Tromso in Winter: All You Need to Know (+ Map) | Guide to Lofoten

Tromsø WINTER TRAVEL GUIDE

All You Need To Know Before Your Winter Trip To Tromsø, Norway

Are you planning a winter trip to Tromsø, wondering what are the best places to visit, what kind of activities you should do, and where to stay and eat? 

Discover all you need to know about visiting Tromsø in winter (November – March) with this practical and in-depth guide!

Tromsø, home to around 70,000 people, stands as the largest city in northern Norway. Situated approximately 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, its prime position within the auroral oval, coupled with convenient direct flights to Norway’s capital, has propelled Tromsø to become one of the top winter tourist destinations. 

However, planning a winter trip to Tromsø can quickly become overwhelming. Maybe you’re wondering about questions like these as you contemplate your winter adventure in Tromsø:

❓How  get to Tromsø?

❓When is the best time to see the northern lights?

❓How cold is it going to be?

❓Is it going to be dark all the time?

❓Should I rent a car?

 Is it to dangerous to drive in Tromso in winter?

 

Tromso in winter, the arctic cathedral
Tromsø Arctic Cathedral in winter

ABOUT US AND TROMSØ

Ivar and I lived in Tromsø for six months in 2022 while I was working for a travel agency. My job was to assist people in planning their vacations in Tromsø and Lofoten, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even though I no longer reside in Tromsø.

In this Tromsø Travel Guide, I will provide tips for the finest activities, accommodations, and restaurants, hoping it will assist you in planning the ultimate winter trip to Tromsø!

Radka on a winter trip to Kvaløya back in the days when we were living in Tromsø
Radka on a winter trip to Kvaløya and Sommarøy
Our tiny house that we rented close to Tromsø
On a cross-country skiing trip on Kvaløya outside of Tromsø

1. WHEN TO TRAVEL TO TROMSØ IN WINTER

There is no best time to visit Tromsø. The ideal time for visit depends very much on what you want to see and do. 

  • If your main goal is to see the northern lights, then you need to travel between the beginning of September and the end of March.
  • If you want to go whale watching, you must come to Tromsø between the beginning of November and the end of January.
  • And if you want to do dog sleddingreindeer feeding, or snowmobiling, then you need to arrive when there is snow in Tromsø, meaning from the beginning of November to the end of March.
When to travel to Tromsø in winter for whale watching, dog sledding, reindeer feeding, ice hotel or skiing
Here is an overview of which activities can you enjoy throughout the year. We talked to so many people who planned their trip to Tromsø to February or March and then they realized that it is too late for whale watching, so we hope this will help you choose the perfect month for your trip!

2. HOW COLD IS IT IN TROMSO IN WINTER?

THE UNIQUE OCEAN CLIMATE IN TROMSØ

Tromsø has a climate that’s a bit unique. Due to its position at at 69.4 degrees north, one might expect it to be super cold all the time, especially in winter. But it’s not as cold as you might think, and here’s why:

The Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current originating in the Gulf of Mexico and flowing northeastward into the North Atlantic Ocean, has a significant impact on the climate along the coast of Norway. 

 

Gulf stream around the coast of Norway
Extension of the Gulf Stream toward the Arctic. The figure shows how the warm Gulf Stream gradually cools on its journey northward through the North Atlantic and into the Norwegian Sea until it meets the ice in the Arctic (grey area). Cold water flows back, both on the surface and in deep water. Illustration: Marius Årthun, UiB/Bjerknessenteret (temperature data from www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/hadisst/).

THE WARMING EFFECT OF THE GULF STREAM

 

The Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current originating in the Gulf of Mexico and flowing northeastward into the North Atlantic Ocean, has a significant impact on the climate along the coast of Norway. 

The Gulf Stream carries warm waters from the tropics towards the North Atlantic. As it approaches the coast of Norway, it releases heat into the atmosphere, raising local temperatures. 

This warming effect is particularly pronounced during the winter months. Consequently, coastal areas of Norway, including areas like Lofoten or Tromsø, experience milder winters compared to other locations at similar latitudes.

So, while you’ll definitely need a warm coat and snow boots, the winter temperatures in Tromsø are not as extreme as you might imagine. 

WINTER TEMPERATURES IN TROMSØ

The daily average temperature in Tromsø during winter typically ranges from -5°C to 0°C (23°F to 32°F). 

On the coldest nights of the year, temperatures can drop to -14°C  (7°F). The lowest recorded temperature in Tromsø was -20°C (-4°F), documented in both February 1985 and January 1987.

The choice of our clothes depends on how much are we planning to move. (Picture from a whale watching with BRIM)
During the activities when we do not move much, we wear thick downjacket, winter boots and several layers of woolen clothes. (Picture from visiting Tromso Arctic Reindeer farm)

IT IS MUCH COLDER FURTHER INLAND

In contrast, the inland areas, which are farther from the moderating effects of the ocean, experience a more continental climate.

Finnmarksvidda, Norway’s largest mountain plateau stretching from Alta in the west to the Varanger Peninsula in the east, experiences the coldest winters on the mainland. 

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Norway was -51.4 degrees Celsius (-60.5 degrees Fahrenheit), and this extreme cold was observed in the town of Karasjok, situated in the eastern part of the Finnmarksvidda plateau.

average annual air temperatures and minimum winter temperatures in norway
Average annual air temperatures (left) and minimum winter temperatures (right; December, January, February) for Norway for the climate reference period 1971-2000. The maps were downloaded from https://klimaservicesenter.no

Are you looking for activities in Lofoten, Tromsø, Oslo or Alta?

