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Top insider tips

Known as the Paris of the north and the Arctic City, Tromsø is a student metropole with every special vibe. Discover the best nightlife north of the Arctic Circle – whether your idea of fun is to stay indoors in cosy pubs and bars, or venture outside to see the northern lights and midnight sun.

Here’s how to spend a long weekend in true Tromsø style: cultural Friday, Saturday with the locals and urban Sunday walks.

Cultural Friday

“Tromsø has a packed cultural calendar all year round, but the winter season is really something extra. The colder it is outside, the more intense it gets inside, in every way”, says Martha Otte.

Otte was born in California but has lived in Tromsø since 1982. She spent many years as the festival director for Tromsø International Film Festival. These days, she’s the proud co-owner of Backbeat Kaffe & Vinyl.

Martha Otte

Otte’s tips for cultural experiences in Tromsø:

Find a festival: In relation to the number of people who live here, there is much more going on than you may think – regardless of the season. With several large cultural institutions of top quality, it’s easy for tourists to find events and activities. Still, Tromsø is first and foremost a festival city. If you plan to stay a few days, there is a good chance that your cultural Friday will be spent at a festival. They come in all genres – from film, music, and performing arts to food and literature, and most of them take place in the middle of the city.

Indigenous people: Having said that, Norway’s perhaps most unique festival happens on only one Friday per year: The Riddu Riđđu festival. It takes place in July in Manndalen, about an hour and a half by car from Tromsø. This indigenous festival is all about the local Sami culture.

Jump in the sea: Don’t miss the city’s hottest attraction: Pust. Shaped like a traditional drying rack for fish, this floating sauna has a central location by the harbour.

Favourite food: Tromsø abounds with exciting places to eat, so it’s literally a piece of cake to find a fantastic meal. Try Bardus bistro, the smallest restaurant in town, for scrumptious meals made with seasonal and locally produced ingredients. Located in an old wooden house, this top-quality restaurant invites guests to enjoy food in an atmosphere they describe as “more fun than formal”. You’ll find it opposite the grand Tromsø library building and next to Bardus Bar, which serves the best drinks in the city.

Cocktail o’clock: With due respect to Bardus Bar, the restaurant and bar Hildr in Skippergata wins the top prize for the best drink in the whole wide world: ginger daiquiri! Like Bardus bistro, Hildr is a cool, intimate restaurant with an inspiring and constantly evolving menu.

One for the road: End your night out at the city’s coolest nightclub: Storgata Camping. This is a top place to enjoy live bands and DJs who make it impossible to stand still. And why not wind down with a round of minigolf?

While you’re here: Tromsø is great if you are curious about Norway’s indigenous population, the Sami. There are also lots of cool art museums in the city, and a visit to the Arctic Cathedral is on many visitors’ to-do-list. Find museums and galleries in Tromsø.

Saturday with the locals

“Life up north is different. We have to adapt to the dark winter months and the light summers with midnight sun, and this gives the city and the people a kind of X factor. Tromsø is blessed with a magical combination of mountains, sea, and city life. It is big enough not to run out of things to do, and small enough to quickly get a sense that you belong”, says Siri Børs-Lind.

Børs-Lind moved from Eastern Norway to Tromsø many years ago. She has worked in the festival and culture industry and been involved in the festivals Rakettnatt, Vårscenefest and Kulturnatt.

 Siri Børs-Lind

Børs-Lind’s tips for a Saturday with the locals in Tromsø

Festival city: The first thing you need to check is if there is a festival when you plan to visit. Festivals are what makes Tromsø’s cultural heart beat. They provide a direct shortcut to the core of Tromsø life.

Read and learn: Get in a cool Arctic mood by reading Cora Sandel’s book “Alberte and Jacob” when you plan your trip. Once you’re here, a visit to the museum Perspektivet, the house where Cora Sandel lived, is highly recommended. Take your time to wander through the collections, and remember to check out the old photos of Tromsø on the 3rd floor.

Sami culture: Visit the Arctic University of Norway. Those with an interest in the Sami are wise to set aside several hours to see the ethnographic exhibitions that cover everything from prehistoric times to contemporary Sami culture.

Hunting: The Polar Museum fills you in on local hunting life and history, which is an important part of Tromsø’s identity. Experience something you will not find anywhere else in the world!

For film buffs: Join a film screening in the impressive cinematheque Verdensteatret, which is the oldest cinema still in operation in northern Europe.

Go on a shopping spree: Start your shopping trip by the brewery Mack, which has been in operation since they opened the world’s northernmost brewery in 1877. Pop into Wabi Sabi for locally designed jewellery, check out the art exhibitions at Galleri Nord and Krane, and find old and new comics, books, board games, and lego at the amazing Lego-Loftet shop.

