Tromso was exactly how we pictured it; dark, snowy and chilly. It was a short 10-minute bus journey for just £3 each from the airport to the Viking Hotell where we were staying. Having arrived about 9pm, we weren’t really interested in doing very much so we checked into our hotel, changed into our thermal snow boots and went out for a quick wander round. The snow was thick and this made us hopeful that we’d get to do all the excursions we’d planned.
We’d picked Tromso to give us a true Winter Wonderland holiday. Sadly, the snow didn’t stay and by the next morning the rain had decided to wash it all away and turn it to ice. This put a real dampener on our hopes for a husky sledding trip which ended up being cancelled. Turns out this year set the record for the latest snow fall in Tromso since 1945. Just our luck to choose the year that this would happen! If you’re going to venture to Tromso, I would highly recommend January as being the best time of year to visit. We were told this is the time for the heaviest snowfall.
For £9 each we could have breakfast in the hotel which was a full spread of cereals, fruit and toast along with traditional Scandinavian delights such as smoked salmon, pickled herrings and caviar in a tube! The breakfast was delicious and filled us up until dinner time. The hotel also served free waffles with yogurt and jam at 5pm each day, which worked really well as a pre-dinner snack.
There are plenty of excursions to do in Tromso that help you go further out from the centre, but we decided to spend our first day (and the second due to the lack of snow for the huskies) exploring the centre. It was about 10am when we left our hotel and the sun was just starting to come up. Due to how far North Tromso is, it has Polar Nights where the sun never truly rises and nights can last 24 hours. The time of year we arrived in Tromso, we were only having day light between about 10:30 and 1:30. It wasn’t even true day light, instead there was just a blue hue over everything and it felt like it never left dusk. As a result, everything excursion we went on, had to be done between these daylight hours. Below is a taster of some of the things we did:
Places To Visit In Tromso
Walking across the Tromso Bridge
Tromso homes what used to be the longest bridge in Northern Europe at 1036 metres. As always, we chose to walk everywhere so we could really see everything. Despite the drizzle of rain and the brisk wind, we ventured over the bridge. The temperature was hovering around 0 degrees but we were thoroughly wrapped up in thermals, jumpers, giant coats, scarves, gloves and hats. Despite all these layers, as we neared the centre of the bridge, we could really feel the wind whipping against us. The view once we reached the middle was amazing though. Had it have been a clearer day we could’ve seen right out into the distance where the fjords were. We did however, have a view right out to the island where we were staying and right across to the island opposite that homed the highest point in Tromso.
Not technically a Cathedral, but actually a parish church, the Arctic Cathedral was built because the residents got tired of having to continually cross the bridge to go and worship. It has a very unique shape and because of this it’s often referred to as the Opera House of Norway as it’s likened to that of the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. It has a gorgeous stained glass window covering the back entrance, so if you don’t go in, make sure you walk all the way round to really take in all the detail. You can go inside and have a look for about £4, but unfortunately for us, there was a funeral happening when we arrived so we won’t able to do this. Be sure to visit in the afternoon as this almost guarantees you entry.
From the cathedral, it was about a 10-minute walk to Fjellheisen which is a cable car to one of the highest points in Tromso. I say a 10-minute walk, but that’s in normal conditions. For us, it turned into a 30-minute adventure as we delivered our best Bambi impression whilst trying to stay up right on the ice-covered streets. Sadly, for me, I failed miserably and landed with a thud on my backside. As I hit the cold floor, I let out a big groan. Not because it hurt, but because of the realisation that I’d lost a bet Barry and I had earlier in the day about who would hit the ground first. I knew he’d never let me hear the end of it!
When we eventually made it to the loading station, we paid £15 each for a return ticket. At 420 metres high, it was by no means the tallest mountain we’d ever gone up, but even with all the cable cars we’d ventured up in Switzerland, I still had to close my eyes as we climbed up the cable. Fortunately, it only took 4 minutes so we were there in no time.
Once at the top, the views were breathtaking. It was freezing cold and time was limited on how long you could have your bare hands out of your gloves to take pictures, but just sitting and taking in the view across the islands was definitely a sight to behold. After spending a good 20 minutes outside taking photos, we were grateful for the restaurant that was at the top where we sat and had hot chocolate to warm us up accompanied with some reindeer jerky.
Another fascinating shaped building, which looks like a stack of books falling down, was Polaria, the world’s most Northerly aquarium. It wasn’t filled with lots of aquatic animals like most aquariums, but the stars of the visit here were the bearded seals who put on a show for us. This is not only to entertain the visitors but also to keep the seals themselves active and to stop them from getting bored. It’s definitely worth a visit, not just to see the sea life, but also to see the exhibits on exploration of the Arctic.