3. HOW is the weather like in Tromsø in winter?

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN SEPTEMBER

In September, darkness returns to Tromsø after a long summer of continuous daylight. As the nights grow darker, the northern lights become visible once more. In fact, the northern lights are active year-round, but they are only visible when the sky is dark, which is why the northern lights season lasts from the end of August until mid-April when the sky becomes too bright again.

September brings vibrant autumn colors to Tromsø, and in the mountains, you can experience the season’s first snowfall.

Visiting Tromsø in September is ideal for those who want to enjoy autumn colors and witness the northern lights without enduring extreme cold. 

It’s a great month for hiking, and if you have the appropriate gear, camping is still an option.

However, aside from northern lights tours and hiking, there aren’t many organized activities available. The reindeer are still grazing in the mountains, so the reindeer farm opens at the beginning of November. The same goes for snow activities like snowmobiling or dog sledding. Nonetheless, you can visit a dog kennel and spend time with the dogs or take them for a walk!

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN OCTOBER

In October, the nights grow longer, and you can sense that winter is just around the corner.

The landscape still boasts its autumn colors, although it’s primarily the bushes adorned in shades of orange and red, as the leaves tend to be swept away from the small Arctic birches during the initial autumn storms.

October often sees the mountain peaks lightly dusted with fresh snow, creating a picturesque contrast with the colorful landscape.

The weather in October tends to be more prone to rain and storms compared to September, but in the unpredictable Arctic climate, you never know what the weather will be like.

Regarding organized activities, October is quite similar to September. You can chase the northern lights, hike in the mountains, and explore the Tromsø surroundings on fjord or minibus tours. 

However, it’s still early in the season for organized winter activities like dog sledding, visiting reindeer farms, or going on snowmobile safaris.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN NOVEMBER

November marks the onset of the winter season in Tromsø. The vibrant autumn colors have faded, and the snow cover becomes more persistent. Daylight diminishes significantly as the polar night season approaches. 

On November 26, the sun makes its final appearance above the horizon, remaining below it until approximately January 20. 

During November, just before the polar night, you can witness extended sunrises that transition into twilight, painting the sky with enchanting hues of orange, pink, and blue.

However, November can also bring cloudy, rainy days, resulting in a mostly gray and dark atmosphere.

In November, herrings begin their migration into the fjords around Tromsø, attracting whales in their wake. This marks the start of whale-watching tours, which run from early November until late January when the herrings leave.

Reindeer herders gather their herds and lead them to the separation enclosure in November, where each family or winter group selects their reindeer for the winter pasture. 

The Tromsø Arctic Reindeer farm opens its doors to visitors at the start of November, offering opportunities to feed and interact with the reindeer until early April when they return to the mountain pastures.

Dog sledding adventures around Tromsø also kick off in early November when there’s usually enough snow. In case of a snow shortage, as experienced in November last year, dog sledding on wheeled carts remains an option, or you can visit a dog kennel. These dedicated dogs require care and attention year-round, so it’s highly appreciated if you don’t cancel your tour due to a lack of snow.

It’s still early in the season for snowmobile tours and visits to the Ice Hotel in Tamok Valley, which typically start in early December.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN DECEMBER

December in Tromsø is the darkest month, but don’t expect complete darkness around the clock. While the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, there are still a few hours of twilight-like light, casting beautiful pastel colors.

 

The city also becomes adorned with festive lights and Christmas decorations, creating a joyful atmosphere. December, especially the Christmas and New Year’s period, is a peak season in Tromsø.

Well, who wouldn’t want to spend their Christmas on a whale-watching safari or witnessing the northern lights instead of noisy fireworks? Make sure to book your accommodations, activities, and restaurants well in advance.

 

Speaking of eating out, most shops and restaurants are closed from December 24th to 26th. Be prepared by purchasing food in advance and perhaps cooking your own meals. 

However, it’s a good idea to check with individual restaurants to see if they’re open. If you plan to dine out on New Year’s Eve, make reservations several months ahead.

 

December truly marks the peak of the winter season in Tromsø, with a variety of winter activities like whale watching, dog sledding, reindeer sledding, snowmobile safaris, and the ice hotel all on the menu.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN JANUARY

The polar night extends almost until the end of January, but once Christmas is over, you can sense a change in the locals’ mood as they eagerly await the return of the sun. 

In Tromsø, the polar night spans from November 27th to January 15th. However, due to the city’s proximity to high mountain ranges, the darkness actually sets in around November 21st and lingers until approximately January 21st.

A Tromsø tradition is to enjoy doughnuts on January 21st, now known as Solboller (“sunshine buns”) in recent years. 

The city’s bakeries work through the night, ensuring that all shops, offices, schools, and nurseries are filled with the scent of these delightful pastries. Thousands gather at various points on Tromsøya, armed with warm clothing, thermos flasks of cocoa, and sun buns, eagerly anticipating the first rays of sunshine in two months.

 

Weather-wise, January brings even colder temperatures and more snowfall compared to December, so be prepared to dress warmly. 

Generally, the weather becomes more stable, and the snow cover more consistent after Christmas.

 

Throughout January, all winter activities are available, although towards the end of the month, the migration of whales out of Tromsø fjords may begin. If you’re keen on seeing the whales, it’s advisable not to wait until the last week of January.

