25 Best Things To Do In Tromso Norway 2023 Winter Guide
Discover the best things to do in Tromso, Northern Noway for an action packed holiday! We visited Tromso in Winter, just as the Polar Night set in, so we’re here to explain everything you need to know about visiting this wonderful winter wonderland that will truly take your breath away!
While many people visit to see the Northern Lights, expect to fill your Tromso itinerary with so much more than you probably ever thought of!
Expect to be immersed in the mountains with Tromso attractions such as the unique Arctic Cathedral, whale watching, Tromso ice domes, dog sledding, reindeer sledding, the arctic cathedral and so much more.
Be careful, Tromso activities can be quite costly, so pick and choose from the below and enjoy some of the best things to do in Tromso.
Most people visit Tromso to see the Northern Lights, although be warned it’s all about luck and the amount of cloud cover for seeing them. Home to the famous polar night which means literally a slither of light before it’s pitch black all day and night during Winter, a sight to be seen.
Don’t forget the Midnight sun during the Summer months which will see sunlight all day and night. Both are a vision to be seen and they truly do knock you around and make you question what time of day it is more than once each day.
Tromso is a spectacular city in Norway though. Protected by mountains, it’s often known as Europe’s adventure capital, like Queenstown is for New Zealand.
It’s no surprise that Tromso attracts a lot of Australian and American tourists, with plenty of British thrown in for a Northern Lights experience.
Even if you’re not into adventurous activities, Tromso has something for everyone.
I visited Tromso at the end of November, during the Polar Night for five days, and absolutely loved it. Yes, I did wonder what Tromso weather was going to be like seeing as we spent almost all day in darkness, which was an experience like no other.
If you’re wondering about whether it’s pitch black throughout the entire day during the Polar Night in Tromso, it’s not. Between 10am-1pm there is a little bit of light. The rest of the day is in darkness. This will throw your body clock like there’s no tomorrow. By 2:30pm I was ready for bed time, but you power through and get used to it. It’s a weird experience!
September: 9.6°C / 88 mm / 2.3 m/s October: 4.5 °C / 89 mm / 2.9 m/s November: 0.1°C / 30.3 mm / 3.8 m/s December: 0.5°C / 235.6 mm / 4.4 m/s January: -1.5°C / 166.2 mm / 4.9 m/s February: -2.9°C / 108 mm / 3.6 m/s March: -1.6°C / 148 mm / 3.7 m/s
What to pack for Tromso in Winter
If you have no idea what to pack for your trip to Tromso in Northern Norway, fear not! You can read our What To Pack For Tromso In Winter guide which explains everything we took with us. I felt the same and had no idea how I was going to find the right clothes considering I had been living in Australia.
Make sure you buy these affordable snow spikes because you absolutely 100% need them when visiting Tromsø in Winter. Trust me, you’ll need them to get around to avoid falling over in the ice.
Hire winter clothes for Tromso from Tromso Outdoor just like we did such as snow boots, jacket, water proof trousers and more. I spent a while trying to find the perfect snow boots to buy, but I’m glad I didn’t because I didn’t need to in the end. I also bought a new coat to take with me but I ended up wearing the coat from Tromso Outdoor instead. In fact, I was quite hot wearing too many layers most of the time during my visit!
Things to know about seeing the Northern Lights in Tromso
One of the best things to do in Tromso is to see the Northern Lights (the aurora borealis) in all its glory. While it’s the biggest reason for visiting this part of Northern Norway, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get to see the amazing Northern Lights in person.
Known as the best place in the world to see the Northern Lights, it’s not as easy to catch a glimpse of the famous light display as you might think it is.
While it’s recommended you visit Tromso for 5 days to be able to get a chance to see the Northern Lights, book a Northern Lights tour every night you’re in Tromso to increase your chances. I didn’t know this until I arrived in Tromso and quickly realised why tourists do this.
Cloud cover and light pollution
The likelihood of seeing them from your hotel in Tromso is incredibly slim. You need to be as far away from any lights as possible to see them. The more secluded the better.
The Northern Lights are apparently in the sky every night in Winter, so it’s all about how much cloud cover there is and how many lights are on near you – you need total darkness to see them best.
Spend the night in a cabin away from Tromso
If you really want to see the Northern Lights, we recommend spending a night or two in one of these cabins:
Only seeing the Northern Lights through your camera
Most people actually only see the Northern Lights through their camera. It can be hard to detect on the naked eye – crazy I know. You’ll probably think it’s a cloud in the sky and if you look through your camera, you’ll see the green light come through.
