect for winter activities like dogsledding and skiing. While the midnight sun and endless summer nights are excellent for hiking or kayaking.
If you are planning to stay a bit in Tromsø, we recommend our pre- and post-program to Sommarøy Island for a nature experience out of the ordinary. Or if you want some more action, how about an overnight stay in a Sami Lavvo with reindeer sledding?
The Tromsø area has been inhabited since the end of the ice age. Archaeological excavations in Tønsvika, just outside the city limits, have disclosed artifacts and remains of buildings estimated to be 9-10,000 years old. The area's rich Norse and Sami heritage are well documented. A Norse chieftain who lived in the 890's is assumed to have inhabited the southernmost reaches of today's Tromsø municipality. He described himself as living "furthest to the North of all Norwegians" with areas north of his kingdom being populated by Sami. In 1252, Håkon Håkonsson built the first church in Tromsø, the world’s northernmost church at the time. In 1794, despite having a permanent population of just 80, Tromsø was issued its city charter. Traders then moved here from near and far. The first expedition ship heading for the Arctic left Tromsø in 1820, and by 1850 it was Norway’s leading Arctic city. Arctic hunting became an important industry for the town. Several Arctic expeditions have departed from Tromsø. Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile, and Fridtjof Nansen often visited Tromsø in connection with their expeditions. The city was also referred to as the 'Gateway to the Arctic', a highly suitable name given that the majority of polar expeditions started in Tromsø and Arctic hunting is part of the city's history.