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There are plenty of things to do in Tromso, regardless of when you visit this city in northern Norway. Although Tromso is best known as one of the world’s top Northern Lights destinations, this city is well worth visiting year-round.
We’ve been there several times, at different points throughout the year, and there are always exciting and interesting Tromso activities to do, like visiting museums and monuments, going dog or reindeer sledding, and experiencing natural phenomena like the midnight sun and Northern Lights.
Of course, since Tromso is so remote, the best way to explore the area is with a Tromso rental car. That way, you will have plenty of flexibility to experience the best things to do in Tromso, as well as the best things to do around Tromso, like visiting the Lofoten Islands.
Without further ado, let’s get into the best things to do in Tromso!
1. The Arctic Cathedral, the top-rated Tromso tourist attraction
The Arctic Cathedral is undoubtedly one of the most popular Tromso tourist attractions. Although the site is known as a cathedral, it’s actually a parish church that’s located in Tromsdalen.
This attention-grabbing building is the work of architect Jan Inge Hovig. Made of aluminum-coated concrete panels, the church has been compared numerous times to the Sydney Opera House in Australia because of its pyramidal shape. On the other hand, some say that it resembles an iceberg.
Exploring this striking cathedral should certainly top your list of Tromso must-do activities. Since the church can be admired from various points around the city, you won’t be able to visit Tromso without at least catching a glimpse of it. Even so, I recommend visiting the cathedral so you can see it up close.
2. Polaria, a popular place to visit in Tromso
Polaria is the northernmost aquarium in the world and one of the most visited Tromso attractions.
Originally opened for purely scientific purposes, nowadays, this Tromso tourist attraction houses a panoramic cinema and a sea pool with bearded seals. You’ll also get to see multiple aquarium tanks, all of which only contain northern marine species.
Practically every guide to Tromso sightseeing recommends going to Polaria, but we didn’t go when we visited Tromso because we prefer not to see animals in captivity.
3. Take the Fjellheisen cable car, one of the best things to do in Tromso
Taking the Fjellheisen cable car is one of the best things to do in Tromso at any time of year.
The cable car takes you up to the mountain ledge of Storsteinen, which is 1,525 feet above sea level, and offers incredible views of the fjords and nearby islands. If you get lucky, it’s also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Tromso.
Right where the Fjellheisen cable car drops you off is the path that takes you to Tromsdalstinden, a mountain located 4,032 feet above sea level. This trail is perfect if you like hiking, since you can get even more spectacular views from Tromsdalstinden’s peak.
4. See the Northern Lights, the best thing to do in Tromso at night
There’s nothing better to do in Tromso in winter than watch a Northern Lights display. Thanks to Tromso’s far-north location, it is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Norway. Although we’ve already seen the aurora in different parts of the world on many occasions, I can assure you that this natural phenomenon is just as magical and exciting every time we see it.
If you’ve never seen the aurora before, booking one of the many Northern Lights tours that leave from Tromso is the best way to experience its beauty. Your guide will know exactly where to head to increase your chances of seeing the aurora, which is crucial, since sightings depend on how clear the sky is.
My favorite tour is this one, as they’ll take you wherever you need to go, including Finland and Sweden, to fulfill your dream of seeing the Northern Lights.
5. Whale watching fjord tour, a fantastic Tromso activity in winter
Learn more about Norwegian wildlife and enjoy one of the best things to do near Tromso by booking a whale watching fjord tour.
Tromso’s whale watching season lasts from November to early February, so taking a tour is one of the best things to do in Tromso in winter. You’ll most likely see humpbacks and orcas when you go whale watching from Tromso, since they flock to the fjords to feed on herring, but you may also see eagles and dolphins.
This whale safari is the tour we took while we were in Tromso, and it was an incredible experience.
