First timer’s guide to Tromso

posted in: Norway | 11

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)

Tromso, Norway
Arctic Cathedral, Tromso

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)

Tromso, Norway

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.


Tromso, Norway

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.

Tromso, Norway

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).

Tromso, Norway

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.

Tromso, Norway

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?

Tromso, Norway
Scandic Hotels Tromso – Photo:

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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Tromso, Norway

11 Responses

  1. Looks really cool. My SO is desperate to visit Norway at the moment. He’s growing a beard so I think it’s some kind of viking thing in his head! The Arctic is such an interesting place, and not a typical place to go for many travellers.

  2. I was in Tromso a few months ago and found it to be a quite nice city and a grand base for other activities. There are indeed some lower-priced places to stay in the city, and there are enough grocery stores and such to keep the travel prices down, but traveling to the artic simply isn’t a budget activity.

  3. The cathedral looks relay magnificent. But, ever more magnificent is the material it was made of. And to be honest, in general I don’t like when entrance to sacral objects is charged. In my humble opinion, it should be free.

  4. Oh we love Norway and have visited a handful of times but haven’t made it to Tromso yet. It looks like a great place to visit.
    Skye Gilkeson recently posted…Why the Handstand Should be Your Favourite Travel Exercise

  5. I think we’ll book a trip to Tromso next winter. I hear they have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights and I would love to do that. It looks like a cute city no matter what time of year, though.
    Corinne recently posted…Uganda Through Our Windshield -Swarms of Tse Tse Flies And Other Road Hazards

  6. I’m not going to lie, that looks a little too north of the equator for me! Haha. It looks gorgeous though! I just need to trade in my beach tank tops for some cold gear!:)
    Greg recently posted…50 Things To Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

  7. Tromso is further north than anywhere I’ve ever been, although I suppose it would be pleasant enough in the summer. I’ve been to Oslo, but that’s nowhere near the same. Incidentally, while Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole, it is disputed whether he was also the first to reach the North Pole, or whether someone like Frederic Cook got there before him. I guess Amundsen was the first person to be able to check BOTH poles off his bucket list, if that’s what you meant.
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) recently posted…Country no. 44 on my World Karaoke Tour: this year in Jerusalem!

  8. I’ll admit, I had never even heard of Tromso before reading this! But visiting Norway is high on my list, it looks like a beautiful part of the world. I love that view from the bridge! Thanks for sharing and happy travels 🙂
    Carmen’s Luxury Travel recently posted…Top Things to Do in Ronda, Spain

  9. Tromso has been on the bucket list for me for years! I’ve been to Norway twice as I have lots of family there (I’m of Norwegian descent) but only explored the southern part. Beautiful, but haven’t been that far north. Have been trying to figure out if I can include that on my Norway trip in October this year. How did you get up to Tromso and was travelling there expensive?
    Juliette | Snorkels to Snow recently posted…Isa Lei: Farewell Fiji

  10. I’ve always wanted to visit Norway! Thanks for this guide. The opera house sounds pretty awesome to see!

  11. The cathedral looks so unique from the outside! I’d love to visit there. Norway in general is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. Their epic landscapes inspire me. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Jetsetter Jenn recently posted…How to Spend 48 Hours in Trinidad, Cuba

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