Northern lights in Tromso harbour in January
Northern lights visible from Tromso harbour on January 21, 2022 at 6pm.
Crosscountry skiing in Tromso in January at 5pm.
home office in Tromso, january
This beautiful sunset was at 1:40 pm on January 30.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN FEBRUARY

Tromsø comes back to life in February as the daylight hours begin to increase. With each passing day, you’ll have more time to enjoy winter activities and explore the city’s attractions in the daylight, while the nights remain ideal for hunting the northern lights.

February blankets the area with plenty of snow, making it an excellent time for skiing, snowshoeing, or dog sledding adventures.

However, it’s worth noting that the whale safaris come to a halt at the end of January as the whales begin their migration southward. While you might still have the occasional chance to spot a whale from the shore or on a fjord cruise, the odds are lower compared to the prime whale-watching period from November to January.

The other winter activities are in full swing in February and March, which are considered the high season in Tromsø. So, be sure to book your activities and accommodations well in advance to secure your spot.

Almost no snow in Tromso in February
After a big storm there was almost no snow left on February 5, 2022.
Plenty of snow again on February 25. Picture taken at 5:30pm.
Northern Lights in Tromso in February
We had some beautiful northern lights show in February 2022. Picture taken at 9pm.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN MARCH

While January and the beginning of February are perfect months for photographers who appreciate the pastel hues of the long-lasting dawns and twilights, the second half of February and March are excellent for regular visitors who relish longer daylight hours they can fill with various activities.

March typically brings snowy and relatively stable weather conditions, providing ample daylight for exploration and offering breathtaking northern lights displays. 

According to science, around the autumn and spring equinoxes, there is an uptick in solar activity, leading to spectacular northern lights shows.

Ski touring trip to Lille Blåmann on March 6.
And then an epic northern lights show on March 6.
Thawing snow and reindeer photographed in front of our house on March 19.

WEATHER IN TROMSO IN APRIL

In April, the days start getting significantly longer than the nights, which is excellent news for skiing enthusiasts. They can easily enjoy a skiing trip even after finishing work at 5 pm.

 However, it’s not the best time for northern lights enthusiasts as the northern lights season comes to an end in early April. 

Most tour providers wrap up their tours by the end of March because April becomes too bright, requiring tours to start later at night. Nevertheless, you can still find some providers organizing tours in early April.

Early April is an ideal time to visit if you want to avoid crowds. Standard winter activities like reindeer sledding or dog sledding typically operate during the first week of April before closing for the season.

In mid to late April, the snow at sea level might begin to melt, marking the start of spring in Tromsø. However, this isn’t the most pleasant time to visit. 

This period often brings very changeable weather with snowfall followed by melting, and it repeats. While lower latitudes in Norway are already witnessing the first signs of green and blossoming flowers, Tromsø remains gray, brown, and wet.

Almost no snow and sunny weather in Tromso at the end of April
Sunny weather and no snow on April 23, 2022
April 25 in Tromso. It is snowing again.
April 25, 2022. It is snowing again!
April 23, beautiful sunny weather for winter paddling in Sommaroy
Winter paddling on Sommarøy on April 23, 2022.

OUR TIP: 
In our experience, we would skip traveling to Tromsø in late April and May (unless you are an avid skier). September and October are still great for hiking, and you can see the northern lights. However, it is too early in the season for other activities like dog sledding, reindeer feeding, snowmobile driving, visiting an ice hotel or whale watching. 

4. HOW TO GET TO TROMSØ

GETTING TO TROMSØ BY PLANE

If you want to get to Tromsø, flying is the easiest and fastest way. The direct flight between Oslo and Tromsø takes only two hours, compared to ca 22 hours of driving.

Since Tromsø is the biggest city in northern Norway, there are plenty of direct all-year-round flights from other Norwegian cities and seasonal direct flights from some European cities. 

For example, Lufthansa has a direct flight to Tromsø from Frankfurt or Finnair from Helsinki. You can check the direct flights to Tromsø Airport here. 

How to get to Tromsø by plane with Norwegian, SAS, Flyr or Widerøe

Most international travelers will fly into Oslo or Bergen and continue with a domestic flight to Tromsø. SASWiderøe, and Norwegian operate on domestic routes, with Widerøe being a bit more pricey since it serves mainly small local airports.

SLEEPING IN TROMSØ AIRPORT 😴

Are you wondering if it’s possible to sleep at Tromsø airport? You’re not alone, so here we share a report from Megan, who shared her experience in our Facebook travel group: Lofoten and Tromsø: Trip Planning Community.
 

For those who, like me, were questioning whether this was possible – yes it is!!! 😀 I slept there the night of the December 20-21, 2023. The airport is NOT closed overnight (landside) and there is space to sleep on the ground floor of departures. I arrived at about 11pm (the last bus leaves the city centre around midnight) and my flight was at 6:15am.

There are long seats in the entrance that you can sleep on, but I would recommend sleeping on the long wooden bench that borders the windows in baggage claim (enter departures then turn right) so that you don’t get disturbed by all of the people who arrive at 4am trying to check in as I did (you can’t check in at the machines until 5am) 😤 

The lights in baggage claim are really bright so definitely remember your sleep mask (and ear plugs ofc)! There were probably about 10 other people also sleeping there, so you won’t be alone!

Temperature-wise it was perfect for me – I slept in the clothes I’d been wearing in the day with my jacket as a blanket.

Toilets and a water refilling station are available in baggage claim.

There was also a member of staff on the desk most (possibly all…) of the night if you had any questions and they are very used to people sleeping there.

