The Norwegian city that’s been dubbed “Paris of the North” may be small (with only 1/30 of the population of actual Paris), but that doesn’t mean you’ll be lacking in things to do. Rich cultural offerings along with a hearty local cuisine and, of course, the magnificence of Arctic nature surrounding you will guarantee a very exciting day in Tromsø – or night, depending on which time of year you choose to visit.
Norwegians know that a good day cannot truly begin without a good cup of coffee – perhaps that’s why they go through almost 10 kilos of coffee beans per person on a yearly basis. Start your day at one of Tromsø’s cosy cafes such as local favorite Kaffebønna (they have four outposts in the city, so there’s definitely one near you), where you can get a specialty brew like V60 while munching on a fresh-from-the-oven baguette. Or, if you’re in a hurry to get going, get your coffee to-go along with a delicious cookie from Smørtorget, a cute cafe with a retro vibe that also serves delicious pastries and oatmeal with organic nuts and fresh berries.
For such a small city, Tromsø certainly has some big cultural offerings – and some very impressive architecture to boot. For starters, the Polaria Museum & Aquarium. Step inside this iconic structure that looks like blocks of ice reclining on one another, and you’ll have the chance to interact with seals and sea lions, see all kinds of magnificent creatures (have you ever seen baby sharks being born?), and understand the fauna and flora of the Arctic region. To that end, a visit to Tromsø University Museum, North Norway’s oldest research facility, is also a must. The botanical garden there has been voted as “one of the top 10 gardens in the world”. You should also pay a visit (or at least admire from the outside) to the Arctic Cathedral. Its triangular, glassy shape definitely doesn’t resemble any church you’ve seen before.
“Paris of the North” is not Tromsø’s only moniker. It’s also called “getaway to the Arctic”. There’s just so many things to do and explore here, from the fjords and the islands, to the Sami village – even Finland is close by! There’s kayaking in the summer and dog sledding in the winter, endless hiking opportunities (which translate to glacier hiking in the winter), and endless Instagram moments, of course. If you visit from April onwards, you can take the Cable Car to the Storsteinen mountain ledge, and be 421 meters above sea level in four minutes.
After all that exploring, you deserve food. The kind of food you’re going to get here is hearty (it is cold, after all) but definitely not boring. Tromsø’s cuisine is fresh and made from locally sourced produce to create traditional North Norwegian dishes with a twist, as new and exciting cultures are influencing the culinary scene. One fine example of this approach is Presis Tapas, where you can swing by (literally, you can choose to have a seat on a swing instead of a chair) and enjoy a fusion of traditional Spanish tapas with Norwegian staples like whale, lamb, cured reindeer, and klippfisk, the Norwegian salted cod. Another is Bardus Bistro, which draws inspiration from “the bistros of southern Europe” (although, if we’re being fair, all Europe is South Europe when you’re in Tromsø) to serve mouth-watering, meaty dishes along with some great dessert options.
Are you ready to experience Tromsø by night – although, technically, it’s probably been “night” since this morning? The Northern capital doesn’t offer as many options as Oslo, Bergen, or even Stavanger, but what it does offer will hit all the right spots. To begin with, Bardus is also a bar, so you can polish off your meal with one of their famous Arctic Seaweed cocktails. Then, you can continue your night at one of the city’s pubs like Rorbua or No.24, where you have a very high chance of listening to live music as well. For a more cultural twist to your night, you could head to Verdensteatret, the cafe-bar inside Tromsø’s historical 1916 cinema (Norway’s oldest communal cinema!) where the Tromsø International Film Festival takes place. By now, perhaps you understand why everyone’s comparing this city to Paris.