Tromso in Norway – Itinerary 2 Days
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 12 SEP 2020
Tromso in Norway 2-Day Itinerary
Tromso, or Tromsø in Norwegian, actually holds the northernmost record in many respects: the northernmost university, the northernmost cathedral, the northernmost aquarium and the northernmost brewery, the Mack Brewery! Besides this, Tromso is a vibrant coastal city with easy access from nearly anywhere in Norway by car, by plane or by ferry boat. It features an airport and is a Hurtigruten port of call, which makes it a highly accessible destination for visitors from near and far.
The city offers a wealth of enticing activities to do both in summer and in winter – whether you are into history & culture, Arctic nature or a food lover.
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Day 1 in Tromso, Norway
On your first day in Tromso you will cross the spectacular Tromso Bridge to take the cable car, Fjellheisen, from Sollivegen up the mountain to a viewing platform (Storsteinen) overlooking the city.
Fjellheisen dates back to 1961 since when it has served Tromso locals and visitors with its two gondolas, the Seal and the Polar bear. From the mountain you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and the fjords.
A more budget-friendly (and requiring!) option is to climb the 1200 Sherpa steps ending on the plateau below the cable car upper station (Fjellstua). It was built, starting in 2016, by Sherpas from Nepal who are specialists in such step constructions in the mountains. The hike is awesome and provides breathtaking views of Tromso!
The path starts at Fløyvegen and continues up the Fløya mountain through Tromsdalen – it is a fresh walk – and one of the longest of its kinds in Norway! You may have a Norwegian waffle up here before returning – maybe with the cable car!
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You will be back in Tromso for a well-deserved lunch in one of the small restaurants there – maybe with a harbour view!
Now it is time to visit the northernmost aquarium, Polaria, for an Arctic experience. It features an Arctic species of seal from Svalbard. Don’t miss the Arctic Walkway and simulated permafrost.
You will also be able to explore the aquariums brimming with marine life such as starfish, halibut, sea sausages, catfish, sea urchins etc.
Another experience is to watch one of the panoramic movies shown: Svalbard – Arctic Wilderness or Northern Lights – A wondrous Experience, revealing outstanding natural phenomena in the Arctic.
The famous seal hunting ship, the Polstjerna, can be visited in a separate museum building close to Polaria.
A few hundred metres up Storgata you will now arrive at Tromso Cathedral from 1861, Norway’s only wooden cathedral! Remarkably, it is the northernmost protestant cathedral in the world!
The interior of the church is characterised by simplicity and modesty. A blue and white colour scheme dominates the pews, columns and baptismal font.
You may be able to attend a concert in the Cathedral during your Tromso stay – which is a special musical experience in the Arctic!
Not far from the Cathedral you will find the Roald Amundsen Monument, commemorating the great Norwegian polar explorer who lived the last part of his life here in Tromso.
Afterwards, enjoy the vibe at the waterfront – in summer often teeming with people.
Now it is time for a chill walk round the central streets of Tromso featuring many interesting buildings. It is a mix of fascinating colourful wooden houses and intriguing harbour life with a tempting supply of boat tours and marine activities. You may also pop into the local boutiques and maybe buy yourself a real Norwegian souvenir such as a traditionally knitted sweater or a pair of reindeer gloves. Don’t forget to admire the polar bears on display in some of the shop windows!
Strolling around, you will sooner or later pass by the Public Library and City Archive between Grønnegata and Vestregata. The awarded building was constructed in 2005 with an eye-catching architectural design which has turned it into one of the real must-sees in Tromso!
Using the frames of the original roof of the old Fokus Kino, the structure was designed in 1969 by the Norwegian architect Gunnar Bøgeberg Haugen. In particular, the new roof was based on the Mexican architect Candela’s principles and was constructed as a geometrical hyperbolic paraboloid form.
Stortorget is the open square close to the harbour featuring the remarkable Fisherman Monument, Fangst og fiskerimonumentet, created by Sivert Donali. It leads to the wooden Cathedral of Our Lady and to the City Hall with the statue of King Haakon VII (1872 -1957) in front of an elegant pavilion and former wooden city hall building, now Rådstua Teaterhus.
Your sightseeing will also take you round to the old Skansen from the 1200s – maybe even older, presumably constructed by Haakon Haakonsson. Not surprisingly, the current building is the oldest house in Tromso, a historical building from 1789, built on the remains of the 13th-century rampart. It is conserved in Tromso together with its immediate surroundings. Although the former walled fortification is well-preserved, there is today no longer any trace of the moat that Skansen was surrounded by centuries ago.
The place still exudes atmosphere from the olden days, and it is popular in summer to come here to sit and have a chat and a drink on the benches outside. Take a break here, visit the café, enjoy the ambience and feel the old traditional vibe.
A special experience in Tromso is to try the local beer from the Mack Brewery, the northernmost brewery in the world. It was founded in 1877 by Ludwig Markus Mack, hence the name, and is today the fourth largest brewery in entire Norway!
Throughout the years Mack has produced both Polar Beer and Arctic Beer, and a wide variety of Mack beer is of course available in the local supermarkets!
In Tromso you will come across the Mack beer in the beer shop Kjeller 5, in the traditional pub Ølhallen and at Mack Mikrobryggeri. Try it before, after or with you dinner tonight!
Then, you are ready for the last sight today, the Arctic Cathedral on the other side of Tromso Bridge. You have definitely already spotted the iconic white triangular structure from the waterfront earlier today.
