Start your Arctic adventure of a lifetime in Tromsø! A hidden gem tucked away in the north of Norway, Tromsø is a magical place full of natural wonders. Visit in winter for the chance to see the enchanting Northern Lights, or plan your trip for summer when you can witness the phenomenal midnight sun.
Tromsø was fondly nicknamed the “Paris of the North” by travelers in the 19th century for its dazzling fashion, decadent food, and glamorous culture. Today the city continues to live up to its reputation with more restaurants per person than anywhere else in Norway and a seemingly never-ending series of festivals held throughout the year.
From skiing, hiking, dogsledding, and whale watching to museums, theaters, art galleries, and saunas, Tromsø always has something to offer, whatever you’re into. No matter which time of year you go, you’ll never get bored in Tromsø!
With such a fantastic selection of things to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Tromsø. Add these activities and attractions to your Tromsø bucket list, and you’re sure to have a fantastic time discovering the Paris of the North.
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Tromsø, Norway
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Tromsø
1. Find out if you like reindeer meat
Tromsø is known for its fantastic cuisine, which includes a number of dishes you may find unusual. If you’ve never had it before, one of the must-do things in Tromsø is to try reindeer meat!
This traditional protein is hugely popular throughout the city, and you’ll see it on almost every restaurant menu you find. Although it looks similar to beef (and it’s usually served as steak), reindeer meat is much leaner than beef, giving it a milder flavor and lighter texture.
Reindeer meat is similar to venison but much more tender. To help bring out the subtle flavors, it’s usually served with a sweet cream- or red wine-based sauce.
Mathallen is a fantastic place to try reindeer meat. This restaurant is run by a multi-award-winning chef, and the presentation is reliably spectacular. It’s served as a reindeer steak along with fresh local vegetables (something you’ll rarely find in the Arctic!) and a rich, creamy sauce.
2. Go shopping on Storgata Street
Storgata Street is Tromsø’s main pedestrian street that’s lined with every kind of store you can imagine. It’s a wonderful place to pick up gifts for friends and family back home. If you’ve got no space in your suitcase, it’s still worth a visit for the opportunity to window shop and soak up the atmosphere.
Here you’ll find stores selling everything from typical souvenirs and local handmade gifts to Norwegian designer fashion and beautiful flowers. If you need a break from shopping, pop into one of the many cafes and restaurants along the street and treat yourself to a traditional Norwegian dish.
Storgata Street is pretty small. You can easily walk along it in 10 minutes if you’re in a rush. But if you’ve got plenty of time to spare, we suggest you take it easy and admire the beautiful architecture.
This part of the city is home to the largest number of historical wooden houses north of Trondheim. They were created in the Empire style and feature colorful façades with white doorways, half-columns, and window frames with dog tooth patterns.
3. Witness the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is one of the coolest things to do in Tromsø. Because of its unique location (Tromsø is 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle), it’s one of the top places in Norway to catch a view of the Aurora Borealis.
The best time of year to see the incredible natural light show is in winter – specifically between September and April. Because it’s such a small place, Tromsø has really low light pollution levels. The complete darkness that blankets the sky at night provides the ideal conditions to see the Northern Lights at their best!
If you prefer doing things on your own, you can download a Northern Lights app to be alerted when and where they’re visible. If you’d rather someone else do the hard work for you, consider signing up for an Aurora Borealis safari and let your guide take you to the spots you’re most likely to see it.
4. Check out Spis Uka on an empty stomach
If you’re planning on visiting in March, one of the best Tromsø activities is to try all the different foods available at Spis Uka. A popular foodie event that’s been held every year in the city since 2016, Spis Uka isn’t like any old food festival.
Instead of a big hall filled with various food stalls, Spis Uka takes place in a number of restaurants in the city. Each participating restaurant offers a special dish for cheaper-than-normal prices for lunch and dinner.
As it’s a larger portion, the dinner price is always more expensive. So if you’re trying to save some money, consider going out for lunch instead. The festival takes place for a full week, so you can try plenty of dishes during your visit.
There are absolutely loads of dishes to choose between, from spicy salami pizzas, butter chicken curry, and sushi boxes to mussel soup, grilled catfish, and whale steak. Whatever you’re in the mood for, your craving is guaranteed to be satisfied!
5. Enjoy a reindeer or dogsled ride
For a unique way to explore Tromsø and the surrounding areas, hop on a sled and let some strong reindeer or high-energy huskies race you to your destination. Definitely one of the most unique things to do in Tromsø, a reindeer or dogsled ride is one of those things you’ll remember forever.
