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? 

 

Tromsø, with a population of ca 70.000, is the biggest city in northern Norway. It is located about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle. Its location within the auroral oval and direct flight connection with Norway’s capital makes Tromsø one of the most popular tourist winter destinations. 

Planning a trip to Tromsø can quickly get overwhelming. 

  • How to get there?
  • And when is the best time to see the northern lights, go whale watching, or do dog sledding?
  • How cold is it going to be and how should I dress?
  • Is it going to be dark all the time?

These are all legit questions, and this “Travel Guide to Tromsø in Winter” will answer them!

Moreover, at the end of the article, you will find a free interactive map to save to your phone and have all the information about the best places to visit, etc., in the back of your pocket. 

 

ABOUT US AND TROMSØ

Ivar and I spent six months living in Tromsø in 2022 while working for a travel agency. My job was to help people plan their holidays in Tromsø and Lofoten, which I thoroughly enjoy, even though I do not live in Tromsø anymore.

So in this Tromsø Travel Guide, I will share tips for the best activities, accommodations & restaurants, and I hope it will help you plan the best winter trip to Tromsø! 

1. WHEN TO TRAVEL TO TROMSØ

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!

OUR TIP: 
In our experience, we would skip traveling to Tromsø in 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, or whale watching. 

Northern Lights

September - March
Northern Lights are visible from the end of August until the beginning of April. Tours usually operate from September 15 to March 31.

Dog Sledding

November - March
The season for dog sledding lasts approx November 1 to April 1, depending on the snow conditions

Whale Watching

November - January
The whale season in Tromsø lasts from November to January. Outside of these months, you can go for a whale safari in Andenes in Vesterålen

Reindeer Feeding

November - April
The season differs. Tromsø Arctic Reindeer offers tours from November 1 to April 9, while Tromsø Lapland operates from September 22 to March 31)

2. 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. 

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 , Norwegian and Flyr operate on domestic routes, with Widerøe being a bit more pricey since it serves mainly small local airports like Svolvær or Leknes in Lofoten. 

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. 

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.
 

3. WHAT TO DO IN TROMSØ IN WINTER

 The main reason Tromsø is a popular winter travel destination is its location within the aurora oval, giving high chances for seeing the spectacular northern lights. 

You can do many other exciting winter activities in addition to northern lights chasing. Try dog sledding, reindeer feeding, whale watching, or driving a snowmobile! Tromsø is also a renowned destination for randonee skiing! 

Here are our tips for the most popular winter activities in Tromsø!

  • We will post an article where we will take a closer look at the best Tromsø activities soon. You can now check the activity providers we recommend on our free interactive map of Tromsø.

4. 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 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.

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 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. 

In this article, northern lights hunter William Copeland shares some of the most popular drive-to locations around Tromsø for viewing the northern lights.

 

Chasing northern lights on your own from Tromsø where to go_William Copeland
Map of the areas where to go and search for northern lights based on the weather forecast. © William Copeland

The northern lights season lasts from the end of August to the beginning of April

5. 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.

BEST BUDGET, MID-RANGE AND LUXURY HOTELS IN TROMSØ

Even though it’s only got 4 stars, Clarion Hotel The Edge is the most luxurious hotel you can find in Tromso. It’s where the Norwegian Royals stay whenever they visit the city. 

The 13-floor-tall Clarion the Edge is the newest addition to the Tromsø waterfront hotels. It opened its door in 2014 and offers 287 hotel rooms and meeting rooms for up to 1000 people. The Hotel has a modern design, and the views from the corner suites are stunning.

The Edge also features Tromsø’s only sky bar located on the 11th floor with a fantastic view of the city. The sky bar is open to the public, so you should stop by and enjoy the view even if you are not staying at the Hotel. 

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT CLARION HOTEL THE EDGE

Scandic Ishavshotel has a unique location on the quay in the centre of Tromso. It is easy to get to as the bus station is close by. Their restaurant offers a contemporary a la carte menu consisting only of the freshest seafood, fish and local meats all prepared in an original Josper grill featured in their open kitchen. 

Breakfast included.

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT SCANDIC ISHAVSHOTEL

This fully renovated hotel’s 269 rooms and suites provides modern amenities like Free high-speed WIFI,  and a complimentary breakfast buffet to fuel your day’s adventure. A majority of the guestrooms showcase breathtaking views of the city, the waterfront or the surrounding mountains.

You can work up a sweat in the 10th-floor fitness center, which overlooks the fjord and the landmark Arctic Cathedral, or melt away stress in the sauna or solarium.

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT RADISSON BLU

Clarion Collection Hotel With, or just Hotel With, is a 4-star hotel that provides complimentary breakfast and dinner as a buffet for the guests. In the afternoon, complimentary waffles with sour cream and typical Norwegian brown cheese are served, so you can save money on eating out. However, the rooms in Hotel With are a bit on the small side, and the interior is a bit dated, but it has charm. Honestly, With is an OK hotel with super helpful staff, but if you’re looking for luxury, go for Clarion Hotel the Edge.

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT HOTEL WITH

Hotel Aurora is another 4-star hotel from the Clarion family located next to the Hotel With. It is a bit more modern, even though the rooms could use a renovation. Like the Hotel With, Hotel Aurora also offers complimentary breakfast, dinner, and “Fika” – an afternoon snack.

As the only hotel in town, Clarion Aurora offers a rooftop outdoor jacuzzi. The jacuzzi is, however, not included in the price, and it has to be booked in advance. On the other hand, 50 NOK/person per half an hour of soaking in hot water and enjoying the spectacular view, or perhaps the northern lights, is worth it. The jacuzzi is only for hotel guests and can be booked daily from 11 am to 11 pm. 

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT CLARION AURORA

Tromsø Activities Hostel is the only hostel in Tromsø. They offer both dorm rooms and private rooms. Tromsø Activities have a rather small kitchen, which can get crowded during dinner since it is used as a kitchen, dining room and lounge area. But it’s very social! And they do have a cooking oven so it’s easy to make pizza! Located close to grocery stores and everything else in Tromsø! 

Price (2022)
Aprox 500NOK/night for dorm and 990NOK for private room

👉 BOOK YOUR STAY AT TROMSØ ACTIVITIES HOSTEL

For more suggestions on accommodation in and around Tromsø, please check out our free interactive map of Tromsø!

6. 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. 

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

7. 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

8. FREE TOURIST MAP OF TROMSØ (WINTER EDITION)

So, without further ado, here it comes, our free 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. 

HOW TO USE THE MAP OF TROMSØ

You can use your mouse/fingers to zoom into the map. If you click on an icon, you can read a description of that place/activity. For better orientation, you can use the hamburger menu on the left side to hide/view different layers.

If you want to save the map to your Google Maps, click the star icon next to the map’s name (“TROMSØ MAP – By Guide to Lofoten”). You will then access it by going to your google maps account, clicking the menu button and choosing your places/maps. 

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

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