Get a fresh perspective: Cross the bridge and take the Fjellheisen cable car up to the top of the mountain.

Breakfast: Secure a window seat at Helmersen and get a full brekkie while people-watching.

Coffee or tea: Have lunch or a fancy coffee at Risø or stop by Hildr’s garden for a pot of tea if the weather is good.

Feeling peckish? At Amtmandens, you can get cheese and cold cuts from Italy, France, and Spain combined with local ingredients served on a board and a glass of wine or beer from a local brewery.

Game night: If you’re in the mood for board games, Cafe Sånn is a good choice, especially if you prefer to play while enjoying a massive steak sandwich, homemade cake, and a nice beer. To combine a drink with something more active, try minigolf at Storgata Camping.

Out and about: The tiny Tromsø Mikrobryggeri makes proper craft beer with old-school methods. Bardus Bistro and the 1920s-inspired Nitty Gritty serve quality food and some of the city’s best cocktails.

One for the road: Finish your evening with live music at Barstad Bar.

While you’re here: Vertshuset Skarven is a local institution that offers traditional dishes. More Arctic cuisine, including grilled stockfish, is served at the Arctandria restaurant. At Fiskekompaniet, you have a chance to try the succulent meat of king crab. Find more culinary experiences in Tromsø.

Sunday city walks

“What I love about Tromsø is that nature is practically on your doorstep. Almost everywhere you go, there are grand views in all directions and unlimited possibilities for nature-based experiences. Choose a long and challenging day trip or a short afternoon trip on foot, by bike or on skis”, says Regine Igesund.

The locals are big fans of outdoors activities regardless of the season. In the winter, the northern lights light up the sky while the midnight sun guarantees a unique experience in the summer. Igesund is currently a student at the University of Tromsø.

Regine Igesund

Igesund’s tips for urban Sunday walks

A trip not to be missed: The cable car Fjellheisen is the most popular trip in the city, and it’s also one of my personal favourites. The views of the city and the mountains are just incredible. No matter how much time I have, or how far I plan to go, Fjellheisen offers numerous options. the Sherpa steps is perfect for a quick afternoon walk, while Sørstien takes a little longer. If you like, you can always go up and down with the cable car, and start your hike at the top. Another option is to take the bus to Solligården and hike across the mountain range – about 15 kilometres. You will walk past Sollidalsaksla, Bønntuva, and Fløya before you get to Fjellheisen.

Lit hiking trails: There are lit hiking trails several places around Tromsø, so you can hike to places like Tromsøya, Tromsdalen, or Kvaløya after dark. Tromsøya is the island where central Tromsø is located. If you follow the Tromsøya hiking trail, you can pop into the cabin Skihytta on the way. From there, continue to Varden, which is the highest point on the island. There are several natural stops along the way, like a pier, the bathing area Telegrafbukta, and a jetty.

Fjord tour: A great tip if you want to get out of town is to take the bus to Ersfjordbotn. It’s a beautiful little village at the end of a small fjord. There are two hiking opportunities within reach: The mountains Nattmålsfjellet and Buren. The trails both start by the football pitch, one on each side of the road. Nattmålsfjellet is a shorter trip with toptastic views of the Ersfjord and the Kaldfjord. Buren is for those who are up for a longer adventure.

On two wheels: A bike ride around Tromsø is another great option. Rent an electric or regular bike as you prefer. In the summer, you can go for a refreshing dip in Telegrafbukta.

Winter activities: Tromsø’s winter season lasts for up to eight months, and this means that fun winter activities are a part of everyday life up here. Making snowmen and tobogganing are just as normal as summit hikes on skis. A skiing trip along lit trails is highly recommended. The trail at Tromsøya is the most central option, the one on Kvaløya has the best view, and the one in Tromsdalen has the least people – so just choose the one that suits your current mood. Fans of ice skating can try the lovely ice rink in the recreation area Charlottenlund. If the weather lets you down, you can also go skating indoors in Tromsø Ishall.

Hiking food: Stop by Fjellstua Café if you do the hike to Fjellheisen. After going up the mountain, nothing beats a plate of freshly made waffles. If you visit Ersfjordbotn, you get a grand view of the fjord from the café Bryggejentene. On the way to or from Ersfjordbotn, it is also worth popping into the shop and deli Eide Handel. They have a strong focus on local products and a café that serves both traditional dishes and delicious pizza.

While you’re here: Go on a trip to Lyngen, a popular place for mountaineering and mountain biking. You can also go for a hike on Kvaløya island. The white beaches on Sommarøy island are worth a visit, especially for a long summer evening under the midnight sun. Cool winter activities include northern lights hunting, dog sledging, and whale watching.

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