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It always looks different. The light changes, the sea changes ...

Although she travels the globe and works with famous musicians in places like L.A. and New York, Ida Tolou still thinks Tromsø is an incredibly exciting city.

There is in fact lots happening in this small place. There are many events and people are really involved. It really feels a bit like a big city.

Ida Tolou


Tromsø's best cultural spots

with artist Ida Tolou

Get the best of both worlds – spectacular nature and a vibrant cultural life. Let Ida Tolou, a talented young singer-songwriter, show you the Tromsø scene!

The raw wilderness of Northern Norway and stunning northern lights are a major draw for most travellers. With direct flights from several big European cities, it's easy for even the biggest stars to visit Tromsø. Ida tells us about when she first met and began collaborating with world-famous musician and producer Wyclef Jean, here in this city which is so far north, with only about 77,000 inhabitants.
"He came here because it is an Arctic, exotic and special city," says Ida.

Whether you are planning a longer stay or just a weekend break, Ida has some highlights she doesn't want you to miss:

Ida Tolou's cultural triangle

From the harbour, we can see a triangular facade stand out against a backdrop of snow-covered mountains. The Arctic Cathedral is Tromsø's most famous landmark and is the first of Ida's three cultural highlights.

"I think this is the first place you should go to when you come to Tromsø. It is an incredibly unique church, with very special architecture."

The cathedral reflects the Arctic nature. Its appearance changes when lights illuminate it in a variety of different colours, and when it is lit naturally by Arctic light and the midnight sun. 

Ida grew up in Tromsdalen, just down the street from the cathedral.

"There weren't any buildings here, so people used to ski down the hill. The cathedral was first built without stained-glass. The problem was that in summer, when we have 24 hours a day of sunlight, people couldn’t see the minister during the service due to the sun shining through the windows. Everybody started to wear sunglasses to church. The minister didn't like that, since he thought they might be dozing, so they had to build the stained-glass."

In addition to being a major tourist attraction, its acoustics have made the cathedral a favourite arena for concerts. This is where Ida's story comes in.

"I started singing in the choir there when I was 10 years old. I have also been a choir conductor for the youth choir, and I worked as a substitute cantor in the cathedral when I was younger," explains Ida.

Lots of things there have helped me develop as a solo performer, and as an artist.
I need to have a key for my 'work' in the church, right?

Every year, more than 500 concerts are held here. Enjoy midnight sun concerts during summer or northern lights concerts during winter.

When I was working here and the church was empty, I used to stand here and practice singing a little on my own.

Experience Ida's beautiful singing further down the article!

We cross the bridge that connects the two centres of Tromsø and proceed to Ida's second cultural highlight.

Scandic Ishavshotel has an excellent location on the harbour in the city centre. From here, you can appreciate the Arctic Cathedral from a different angle.

If you're lucky, you might also get to see the northern lights.

It's very cool that the hotel looks like a ship.

We join Ida in the elevator up to the hotel suites, where she recorded her first music video.

Although almost all the rooms have stunning views of the Arctic landscape, a suite must of course have a little extra luxury.

Here, you have a perfect view of the mountains. You almost get the sensation that you are completely alone here, too, as if you are standing on a mountain in a way.

Make sure to rise and shine early! The breakfast at Scandic Ishavshotel has been named the best hotel breakfast in the county for many years!

Scandic Ishavshotel is one of many excellent accommodation options in Tromsø. You can stay in a comfortable hotel in the city centre, with cafés, shops, and culture attractions at your doorstep or get close to nature in a cosy cabin outside of town.

Watch Ida sing 'Nordnorsk julesalme' by Trygve Hoff in The Arctic Cathedral. The song is one of Norway's most well-known Christmas carols.

The Paris of the North

We leave the hotel and stroll through Tromsø's main pedestrian street, Storgata, just in time forthe magic hour, when everything is bathed in blue light.

"People really use their city. There are a lot of pubs and cafés, so you have something on every corner," says Ida and points towards a sign that says Kaffebønna ("The Coffee Bean").

"Kaffebønna is Tromsø's answer to Starbucks, you could say. It's where people hang out."

When you shop in Tromsø, you can find everythingfrom handicrafts and souvenirs to high fashion shops.

"Postludium is a cool second-hand shop, where you'll find a lot of vintage stuff. It is good for the environment and the profit goes to the Church City Mission," Ida explains.

Tromsø also has several shopping centres with everything you need. Ida recommends Nerstranda shopping centre and Jekta shopping centre, the biggest in Northern Norway.

Remember to take a detour out to Vervet, a recently developed neighbourhood just next to the bridge. Sample something delicious from the bakery Vervet Bakeri!

Tromsø is often called "the Paris of the North" and "the Gateway to the Arctic Ocean", due to the city's history as a hub for international trade.

The fishermen used to sail to Tromsø on their boats, bringing with them clothes for their ladies, and exclusive fabrics from abroad.

Arctic cuisine

In Tromsø, you can almost find more restaurants than people. Many places serve authentic Northern Norwegian seafood and arctic dishes. With the Arctic Cathedral and Scandic Ishavshotel still in sight, we continue to Ida's third and final cultural highlight. The restaurant Skirri at Kystens Mathus has a perfect location by the harbour. Tell the chef you want the catch of the day, and you are in for a real treat.

"It's amazing that the chefs can go to the fish counter in the back room and pick up fresh fish. And that the catch varies. It makes it very lively," says Ida.

At Skirri, we are welcomed with a big smile.

As usual, Ida sets her sights on one of the window tables.

This is actually one of my favourite dishes, one that Grandma always used to cook.

Ida is served steamed halibut, with a butter sauce, accompanied by crispy bacon, trout roe, glazed vegetables, and grilled fennel.

They put heart and soul, and all their knowledge and thought into the food here.

After a thoroughly Northern Norwegian meal, we say goodbye to Ida – but your journey does not have to end here!

Scroll below to see all of Ida's recommendations on what to see, what to eat, and where to stay in Tromsø.

Cultural itinerary

Check out the musician's recommended attractions, restaurants, and hotels.

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