6. Tromsø Cathedral, one of the top Tromso sights
Tromsø Cathedral is one of the top tourist attractions in Tromso for good reason. This beautiful neo-Gothic church was built in 1861 and designed by Christian Heinrich Grosch. Interestingly, this cathedral is the only Norwegian cathedral made of wood.
Luckily, this Tromso attraction is very easy to visit, since it’s in the center of the city, on Storgata Street.
7. Dog sledding, one of the most exciting Tromso activities
If you’re a canine lover, don’t miss out on going dog sledding, one of the best Tromso winter activities.
I highly recommend booking this husky dog sledding tour if you want to do this Tromso activity, since it’s received excellent reviews. First, you’ll get to meet and cuddle with an entire kennel of huskies before your guide briefly demonstrates how to drive a sled. Then, you’ll head out on a sledding adventure with your dog team and explore beautiful Arctic landscapes.
To top it all off, you’ll end your day with a slice of chocolate cake by a warm fire.
8. See the midnight sun, something special to do in Tromso in summer
The midnight sun is probably one of the most beautiful things to see in Tromso in summer.
This natural phenomenon of 24 hours of sunshine occurs every year in June and July. Since the sun is visible for 24 hours a day, it doesn’t set at all, which creates a rich, reddish-yellow sky.
One of the best ways to experience the midnight sun is on a nighttime fjord cruise like this one. Another option is to take the Fjellheisen cable car, which, in summer, is open until midnight, so you can see the midnight sun from Storsteinen.
Wherever you choose to see it from, the midnight sun is a must-see in Tromso if you visit the city during the summer.
9. Tromso Ice Domes, one of the most unique places to visit in Tromso
Experience one of the most unique attractions in Tromso by visiting the Tromso Ice Domes, a hotel made entirely of snow and ice.
This hotel is rebuilt from scratch every year, so it’s never quite the same, but you’ll always find plenty of beautiful ice and snow art to admire. There’s also an ice bar, cinema, and restaurant in addition to the hotel rooms.
The best way to explore this place to see in Tromso is by staying in one ice dome. However, if you’re traveling on a budget, you can book this tour, which includes a guided tour of the premises. You’ll also get to meet some reindeer and enjoy a complimentary non-alcoholic shot at the ice bar.
10. Reindeer sledding, a popular thing to do in Tromso
Reindeer sledding represents more than just a fun thing to do in Tromso. It’s also a way to learn more about Sami (an indigenous people of Scandinavia) culture, of which reindeer herding is a big part.
This reindeer sledding tour really provides the best of both worlds. The tour’s highlights include reindeer sledding and feeding, traditional Sami food, and Sami storytelling and songs.
Best of all, reindeer sledding is one of the most festive ways to celebrate Christmas in Tromso and bring Santa’s sleigh to life!
11. Tromsø Bridge, a place to visit in Tromso all year round
Tromsø Bridge connects the islands of Tromsøya and Kvaløya to the mainland, and, of course, it’s one of the most popular places to see in Tromso. The construction of the bridge in 1960 meant that the islands were no longer only connected to the mainland by ferry service, so you can imagine how important this bridge is for the city.
Tromsø Bridge was the first cantilever bridge built in Norway, and, at the time of its construction, it was also the longest in Europe. Like the Arctic Cathedral and Tromsdalstinden mountain, it has been protected by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage since 2000, and modifications to it are prohibited.
12. The Polar Museum, one of the most interesting Tromso attractions
Be sure to check out the Polar Museum, one of the best museums in Tromso and a Tromso attraction worth visiting.
Located inside an old warehouse along the waterfront, this museum houses exhibitions that cover Arctic exploration from Tromso and whaling and trapping in Northern Norway. Visiting this fascinating museum will definitely give you a greater understanding of Tromso’s history and culture.
13. Fjord cruise, a perfect tour in Tromso for exploring nature
One of the most popular tours in Tromso is the Norwegian fjords cruise. With a bit of luck, in addition to seeing the beautiful Arctic landscapes, you might see some of Tromso’s wildlife.