Bring a tripod with you
Make sure you bring a tripod with you. You won’t be able to capture the Northern Lights on your phone or any other way other than having a decent camera and a tripod. You might be able to purchase photos on your tour if you get to see them.
Your tour might end up as a Northern Lights in Finland tour as they sometimes cross the boarder to chase the lights.
1. Which Northern Lights Tour to choose
You’ll definitely need to do a Northern Lights tour in Tromso because they are the only people who know where to go to spot them. They also have a lot of people following the weather so if you try to do it yourself, you’ll probably waste money on a hire car.
I went on two Northern Lights tours – one on a big tour bus and also one on a small group tour. The difference was pretty big to be honest. I went on both to see what the difference would be like with Northern Shots and a personalised tour with Arctic Moments.
The tours are quite tiring as they can start at 6pm and you won’t get back until maybe even 2am.
There’s a lot of waiting around and it’s pretty cold too so you’ll need to wrap up.
Personally having been on both tours, I’d opt for the tour with Arctic Moments. It’s literally like having your own tour guide who’s passionate about The Northern Lights and has a 95% success rate of finding them because he goes off the beaten track.
Other Northern Lights tours to consider
If you don’t want to spend the whole time waiting around, check out these different Northern Lights tours to consider.
Reindeer Feeding & Northern Light Tour – we visited this Reindeer camp and I’d be surprised if you didn’t see the Northern Lights here in the evening as it’s in the middle of nowhere – the perfect place to be to see the lights!
Northern Lights Chase by Boat – Embark on an Arctic voyage of the Barents Sea and experience the Northern Lights. Enjoy a warm drink and cookies on deck while searching for the lights!
Northern Lights Cruise With Hot Tub And Dinner – Spend a night cruise aboard a unique 100-foot sailing yacht with a reindeer stew for dinner. Depart from Tromso to look for the Northern Lights above the arctic fjords while relaxing in a hot tub.
2. Enjoy a magical reindeer sledding experience
One of the best things to do in Tromso is an authentic reindeer sledding experience. I highly recommend booking this Reindeer Sledding with Sami Culture Experience which we did and absolutely loved this day trip from Tromso! Even as you explore Tromso and the area around it and through the scenic fjords on the way to the reindeer camp are so beautiful in itself.
Expect a truly authentic reindeer sledding experience at a Sami camp where you’ll learn all about the culture, arctic wildlife, have lunch with the Sami family and trying reindeer feeding too in their natural habitat in the arctic wilderness.
This was honestly one of the best things we did in Tromso.
The reindeer sledding experience felt very authentic and ethically you can see their passion for their reindeer when they welcome you into their home. It’s truly a magical experience.
They also offer the following evening tours which I would highly recommend, especially as our guide told us about not only seeing the lights but hearing them too. Yep, you may even hear them as they dance in the sky in this beautiful part of the region outside of Tromso.
As one of the top outdoor activities in Norway, you can’t miss out on dog sledding in Tromso! Based at Tromsø Villmarkssenter, there are loads of various tours you can choose from, making it a spectacular day trip from Tromso.
Don’t worry! It’s not dangerous! The dogs are well trained and the tours will take good care of you during this incredible experience at the husky camp.
Want something a bit more advanced? Check out this skiing tour which takes 5h30m and will take you across the fjords in the arctic circle.
5. Over night stay at the Ice Domes in Tromso
Make a beeline to the famous Tromso Ice Domes and enjoy the arctic wilderness in this unique place to visit in the Arctic Circle. When visiting Tromso, note the Tromso Ice Domes are only open from 10 Dec – 31 March, so make sure you book your trip accordingly (unlike us!) .
There’s a few different ways to visit the incredible Tromso Ice Domes below:
We would definitely book this once in a lifetime experience in the unspoiled wilderness, because can you just imagine how cool it would be to say to family & friends back home how you stayed in an ice hotel in Tromso? Plus, the opportunity to see the dancing lights would be pretty high from the Tromso ice domes.
6. Go on a Fjord Bus Trip
When visiting Tromsø, get out of the city center, and join this small group tour to see the arctic wildlife on a bus tour around the stunning fjords like we did.
We spent about five hours driving around at least three different fjords, spotted wild reindeer, had some awesome photography moments and had a fire and hotdogs on the beach. Our guide was really lovely and we had a brilliant day.
Even one of the other tourists told us they preferred this day trip when they visited Tromso over doing a Northern Lights tour. I can see why, because when driving around the fjords to see the Northern Lights, you won’t be able to see anything in the pitch black. This tour gives you an opportunity to appreciate the stunning fjords in all their glory, a much well deserved Tromso attraction to book.
