Tromsø: Tips for Travellers

I recently visited Tromsø, the world’s northernmost city and it seemed like just the moment to share my top tips for having an excellent and affordable time in this beautiful little city.

Up, up, up

In the time I spent in the city one spot quickly became my favourite place and that was halfway up the 1238 metre Tromsdalstinden mountain.  Luckily I was saved the need to climb it by the handy cable car or fjellheisen which is takes you straight up to a spot near the top of the mountain in just four minutes.  From here you can admire The whole of Tromsø from the viewing deck and it is probably the only place where you can really get a sense of the breathtaking island setting of this arctic city.

The view from Tromsdalstinden © Kirsten Hinks-Knight
If you’re luckier than me and you manage to get a clear sky I’m also told that it’s an excellent spot to see the northern lights from.  The cable car goes up and down every half hour and with its last trip down at 10 pm it might just be the best possible spot to glimpse the lights dancing over the city.  Since the cable car is currently around 170 krone for a round trip it may also be the cheapest way to get yourself far enough away from the light pollution of the city to see them since an aurora chasing tour will set you back around 1000 krone.

Cold Means Culture

If you’ve been doing your research before heading off you could be forgiven for thinking that Tromsø is just a base for arctic activities and it’s all about husky sledding and chasing aurora.  There is certainly a big industry in the city for those kinds of activities but it would be a mistake to overlook Tromsø’s cultural side.  As well as the many museums in the city Tromsø also harbours a surprisingly well developed arts scene for such a small city.  In the very centre of the city opposite the tourist information office you’ll find the Sami Centre for Contemporary Art.  This modern gallery space in the city centre will give you both a taste of contemporary art practices in the Sami community and a look at the history of contemporary Sami art.  You could also check out the community run art space Tromsø Kunstforening.  You won’t have missed this imposing building if you,re staying on the south side of the island and it is well worth a visit. 

I would also always recommend that you take the time to visit the two equally beautiful but very different churches in the area.  The beautiful detail and Nordic colours of the painted wooden church on the island is the perfect contrast to the striking 1960s design of the  so called arctic cathedral which lies just on the other side of the bridge to the mainland.

Inside Tromsø Kunstforening © Kathryn Campbell Dodd.

Home from Home

Everyone knows that Norway is expensive but Tromsø, being so remote, really does take the biscuit on this front.  Eating out is going to cost you a lot of money so it is a very good idea indeed to choose accommodation that involves a kitchen set up of some kind.  Although the food in the supermarkets will still seem pretty pricey to travellers from other parts of Europe it is definitely possible to eat on a budget if you can cook for yourself.  Airbnb is an excellent option for finding self catering accommodation but if holiday apartments aren’t your thing you could also try one of the many hostels or guest houses available. We stayed in one of the houses belonging to Bed and Books in the south part of the island.  Not only is there a shared kitchen to help you keep your costs down but the rooms are full of books and thoughtfully decorated and we were lucky enough to get a room with an excellent view across the fjord.

Inside Tromsø Bed and Books © Kirsten Hinks-Knight.

And finally…

Don’t just go for the northern lights.  You might well miss them and if you do you risk overlooking the unique and unsual appeal of this one-of-a-kind city in and of itself.  Go to Tromsø because you want to take in the place and the culture and let a glimpse of the lights, if you’re lucky enough to catch one, be the icing on the cake.


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