The Arctic Cathedral, Ishavskatedralen, was built in 1965 by the architect Jan Inge Hovig and is characterised by elements of concrete, aluminium and glass, steeply rising towards the sky. One side of the glass façade holds a gigantic cross, and on the other side a fine symbolic glass mosaic from 1972 appears. It was designed by the Norwegian artist Victor Sparre.
The materials and forms are unified in an extreme simplicity, making it one of the most remarkable constructions in Northern Norway. It has become a landmark of Tromso and is visible from many places on the island and in the city of Tromso, even at night – since it is illuminated.
You will maybe have the opportunity to attend a midnight concert here whether you are in Tromso in high summer or during the darkest season. In winter the Northern Lights Concerts are held, and in summer the Midnight Sun Concerts replace them.
Outside the Arctic Cathedral you can enjoy a panoramic view of Tromso and the surrounding sound by night!
Day 2 in Tromso, Norway
Today you will have to choose among a few options for the morning.
Either you will go on a whale safari, or a fjord tour, maybe in a RIB boat, or as another option you will make a scenic morning tour by car to the nearby island Kvaløya to look for reindeer and other wildlife. If you have only 2 days in Tromso, you will unfortunately not have time for all, but need to pick the one appealing most to you. In case you had more days, you could of course do all – stretching the various tours over more days!
Tromso is one of the awesome places in Norway to set out for whale watching. There are several companies offering whale watching tours where you can get glimpses of the giant humpback whales or handsome orcas (killer whales). Although possible during a large part of the year, winter is one of the real good whale watching seasons.
Pick your tour carefully – since they can be very different – also the number of hours you are at sea can vary a lot! If you feel up to it, you can easily make it a full day tour! Check out some of the options here.
Otherwise, jump on a RIB boat for an amazing experience in the midst of Northern Norway’s breathtaking seascape and wildlife such sea eagles and other Arctic birds – or join a fishing adventure! Another option is kayaking! Whatever you choose, you will be able to explore the Arctic surroundings of Tromso from the seaside.
Remember to put on / take warm clothing with you for either tour (even in summer)!
In case you suffer too much from seasickness, or simply prefer a land experience, you will instead drive the short distance across the bridge to Kvaløya, the island just a 10-minute drive off Tromso to the west.
On Kvaløya you will find sceneries of mountain peaks and a mountainous landscape rolling down into the crystal clear green or blue sea. There are also some impeccably white sandy beaches, appealing to most day-trippers!
You can continue out to the island Sommerøya, which is probably even more picturesque with its lovely beaches and stunning views.
All along the way, look out for the reindeer which inhabit Kvaløya. Sometimes they can be found just beside the road, at other times they may have sought the mountains.
After some hours enjoying Kvaløya’s nature and wildlife, it is time to return to Tromso, where you will probably want to have some lunch, before this afternoon’s museum experience.
One of the absolute top museums in Tromso is the Polar Museum, located in a wharf house from 1837. At the same time it is a museum experience you will not find anywhere else in the world.
The exhibitions tell the story of famous polar expeditions. In front of the museum building a statue of Roald Amundsen (1872-1928) is on display – as well as different types of harpoons for hunting.
Roald Amundsen was the first explorer to sail through the North West Passage (on his ship Gjøa). In 1911 he was also the first man to reach the South Pole. Years later, in 1926, he participated, as a competent leader, on an expedition to the North Pole (on his airship Norge). Therefore he was the first person ever to set foot on both poles.
Moreover, a diversity of artifacts from Arctic camps are part of the collection here.
In the museum you will also get insight into the principle of Arctic hunting, which started up around 1820 in Tromso. By 1850, Tromso was the major centre of Arctic hunting (covering a vast area from Western Siberia to Canada). The trappers hunted both reindeer, seals, walruses and polar bears. A former polar bear trap is even on display in the Polar Museum.
You will be introduced to the polar bear trapper Henri Rudi, who killed 713 polar bears, as well as Wanny Wolstad, who was the first female trapper to stay in Svalbard during the winter season. If you are interesting in polar expeditions, this is definitely the museum for you!
In case you were back early from your morning tour, you may after the museum visit be able to squeeze in a bit of time for shopping, visiting a café or have a Mack beer – before trying some more Arctic specialities for dinner in one of Tromso’s excellent restaurants.
If you are here in winter, you will for the evening already beforehand have made a reservation for a Northern Lights tour – maybe in a dog sledge! It’s a real spectacular experience which you absolutely must try! Again, do wear your warmest clothing for this, because it will be freezing cold!
In summer you may instead want to visit the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden which is open 24/7 and has free admission, the world’s northernmost botanical garden, featuring a multitude of Arctic plants. It belongs to Tromso Museum, a university museum presenting culture and nature of Northern Norway.
If you have more days in Tromso, other things to do include experiencing the Sami culture, going skiing or snowshoeing in winter and hiking in summer.
You can also make Tromso part of a trip along the Norwegian West Coast: Things to Do in Norway – Trip West Coast – Fjords & Cities 12 Days
Eco-certified hotel in the heart of Tromsø close to the Polar Experience Center and the Hurtigruten Terminal. Some rooms offer a sea view. Convenient 24-hour lobby shop where you can buy breakfast items and snacks.
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Centrally located hotel near Storgata pedestrian street and just 200 m from Tromsø Cathedral. Near the Polar Museum and the Polaria Aquarium. Rooms have a fully equipped kitchen or kitchenette.
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Located just 15 minutes’ walk from Karl Johans Gate. The hotel features spacious rooms, bright decor and a lobby bar with a small garden.
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Located in central Oslo just 300 m from Karl Johans Gate. Aker Brygge is just 14 minutes’ walk away. The hotel features stylish rooms and offers luggage storage.
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