Best of all, no matter what time of year you take the cruise, there will always be something to see, so it’s a fantastic thing to do in Tromso year-round.
Many ferries and boats pass through the fjords, but I recommend this tour, which includes lunch. Even though wild animals can be unpredictable, there is a good chance you might see everything from various species of birds, including puffins if you go in the summer, to seals and otters.
14. Snowshoeing, one of the most fun activities in Tromso
If you love the snow as much as I do, snowshoeing is another one of the best things to do in Tromso in winter.
This snowshoeing tour will give you all the equipment you need for a snowy hike. You’ll also get to explore the mountains, enjoy incredible views, and, with a little bit of luck, see some of the region’s fauna. Another option, if long walks don’t appeal to you, is booking this snowmobile tour, where you’ll visit the Ice Domes and drive through the Arctic wilderness.
Choose the tour that best suits your preferences, but plan to enjoy one of these excursions because the landscapes you’ll see are absolutely spectacular.
15. Torget, a Tromso must-see location
Every visitor should see Torget, the main city square of the “capital of the Arctic.” Storgata, the most important street in the city, starts from this square. Moreover, because the square is in the heart of the city, this place to see in Tromso is pretty hard to miss.
In this square, you’ll find the Town Hall, music temple, statue of King Haakon VII of Norway, Culture House, and statue of Fangstmonument, the Arctic hunter. Also, after visiting Torget, I recommend walking along Storgata, as this street is full of hotels, shops, and some of Tromso’s best restaurants.
Both Torget and Storgata are great places to visit in Tromso.
16. Tromsø Harbour, another great place to visit in Tromso
In terms of places to see in Tromso, I also recommend visiting Tromsø Harbour, which is very close to Torget. From there, you get very nice views of the Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø Bridge, and Mount Fløya, meaning the port is a Tromso must-see.
Additionally, many of the best hotels in Tromso are located by the harbor, including the Radisson Blu Hotel. Most of the hotel’s rooms provide views of the city, the Arctic Cathedral, or Tromso Sound and there are plenty of amenities on offer, including a sauna and fitness room.
Moreover, if you happen to be traveling to Tromso around Christmastime, the port is the best place to see fireworks on New Year’s Eve. We’ve never been to Tromso at Christmastime, but I’m sure it’s beautiful.
17. Visit Ølhallen, a historic place to see in Tromso
Ølhallen is the oldest pub in the city, making it an iconic place to visit in Tromso. Fishermen, farmers, and townspeople used to meet here, but now, this is a popular pub for visitors and locals alike. It’s also the ideal location to have a good beer after a long day of sightseeing in Tromso.
Just opposite Ølhallen is Mack Brewery, which is the northernmost brewery on the planet. Both places are a must-visit in Tromso, especially if you’re a beer lover.
18. Fløya, Rødtind, and other places to visit around Tromso
Fans of the outdoors should definitely add hiking in Tromso to their list of things to do in Tromso. There are plenty of great hikes in the area, many of which offer spectacular views of the fjords and nearby islands.
A fantastic trail that’s close to Tromso city center leads to the top of Fløya, a peak that provides panoramic views of the city, fjords, and Kvaløya Island. Another option is hiking up to Rødtind, yet another mountain with lovely views, but you will need a rental car to reach the trail.
Many hikes can be done year-round, although some will require snowshoes in the winter. If you want to round out your outdoor adventure, you can even spend a night camping in Tromso after your hike.
19. Tromsø Museum, one of the best museums in Tromso
If you visit one museum in Tromso, make it the Tromsø Museum. At this fascinating Tromso attraction, you’ll learn about Norwegian history, art, science, and more.
All the exhibitions in this museum are related to studies and specialties of the Arctic University of Norway. The topics they cover include geology, Sami culture, and sacred art.
20. Stay in a secluded cabin, a relaxing thing to do in Tromso
For those who value their peace and quiet, you can’t go wrong with staying in a secluded Tromso cabin and doing day trips to places to visit around Tromso.
