Tromso it’s a precious gem, a treasure well preserved inside the arctic circle that you must explore at least once in your lifetime.As a flight attendant I am so used with short city breaks when I get to visit the most important landmarks of a city in less than 24 hrs. I would rarely allocate an entire week to a single spot, unless that place is truly unique and special. And Tromso has it all….but most importantly, it now has my heart.
I had visited Tromso during the winter (January 9th-January 15th) and I got the chance to experience not only the northern lights but also the Polar nights when the sun never rises and the day last for less than 5 hrs. Between tours outside the city, I have managed to discover the best kept secrets of the magical town, including some known only by the locals.
1. Pust Sauna
Hidden between old fishing boats and luxurious yachts inside Tromso harbor, the Pust Sauna it’s one of the most incredible experience that I had during my trip to Norway. For 25 euro fee you will have access to the sauna for an hour followed by unlimited jumps in the frozen arctic ocean that surrounds the harbor. The sauna it’s opened daily from 6am-10pm and can be booked online by clicking on the link below.
If you are lucky enough you may even have the chance to “upgrade” your experience and get to watch the magical Aurora dancing in the sky above you.
2. The cable car
Personally, I have discovered the fact that you can see the northern lights right from above the city from other tourists, after a failed experience of Aurora borealis tour. You will find few informations about the cable car online since every tour agency has the interest in promoting their own tours and gain few hundred bucks from every tourist.
I have experienced the beautiful sight of the city from the Fjellheisen cable car twice and the second time I even had the chance to watch a spectacular show offered by the Northern lights, all these for just 25 euro return ticket.
Book your tickets here and find out your best chances to see aurora on the second link.
3. Storgata street
If you decide to stay in downtown Tromso then you will be crossing the main street, Storgata, every single day, intentionally or not. The beautiful street has everything you need including restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, a small shopping centre, grocery shops, tourism agency and even a cathedral.
If you visit during the winter, the street will be decorated with Christmas lights which will make it even more magical. During weekends Storgata is more animated then normally as the locals will join the crowd of tourists in the pubs and bars along the street. It is totally safe to walk alone at any time of the day/night and you might as well stop for a reindeer hotdog along the way.
An arctic experience center for the whole family, as described in their website, Polaria is an unique polar aquarium where you can see bearded seals up close. I had the chance to visit Polaria when the seals where fed and the passionate staff took the time to explain more about the seals lifestyle and answer all our questions regarding those sea mammals. I was very impressed by the care and love with which the seals where treated and soon they will have an even bigger playground and a male joining the squad.
If you fear that those sea creatures are trapped in Polaria and without a chance to normal sea life, fear not as they are continuously entertained and mentally and physically stimulated by the staff. Beside that, the for seals hosted by Polaria won’t be able to survive in the ocean if released since they will be unable to hunt their own food and they are very friendly mammals which could be easily hunted for their meat.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the counter and like every other attraction in Tromso, it will cost you approximately 25 euro.
5. The arctic cathedral
Located on the east side of Tromso and connected to the downtown by a bridge, the cathedral it’s considered one of the most important landmarks of the city. Personally I decided to walk to the cathedral, taking advantage of the good weather and the beautiful, unusual sunset at 2 pm. Unfortunately I didn’t expect to find it closed, however the beautiful location and the landscape around it, worth the 20 minutes walk across the bridge.
On the way back I have taken the bus for one station and in less than 2 minutes I was back in the downtown. Bus tickets can be purchased from the driver using the credit card or by using the Troms Billett app.
6. Nerstranda mall
A small shopping center with a perfect location, facing the Storsteinen mountain and the sea that must be visited while in Tromso, not for shopping but for the super instagramable Cafeteria located on the upper floor. With an unique view and delicious food this Coffee shop is by far the pretties I have ever visiting during my travels around the world.
Coffee, sandwich and a fresh orange juice cost me, as you might have already guessed, 25 euro.
7. Culinary experience
In Tromso you will probably find some of the most delicious norwegian food such as sea food, fish soups and stews but also less common dishes like Seal/Whale steak and Reindeer meat. The restaurants in Tromso are not very cheap and if you travel on a budget you may want to reconsider dinning daily outside. The cheapest dish will cost you…25 euro.
My favorite restaurant in Tromso was by far Biffhuset Skarven, where I would eat soup every single day, after returning from a tour. It was also the place where I have tried the Whale steak which I wouldn’t recommend, not only because it wasn’t great (since whales are mammals the meat taste like beef and not like fish as I have initially expected) but also because whales hunting should stop once and forever. Norway, Iceland and Japan are the only countries where whales hunting it’s still permitted and while most of the meat is exported to Japan, the tourist’s curiosity (I am guilty of that) plays a major role in the hunt.
My second favorite restaurant was The griffin grill where they serve delicious cocktails and grilled meat. Prices shouldn’t be neglected and you must be ready to leave 60-80 euro for a single person (excluding tips). Overall it was worth it and their cocktails are to die for.
8. Take a cruise around the fjord
The fjords are basically narrow inlets of ocean between cliffs that can be found in just few places around the world, including Norway. Don’t miss out the chance of taking a cruise around the fjords, especially in summer when the landscape is just breathtaking. During winter you will be able to observe the fjords covered in a layer of snow, encounter some whales on your way and if weather permit, even experiencing the beautiful Aurora shining above you.
Unfortunately in my case, the surrounding area was covered with dense fog but we were able to observe few orcas and whales playing near by.
9. Take a walk during the night
Tromso during the night it’s a totally different experience since the entire city it’s light up with millions of lights and reflections of color. My favorite walk during the night time was in the harbor where I would photograph every single boat, meditate on a bench or just dream with my eyes wildly opened towards the sky while waiting for the Aurora borealis to appear.
10. Souvenir shopping
You can’t leave the city without buying few unique souvenirs for yourself and friends back home. The gift shops in Tromso are really unique and special and beside the regular magnets and post cards you will be able to find some very interesting items such as mittens, wool socks, chocolate hand painted in the northern lights colors, thermal mugs that once heated will display the incredible Aurora borealis, local reindeer sausages, salmon and much more. I promise that even the leas shopaholic of you will want to leave behind at least 100 euro worth of souvenirs.
Beside that, the gift shops are a great opportunity to observe up close few arctic animals such as polar bears and reindeers in the so called taxidermy mounts placed inside or outside the shops. Let’s be honest…this might be your only chance to touch a polar bear and leave the place alive.