Home Destinations 20 Unique Things to do in Tromsø in Winter: The Definitive City Guide, Itinerary & Travel Tips

20 Unique Things to do in Tromsø in Winter: The Definitive City Guide, Itinerary & Travel Tips

by Michele
Best Things to do in Tromsø in Winter - City Guide
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This is the only Tromsø city guide you need! I’ll show you all the best things to do Tromsø in winter, plus top travel tips, money-saving hacks, best hotels, and the best places to eat.

Tromsø, an arctic oasis sitting some 350 km above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Craggy snow-capped peaks surround this small but important polar city dubbed the ‘Paris of the North’ and ‘Gateway to the Arctic’. There are so many ways to experience what Tromsø has to offer, from seeing the Northern Lights to whale watching, feeding reindeer and experiencing Sami culture to relaxing in quaint cafes after wandering around unique museums.

What’s included in this Tromsø City Guide & Itinerary

Here’s everything that’s included in this Tromsø city guide. Use the links to jump around to find the information you need.

A Brief History of Tromsø

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - View of Tromso Bridge and CathedralWith 75,000 inhabitants, Tromsø is the largest city in Northern Norway. The city is located on an island connected to the mainland via a tall gracefully arched bridge and tunnel.

Even though only 80 people lived in the area at the time, Tromsø was officially given city status by King Christian VII in 1794. Having said that, both Norwegians and the indigenous Sami people had been living in the region for much longer.

By the end of the 19th century, Tromsø became a major Arctic trade centre and the starting point for many Arctic expeditions. Famous polar explorers like Roald Amundsen recruited their crew members in Tromsø because of their unique local knowledge for Arctic conditions. It was during this time that Tromsø became known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”.

Similarly, Tromsø was nicknamed the “Paris of the North”. Why? Well, apparently outsiders who came to Tromsø expected to find Barbarians, but when they got here, they realised the locals were nothing of the sort. What they found where cultivated and well-educated people who dressed just as well as those in Paris. This was because they traded their fish for fabric in Southern Europe.

Today, Tromsø is well-known for having the northernmost university in the world and for being one of the top places in the world to see the Northern Lights.

What does Tromsø mean?

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic Cathedral Bridge and WaterPronounced trom-seh (not troms-O), the city gets its name from the island on which it’s located, Tromsøya. The Norwegian ‘øy’ and Danish ‘ø’ both mean ‘island’. It’s uncertain where “Troms-’’ originates from, however, one possible explanation is that it derives from the word straumr which means “(strong) current”.

I love Tromsø. I’ve visited in winter twice and I still managed to find new ways to enjoy it. Here are 20 unique things to do in Tromsø in winter.

Map of Tromsø

Want to know where each place is? Take a look at this detailed map of Tromsø below.

Click on this interactive map and see where this itinerary will take you. I’ve created this map using Google Maps which you can save and use as you travel around.  You’re welcome ;)

Blue Pins – Things to do in Tromsø
Orange Pins – Where to eat and drink in Tromsø
Pink Pins – Recommended Tromsø Accommodation

20 Unique Things to do in Tromsø in Winter

1. See the Northern lights

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Northern Lights Aurora BorealisNot that this list is in any kind of order, but if it was, then seeing the Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) would definitely be the number one thing to do in Tromsø in winter, so let’s just keep here shall we?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tromsø is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the world. That’s right, the WORLD! Even really weak aurora activity can be seen in the skies near Tromsø. In fact, if you’re lucky, and the aurora is strong enough, you can even see the Northern Lights from the city centre! Impressive, right? While this is technically possible, the chances of seeing those bright green hues dancing in the sky greatly increase once you move away from any light pollution.

How to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Northern LightsWhen it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, you have two options. Either hire a car here and do it yourself or leave it up to the experts to find the best locations and weather conditions for you. Both times I visited Tromsø, I chose the later.

To see the Northern Lights, you need these three things:

  1. Little or no light pollution. Aurora activity is more visible when other lights sources are removed entirely and greatly reduced. So, you’ll need to swap brightly lit urban areas for dark locations.
  2. A clear sky or similar. If there are too many clouds, (low clouds are the worst), then your chances of seeing aurora activity is greatly reduced.  You need to know what the weather is doing and where to go to get the best visibility.
  3. Aurora activity. No activity = no Northern Lights. There is no way to predict when aurora activity will occur this is entirely up to  mother nature. You just have to go out and try your luck.

To increase your chances with the first two things, I highly recommend going on a Northern Lights tour.

Best Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Northern LightsSeeing the Northern Lights might sound simple enough, but there is a fair amount of organisation and planning that goes into any successful attempt to see them. Forget using an Aurora forecast app, they are super vague and unreliable. What you need is someone with local knowledge.

Chasing Lights is a top-rated tour operator whose guides are experts in their field; they have turned Northern Lights chasing into a science. I’ve been on a total of 6 chases with them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

From the moment they wake up, each guide tracks the weather from at least three independent sources throughout the day. Based on this, the guide prepares a unique route for the tour to take that evening and makes any necessary changes on the road.

While the goal is to see the Northern Lights, an added bonus of these tours is being able to see the incredible Norwegian landscape. You’ll see anything from huge snow-covered mountains, frozen lakes, dramatic fjords, to deep valleys during your spots throughout the tour.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Bright Moon

Soaking up some moon rays during the tour

Chasing Lights run about 4 separate Northern Lights tours each night, so there are plenty of eyes and ears on the ground. Each guide continuously communicates back to the team with the conditions they’re experiencing and which areas to avoid or head towards. Guides may even take you as far as Sweden or Finland if conditions there are better. They really do operate like a well-oiled machine.