As airport sleeping goes this felt very safe but wasn’t the most comfy. However, it saved me a night of paying for accommodation and got me to my flight on time with no stress, so I would do this again.

GETTING TO TROMSØ BY BOAT

Even though flying is the fastest and often the cheapest way to get to Tromsø, many travelers prefer to arrive by boat – be it an international cruise ship or the Norwegian coastal express. 

 

Hurtigruten, also known as the Norwegian Coastal Express, is a Norwegian cruise, ferry, and cargo operator. The entire Hurtigruten cruise runs along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes (see the map), stopping at 32 ports and completing the round-trip journey in 11 days. You can jump on board in any of those 32 ports and tailor the journey according to your needs.

 

 

How to get to Tromsø by boat - Hurtigruten map
Hurtigruten Cruise Map. Click on the map to enlarge it. © Hurtigruten.com

Like Hurtigruten, Havila also sails the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes and back and calls in 34 ports along the way. The entire round trip takes 12 days. 

OUR TIP: 
If you want to travel from Tromsø to Lofoten, we recommend you take the Hurtigruten boat. You leave Tromsø at 1:30 and arrive at Svolvær at 18:30. You can book a cabin, get some rest at night, and admire the coast of Vesterålen and Lofoten during the day. 

👉 More on traveling from Tromso to the Lofoten Islands. 

GETTING TO TROMSØ BY TRAIN & BUS

First of all – there is no train that would take you all the way to Tromsø. 

The furthest north you can get by train is:

  • Bodø/Fauske from Norway
  • Narvik from Sweden
  • or Rovaniemi (Kolari, Kemiljärvi) from Finland.


For the train schedules check: 

Train map Scandinavia_happy rail.com
Rail Map of Scandinavia. Click on the map to enlarge it. © Happyrail.com

From Bodø, Fauske, Narvik or Rovaniemi, you will have to continue to Tromsø by bus.

There are daily buses departing from Bodø and arriving to Narvik via Fauske. From Narvik, there is a direct bus nb. 100 that departs from Narvik bus terminal at 5:35 am, 1:30 pm and 3:45 pm and arrives to Tromsø Prostneset ca 4 hours later.

  • For up-to-date bus schedules in Norway, please check entur.no.

From Rovaniemi/Kilipsjärvi (Finland) there are seasonal bus connections to Tromsø (during the summer and in winter from December 1 – March 31). 

  • For up-to-date bus schedules in Finland, please check ekselisen.fi.
 

5. GETTING TO TROMSØ CITY CENTER FROM THE AIRPORT

1. GETTING TO TROMSO CITY CENTER BY PUBLIC BUS

Tromsø Airport (Langnes) is served by several public bus routes that connect the airport to the city center. The primary route is Route 42, which takes you directly to the city center. But you can also take buses nb 24 and 40. 

The public buses generally run during the day from early morning (5:50 am) until late evening (09:30 pm).

Tickets for the public buses can be purchased through a mobile app (Troms Billett), or from the bus driver (cash or card). A single adult ticket for a one-way trip cost around 20-40 NOK depending on the time you travel. 

The variation of the prices are given by the rush hours. 

You pay cheaper price outside of the rush hours (Monday to Friday from 09AM to 2PM and from 5PM to 1AM.) 

2. GETTING TO TROMSO CITY CENTER BY AN AIRPORT SHUTTLE

Tromsø Airport also has an airport express bus service, known as Flybussen. Flybussen transports you to/from Tromsø Airport, via Moxy Hotel, to the main city center hotels. 

You will find the red airport shuttle bus (Flybussen from Bussring) just outside the main entrance by the domestic arrival area at Tromsø Airport. It only takes 15 minutes to get from the airport to the city centre and you will be dropped off at or near your hotel in downtown Tromsø.

 The departures are timed to correspond with departing and arriving flights. Tickets can be bought online or on the bus when hopping on.

The price for the airport express bus is 125 NOK for one-way ticket (adult) and 200 NOK for return ticket. Students, children and senior citizens pay discounted rate. 

3. GETTING TO TROMSO CITY CENTER BY TAXI

Several taxi companies serve Tromsø Airport, including Tromsø Taxi, Din Taxi, Norgestaxi, Uber and others. In my opinion, they all have quite confusing webpages that are often only in Norwegian. 

You can either pre-book a taxi, for example, via the Taxifix app (Android/Apple) or Uber, or simply pick one up at the designated taxi ranks outside the terminal.

Be aware that pre-booking a taxi from the airport is more expensive. If you join the taxi line, you’ll spend between 220 and 350 NOK, depending on where in the city center you want to go. If you want a taxi to wait for you, the minimum cost is 500 NOK because they also need to account for the time they lose waiting for you. Also, be aware that a higher fare may be charged during weekends and nighttime hours.

If you are a group of up to four people, you have the option to book a private transfer for 600 NOK. 

You can pay for the taxi through the app or by credit/debit card to the taxi driver. Tipping is not a significant part of the culture in Norway, so a tip is not expected.

Do not worry if you arrive late at night or if you need to catch an early flight. There are taxis in Tromsø available at night, too; just use the Taxifix app or Uber or call Tromsø Taxi (+47 03011 ) or Din Taxi (+47 02045).

 

6. GETTING AROUND TROMSØ BY PUBLIC BUS

Navigating Tromsø by public bus is relatively easy and convenient, offering an efficient way to explore the city and its surroundings.

Tromsø has a well-organized public bus system operated by Troms fylkestrafikk (Troms County Traffic). The buses are modern and comfortable, making them a reliable mode of transportation within the city.