On this reindeer-focused tour, you’ll start with a reindeer sledding experience with a local Sami guide. You’ll then visit the Sami camp, where you’ll get to feed the reindeer and enjoy a delicious hot meal inside a typical Sami tent. It’s an incredible day out you can’t do anywhere else.
If you’d rather be pulled along by energetic huskies, this dogsledding tour may be more your style. You’ll get to drive your own team of huskies across the Arctic and learn all the tricks the trainers use.
When you’re done, you’ll be invited to try some delicious chocolate cake and a hot drink while warming up around a fireplace. Your day ends with the chance to play with more than 130 Alaskan huskies!
6. Explore the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden
You may think not much grows in Tromsø, but the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden will show you the truth. This sprawling garden covers almost five acres and is home to thousands of different plant species which have been rounded up from all over the world.
Because the temperatures are so low in Tromsø, the flowers and plants in the garden need to be really resilient to thrive. This is why most species are hardy Arctic varieties that can withstand the ice-cold temperatures that prevail for most of the year.
There are 25 different collections within the garden, including the recently-added peonarium, which is stunning. The Arctic collection is particularly impressive, as are the Himalayan, South American, and African collections. It’s quite surprising how many different species can stand up to Tromsø’s harsh weather conditions!
The garden is completely free to enter and the best time to visit is during late spring and summer when it’s full of brightly colored flowers that look and smell wonderful.
7. Relax on a Tromsø fjord cruise
For some of the best sights in Tromsø, hop onboard a fjord cruise. The city is surrounded by gorgeous landscapes, and one of the best ways to admire them is from the river on a boat.
There are loads of different types of cruises to choose from. If you’re interested in local wildlife, sign up for this Wildlife Bird Fjord Cruise which includes some epic birdwatching.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll have the chance to see everything from guillemots, sea eagles, and eider ducks to cormorants and puffins, as well as otters and seals. You may even get to see some whales and dolphins, too!
If you’re visiting Tromsø in summer, consider a Midnight Cruise. You’ll get to sail along the city’s beautiful fjords in the middle of the night when your surroundings are lit up by the dazzling midnight sun. In the right conditions, it can make it look like the sky is on fire!
8. Spend the night at the Tromsø Ice Domes
One of the best things to do in Tromsø in the winter is to visit the Tromsø Ice Domes. This incredible place is open from late December until late March and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Hidden away in Tamok Valley, the Tromsø Ice Domes are rebuilt every year as the Polar Night nears. Much more interesting than its name suggests, this landmark is about as close to an ice village as you’ll get in the real world.
Here you can discover everything from ice bars and an ice restaurant to an ice cinema and an ice hotel. Everything really is made out of ice, which is why it’s only open for such a short time.
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, we definitely recommend you spend the night at the Tromsø Ice Domes. You’ll get to snuggle up in expedition sleeping bags on a comfortable mattress covered in reindeer skins. The rooms are absolutely stunning and feature different themes, such as traditional Sami and the Northern Lights.
9. Learn about ancient hunting methods at the Polar Museum
If you’re interested in Tromsø’s history and how local people used to live, spend a few hours at the Polar Museum. This interesting museum features various exhibitions on Arctic expeditions, sea mammal hunting, the dangers of Arctic trapping, and what local life was like in the 1900s.
The Polar Museum is tucked inside a former warehouse that dates back to 1837. It features a number of permanent displays, many of which include taxidermy animals, fur coats, animal skins, and skeletons. Hunting has always been an important part of life in the Arctic, so you should only visit if you’re comfortable with the topic.
On the ground floor, you’ll find around 10 different rooms, each of which contains a life-sized diorama that shows what life was like for locals in terms of hunting, trapping, and living in basic cabins.
Head upstairs and you’ll discover a different section dedicated to polar expeditions. There are replicas of aircraft used to explore the North Pole, as well as the famous Fram ship used by Roald Amundsen to travel to the South Pole.
Despite its small size, it’s a pretty interesting museum with a lot going on!
10. See cute bearded seals at Polaria
Visiting Polaria is one of the most fun things to do in Tromsø. This aquarium is one of only two places in Europe where you can see bearded seals up close.
There are currently four seals living in Polaria – two bearded seals and two harbor seals. One of the highlights of the aquarium is the training sessions during which you can watch the seals being mentally and physically stimulated with fun games. Having an active life is really important for seals, and the training sessions keep them in great shape.
