Tromsø has to be one of my favorite cities and I’ve only visited it during the winter. But it has so much to do and there’s a lot to love about this place.
Perhaps, it’s the mountains and the ocean nearby. Or the densely-packed colorful Norwegian houses on the hill side. It could be that everything is so close by and within walking distance. But maybe it’s the people and the visitors from around the world. I don’t think it can be narrowed down to a couple of things, but here’s some of the 8 of the best things to love about this city.
NORTHERN LIGHTS FOR FREE:
If you visit Tromso during the winter, you can easily walk to the Pressvannet Lake in the center of the island and see the northern lights for free on any given night. It’s just a short 20 minute walk from the main center so you don’t need to spend any money. There’s lots of space to choose from too, whether it’s the random picnic bench or a small landing that’s right at the water’s edge. It’s big enough to give you lots of space, but once the northern lights show up, you’ll likely have the “oohs” and “aahs” from other tourists who are watching the same show.
DOG SLEDDING & VISITING:
Some good puppy love is nice during the long, dark winter months. You can visit the kenneling area for free at the Tromsø Villmarkssenter Dog Sledding Area, where it is encouraged to cuddle with the dogs. Otherwise make sure to take an hour or two-long sledding ride with the dogs. That’s what these dogs are meant to do. The tours book out fast, so make sure to reserve ahead of time.
FJELLHEISEN MOUNTAIN & CITY VIEWS:
One of the best things I did in the city was climb the Fjellheisen Mountain in winter. It was very difficult because of the snow and ice, but also very rewarding once at the top. The city view with the nice golden hour light was stunning. As real, and amazing as you would see in the photos. You can read about the climb up the mountain on this blog post.
The northern fjord areas near Tromsø is probably the best place to see whales. Both Humpback and Orca whales can be seen in the same area – mostly for feeding. Sometimes you can see them just from shore. Other times it is necessary to take a tour to outlying areas. The autumn and winter months from October through January are best.
POLAR PARK NORTHERN ZOO
In the world’s northern most animal park, you can see a host of animals. The park has bears, lynxes, moose, deer, wolves, reindeer, muskox, and wolverines. On a wolf visit, you can actually go inside and get a guided tour of the enclosure to have a up-close encounter with these animals. If you’re not going to other parts of the north, then this is one of the best places to see wildlife in a controlled way.
On your off days, you can go to mountains and ski. Perhaps if you’re lucky enough you’ll have a full ski day and as you are drinking your hot drink at the lodge, you will see the northern lights come out of the sky. Some places to ski are the Tromso Alpine Center, which is basic, but affordable, or the Malselv Mountain Village, located just south of the city.
The Arctic Cathedral is the most iconic landmark of Tromsø city. From most directions in the city, you can spot the sloped ridge line roof. During the night it changes color over time. You can admire the building from the outside, or for 40 NOK you can enter and tour the inside. However, many visitors report not finding it a good value to check the small interior. But either way, enjoy this famous building. You’ll remember it long after you leave Tromsø.
MORE NORTHERN LIGHTS
Just driving outside the city limits, you’ll find many great spots to see the northern lights. Here, outside the light pollution, you’ll see much of the faint northern lights that are always present in the winter sky. On a clear day, the tall mountains and large fjords are a spectacle to see. I recommend going to the interior if the weather is getting poor on the coast. Only on a clear day should you venture towards the west for searching for northern lights.
You’ll want to fly to Tromsø for two reasons. The first is that the drive from somewhere like Bergen or Oslo is quite far. While 24 hours of driving might not seem too bad, it is on roads that could have bad patches of ice, or you’ll be driving in the dark mostly. Nor do the trains run that far north. They stop 8 hours drive short in a town called Narvik or Bodø. While these two towns are good places to see the northern lights, it’s a better value to fly up to Tromsø as it doesn’t cost too much, and saves time.
The other reason to fly to Tromsø is that you might catch the northern lights – either flying there or flying back. Take the latest flight out of Tromsø or into Tromsø. The closer you are to 11 or 12, the better. This was taken at 9:00pm, so right at the beginning of the good time period of Northern Lights.