The frequency of bus services can vary depending on the route and time of day. Generally, buses in Tromsø run frequently during peak hours and less frequently in the evenings and on weekends. During rush hours, you can expect buses to run every 10-15 minutes on popular routes.

Tromsø’s bus routes cover the city center, suburbs, and even some of the surrounding areas. The main routes often pass through key locations like the airport, university, hospital, and shopping centers.

Map of the public buses system in Tromso, Norway

Download the Troms Billett mobile app to buy and store tickets digitally. This is a convenient way to pay, especially if you plan to use public transport frequently. However, you can also buy a bus ticket when boarding a bus.

To plan your bus journey, you can use the Troms fylkestrafikk website, google maps or entur.no. These resources provide real-time information about bus schedules, routes, and ticket options.

Real time Tromso public bus map
We also find this map that shows the real time location of public buses in Tromsø quite cool. It is like Marauder's Map of Tromsø buses 🙂 Click on the picture to see the buses moving!
Detailed real time map of public bus system in Tromso, Norway
Also, if you click on a bus on the previous map you can get more information, like how full the bus is or if it is delayed.

7. RENTING A CAR IN TROMSØ

Renting a car in Tromsø can be a convenient option for travelers looking to explore the stunning landscapes and attractions of the region. For most visitors, picking up a rental car from one of the major rental companies like Sixt or Hertz right at the airport is the easiest and most hassle-free choice. 

Alternatively, you can consider renting from a local company called Rent a Star, which comes highly recommended due to its consistently stellar reviews. 

Additionally, especially during the summer months, many travelers opt to rent campervans for roadtrip to the Lofoten Islands.

8. PARKING IN TROMSØ

Keep in mind that free parking is scarce in Tromsø’s city center, and even hotels do not provide complimentary free parking for their guests. You will not find any free parking on the weekdays in the city center. 

Therefore, renting a car is particularly beneficial if you plan to stay outside the city center or wish to venture into the surrounding areas, such as embarking on a day trip to Lyngen Alps, Sommaroy, or Senja Island. 

You are allowed to park on the street only in areas marked with parking signs featuring a white “P” on a blue background. These signs also specify the specific time periods during which parking fees are applicable.

The first line indicates the times for parking fees on weekdays, and the times in brackets specify the fees for Saturdays. 

If there were an additional line with times in red brackets, it would denote the hours when parking fees apply on Sundays.

Parking in Tromso

9. WINTER DRIVING IN TROMSØ

If you’re used to driving in snowy conditions, it’s not too hard to drive on straight roads when it’s light and clear. But driving on twisty roads or when it’s snowing, especially in the dark, that’s a whole different story. 

Usually, the roads aren’t fully cleared of snow, just packed down a bit. Luckily, Norwegians use studded winter tires, so driving on icy, snowy roads is doable, but you’ve got to be extra careful if you’re not used to winter driving.

You don’t need a 4×4 car rental in winter; most locals drive regular cars with studded tires. 

When there’s a heavy snowstorm or blizzard you can get kind of dizzy or can’t see well because of all the snow swirling in your headlights. It’s a bit like those spaceships in sci-fi movies when they’re about to jump between galaxies. Meeting another car, or big truck in these conditions can be pretty scary, even if you’re a good driver. 

Road crews do their best to clear the snow, but watch out for snowdrifts that can pop up behind sharp turns, even after it seems the roads are clear.

Some days in winter, it’s just not safe to drive at all. This kind of weather is usually forecasted a few days in advance and there are warnings in TV and newspapers that urge people to stay at home and avoid driving. 

If a big storm like that happens during your trip, you’ll need to be flexible with your plans. Stay safe!

NOTE: 
Some people think about renting a car in Tromso and driving all the way to Nordkapp! But remember, it’s at least a 10-hour drive from Tromso to Nordkapp on a good summer day. Also, the road to North Cape is in a special condition during winter. It’s officially closed, but there is a convoy driving, so you can’t go on your own during this rough part in winter.

Do you want to explore the surroundings of Tromso?

10. THINGS TO DO IN TROMSO IN WINTER

One of the top attractions in Tromsø during the winter months is the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). The city is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, and the winter months offer some of the best viewing conditions.

In addition to Northern Lights tours, Tromsø offers a variety of other winter activities. Dog sledding, reindeer sledding & Sami storytelling, skiing and snowboarding, fishing, and snowshoeing are just a few options.

Tromsø has a vibrant cultural scene, with various museums, galleries, and cultural events. In addition, the city’s restaurants and cafes offer a range of local and international cuisines.

HERE ARE THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN TROMSØ IN WINTER:

❄️ NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNTING

❄️ DOG SLEDDING

❄️ REINDEER SLEDDING & FEEDING + SAMI CULTURE

❄️ WHALE WATCHING

❄️  VISITING AN ICE DOME

❄️ FJORD TOURS & WINTER SIGHTSEEING TRIPS

❄️  DEEP SEA FISHING AND ICE FISHING

❄️ TRIP UP TO TROMSØ CABLE CAR

❄️ SNOWMOBILE TOURS

❄️ SNOWSHOE HIKING

❄️ ALPINE SKIING, SKI TOURING & CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

❄️ WINTER SEA KAYAKING

 


 

We have written a detailed description of each of the activities mentioned above in a separate article “12 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter.” In this articles, you will also find information about the activity’s season, recommended providers, and expected prices.

