Updated: Jul 19, 2022
There is more to do in Tromsø, Norway in summer than you may think. Here we share our top 5 activities to enjoy if you make the journey to this unique, on-the-rise destination, endearingly nicknamed, The Gateway to the Arctic.
1. Fjellheisen | Best Views in Town This is a must while in Tromsø; especially between May 20 and July 22 when the sun doesn't set (more on that below)! However, any time of year, heading up the cable car to the top of Storsteinen affords you the best views in town. You can see Tromsø, surrounding islands, and the additional mountain ridges that are simply stunning. It's great for people of all ages, includes access to other hiking trails, and includes some spots for refreshments up at the top.
Insider tip: Not sure how the weather is looking? Go ahead and call them to see how the view is looking from the top! We did a cloudy day AND a completely clear one. Both were beautiful, but the magic of Midnight Sun is best on a clear evening in our opinion. Click Here for Website
2. Sailing Tour There are many options for sailing tours around Tromsø. They vary in length of time and specific focus. Some are photography tours (there are incredible sights to capture!), others lean toward whale watching, fishing charters, or simple sight-seeing. With the kids, we decided on something simple to take in the city and tour the sound. It was refreshing to be out on the water. The two crewman were professional and welcoming. They introduced the kids to their first “Fiskekaker” or fish cake, shared details about how the navigation systems work, and detailed a brief history of the particular boat we were on (Hermes II).
If you take the time to head to the arctic, it's worth finding a sailing/cruise tour to take you deeper into the richness of the region.
It was definitely a win and offered some stunning views along the way! We captured video, family photos, and scenery. It was also just... different and fun. If you take the time to head all the way to the arctic, it's worth doing some research to find a tour to take you deeper into the richness of the region. Click Here for Hermes II Website
3. Polaria (for kids!)
The seals. You’ll hear locals and visitors talk about seeing the bearded seals and wonder, "where does all this happen?" Polaria. That’s where.
It’s a quaint arctic "adventure center" near downtown Tromsø and hosts a number of educational exhibits about the arctic, local animals, and region in general.
If you’re used to state of the art venues (Georgia aquarium, San Diego zoo, etc.), keep in mind this is a simple and small facility. However, it’s definitely worth your time and something the entire family can enjoy.
And yes, we highly recommend interacting with the trainers during one of the feeding times for the seals. They are playful, fun, and exciting to see up close (super close!). Click Here for Polaria Website
4. Midnight Sun This one is for free! You just have to time it. This is a natural phenomenon in the area from May 20 - July 22, so regardless of visibility to the sun itself, you will experience 24 hours of "daylight." It is disorienting, beautiful, and has an energy and excitement around it that you can sense in the air!
It is disorienting, beautiful, and has an energy and excitement around it that you can sense in the air!
But, if you're fortunate, you'll get a night with clear skies and you'll be able to ride the cable car (Fjellheisen listed above) or take a sunset cruise to the perfect spot and get a "front and center" view of the lowest point of the sun during this time of year in the arctic.
Again, it might not seem like a big deal in writing, but there is truly something magical about it. You can feel the excitement in the city, enjoy late night hikes, wander the city streets or just take in this unique experience from your window sill. For a scientific description (which we totally appreciate!) of polar nights and days, take a look at this Polar Guidebook Website that describes it much better than we can. Note: all our photos featured here of the midnight sun are between 11:30pm and midnight!
5. Feasting | Sampling the Local Fare Finally, in our top 5 for Tromsø, we recommend enjoying local cuisine. There are quite a few restaurants and cafe's in Tromsø that are worth your time. There is diversity as well as excellence. Some top-rated locations are Art Cafe, Risø, HILDR, and more. A Norwegian tourist guidebook, conversations with locals, or even a quick Google search can give you some great options.
Our experiences of some are shared here! Art Cafe and Risø
Also, if you happen to be present during the Sjømatfestival (seafood festival) in Tromsø, DO NOT MISS the opportunity to get food from the local stands. We had the BEST salmon and couscous of our lives in that little window of paradise!
BONUS: While we weren't able to do everything we'd hoped during our stay in Tromsø, there were a few items we would recommend and that we would make sure we add to our itinerary next time. We also included an add-on!
>>> Arctic/Apline Botanical Gardens - this place looked lovely, but we didn't quite make it this time around. >>> Drive to fishing village Sommarøy to hike and visit more arctic beaches. A friend lovingly called this are the arctic Hawaii as it reminded him of living in the islands in the past!
>>> Telgrafbukta - we DID venture to the southern part of the island and had a great afternoon here. It's a fun beach with a different feel and some beautiful scenery. Check our our insta reel here for a quick peek: Deliciously Different Living | Telegrafbukta
Transportation: We did not rent a car for Tromsø (which you can book ahead and pick up from the airport). However, many of the local sightseeing locations are within a 30-60 minute drive of the city, so having your own vehicle or planning ahead for transportation is important. We used local taxi services, like Tromsø Taxi, and there are many bus connections and bus stops that can be taken to various locations in the area.
So what do you think? Have you added the fun city of Tromsø to your destination wishlist?
[ Tromsø you are a gem! ]