Chasing Lights offer both small-group tours on a minibus (up to 14 guests) and big bus tours (up to 50 guests), catering to all budgets and needs. Both tours, aka chases, last between 6 to 10 hours depending on the weather conditions and aurora activity. My personal favourite is their small Minibus Chase because they provide you with super warm thermal suits and winter boots, a warm meal and hot drinks, camera tripod, and hotel drop off.

On both tours, the guide takes photos of you with the aurora and landscape using their professional camera. All photos are sent to you after the tour along with a summary of your itinerary and the places you visited.

Pro tip: There is even a discount for subsequent chases!

Click here for the latest prices and available Northern Lights Tour dates.

Tips for seeing the Northern Lights

  • The best time to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø is from early September until early April.
  • Book at least 3 chases at the start of your trip to allow for any rebookings you might like to make if conditions are bad.
  • Dress warm (at least two layers)
  • Get lots of sleep the night before. These tours run well into the night and can really mess up your body clock.
  • Bring snacks and something to drink.
  • When nature calls, you’ll most likely have to do your business outdoor. Bring these biodegradable sanitary wipes just in case.

2. Reindeer and Sámi Culture Experience (Day Tour)

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Feeding ReindeerFor over 5,000 years the indigenous Sámi people have inhabited Fenno-Scandinavia and northern Russia. Learning about Sámi culture, traditions, and their means of survival is truly fascinating. The best way to learn about Sámi culture is to go on a Sami Reindeer Experience. This is also, the best way to get up close to reindeer and have your chance to feed them!

Things you should know about the Sámi Culture

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Sami Culture Experience

Learning about Sami culture around the fire

When I met with the Sámi, I learned that there are three kinds of Sámi, Sea Sami (who live on the coast and live off fish and marine life like seals), those who live further inland and herd reindeer, and then there are those who have regular day jobs but still maintain a strong Sámi culture. On this tour, you meet the most well-known group of Sámi, the reindeer herders.

Before you judge, it’s important to keep an open mind when meeting and learning about people from different cultures to your own, especially when they live in such tough conditions. First of all, Sámi people (the ones who live off the land) don’t drive cars, have ducted heating at home, or follow a vegan diet, like many of us. Instead, they rely on animals, in this case, reindeer, to provide them with everything they need. Everything from clothing, to transport, and food. No part of the reindeer is wasted.

A great deal of respect is had for the reindeer on which their livelihood depends. In fact, it is believed the Sámi and the reindeer entered into a kind of social contract whereby the reindeer offer themselves to the Sámi, providing them with food and transport in exchange for the Sámi’s protection during seasonal migrations when they encounter predators.

The Sámi have been living and working with reindeers for centuries and it’s for this reason, along with other political, environmental, and cultural reasons, that reindeer herding is strictly reserved for Sámi people only. Even then, only about 10% of Sámi herd reindeer.

Best Sámi Culture Tour in Tromsø

I highly recommend taking the same Sami Reindeer Experience I did which was organised through Chasing Lights. The Sámi camp is located just 25 minutes outside of Tromsø, includes transfers, a warm traditional Sámi lunch, hot drinks, reindeer feeding, optional sledding, and a fireside presentation about Sámi culture. Read all about my Sámi Reindeer Experience here.

3. Arctic Fjord Road Trip (Day Tour)

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Visiting Kvaløya

View from Kvaløya (‘Whale Island’)

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - View of Hakøya

Admiring the cute red cabins on Hakøya

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Dark clouds over Ersfjord

Dark clouds above Ersfjord

Discover Tromsø’s beautiful mountains, fjords, and coastlines dotted with cute red cabins on this Arctic Fjord Road Trip. With Tromsøya behind you, you’ll be whisked away to neighbouring islands to see some truly epic landscapes. Each guide doubles as a professional photographer who will take shots of you in each idyllic location. To end the tour, you’ll enjoy a warm lunch around a toasty campfire.

Click here for full details about my experience on the tour, or book your own tour here.

4. Arctic Cathedral

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic CathedralTromsø’s most famous landmark is the uniquely-shaped, Arctic Cathedral completed in 1965 by Norwegian architect, Jan Inge Hovig. Hovig drew inspiration from icebergs and Sami dwellings when he envisioned its elegant white exterior.

Despite its name, the Arctic Cathedral is actually a parish church, not a cathedral. Its Norwegian name, Ishavskatedralen, literally means “The Cathedral of the Arctic Sea” or simply the “Arctic Cathedral”.

In 1972, artist Victor Sparre, added a beautiful glass mosaic at the opposite side of the entrance which creates a fantastic display of colours when the sun catches it.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic Cathedral and Bridge

Walking over the bridge to the Arctic Cathedral

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic Cathedral Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic Cathedral

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Arctic Cathedral Stain Glass

Don’t miss the beautiful stain glass window

Tips for visiting the Arctic Cathedral in Winter (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Entrance is Adult 50 NOK ($5.80 USD)
  • Northern Lights Concerts: Adult 195 NOK ($22 USD); Child 50 NOK ($10 USD)

Opening Hours

  • August 16 – Dec 23: 14.00 – 18.00 h.
  • December 24:  Closed (Services only)
  • December 25: Closed (Service at 18:00 and New Year Concert at 21:00h. )
  • December 26: Closed
  • December 27 – 30: 14.00 – 18.00 h.
  • January 1: Closed
  • Jan 2 – March 31: 13.00-18.00 h.

