11 things not to miss in Tromsø
Tromsø is the world´s biggest city above 69° north. It might surprise you to learn that the short subarctic summers offer a huge range out outdoor activities. Here are 11 thing you shouldn´t miss while in Norway´s seventh biggest city.
With a population of 71 000 and a northern latitude of 69°40′58″, is Tromsø one of Norway´s most vibrant cities all year round. The home of the world´s northernmost university and beer brewery is surrounded by beautiful nature and mountains, as well as a number of cultural and culinary attractions worth visiting.
Summetime, when the sun stays above the horizont 24 hours from May 17 to July 22, attracts tousands of outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world.
Scroll down to see my bucket list of 11 things you shouldn´t miss when visiting my fathers birthplace and my second home town.
1 Old town Skansen
Tromsø´s architecture is a funny mix of old and new, wood and brick. To call it pretty would at best be an exaggeration. Interesting, would be more correct description, and also a good reason to take a random walk along the harbour. If you continue walking to the starting point of the 1036 meter long bridge that connect the Tromsø island to the mainland, you will end up in Skansen. If Tromsø could claim to have a distinctive “old town” it must be the sample of wooden houses and museums that find in this colorful area. Some of the houses has been removed from other parts of town, while some are still inhabited.
The café at the old customs house is a nice place to have a coffe or a waffle before going back.
2 Hella museum and recreation area
If you like the Skansen area and are keen on seeing more old buildings, you should hop on a bus or hire a car and visit Hella, about 30 kilometer south of the center on Kvaløya Island´s southern end. Here you´ll find some more old 19 century houses that have been removed from the town and set up in beautiful surroundings, facing high mountains across the sound Rystrømmen.
You might as well hire some of the building to stay overnight, and wake up peacefully next morning listening tothe sound of silence in fresh artic air. In the weekends there is an open café in Hella, where the locals gather together for a coffee, to fish from the rocks or just enjoy the nature.
3 Take the gondola and eat raindeer burger
Most people visiting Tromsø take the gondola up to the 421 meter Fløya mountain platau. At this latitude the trees stop growing at 100-200 meters above sea level, so when arriving at the top of Fløya, you already face bare mountains. The view is awesome, especially during the two months of 24 hours sunshine in summer.
While up her, make sure to have a raindeer burger at the restaurant at the gondola station. This shorttravelled burger comes with lingonberry cream and salat, and is a prefect snack or dinner while watching the mount Tromsdaltinden that rises 1238 meters above sea level behind the plateau.
4 Individual fishing from a small boat
When you grow up in a coastal Arctic town , the word “fish” is among the first words you learn. In my grandfather´s days, fishing was a must for surviving in the harsh climate of the Arctics. The stories of people who went out fishing on the dangerous and dark winter seas are uncounted. So are also the stories of the fishing boats that never returned and never were found, and the stories of fishermen´s widows that were left alone with their herds of infants to feed. It was not braveness that sent the young men out on the seas at almost all conditions. It was the basic instinct of feeding their families back home. With frozen ground most of the year, fish was the only fresh food to find during the long winter months. The cod was the gold of the sea, and was also sold on the markets along the coast, either fresh or dried.
Fortunately, the people of the coast have other means of earning their living today, even thoug the commercial fishing industry still counts for a huge part of the city´s income.
For the rest us, fishing has become a pure recreational activity, like any other activity you do with your family or friends for fun and excitement. Personally I prefer to fish on a line form a rowing boat or a small powered boat. The fjords around Tromsø are filled up with fish, and you normally don´t have to go far out before you can drop your line and wait for a small or medium sized cod or pollock to bite. If you are lucky, you might as well get an angry catfish on your line.
5 Guided fishing on the sea
If you don´t have access to a small vessel, join Explore the Arctic at Lauklines Kystferie in Kattfjord, or some of the other companies for a guided fishing trip with all the necessary equipment included. They will take you to the best fishing sites both infjord and out on the seas. Catching a 15 kilos cod is not an exception on these trips.
6 Catfish burger in the harbour
Tromsø has a good range of excellent restaurants serving fresh local food, especially if you are into fish and seafood. One of my favourites is Skirri restaurant in Kystens Mathus in the middle of the harbour. Get yourself a catfish burger and ask for a table outside, if the weather is okay for sitting outside. In my opinion, there is no better place to enjoy a nice meal if you want to enjoy the view of the harbour, the bridge and the Arctic cathedrale under mount Tromsdalstinden across the Tromsø sound. The prices are surprisingly reasonable, the location taken into consideration.
7 Enjoy the freshness of an Arctic sea dip
If you visit some of the beaches on a sunny summer day you might be surprised to discover the amount of people gathering on the beach. You might get even more surprised to see people crawling and playing in the waters here at almost 70 ° north.
To be honest, the water is not for the faint hearted swimmer, with temperatures seldom rising above 12 degrees. But air temperatures do raise above the twenties and more during the summer, and the snow white sandy beaches and crystal clear water is both irresistible and refreshing on a hot Arctic summer day.
The recipe is this: Make sure you are already warm, either by sun heating or physical exercise. Then run into the water until it reaches your hips, and dive quickly into the clear delicious element. Stay for a few seconds in the water, and walk peacefully back to the beach.
You won´t regret it!
8 SUP-paddling in Sommarøy
As mentioned above; the beaches are drop dead beautiful up here, and Sommarøy has the world´s northernmost archipelago of small islets surrounded by white sand, green grass and turquise sea. This area is made for watersports like kayaking and sailing and windsurfing. The company 69° Nord is run by a French guy, and offers a huge selection of kayaks, SUP boards and sailkayaks. Choose between multiday guided trips or individually hourly based rental.
As a kid I thought the name Sommarøy , meaning simply «summer island», was a result of excotic white beaches, midnight sun and clear waters. After living in Tromsø several winters, I know better. Winters ca be extremely rough out here, with the Atlantic ocean straight in and no real sunlight for two months.
9 Taste the Happy fish crips
Norway is famous for its fish products. Unfortunately I would say, a lot of the processing of fish has been outsourced to low-cost countries, including the processing of local dried fish.
An exeption is the quite recently founded company Republic of Fish. By developing new, lightweight seafood products, the company makes seafood super easy and super accessible to people, so that they can live healthy and good lives. Fish Republic has developed many different snack products based on seafood, and first out is Happy. Happy Crisps are crispy flakes of lean and healthy fish, delicious olive oil and exciting flavors.
I have tried both the paprika or the garlic and pepper-chips, and they both taste great.
10 Visit Bryggejentenes Fjord Café
In the bottom the scenic fjord Ersfjorden in Kvaløya, a couple of girls run their own café and interior shop with a good range of locally made products to take home as a gift. The shop also offer excellent local food. Still, the location of the shop, on the edge of the docks with some of the most famous serrated peaks of the Kvaløya on both sides, is the best argument for visiting this unique café and shop.
The name og the place,Bryggejentense, means «The Dock girls», simply because it is located on the dock.
11 Climb a mountain
Fish, midnight sun for two months and the Aurora Bolearis lights in the winter. These are probably three most popular attractions in the region of Tromsø. Number four must be the nature and mountains that attract thousands of tourists and locals all year round. You don`t find many places that offers such a great selection of mountains and peaks to explore and climb within the city´s borders.
You might live a lifetime in Tromsø and still explore a new track or peak every day. The nature on mainland Tromsø and the nearby islands are well suited for all levels; from beginners and ordinary urban locals who are happy to walk a few kilometers on a safe track, to extreme adrenaline junkies that would risk their life to reach the highest peak.
Ask in the reception or any random local for advices, or contact the local tourism association for group trips.