Most cabins, however, other than Tromsø Lodge and Camping, are located outside Tromso, so you do need a rental car to reach them. The incredible natural surroundings make staying in a cabin worth it, though. Cabins also provide great opportunities to see the Northern Lights, stay on the edge of a fjord, or even just get some rest and relaxation.
21. Sami culture tour, a must-do Tromso activity
Another of the Tromso activities I recommend is one that allows you to learn about Sami culture.
The Sami are a nomadic people who have traditionally survived off of fishing, reindeer herding, and fruit- and berry-picking. They are a tribe with their own culture and are considered the first known indigenous population of Scandinavia.
This tour is a great option if you’d like to learn a bit about Sami traditions and culture, as you’ll see a traditional Sami dwelling (a lavvu), eat a traditional meal, and listen to Sami songs and stories.
22. Visit the Tromsø Public Library and City Archives in Norway
The Tromso Public Library and City Archives is another place to visit in Tromso. This library is the northernmost public library in the world and is located 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The building was designed by the architect Gunnar Bøgeberg Haugen, and its construction was completed in 2005. Best of all, it’s easy to reach, since it’s located in the city center, just 164 feet from Storgata. The most striking features of the building are its roof with four sloping arches and its glazed facade that takes full advantage of the natural light.
23. Telegrafbukta beach, where to go in Tromso in summer
Visiting Telegrafbukta Beach is not just a thing to do in Tromso in the summer; it’s also a thing to do in Tromso throughout the year.
From this beach, you get spectacular views of the city, and, if you go during the summer, you can take a dip in the Arctic Sea. Of course, at that time of year, it’s full of locals, although you should still be able to visit it.
The summer is also the best time of year to visit Tromso and see the beach if you want to attend Bukta music festival, which is held every July.
Telegrafbukta is even worth visiting in winter, since it’s very beautiful there when it snows.
24. MS Polstjerna, an intriguing Tromso attraction
The MS Polstjerna ship is one of the most immersive Tromso attractions, since it’s a museum set inside a former sealing ship. The museum is also very convenient to reach, as it’s located close to Polaria.
The exhibits inside focus on what life was like on board during expeditions through the Arctic, and the museum displays tools that were used to hunt seals, an activity that, luckily, is no longer allowed.
25. Northern Norwegian Science Center, one of the best places to visit in Tromso
Finally, the last Tromso attraction I recommend visiting is the Northern Norwegian Science Center.
This science museum is a great place to take kids because it’s interactive and has an exclusively educational purpose. In addition, you’ll find the beautiful Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden of Tromsø right next door. This garden is best viewed from the end of May to the beginning of October, when the collection of Arctic, Antarctic, and alpine plants from all over the world is in full bloom.
As you can see, there’s never a bad time to plan a visit to Tromso, since there are always plenty of Tromso activities happening to keep you busy. Whether you’re a fan of the outdoors, a culture fiend, or a foodie, hopefully, this list has helped you find things to do in Tromso that appeal to your interests.
Knowing where to stay in Tromso is also an important part of the trip planning process, and, most importantly, don’t forget to download this Tromso map so you can find your way around the city.
If, after this article, you have any questions about places to visit in Tromso, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. I will be happy to help.
Enjoy your trip!
Hi Ascen, Thanks for posting this as it’s been very helpful in planning my brief cruise ship stop over in Tromso. Quick question, I am thinking of taking a 4-5 hour small group tour. Arctic Roadtrip: Sommarøy with scenic picnic, or should I just spend the day looking around Tromso. I’m only in town from 9am to 5pm, so won’t have much time to see Tromso itself if I take the Arctic Roadtrip.
It really depends on what you’re more interested in. The attractions in Tromso are more suited to those who are interested in history and culture, while the tour you suggested is better for nature enthusiasts. Both are great options, so I would go with whatever your personal preferences are!