How to get to the Arctic Cathedral

  • Walk over the bridge (approx. 25-30 minutes)
  • Catch either Bus 26 (Tromsdalen) or 28 (Solligården) and get off at Tromsdalen Bruvegen.

Check the official Arctic Cathedral website for more details

5.  Fjellheisen – Tromsø’s Best Viewpoint

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Tromso City from FjellheisenFor the best view on Tromsø, a trip up the Fjellheisen cable car is definitely the answer. At 421 metres above sea level, there are quite literally views for days from Fjellheisen. Let your eyes feast on this exquisite panorama of Tromsø city, surrounding islands, with a mountainous backdrop. In the winter, you may even be able to see the Northern Lights!

After a 4 minute ride, you’ll arrive at the large viewing platform. This area can get busy pretty fast so if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want to get away from the crowds, continue on foot to the top of Mt. Fløya. The snow and steep ascent can be challenging, so take your time and wear proper footwear and clothing. It takes around an hour to reach the top.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - View from Fjellheisen

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Fjellheisen during Polar Night

Fjellheisen during Polar Night

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Fjellheisen Viewing Platform

Fjellheisen Viewing Platform

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - View of Arctic Cathedral from Fjellheisen

View of Arctic Cathedral from Fjellheisen

Fjellstua Café

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Fjellstua Cafe

Warm up inside Fjellstua Café

Feeling peckish or just cold? Head inside the Fjellstua Café where they serve cold beer, gløgg, (a popular hot Scandinavian beverage served at Christmas), snacks and meals including reindeer stew and burgers. The only vegetarian option is a vegetarian burger, which is was very good I might add.

Tips for visiting Fjellheisen (2020)

  • Tickets are sold 5 minutes before the cable car dispatches the lower station.  You can buy them on the spot upon arrival or purchase them via Visit Tromsø website.
  • If you plan on walking up Mt Fløya, wear warm winter boots and bring crampons (I wore these) for the hike up to Mt Fløya.
  • Aim to visit Fjellheisen when there is good weather otherwise you may not see much.
  • For the best visibility, get to the top before 11 am while it’s still light out. During Polar Night, everything will drop back into darkness from 13.00 h.

Entrance Fee

Cable car return ticket is:

  • Adult 210 NOK ($24 USD)
  • Children (3-15 yrs) NOK 100 ($12 USD)
  • Families (2+2) NOK 450 ($52 USD)
  • Students: NOK 190 ($22 USD)

Opening Hours (Winter)

  • Aug 1 – May 31: 10.00 – 23.00 h.  (last cable car up departs at 22:30)
  • Restaurant 10:00 – 22:30
  • Kitchen 10:00 – 21:30
  • Departures on the half hour

Opening Hours (Christmas)

  • December 23 – 30: 10:00 – 17:00
  • Restaurant 10:00 – 16:30 / Kitchen 10:00 – 15:30
  • December 25, Jan 1: Closed
  • December 31: 10:00 – 01:00

How to get to the Fjellheisen Cable Car

  • 15-minute walk from Arctic Cathedral, or
  • Catch Bus 26 (Tromsdalen) and get off at Fjellheisen.

Check the official Fjellheisen website for more details

6. Polarmuseet (Polar Museum)

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Polar MuseumTo find out why Tromsø became known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”, you have to visit the Polarmuseet (Polar Museum). Located in the heart of the city centre, the Polar Museum traces Tromsø’s history of Arctic expeditions and the famous Arctic explorers who led them.

The Polar Museum houses various permanent exhibitions including trapping on Svalbard, sealing, whaling, and tales of famous trappers including Wanny Wolstad and Henry Rudi. There is also extensive information about the expeditions carried out by Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. Amundsen is perhaps the most well-known for this famous expedition and race to reach the South Pole in 1911. His right-hand man was Helmer Hanssen from Tromsø, who was a navigator and highly experienced musher (a dogsled driver).

The Polar Museum is one of the four exhibition venues run by the Tromsø University Museum. The other venue including the sealing vessel MS Polstjerna (No. 12 in this list), Tromsø Museum (No. 16), and Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden (only open in Summer 11.30-15.30 every day).

Tips for visiting Polarmuseet (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Adult 70 NOK ($8 USD)
  • Children (7-18 years old) 35 NOK ($4 USD)
  • Students and seniors NOK 35 ($4 USD)
  • Children 0-6 years old: Free

Opening Hours

  • August 1 – June 14: 11.00 – 17.00 h.
  • June 15 – August 15: 09.00 – 18.00 h.
  • May 1 and May 17: Closed

How to get to Polarmuseet

  • Polarmuseet is located in the city centre on Søndre Tollbodgate and can be easily reached from the waterfront.

Check the official Polarmuseet website for more details

7. Wander along Tromsø Harbour

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Coloured Building at the Harbour

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Tromso Harbour from FjellheisenTake a stroll along Tromsø’s harbour and meander down its may piers. Don’t forget to look back towards the city for lovely views of Tromsø’s oldest wooden buildings. Three large buildings painted in red, orange, and yellow provide an excellent photo opportunity.  I tried to learn more about them but all I managed to find out is that the red building belongs to the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue (Redningsselskapet).