7. Book a popular Fjord cruise
One of the most popular tours when visiting Tromso is a Fjord Cruise, which I wish we did looking back on it. While we loved the bus tour, it would have been amazing to see the incredible sight of the Fjords from sea so we would have been able to see the panoramic views of the bays.
A Fjord cruise is a year round Tromso attraction in the Arctic Circle you could do if you’re visiting Tromsø during the midnight sun as well. Go on an arctic exploration and experience silent sailing on this hybrid-electric catamaran tour around Tromso Harbor and the fjords.
You’ll visit modern fishing farms, fishing villages, ancient island communities and so much more.
8. Go whale watching in the arctic circle
There can’t possibly be a better place in the world to go whale watching safaris than in Tromso! Jump on board this once in a lifetime whale watching experience and get ready to take in the incredible sight of the humpback whales against the Fjord backdrop.
Photographers will absolutely love this trip, especially in the winter months on this Fjord cruise. Spend about 5 hours enjoying the breathtaking views as one of the most memorable experiences when you visit Tromsø.
9. Go on a thrilling snow mobile safari
Looking for a thrilling ride on one of the best winter activities when visiting Tromso? Book a snow mobile safari and enjoy marvelling at the Lyngen Alps. Expect to see a fishing village, explore an arctic fjord, and take in the epic mountain views.
We recommend booking this tour –Tromsø: Lyngen Alps Snowmobile Safari – Take an exciting snowmobile tour through the Lyngen Alps. See a fishing village, explore the arctic fjord, and take in the epic mountain views.
10. Winter sea kayaking
Love kayaking? Book this winter sea kayaking guided tour around the beautiful Fjords! Expect to see sea eagles, seals and if you’re lucky, possibly whales too! This is an opportunity to slow down, take in the breathtaking stunning views when visiting Tromso and enjoy one of the most beautiful experiences in Tromso in winter, or during the midnight sun months as well.
11. Love hiking? Try Snow shoeing in Tromso
It took me a while to figure out what shoe shoeing actually is until I realised it’s basically just hiking in the snow. For those of us who just adore hiking, try something new and learn how to snow shoe as you walk on clouds of snow through the forested trails of Tromso.
This snow shoeing tour will cater to your needs, so if you want to hike on flat ground, they will plan an appropriate tour for you. And if you’re feeling adventurous, they can organise a hike up a mountain for you too!
Tromso City Centre Activities
Not interested in day trips from Tromso? Here are some Tromso activities based right in the city if you want to have a break from doing any tours.
12. Take the Fjellheisen cable car for panoramic views
I definitely recommend taking the famous Fjellheisen cable car right up to the top of the mountain to see the views over Tromso at twilight so you can see it in the light and also when it’s lit up with the city lights. Remember twilight in the winter months is around 1pm!
It’s absolutely breathtaking, but be warned, it’s incredibly cold as it’s 421 metres above sea level so make sure you wrap up!
There’s loads of hiking routes up there too if you fancy climbing up to the top yourself.
We walked over the bridge and got a bus back. The bus stop is right next to the cable car and costs roughly £5 each back into the centre of Tromso, jus take Bus no.26. The cable car departs every half an hour and costs roughly £21 per person.
There’s also a café and restaurant up the top although we didn’t eat there as we couldn’t justify spending £23 on a risotto or £4.50 for a hot chocolate.
13. Concerts at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromso
If you visit Tromso during the Winter, you might be lucky enough to see one of the concerts at the beautifully unique Arctic Cathedral. We went to watch an authentic local Christmas concert which was absolutely beautiful. Y
ou’ll pass by the Arctic Cathedral on the way to the cable car, so make sure you stop and take some photos. It’s so unique, I doubt you’ll have ever seen a cathedral quite like it before.
14. Enjoy the Tromso Troll Museum
Wondering what to do in Tromso that doesn’t involve a tour? Go visit the only troll museum in Norway, located in the heart of the city center of Tromso! Be immersed in trolls and Norwegian fairy tales as you get hands on with AR technology at the Tromso Troll Museum!
15. Make your own jewellery at Wabi Sabi in Tromso
One thing I really loved about Tromso was finding out about a beautiful jewellery company called Wabi Sabi. The jewellery shop itself is stunning, and sells all original pieces and custom made jewellery.
We were lucky to be able to make our own ring and it was fascinating to see how a ring is made at Wabi Sabi.