Polaria is also home to several aquarium tanks filled exclusively with fish, shellfish, and plants from the seas around Norway. From halibut and wolffish to starfish and sea cucumbers, there’s loads to see here.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the panoramic cinema. This huge 69-foot canvas provides you with an immersive and modern way to get to know the Arctic through three movies. There are multiple screenings each day, and they’re all included in the price of your ticket.
11. Relax in a floating sauna
One of the coolest Tromsø activities you’ve definitely got to try is to pamper yourself with a relaxing sauna. There are loads of different types of saunas throughout the city, from traditional saunas you’ve seen many times before to more unusual saunas you may not be familiar with.
Pust is one of the coolest saunas in Tromsø. Located on the waters of the city’s harbor, this floating sauna has a clear view of the Arctic Cathedral and the Arctic Bridge. Thanks to its unique location, you can split your time between cozying up in the sauna and enjoying invigorating swims in the harbor.
There’s something special about Pust. Even though it’s just a short walk away from the bustling city streets, you’ll feel like you’re a million miles away from civilization when you’re there. The sauna can hold up to 20 people, so if you want a peaceful experience, check online to see how many other people have made reservations when you want to visit.
12. Gaze at the ultra-modern Arctic Cathedral
The Arctic Cathedral is one of the top things to see in Tromsø. Unlike typical cathedrals, which were built centuries ago, the Arctic Cathedral was constructed in 1965. Because it’s so young, it has a unique modern design that’s incredibly eye-catching.
The structure was designed to look like a collection of huge blocks of ice, each stacked one behind the other. And the front is covered in giant glass panels with a huge white crucifix overlay. When it’s dark, the sides of the cathedral and the crucifix are brightly lit for all to see.
The lights are so dazzling that you can see the cathedral from all over Tromsø! It’s incredibly mesmerizing and enchanting to see. If you didn’t know it was a religious building, it’s easy to mistake it for a contemporary art gallery or even a fancy restaurant.
The inside of the Arctic Cathedral also differs from most other cathedrals. While there is a large stained glass window, it’s made from many tiny mosaic-like pieces. The result is beautiful and unique.
13. Enjoy a beer and some seagull eggs
When you need a break from all your Tromsø sightseeing, find the nearest bar and order a beer along with some seagull eggs. It may sound like a weird combination, but it’s the snack of choice for many people in the city!
Ølhallen is one of the best places in Tromsø for both craft beer and seagull eggs. It’s the oldest pub in the city and has 72 different beers on tap. A number of the beers are as local as you can get and are made by Mack – the owner of the pub.
Here you’ll find seagull eggs hardboiled and available to order as a snack. They’re really similar to chicken eggs. They taste almost the same, except they’re slightly salty and much bigger. They also tend to have a darker, almost orange yolk.
Sometimes seagull eggs are served up smørbrød-style when they’re sliced, spread out over a single piece of bread, and sprinkled generously with black pepper. It’s a simple yet delicious open-faced sandwich that makes for a great lunch.
14. Go ice-skating on a natural ice rink
Going ice-skating is one of the top things to do in Tromsø in winter. When the temperatures are at their coldest, almost all the lakes freeze over. The thick and sturdy layers of ice provide the ideal conditions for ice-skating.
Prestvannet Lake is one of our favorite spots for ice-skating. The lake is absolutely huge, so no matter how many other people are there, you’ll always have enough space. The surrounding area is a beautiful nature reserve and a wonderful place to enjoy a winter stroll, too.
The Vingnesvika ice skating track is another great place to go ice-skating in Tromsø. The outdoor speed-skating track is suitable for people of all ages and abilities. You can currently skate in an oval of around 1,000 feet. But there are plans in progress to extend the track so that it covers 6.2 miles!
15. Party for hours at the Nordlysfestivalen
At the end of January each year, Tromsø throws a party to rival all parties. Known as Nordlysfestivalen (Northern Lights Festival), this festival celebrates practically every kind of music that exists. So no matter what you’re into, you’re sure to have an incredible time here.
From chamber music to symphonic orchestras, opera to jazz, and modern to classic, almost every genre of music features at this festival which has been going on for more than 30 years. Amazing artists from all over Norway and the rest of the world travel to the small Arctic city to share their talents with music lovers.
Although the live concerts are the highlight of the festival, there’s plenty of other stuff going on, too. Lectures, exhibitions, music masterclasses, and pub parties all feature in the program.
If you’re feeling lucky, it’s worth signing up for one of the Northern Lights cruises, too. As the festival takes place in Tromsø in the middle of winter, you’ve got a great chance of seeing the spectacular light show.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Tromsø. What’s your favorite thing to do in the Paris of the North?
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