How to get to the Tromsø Harbour

  • Tromsø Harbour is located in the city centre just off Stortoget.

8. Visit Skansen – The Only Visible Medieval Trail in the City

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - SkansenTromsø’s history starts at Skansen, where, in the 13th century a church and a fortress were built. Originally, the fortress was located on an islet with uninterrupted views of the strait and was probably surrounded by a defensive structure made of wooden stakes.

Even though all that remains today is a rampart, when it was operational, the sea would’ve reached right up to the ramparts. Skansen is considered to be the most valuable cultural-historical site in the region.

Sadly, much of Tromsø was destroyed by a huge fire in 1969, but thankfully the area around Skansen was spared. The buildings here date from the end of the 18th century and are considered the oldest buildings in Tromsø.

Sitting atop of the remnants of the medieval foundations, is Tromsø’s oldest building. In 1787, the Customs Services established themselves in Tromsø and chose Skansen to base themselves. From here, Customs Officers had an excellent view of the strait and decided to build a customs house. The building was completed in 1793 and is now referred to as, Skansen.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Cute yellow house

The cutest house I ever did see

How to get to the Skansen

  • Skansen is located in the city centre just off Søndre Tollbodgate on Skansegata. It’s directly opposite the Polar Museum and can be easily reached from the waterfront.

9. Tromsø Cathedral – The Northernmost Cathedral in the World

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Tromso Cathedral

Tromsø Cathedral is the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Behind Tromso CathedralLocated in the heart of the main thoroughfare, Tromsø Cathedral (Tromsø domkirke) is a beautiful wooden church dating from 1861. Even more impressive is that it’s both the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world AND is the only Cathedral in Norway that is made of wood.

Tips for visiting the Tromsø Cathedral (2020)

  • Services every Sunday at 11.00 (English language)

Entrance Fee

  • Adult NOK 20 ($2.30 USD)
  • Children: Free

Opening Hours

  • Monday to Friday 11.30 to 16:00 h.
  • Christmas service on December 26 at 17:00 h.

How to get to Tromsø Cathedral

  • Tromsø Cathedral is located in the city centre on Storgata.

Check the official Tromsø Cathedral website for more details or their Facebook page.

10. Go on a Snowmobile Adventure

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Snowmobile Adventure

See the Finnish tundra on a Snowmobile Adventure (Photo: Chasing Lights)

What could be more special than visiting the 3-country-border between Norway, Finland, and Sweden? It just so happens that these borders meet in the middle of a frozen lake! Enter the Snowmobile Adventure.

On this tour, you hop on a snowmobile and glide across the frozen lake, dubbed “the most peaceful border in the world”. Afterwards, you ride through forests and finish up with an amazing elevated view over the magnificent Finnish tundra.

In true Chasing Lights form, this tour includes a fireside lunch, photos of you during the tour, all led by their expert guides.

Tour Fee

  • Adult (16+) NOK 2 400 ($278 USD) – Shared snowmobile
  • Adult (16+) NOK 2 900 ($336 USD) – Single snowmobile
  • Children: Free

Time and Duration

  • Pick up at 07:00, drop-off around 16:30 (9.5 hours)
  • Includes 2.5 hours bus ride to the destination in Finland


  • Pick up and drop off at Chasing Lights’ shop on Storgata

Tour Inclusions

  • Transport from Tromsø
  • Warm suits, boots, and extra socks
  • Helmet and face mask
  • Warm lunch

Click here for the latest prices and available Snowmobile Adventure dates.

11. Polaria

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - PolariaReady for another world’s most fact? Here it is! Polaria is the world’s most northerly aquarium with an Arctic theme. Polaria is intended to provide an educational experience, with particular emphasis on displays for children. They show films such as “In the Land of the Northern Lights” and “Spitsbergen – Arctic Wilderness” on five different screens. There is an Arctic walkway and aquariums full of fish and bearded seals.

When it comes to aquariums, I can’t wholeheartedly promote or support them, especially when they have trained seals inside that do tricks for a food reward like this one

The only reason I put Polaria on the list is because the building itself is very cool and has a nice story behind it. One day when the architect was trying to come up with a design for the building and produce something that residents of Tromsø would appreciate, his pen suddenly stopped working. After squiggly on the paper to get it to work again, he looked at this ‘drawing’ and noticed it resembled packed ice, a well-known phenomenon in the Arctic. This became his inspiration for the building.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Street art near Polaria

Street art near Polaria

Tips for visiting Polaria (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Adult 130 NOK ($15 USD)
  • Child (3-16 years old) 65 NOK ($7.5 USD)
  • Family 280 NOK  ($32 USD)
  • Senior 90 NOK  ($10 USD)
  • Student 70 NOK  ($8 USD)

Opening Hours

  • Open everyday
  • January 1 – May 16: 10.00 – 18.00
  • May 17 – 10.00 – 17.00
  • May 18 – August 31: 10.00 – 19.00
  • September 11 – December 23: 10.00 – 18.00
  • December 24: 10.00 – 16.00
  • December 25  – 31: 10.00 – 18.00

How to get to Polaria

  • Polaria is a 10-minute walk from the city centre located on Hjalmar Johansens gate near the harbour.