11. HOW TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS IN TROMSØ

1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT TIME OF THE YEAR

To see the northern lights, you need the sky to be dark enough so the aurora would become visible. In Tromsø, the sun does not set below the horizon from about the 18th of May to the 25th of July. It is not until the beginning of September that the sky gets dark enough again. 

You can see the northern lights from the beginning of September until the beginning of April. However, most travel agencies run their tours from mid-September until the end of March. 

 

The peak season is February and March when the weather is slightly more stable than in the other winter months. Moreover, the days become bright enough so you can enjoy lots of different activities and hunt the northern lights during the night.

OUR TIP: 

If you plan on arriving in December, February or March, remember to book your activities and accommodation in advance!

2. BOOK A NORTHERN LIGHT TOUR

You do not need to book a tour with a travel agency to see the northern lights. If the sky is clear and the northern lights activity is good, you can see northern lights even from the city center of Tromsø. However, if you want to increase your chance of seeing them, booking a northern lights tour with an experienced guide is always better.

On cloudy days, the guides are excellent at reading the local weather forecast and choosing the spot with the biggest chance for a hole in the cloud cover. Moreover, if the weather forecast looks dim, they might drive you all the way to Finland and back if that is the spot that promises the best chances for the night.

On top of that, you will learn a lot about the physics of the northern lights, as well as local legends. The guides will also take pictures of you and the lights, which requires a bit of practice, and give tips on taking great pictures with your own camera.

👉 Not sure which northern light tour in Tromsø should you choose? Check out our article comparing the best northern lights tours in Tromsø city. 

Here is a beautiful video from our friend Marek, who works as a northern lights guide in Tromsø and took these shots on his tours in 2021/2022 season. 

3. KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT

There might be differences between tour operators, but here is what you can expect when you sign up for the northern lights chasing trip. 

First, you need to understand that the northern lights are highly unpredictable. Moreover, the chance of seeing them depends not only on their activity but also on the local weather and cloud cover. 

The northern lights generally extend from 80 kilometers (50 miles) to 640 kilometers (400 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Therefore, the tour’s name might be misleading since the activity is not about chasing the northern lights but searching for a clear sky. 

 

Free Tourist Interactive Map of Tromso
When the sky is clear, you can see aurora from Tromsø.
Free Tourist Interactive Map of Tromso 9
Clear sky is not enough, though. The aurora also has to be active!

On the tourthere will be a campfire, there will be stories, and the guides will do anything they can to find a spot where you can spot the northern lights and make sure that you are staying warm and having a good time while you are waiting for them. 

However, it would be best if you had the right expectations from the start. It might be cold, there might be a lot of waiting, and it can happen that you will not see the northern lights.  So if seeing the northern lights is your biggest dream, I recommend booking tours on multiple nights.

4. BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS TOUR IN TROMSØ

There are many companies that offer northern lights trips from Tromsø. Some use 15-seater minibusses, some big coach buses; some offer private tours in electric cars. But all in all, they are all quite similar. It can also happen that you will meet other companies in the same spot, especially on days with not-so-good weather forecasts. 

When choosing a northern lights tour, you should first decide what kind of tour you want – do you want a tour by minibus? Sailing tour? Do you want to combine the northern lights hunting with another activity like dog sledding or reindeer sledding?

 

OUR TIP: 

Personally, I would choose a tour by minibus over the other options mainly because the minibus tours cover the most extensive distance. Moreover, on the days with a not-so-good weather forecast for Tromsø, they will be driving you to Lyngen, or even Finland, if there is a promise of better weather.

Being a photographer myself, I would go for a trip in a small group with a focus on photography. The best photographers, in my opinion, are in Arctic Photo Guide (super small group and unique concept) Wandering Owl & Greenlander (small tours by minibus) and Northern Shots (tours by big couches).

5. CHASING AURORA ON YOUR OWN

Northern lights tours are expensive, therefore renting a car and chasing the aurora on your own can sometimes be the cheapest option for independent travellers. 

If you feel confident driving on snowy and icy roads in the winter, having your own car will give you flexibility to see the landscape around Tromsø during the day and chase the lights during the night. 

 

Interactive Map of Tromso
We have included the best spots for watching the Northern Lights in the area surrounding Tromsø in our interactive map. If you want to chase the Northern Lights on your own, simply check the weather forecast, select an area with minimal cloud cover, and pick a spot on our map to drive to!

👉 If you plan to chase northern lights on your own, check our article about the weather and Northern lights forecast for Tromso and Lofoten Islands. 

Are you looking for activities in Lofoten, Tromsø, Oslo or Alta?

12. WHERE TO STAY IN TROMSØ

Despite being the biggest city in northern Norway, Tromsø is relatively small. Most of Tromsø city, including the downtown area, university, and airport, is located on the small island of Tromsøya (“Tromsø Island”). The city center is in the southeastern part of the island, where you find major tourist attractions like Polaria and the Polar Museum, as well as most of the hotels, shops, restaurants, and nightlife.

Tromsø has many mid-range and first-class hotels located downtown, mainly in the harbor area and around the main shopping street Storgata. Moreover, these two locations are only about a five-minute walk from each other.

The view from Tromsø harbour towards the Arctic Cathedral
Tromsø city. The city center is located on the island left from the bridge.

In our opinion, the best place to stay in Tromsø is around Tromsø harbor. The area is pretty quiet, almost car-free, and you will get a fantastic view of the spectacular Tromsø bridge, which connects the island of Tromsø to the mainland, as well as the Arctic Cathedral, Fjellheisen cable car, and the majestic mountains like Fløya and Tromsdalstinden. 

