Aerial view of city

The Gateway to the Arctic: Highlights of Tromsø

Hurtigruten ship

Take a Stroll Around the Port

The best way to start off your visit to Tromsø is by taking a stroll around the Port. The many colourful wooden houses lend the city its special charm – and you are sure to be enchanted by it in no time, too. Here, you will not only see cruise ships, freighters, and fishing boats (that mostly trade cod here), but the traditional Hurtigruten ships also call at the port of Tromsø on their journey north – and have been doing so since 1893! The port is the largest in northern Norway and is considered a hub serving the entire Arctic region. The quay is an astounding two kilometres long.

Visti Tromsø

Ice Sea Cathedral
Glass painting

The World’s Almost Northernmost Cathedral

What could be the landmark of a city that lies 344 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle? You will find it on a small hill on the outskirts of Tromsø: with its extraordinary triangular shape and size, the ‘Ice Sea Cathedral’ (Ishavskatedralen) is the most imposing building far and wide. Built in 1965, its architect, Jan Inge Hovig, wanted to create a symbol for the long darkness, the ice, and the northern lights. The eastern side of the building features ‘The Return of Jesus’, at 140 square metres one of the largest glass paintings in Europe. Midnight concerts are regularly held in the cathedral.

Ice Sea Cathedral

Norwegian sailor Roald Amundsen
Building of Polarmuseum

Fascination Polar Expeditions

The Polarmuseum, housed in the former Toldbodbrygga customs office will take you on a journey into another world. Built in 1833, it has been recognised by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage as a national cultural asset worthy of protection alongside the surrounding row of houses since 2000. The exhibition shows the history of whaling as well as seal and polar bear hunting in addition to the way of life of the inhabitants of the polar region. There is also much to learn about the Norwegian sailor Roald Amundsen (the first man to reach the South Pole) and his expeditions. It is an interesting place of learning for fearless seafarers – and those who would like to join their ranks.

Polar Museum


Discovering the Past

If a medieval fortress is what piques your interest, you should visit Skansen, which translates to ‘entrenchment’, in the centre of Tromsø. Skansen and part of the bay in the strait have been listed since 1978. The round fortress measures 50 metres across and four metres high, and stands on an artificial plateau. The cluster of buildings is the oldest in the city and the ramparts are the only surviving structures that date back to the Middle Ages. Nowadays, Skansen is a literary and exhibition venue with a gallery and a festival centre that organises, among other things, the Northern Lights Music Festival (Nordlysfestivalen) in January/February.

Northern Lights Music Festival

Polaria Arctic Experience Centre
Children at exhibition

Magical Northern Lights

Fans of the polar region should not miss out on the Polaria Arctic Experience Centre with its distinctive building that resembles blocks of ice. The modern museum is just five minutes from the city centre and was built in 1998. It informs in a thoroughly entertaining way of the ecosystems of the polar regions, the creation of the northern lights, and the animal world of the north. It features a number of aquariums, a panorama cinema, and exhibitions about the polar region. A particularly spectacular attraction is the glass tunnel through the middle of the aquarium. Once you emerge again, keep your eyes peeled to see the beautiful northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, in the city skies – just not while you are driving, please!

Polaria Arctic Experience Centre

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