Check the official Polaria website for more details

12. See MS Polstjerna – Norway’s Best Preserved Seal Hunting Vessel

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Polstjerna

Memorial to Helmer Hanssen

Housed in a glass building is the historic Arctic vessel Polstjerna built in 1949. Literally meaning, The Polar Star, this sealing vessel was used for 33 seasons in the West Ice and East Ice in the Arctic. It was also used for Arctic exploration.

Seeing historical sights associated with killing animals isn’t easy for me, especially since more than 100,000 seals were caught from this vessel but, as I mentioned earlier, you have to keep an open mind. Instead, I try to focus on purely on its historical significance and how well-preserved it is. Both the entire interior fittings above and below deck are all original.

In front of Polstjerna is a memorial to Helmer Hanssen, who worked alongside Roald Amundsen on many polar expeditions including when they were the first people to reach the South Pole in 1911. In fact, on their approach, Hanssen pretended his dogs were tired and needed to rest just so Amundsen would become the first man to reach it. I mean, what an absolute legend!

Tips for visiting the MS Polstjerna (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Adults 40 NOK ($4.6 USD )
  • Children (7-18) / Students / Seniors: 20 NOK ($2.30 USD)
  • Children (< 7 years) Free
  • Family ticket (2 adults + children)  80 NOK ($9 USD )

Opening Hours

  • June 15 – August 15: 11:00 – 17:00
  • Polstjerna is closed during winter but to visit outside of these times, you can contact them on 77 62 33 60 or email postmaster@polarmuseum.no

How to get to MS Polstjerna

  • Polstjerna is a 10-minute walk from the city centre next to Polaria on the harbour on Hjalmar Johansens gate.

Check the official Polstjerna website for more details

13. Ølhallen – Tromsø’s Oldest Pub

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Ølhallen pub

Choose from over 70 beers on taps at Ølhallen pub

Having a pint in Tromsø’s oldest watering-hole is a must. Relaxing in this cozy pub with a choice of up to 72 beers on tap is one of the best things to do in Tromsø.  Ølhallen (‘The Hall’) is owned and run by Mack Brewery, who, you guessed, is the most northern commercial brewery in the world!

Many of Mack’s beers have Arctic-inspired names including Isbjørn (Polar Bear), Nordlys (Northern Lights), and Midnattsol (Midnight Sun). Not only that but if you scan the QR code on the beer can/bottle, it will tell you what song was playing while the beer was brewed! Pretty cool, eh?

Ølhallen serves only Mack beverages available either on tap or in a bottle. Choose from their range of beer, cider, and non-alcoholic beers.

If you want to learn more about the history of Mack, you can take a Ludwig Mack Brewery Guided Tour.

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Ølhallen pub

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Ølhallen pub

Tips for visiting Ølhallen (2020)

Opening Hours

  • Monday-Wednesday: 11.00 – 20.30 h.
  • Thursday: 11:00 – 00.30
  • Friday: 11.00 – 01.30
  • Saturday: 10.00 – 01.30
  • December 22: 10.00 – 01.30
  • December 23 – 26: Closed
  • December 27: 11.00 – 00.30
  • December 28: 11.00 – 01.30
  • December 29: 10.00 – 01.30
  • December 30: Closed
  • December 31: 11.00 – 17.30
  • January 1: Closed

How to get to Ølhallen

  • Ølhallen is located at Storgata 4, a 5-minute walk from Tromsø’s Cathedral

Check the official Ølhallen website for more details  

14. Go on a Whale Safari & Fjord Cruise

One of the reasons Norway keeps drawing me back is for the opportunity to learn about and see the world’s biggest mammals in a stunning Arctic landscape, whales! And lots of them too. This is your chance to see Humpback whales, Killer whales (Orca), Harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphin, Minkie whales, and Fin whales.

Whales have a long history of chasing herring into the fjords of Norway providing some awesome whale watching opportunities. Winter is feeding season, so wherever their prey goes, the whales follow and in large numbers.

On a previous trip to Tromsø, I went whale watching off the coast of neighbouring Kvaløya island. This year, the whales didn’t come back to Tromsø, but new whale watching tours to Skjervoy Island (2.5-hour boat ride north) were available.

Seeing humpbacks perform their perfectly coordinated bubble-netting technique to catch the herring is utterly awe-inspiring. Not to mention the orcas who work like a pack of wolves, swimming at impressive speeds to hone in on their prey. Going on a whale watching tour provides a great opportunity to spot other wildlife like eagles and seals.

A great way to see the whales as well as whale conservation projects is by joining this Whale Research Safari. After driving through the magnificent Lyngen Alps you board a warm research vessel in Skjervøy where you’ll be taken out to sea in search of orcas and humpback whales.

On the safari, you’ll learn about whale communication, behaviour, and even hear the whales on the hydrophone. If you’re keen, you’re invited to help the researchers collect data too. From whale behaviour, photo-identification, underwater footage, and vocal recordings it’s all valuable information to the researchers.

Tips for going whale watching (2020)

  • The best time to go whale watching is between November and February, but this all depends on the whales.
  • Bring a camera and binoculars
  • As always, dress warm (see my packing list below). As the Norwegian saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing

Tour Fee

  • 1 295 NOK ($150 USD)

Time and Duration

  • Approx. 11.5 hours
  • Meeting time: 05:45 h.
  • Departure: 06:00 h.
  • Meeting Point: Scandic Ishavshotel

Tour Inclusions

    • Whale Research Safari
    • Whale presentation
    • Scenic fjord cruise by bus
    • Soup & sandwich
    • Hot beverages & snacks
    • Transfers

Check available times, prices and book here

15. Tromsø University Museum (Universitetsmuseet)

This small but interesting museum covers both nature and culture of the Arctic including Sami culture, the Aurora Borealis, wildlife, Vikings, and medieval art.