In addition, you will get plenty of restaurants and cafés within a 10-minute of walking distance from your hotel, and if you are lucky, you might be able to spot the northern lights right out of your hotel window.

THE BEST HOTELS IN TROMSO FOR EVERY BUDGET

We lived in Tromso in 2022, and Radka’s experience working for a local travel agency has given us an in-depth understanding of the accommodation and tour providers in Tromso. However, understanding the importance of personal experience, we recently went on an 8-day trip to Tromso, staying in 8 different hotels to provide you with firsthand insights.

In this article, we share our unique perspectives and recommendations to help you find the best hotels in Tromso, whether you’re on a budget or looking for luxury.

Clarion Hotel the Edge is the newest and most luxurious hotel in the Tromso city. Suprisingly, it is not so expensive.
Spoiler Alert! We liked Clarion Hotel the Edge the best!
The detail of a room inside the Clarion hotel the Edge in Tromso.
Spoiler Alert! We liked Clarion Hotel the Edge the best!

13. WHERE TO EAT IN TROMSØ

For being such a small city, Tromsø has an impressive number of restaurants where you can taste local cuisine and restaurants and bistros where you can find international food like pizza or burgers. 

You should keep in mind that eating out in Norway is pretty expensive. Expect to pay around 150 – 180 NOK for a burger and 800 – 1000 NOK for a 5-course dinner menu. 

Also, due to Norway´s strict laws, alcohol is costly. Expect to pay around 100 NOK per 0,5 liter of beer. 

OUR TIPS FOR THE BEST TROMSØ RESTAURANTS & BISTROS

TRADITIONAL RESTAURANTS

Smak Tromsø is a small intimate restaurant with 18 seats that serves masterfully prepared seasonal dishes made of high-class local ingredients paired with great wines. The menu changes every second week. Dinner at Smak is a Michelin-star gastronomic experience.

OPENING HOURS*
Tue – Sat: 17 – 24
Sun – Mon: CLOSED

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

👉 Book your table at Smak

If you are a seafood lover, you shouldn´t miss having dinner (or lunch) at Fiskekompaniet. During lunchtime, a seafood bar is available for drop-ins and small plates. In the evenings, the restaurant offers a seasonal 4 or 6-course menu consisting of seafood-based dishes and local meat combined with local herbs, hand-picked mushrooms, seaweed, and a top wine arrangement.

OPENING HOURS*
Lunch | Mon – Fri 11:30 – 15:00
Dinner | Mon – Sat 17:00 – 22:00

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

👉 BOOK YOUR TABLE AT FISKEKOMPANIET

Arctandria Seafood Restaurant is, as the name suggests, all about seafood dishes based on seasonal catches from the Arctic region. You can taste grilled stockfish, delicious halibut, whale stakes, and many other tasty dishes.

Located in an old storehouse on the quayside in central Tromsø, Arctandria offers a beautiful view of the harbor.

Unfortunately, the menu is in Norwegian, and the English translation is poor. However, if you ask, the waiters will explain all the dishes and what they contain.

OPENING HOURS*
Mon – Sat 16 – 23
Sunday CLOSED

* The opening hours might change; please double-check them on the official web pages. 

Full Steam is located along the quayside promenade in the old harbor area. Partly a museum and partly a restaurant with a rustic wooden interior, Full Steam offers a small but perfectly executed menu consisting of seafood-based dishes and local meat, like reindeer stew, whale steak, stockfish, or lamb, as well as a good selection of wines and tap beers.

OPENING HOURS*
Mon – Sun 11 – 24
Lunch 11 – 16

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

Emmas Drommekjokken (Emma’s Dream Kitchen) is a cozy and inviting restaurant that serves food made with regional, seasonal produce. The restaurant is a local institution, and past guests include members of Norwegian royalty and Hillary Clinton. 

The house where Emmas is located has three floors. Emma’s Under is located on the first floor, and it is more of a cafe, while Emma´s Drømmekjøkkenlocated on the second floor, is more of a tablecloth-type restaurant serving pricey yet excellent Norwegian food of the best quality. 

OPENING HOURS*
Mon – Sat 11 – 22
Sundays CLOSED

* The opening hours might change; please double-check them on the official web pages. 

BISTROS & INTERNATIONAL CUISINE

Burgr is a cool little burger bar serving juicy burgers for an affordable price. The deco is based on popular 90s video games, and it feels like being in a Super Mario video game. In fact, all burgers here are named after video games, like Mario, Wario, or Doom!

In our opinion, Burgr serves the best burger in Tromsø.
Burgr doesn´t make table reservations.

OPENING HOURS*
Mon – Fri 15 – 21
Sat – Sun 12 – 21

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

T-Tapas might be the best tapas in town. However, if you don’t fancy anything from the sea, you would be left with a slightly smaller selection. Still, there would be plenty to choose from. T-Tapas has a cozy and mediterainian atmosphere and the food is delicious and service great!

👉 BOOK YOUR TABLE AT TROMSØ TAPAS

OPENING HOURS*
Mon – Thu 15 – 22
Fri – Sat 15 – 23
Sun CLOSED

* The opening hours might change; please double-check them on the official web pages. 

If you are tired of the classical Norwegian dishes and would like to try something completely different, swing by Wedeb´s restaurant and indulge into the tastes of African cuisine. The owner is super friendly, the service is perfect and the food is delicious. 

Moreover, Wedeb´s is a really good options for vegans and vegetarian in Tromsø.

