The capital of the Arctic – Tromso
Located 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the city of Tromso has been dubbed the ‘Capital of the Arctic’ with its gateway to the rest of the lapland because of passing cruise ships stopping here, the largest airport is located here and has flights to Svalbard, Oslo, London and other regional airports in the area plus the city lies on the only north-south road in the country of Norway. Most of the city (which is the second largest in the Arctic after Murmansk in Russia) lies on an island called Tromsøya which lies in a fjord.
In my short time in the city (to which I hope to return in the future) I came across some beautiful architecture, found a brilliant viewpoint and some other interesting things. Here is my small guide to this wonderful city.
Arctic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen)
The Ishavskatedralen (built in 1965) is one of my favourite architectural constructed buildings inside the Arctic Circle and is located a few minutes’ walk from the bridge which connects the mainland and the island of Tromsøya. One of the unusual fact about the cathedral is that it is built out of aluminum-coated concrete panels and once it was put in place, because of its distinct look and location, the locals have dubbed the cathedral the ‘opera house of Norway’ as it looks like the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
This building like I said is really fascinating as it really stands out with the lakeshore nearby and the mountains overlooking it from behind. The only problem I had when I visited the religious site back in 2009 is that the management charge visitors (tourists) a lot of money to view the inside but now I wished I paid the money to have a look.
Tromsø Bridge (Tromsøbrua)
Norway has many bridges due to its rugged landscape and fjords near the coastline but Tromsø has one of the most famous due to its location. It was opened in 1960 and at the time, this was the longest bridge in Northern Europe which spans 1,036 meters from the island to the mainland. For visitors to the city (who want to walk around),the western end is where the main centre is located and on the eastern side of the bridge is where the Arctic Cathedral is (literally right in front of your eyes once off the bridge, just be careful crossing the road).
Back in 2009, I took a walk across the bridge which took a while to cross but I have to admit, the vehicle traffic wasn’t heavy as Tromsø also has a tunnel which runs from the mainland to the northern part of the island so it was pretty quiet. In the centre of the bridge is the best place to get a good view of the surrounding areas but taking quality photographs can be a hassle as there is a security fence in the way so people don’t throw themselves off the bridge into the lake.
Located on the mainland and south of the Arctic Cathedral is the Fjellheisen (which translates into English as the ‘Mountain Lift’) which is an aerial tramway running up the side of a mountain and is the best place to get fantastic views of the fjord and the city of Tromsø. The journey between the lower station and the upper station takes about four minutes and once I arrived at the top I was standing on a mountain ledge about 420 meters above sea level (1,378ft). From here a lot of visitors I noticed start their hikes to other mountains in the area including one of the highest called Tromsdalstinden which is 1,238 meters high and can be seen from the city down below. I highly recommend the ride on the tramway to get in those amazing views.
The Statue of Roald Amundsen
Located in the city centre there is a statue of the famous explorer, Roald Amundsen. Even though he was born in the capital, Oslo, he was a regular figure around this area as by the end of the 19th century, Tromsø had become a major trade centre in the Arctic region and a lot of expeditions towards the North Pole originated from here. A lot of explorers like Roald also recruited their crews in the city before heading northwards into the Arctic. A statue has been put here in tribute to Roald whose major achievement was leading a team to the North and South Poles and becoming the first explorer to do so. It was with great pride to see this statue as I have read many stories and history books about him and his expeditions and came to admire him (and a few other explorers of course).
Useful Information: Airport
The airport of Tromsø is located on the western side of the island in the suburb called Langes and is 1.6km away from the city (around twenty minutes to walk). The airport is the gateway to the Arctic and has many flights to Oslo, Svalbard and other airports in the country as well as direct flights to London in the United Kingdom and some airports in Northern Russia.
Tips for a budget: if visitors do not have much luggage and want to save some money to get to the city, then walk it! Do not get a taxi or a bus, if visitors know where they are going, then use both feet and take a nice walk along the lakeshore before heading further inland (on the island that is) towards the centre. Just head south out of the main entrance and follow the main road (whilst walking, on the left hand side is the airports runway).
Where did I stay in Tromsø?
I really could not find a budget hotel or hostel at the time of booking but I stayed at the Scandic Hotel Tromsø, which is located a ten minute walk from the airport! (As mentioned above, it is in walking distance from the airport terminal building). I booked directly with the hotel and even through it is above my budget costs on accommodation, I was very glad to stay here. A private room with a comfortable double bed, clean washroom facilities and excellent television screen as well a fantastic Norwegian buffet breakfast, I couldn’t have asked for more.
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