Want to learn more about the physics behind the Aurora or try out the Northern Lights plasma chamber? Join the guided tour and see an award-winning film and get a free Northern Lights book. The tour starts at 14:00 h. and costs 250 NOK. Booking must be made 24 hours in advance by calling +47 – 77 64 50 01 or emailing booking@tmu.uit.no.

Tips for visiting the Tromsø University Museum (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Adult: 60 NOK ($ 7 USD)
  • Child (7-18) / Student / Senior: 30, Child under 7: free
  • Family (2 adults + 2 children): 120 NOK ($ 14 USD)

Opening Hours

  • June 1 – August 31: 09:00 – 18:00 h.
  • September 1 – May 31: Mon – Fri 10.00 – 16.30 / Saturday 12.00 – 15.00 / Sunday 11.00 – 16.00

How to get to Tromsø University Museum

  • Catch Bus 37 from the city centre.

Check the official Tromsø University Museum website for more details

16. Tromsø Ice Domes – Tromsø’s Ice Hotel

Elsa, are you home? Step inside the world famous Tromsø Ice Domes, a real hotel made of snow and ice! Learn about the construction process of the hotel and enjoy a non-alcoholic ice shot in the ice bar. Every year the hotel has a new theme conveyed through beautiful coloured lighting and ice sculptures.

The best way to experience the Tromsø Ice Domes is by taking their half-day guided tour including transfers. As part of the guided tour, you watch a short video about how the Tromsø Ice Domes were built from their very own ice cinema. For lunch, you can order a tasty meal to eat in their ice restaurant.

Tips for visiting the Tromsø Ice Domes (2020)

  • As you can imagine, it gets cold inside. The temperature is kept to a cool minus 5 ˚C so make sure you wrap up.
  • Tours run from December 20 – April 5

Tour Fee

  • Adult: NOK 879 ($102 USD)
  • Children (4-10 years): 440 NOK ($51 USD)

Time and Duration

  • Departure:  10.30 or 13.00 – From Tromso city center (Clarion Hotel the Edge)
  • Duration: 5 hours (including 75 min transfer each way)


  • Lunch NOK 195 ($22 USD)

Check the official Tromsø Ice Domes website for more details  and Book your tour here

17.  Visit the Perspektivet Museum

Read stories about Tromsø´s past and present and see stunning documentary photography inside this magnificent 1838 neoclassical building. Afterwards, stop by the museum shop or grab a coffee in the café.

Tips for visiting Perspektivet Museum (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Free

Opening Hours

  • June 16 – August 30: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 17:00
  • September 1 – December 31: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 – 16:00. Saturday & Sunday 11:00 – 17:00

How to get to Perspektivet

  • Perspektivet is located in the city centre at Storgata 95.

Check the official Perspektivet website for more details

18. Visit Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art (Tromsø Kunstforening)

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - KunstforeningTromsø Kunstforening is the oldest art institution in Northern Norway and home to recent and experimental contemporary art. Artists, both local and international, were invited to use the High North as inspiration for their artworks on display here. Tromsø Kunstforening also regularly runs seminars, debates, lectures, and guided tours.

Tips for visiting Tromsø Kunstforening (2020)

Entrance Fee

  • Free

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday – Sunday: 12:00 – 17:00

How to get to Tromsø Kunstforening

  • Tromsø Kunstforening is located on Muségata 2, a 2-minute walk from Polaria.

Check the official Tromsø Kunstforening website for more details

19. City Library and Archive

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Tromso Library and City Archive Building Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Inside Tromso Library and City Archive BuildingWarm up inside this award-winning library. The people of Tromsø voted it the “Best Service Enterprise in Tromsø” in 2006 and in 2008 it was one of three nominated as “Library of the Year” in Norway. The building itself is a must-see thanks to the Candela shell-shaped roof thanks to inspired by Mexican architect, Candela.

The library is spread across four floors with a top gallery for where readers can nestle into a comfy chair.

Tips for visiting Tromsø Library and City Archive (2020)

Entrance Fee


Opening Hours

  • Monday – Thursday: 09:00 – 19:00
  • Friday: 09:00 – 16:00
  • Saturday: 11:00 – 15:00
  • Sunday: 12:00 – 16:00
  • December 24 – 26: Closed
  • December 27 – 28: 10.00 – 15.00
  • Self-service opening hours are daily from 07:00 – 22:00

How to get to Tromsø Library and City Archive

Tromsø Library and City Archive is located in the city center on Grønnegata 94, a 4-minute walk from Tromsø Cathedral.

Check the official Tromsø Library and City Archive website for more details

20. Go Shopping along Storgata

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Shop on StorgataBefore you leave Tromsø, make sure you take home a keepsake from any of charming shops located along Storgata, Tromsø’s most popular shopping strip. On and around Storgata you’ll find a range of shops, offering everything from traditional knitwear and clothing to arts and craft, jewellery, fashion, local food products, and souvenirs.

Buy yourself some warm Norwegian boots at Tromsø Skoringen (Storgata 68), a Norwegian-style sweater at Husfliden (Sjøgata 4), and a pick something special from the ‘best gift and souvenir shop in town’ (Strandgata 36).