OPENING HOURS
Mon – Tue CLOSED
Wed – Sun 16 – 22

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

Casa Inferno is a cozy restaurant with a steampunk-inspired interior that serves delicious pizza made in a wood-fired stone oven accompanied by many quality wines from Italy.

👉 BOOK YOUR TABLE AT CASA INFERNO

OPENING HOURS*
Sun – Wed 16 – 22
Thur – Sat 16 – 23

* The opening hours might change; please double-check them on the official web pages. 

Nitty Gritty is a stylish bar & grill inspired by the prohibition era that serves delicious burgers and even better steaks cooked to perfection. The staff is amiable and attentive.

OPENING HOURS*
Tue – Thu 16 – 22
Fri – Sat 16 – 22
Sun 16 – 22

* the opening hours might change, please double check them on the official webpages. 

Interactive Map of Tromso
For more suggestions for restaurants, bistros, cafés, and bars, please check out our interactive map of Tromsø!

14. TROMSØ IN WINTER: WHAT TO PACK?

Dressing in layers is the ultimate answer to all your questions regarding how to dress for Tromsø in winter.

The layer system is designed to let you modify your clothing for all kinds of temperatures and weather conditions, with warm air generated by your body trapped between the layers to keep them warm. 

We wrote a comprehensive article on what to pack for winter trip to Lofotenwhere we explained the layering system and give practical tips for what to wear in northern Norway in winter. Make sure you check it out!

Reindeer Feeding with Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
guide to lofoten_about us_ivar and radka_22
Winter trip to beautiful Sommarøy island

MICROSPIKES vS. YAKTRAX vS. CRAMPONS

Microspikes, Yaktrax, and crampons are all traction devices used for walking or hiking on snow and ice, but they differ in design and intended use. 

For Tromsø in winter, whether you need any of these depends on your activities and the weather conditions. 

If you plan to walk around the city, Yaktrax or rubber ice cleats might suffice. For more serious hiking on icy or snowy trails, microspikes are generally recommended. Crampons would only be necessary for mountaineering or ice climbing, so most of you would not need them. 

If you are from a warm-weather country and don’t want to order ice traction devices in advance, don’t worry too much about it. You can find them in any sports store or shops like Biltema for about 50 NOK (rubber ice cleats) to 200 NOK (microspikes). 

However, we highly recommend using them in winter – we have seen far too many tourists (and locals) falling on ice. A friend of ours actually slipped at a bus stop in Tromsø and ended up with a broken elbow, surgery, and a few weeks of being unable to use her arm.

Tromso in winter: Ice traction devices: Yaktrax
Yaktrax
Tromso in winter_traction devices_rubber ice cleats
Rubber Ice Cleats
Tromso in winter_traction devices_microspikes
Microspikes
Tromso in winter_traction devices_crampons
Crampons

15. INTERACTIVE TOURIST MAP OF TROMSØ (WINTER EDITION)

So, without further ado, here it comes, our interactive map of Tromsø, which we wished we had when we moved to Tromsø. We have marked the main tourist attractions and activities in Tromsø, along with our trips for accommodation, restaurants, bars, and cafés, and we hope that it will make planning your trip much easier and less frustrating. 

free interactive map of tromso with activities accommodations and restaurants2
Picture of Ivar & Radka

Ivar & Radka

Hi! We are Ivar & Radka, an international couple who runs the Guide to Lofoten. We met in Trondheim and lived together in western Norway, Narvik and Tromsø. At the moment we call western Lofoten our home. We hope our page will make it easier for you to explore the beautiful places that made us chose Norway for our home.

MORE ABOUT US

TROMSØ WINTER TRAVEL GUIDE: PiN IT!

All You Need to Know About Tromsø in Winter
All You Need to Know About Tromsø in Winter
All You Need to Know About Tromsø in Winter
All You Need to Know About Tromsø in Winter

7 Responses

  1. hi Ivar&Radka, thanks for putting all these information together, after much consideration I prefer to visit Tromso/Lofoten in the month of November with more availability of winter activities however I just wanted to get some idea how to plan my trip. I dont plan to hunt for northern lights by driving (will prefer to sign for tour), and looking at a 10-14days trip in total (still not knowing what are the places that I shouldn’t missed visiting while I am there except knowing Lofoten is a stunning place, Tromso is more touristy. I am thinking of renting a car (avoiding the hassle of dragging my luggages chasing for public transport). to drive are mainly to get from one place to another but I am just very worried bout the driving condition and wondering if you have any suggested itinerary. thanks in advance.

  2. I have tried to download your wonderful app today, but when I get to the payment part I get this message after going via Paypal.

    We were unable to process the payment.
    Cannot change payment status. Amount is different 1990 != 1989.

    If you are able to let me know what I can do please?

    Thank you. nicci.

  3. Thank you for your reply, Reena. We are very happy to hear you found our article helpful 🙂 Enjoy your trip to Tromsø!

    Ivar & Radka

  4. Thank you for this detailed information. Extremely helpful for me towards planning our Tromso trip .

  5. Very well explained, I really liked the information provided by you , its really helpful.
    Can you pls. Help me for sweden and Finland tour also .

    We (4person including 2 kids) are coming to oslo on 17th December and planning to visit Tormso ,lofoten , Sweden and ? santa village on Christmas then will be back on 27th to Africa.
    Can you pls. Suggest some good museums and activities which we can plan to visit with northern lights, whale watching, sledging and visit ice hotel too.
    Thanks in advance

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