What I really loved about this idea is that rather than wasting a lot of money at the tourist shops, it was a much nicer experience to take home a piece of jewellery I made myself in Tromso.
16. Make you own Christmas bauble at Blast Glass Blowing Factory
Just over the road from Wabi Sabi lies the Blast Glass Blowing Factory. We popped in just before we went to Wabi Sabi and wished we had also made our own Christmas bauble. Being able to make your own gifts is absolutely priceless.
17. Visit the Tromso Polar Museum
Known as one of the top 10 museums in Norway, you have to visit The Polar Museum when visiting Tromso, located in the city center! The Polar Museum invites you to learn all about the polar expeditions. It’s located in the former Customs House which dates back to 1830.
18. Visit The Aquarium: Polaria
The Polaria Aquarium is an incredible domino effect looking building and is one of the only two places in Europe where you can see the bearded seal up close. This is a great day out for the family and a must visit when you’re in Tromso city center.
19. Visit Mack Brewery in Tromso
Did you know Tromso has a lively pub scene? With a university in the city, it has many pubs to venture around.
Mack Brewery is one of the best pubs in Tromso, serving up 72 different beers and it’s also a brewery. It’s the oldest pub in the city and also has the crown of being the world’s most northern brewery. They also have live music from time to time as well.
Mac Brewery guided tours start at 15:30 Mon-Fri, 14:30 on Sat and last for one hour. You’ll be able to taste one beer and it costs just 230 Nok per person. No need to book for this one, you can just drop in.
Beer tasting teaches you how to distinguish between five different kinds of beer by tasting them too!
Free Things To Do In Tromso Norway
Fear not, there’s loads of free things to do in Tromso that you won’t get bored! Here’s our favourite things to do in Tromso which won’t cost you anything! While walking around Tromso, you’ll realise it’s actually such a small city and easy to see a lot of attractions in just a couple of days!
20. The lake at the top of Tromso (FREE)
There’s an absolutely beautiful lake at the top of Tromso called Prestvannet which is definitely worth a visit. You can actually walk the whole way around it and you’ll find dog walkers, runners and even skiers up there.
Because we went during the polar night, we were able to see the twilight colours. It’s a beautiful and quiet spot to photograph. It’s about a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute cab ride to the lake from the centre of Tromso.
21. Perspektivet Photography Museum in Tromso (50 nok pp)
Not mentioned at all in the Lonely Planet, the Nordnorsk Kunst Art Museum is definitely worth a look in and it’s free. It’s also much bigger than you imagine and we really loved that you can help yourself to free tea and biscuits at the end in the gift shop.
23. Visit Tromso Library (FREE)
The Tromso Library is a piece of architecture that’s not only iconic but beautiful and sits right in the middle of the city center. Spend the day wandering around and chilling out with a good book.
24. Visit Domkirke Cathedral in Tromso
The world’s most northern cathedral and is the only one in Norway to be made of wood. When you explore Tromso, you’ll easily see this beautiful cathedral as it sits right in the middle of the city center.
25. Go shopping at the vintage shops in Tromso
Make sure you pop into the vintage shops opposite the Domkirke Cathedral as there are some great vintage finds to be had! They’re not the cheapest vintage shops but you’ll find some awesome things you won’t find anywhere else! Think warm cable knit sweaters!
26. Visit the oldest cinema in Northern Europe in Tromso
We unfortunately didn’t get time but we would have gone to visit Verdensteateret, the oldest cinema in Northern Europe in Tromso! If there’s nothing worth watching, we read that you could ask the ticket guys to let you in to see the theatre in between performances.
Where to stay in Tromso
Now we’ve told you all about the amazing things to do in Tromso, here’s our top picks for finding the best Tromso accommodation to suit you!
Tromso hotels for Northern Lights
If you really want to see the Northern Lights in Tromso, we recommend staying at one of the following accommodation options for a night or two because you’ll have much more of a chance to seeing them away from the city which we mentioned earlier in this guide:
Looking for more Tromso city center hotel options?
After staying in Tromso, we would have easily considered one of the following hotels because they were closer to town than where we were staying.
Each of these hotels are located right in the heart of Tromso city center and offer up fantastic facilities for everyone.
Our top pick: Raddison Blue Hotel – Beautiful hotel and the main pick up point for most of the tours (which makes it much easier than having to walk on the ice around town, trust me we had to rush over here for many tours!).
Value for money: Smart Hotel – 200m from main Storgata shopping street, modern and has a cafe on site serving light dishes.
Looking for more Tromso inspiration?
Check out our other Tromso guides to help you plan your trip to Northern Norway!