For more mainstream shops, head to Nerstranda shopping centre (Strandgata 9) for H&M, The Body Shop, and other popular Norwegian brands.

Top Things to do in Tromsø in Winter – Watch the vlog!

Heading to Norway? Get my free Norwegian travel phrase guide.

Tromsø Winter Events and Festivals

  • Polar Night Half Marathon – Join Norway’s biggest winter race. Choose between a Half-Marathon, 10 km, or 5 km without timing. Everyone who finishes gets a medal. Wohoo!
    When: Early January
  • Arctic Snowshoe Race – This popular summer race now have a new winter edition you can join.
    When: Late March
  • Northern Lights Concert at the Arctic Cathedral – Absorb beautiful sounds of Norwegian folk songs by candlelight inside the iconic Arctic Cathedral.
    When: February – March
  • Sami Week – Enjoy a week of festivities, markets, and events celebrating Sami culture including the Norwegian Championship in Lasso Throwing and Norwegian championship of reindeer racing.
    When: February

Tromsø Itinerary

I recommend staying at least 5 full days in Tromsø. This will give the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights (if you need to book multiple trips), and will allow you’ll be able to see, visit, and experience all the best things to do in Tromsø. For both trips to Tromsø, I stayed a full 7 days. If you can’t do that, then aim to follow my recommended itinerary.

Day 1

Check-in to your hotel. Don’t book any tours in case you have any delays with your flights light I did! . Use your first day to wander around the city, get your bearings, grab a meal, and get some groceries for snacks and any meals you want to prepare at your hotel

Day 2

I recommend booking all your tours at the start of the trip. Start your morning with either an Arctic Fjords Road Trip, Sami Reindeer Experience, Whale Watching Safari, or the Snowmobile Adventure. In the evening, go on your first Northern Lights chase.

On my second day, I did the Arctic Fjords Road Trip and Northern Lights Minibus Tour.

Day 3

In the morning, choose a different tour you didn’t do the day before. In the evening, go on another Northern Lights chase if you didn’t have any luck the night before or just want to see them again.

On my third day, I did the Sami Reindeer Experience and another Northern Lights Minibus Tour.

Day 4

By now, you’ll be exhausted from the late nights and early starts. Have a sleep in and use this as a ‘rest’ day in the centre. Yes, you CAN see it all in one day. Just make sure you leave the hotel by 09.00. Head up Fjellheisen (opens at 10.00 h.), visit the Arctic Cathedral, the Polar Museum, Skansen, Tromsø Harbour, MS Polstjerna, and Polaria. In the evening have a pint in Ølhallen or go on a Northern Lights chase.

On my fourth day, I slept like a log then did another Northern Lights Minibus Tour.

Day 5

Choose from the Whale Watching Safari, Snowmobile Adventure, or visiting the Tromso Ice Domes.

Day 6

Leave Tromsø :(

Accommodation – Where to Stay in Tromsø

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Accommodation

Spacious room at Enter City Hotel

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Hotel Room Kitchenette

Having a kitchen is a great money-saver

I stayed the entire week at Enter City Tromsø Hotel. I chose it for its convenient and central location, its lower-than-average price, and because it had a kitchenette. Since Norway can get quite expensive, having the ability to cook and prepare meals and snacks is a huge money-saver.

Rooms aren’t serviced daily, but you can take new towels, toiletries, fresh linen, and toilet paper as you need them. The rooms are large, modern, spacious and the bathroom tiles are heated. Each room has a TV, free Wi-FI, fridge, cutlery, crockery, kettle, and a toaster (available on request).

Other excellent options are Radisson Blu Hotel (where I stay on my previous trip) and Scandic Ishavshotel.

Alternatively, Tromsø has a few good options here on Airbnb, but at the time I was ready to book I could only find options located further out of the centre. If it’s your first time get US$65 OFF here or get £50 OFF your first stay here, when you sign up using my unique reader referral link.

Where to Eat and Drink in Tromsø

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Drink gløgg

At Christmas, you have drink gløgg


For a drink with a view, head to Sky Bar located on the top floor of Clarion The Edge
Opening hours: Fri – Sat 18.00 – 00.00
Address: Kaigata 6

Casa Inferno

This is the best Italian restaurant in Tromsø and boasts a funky steampunk theme.  They even have a choice of vegetarian and gluten-free pizzas.
Opening hours:  Mon – Tues 16.00 – 22.00, Wed-Sat 16.00 – 23.00, Sun 16 – 22.00
Address: Vestregata 2


This super cool retro arcade game themed burger joint has amazing burgers.
Opening hours:  Tues – Sat: 12:00 – 22:30, Sun-Mon: 12:00 – 19:30
Address: Skippergata 6A


This popular and cozy restaurant offers over 70 dishes including Tex-Mex, Italian, burgers, salads, pizza and more.
Opening hours: Mon – Thurs: 10:00 – 24:00, Fri – Sat: 10:00 – 01:00, Sun: 11:00 – 23:00
Address: Storgata 50

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Norwegian Waffle

Make sure you try a Norwegian Waffle, too!

Tromsø Transportation

How to get to Tromsø

I flew direct with Norwegian from London Gatwick. If you’re unable to get a direct flight, you’ll most likely be stopping over in Oslo. If you do, I’d encourage you to spend some time in Oslo like I did before continuing your journey north.

Airport transfers

Once you get to Tromsø, save yourself the expensive airport shuttle bus with Bussring and take a local bus instead. It takes the same amount of time and will drop you off right in the centre.

Take either bus 40 or 42 located in front of the airport. To reach the bus stop, take the lift down and walk straight through the car park. Alternatively, exit the airport via the main doors and walk down the small hill to the right. When you reach the main road, you’ll see the bus stop on your left on the opposite side of the road. Use your card to pre-purchase your ticket (Adult 31 NOK, Child 19) at the machine.

Otherwise a single ticket purchased on board the bus costs NOK 50 for adults and NOK 25 for children/seniors.

Getting Around Tromsø


Tromsø is small enough that you can reach most places on foot.


If you don’t want to stay outside too long or are in a hurry, the bus network is fairly decent and can take you to most places you need to go.

Here are some helpful resources.

Route map for City buses
Bus stops in Tromsø city centre
Plan your route and get up to date timetables

Tips for taking the bus

  • Tickets can be purchased on board buses but only with cash
  • Make sure you pre-purchase your bus tickets for a cheaper price. Do this at the ticket machines at bus stop Fredrik Langes Gate F2 (by Kiwi) and bus stop Sjøgata S1 –  (in front of Peppes Pizza) or using the Troms Reise App (see below)
  • Google Maps doesn’t work here for plotting bus routes, instead, download and use the local Troms Reise App (available on iPhone and Android) to check bus timetables and the Troms Mobillett app (available on iPhone and Android) to buy your tickets
  • From Monday to Friday, city buses operate from 06.00 to midnight with four departures every hour. More services run during morning and evening peak hours
  • On weekends, city buses operate from 06.30 and run a night service.


There are several taxi ranks in Tromsø city centre. Prebooking is also possible by calling either Tromsø Taxi on +47 03011 or Din Taxi +47 02045.

Rent a Car

For more flexibility, you can rent a car. I recommend comparing prices and booking your rental car here

Weather in Tromsø

You might think that since Tromsø is way up north above the Arctic that it gets super cold, well it does, but it enjoys milder weather compared with mainland Norway because of the warm Gulf Stream coming from the Atlantic Ocean.

The average temperature in Tromsø during winter is around -4 °C. However, when you’re out on a Northern Lights tour, you can expect temperatures from -25 °C to +5 °C.

Essential Tromsø Packing List

Best Things to do in Tromso in Winter - Packing ListBaby, it’s cold outside. Here is what I wore and what I recommend you get to stay as warm as possible.

Check out my complete guide on what to wear and pack for a winter trip.

Top Tromsø Travel Tips

  • Alcohol – The Norwegian government has a policy that aims to limit access to alcohol. Here are a few things you should know when buying alcohol. In Norway, the minimum age for purchasing wine or beer is 18 years, for spirits, it’s 20 years. Beer can be found in most shops but is only sold before 20.00 h. on weekdays or before 18.00 h on Saturdays.  The three places you can buy alcohol all are located in shopping centres – Jekta (near the airport), Nerstranda (city centre), and Pyramiden (on the mainland side of the bridge).
  • Accommodation – To save money on food, book accommodation with a kitchenette or kitchen facilities where you can prepare your own meals.
  • Supermarket – There are a few supermarkets but the cheapest is Rema 1000. I don’t recommend shopping anywhere else unless absolutely necessary.
  • Water – No need to buy bottled water, Norwegian tap water is drinkable and sometimes better than bottled variations.
  • Public Holidays – Norwegians celebrate Christmas on the 24th, this is a public holiday along with New Year’s Day (1 Jan), Labour Day (1 May), Constitution Day (17 May), and Boxing Day (25-26 Dec).
  • Currency – Norway’s currency is “kroner”, abbreviated NOK. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most places, so you can get away without having to withdraw cash.
  • Polar Night – Polar night officially starts November 27 and ends January 27. During this time the sun doesn’t come above the horizon. The lightest hours occur between 10.00- 13.00
  • Sleep – Get lots of rest before your trip, the mix of not having any sun, late nights, and early mornings will throw off your body clock. Make sure you keep up your Vitamin D too.
  • Festive Food and Drink – During the festive season, Norwegian will drink gløgg, mulled spiced beverage similar to mulled wine. Gløgg comes in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic variations. Your hotel may even serve non-alcoholic gløgg in their reception area like mine did along with ‘pepperkaker’ (ginger biscuits). Make sure you try this awesome combination.
  • Opening Hours – In Norway, all shops excluding service stations and convenience stores are closed on Sundays. general opening hours for shops in Tromsø are  Mon– Fri: 10:00-16:30, Sat: 10:00-16.00. There is a late-night shopping in the centre on Thursdays until 19:00 h.
    At Christmas, most shops and many restaurants will close early on Christmas Eve and remain closed until December 27th. However, a wide range of activities and accommodation is available. Christmas is a very busy time for tours in Tromsø.

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20 Unique Things to do in Tromsø in Winter - The Definitive City Guide

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Over to you!

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Sarah January 19, 2020 - 09:02

Really good guide. Comprehensive and clear. Just what was needed. Thank you!

Michele January 19, 2020 - 14:18

Thanks Sarah, I’m so happy to hear that :)

CDW January 9, 2019 - 01:00

Great article Michele. Currently planning a trip to Tromsø, our third to Norway, and will definitely be using many suggestions made here. Nice job.

Michele January 9, 2019 - 22:15

Thank you so much :) I’m excited for your trip. You’ll have the best time. Let me know how it goes! :)


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