Places To Drink In Tromso
With darkness blanketing the town around 2pm each day, all the activities came to a close by this point, leaving the afternoons free. With this, we quickly got into the routine of finding a different bar to sample the local beer in each day.
Ølhallen is the oldest pub in Tromso and home to the world’s most Northerly brewery – Macks. The beer isn’t cheap, but it isn’t anywhere in Tromso. For reference, two glasses of Macks was £24! The pub has a lot of history and could count a lot of explorers and hunters amongst its most notorious patrons. Perhaps one of the most famous was Henry Rudi, who was a hunter, renowned for shooting 713 polar bears from 1907 -1947. One of the polar bears he shot greets you as you walk into Olhallens and seems to now be a bit of an icon for the pub with everyone taking a snap with it! They don’t do food here but they do so many beers, of which you can have a tasting plate and apparently ‘You have not been to Tromso; unless you have visited Olhallen’ so it’s a must do!
No matter what country Barry and I visit, we can always guarantee we will find ourselves in an Irish bar at some point. We even spent Independence Day in America in one. O’Learys in Tromso is an Irish/American Sports Bar. The walls are covered in sports memorabilia and whilst it doesn’t make you feel like you’ve walked into some Norwegian history, the beer is much more reasonably priced, with tasty bar snacks and even a free bowl of popcorn to munch on!
Huken Pub was my favourite drinking establishment of all. It a had a real homely feel, most likely because it was no bigger than our living room, but also due to the cosy décor with hand written letters on the wall and old suitcases made into tables. The beer was good, although Tromso prices were applied and they served a small food menu of burgers. We didn’t try them but they looked yummy and I’ve heard they taste it too.
Attached to the Radisson Blu Hotel along the dock, this was a very loud and lively pub, with a dance floor and live music in the evenings. The beer was sold at average Tromso prices and the venue was decorated in a nautical theme. Rorbua didn’t feel as homely as the other pubs we’d been to and as soon as we saw a man with a guitar enter, I knew it was time to go. Live music is really not Barry’s scene!
The busiest pub of them all, this was crammed with locals all socialising over an afternoon pint. Jernbanestasjon felt like a real traditional pub as we would know it in the UK. It had a railway theme, complete with old train carriage chairs. It was buzzing and if you want to mingle with the locals, this is definitely the place to go.
Places To Eat In Tromso
Tromso is one of the priciest places we have ever visited and you definitely have to be mindful of the bank balance when eating out. We did push the boat out for a couple of meals, but we were also able to find a couple of places that were a bit kinder to the funds.
For our first dinner, we thought we’d go easy and have a pizza. Peppe’s Pizza was like a Pizza Hut, very relaxed and an extensive menu of all sorts of different pizzas. At the time we were in Tromso, taco’s had just found their way over and the whole place was going made for them. So much so, that they were using taco meat on the pizzas and there were quite a few different types of taco themed ones such as Red Hot Taco and Rio Grande which also came topped with tortilla chips! The pizza was really good, but at £50 for two pizzas and two soft drinks, we were shocked. This gave us our first taste of what the prices were going to be like in Tromso.
I do love sushi, especially when you can select it from a belt. So, when we found a place that did a happy hour special where for around £20 each you could get 5 dishes and a miso soup, it was a no brainer. We arrived at Sushi Point and were seated straight away in a little booth. There wasn’t a massive range to choose from on the belt and I’m not sure how fresh it all was. We were seated next to the kitchen and I did see them get some pre-battered tempura prawns out of the freezer to cook, but I had no complaints about how tasty it all was. The five dishes really filled us up so was well worth the money. There are other sushi restaurants in Tromso, but if you have a budget to stick to, this is definitely worth a visit.
This was our best food related find. We had cravings for a burger and after a quick google search, we knew this is where we had to go. Being a child of the 80’s/90’s, Burgr’s Nintendo and gaming theme took me straight back to my childhood. The walls were covered with all the classic game posters – Sonic, Mortal Kombat, Double Dragon, the burgers were all Mario themed and there was even a NES to play on at the bar whilst you waited. The beer pump was a joy stick, there was an arcade machine in the corner where you could play Pacman and the ceiling had all sorts of old controllers hanging from it. Not only was the décor really cool, but the burgers themselves were epic. And whilst it did cost us £55 for two burgers, fries, a beer and a cocktail, it was worth it just to immerse ourselves in gaming mania.
Situated just outside a shark-shaped library, we ventured to Bardus Bistro in the hope to get some traditional Norwegian eats. We knew it would be pricier than elsewhere we’d eaten so far, but thought it would be worth it. The service was average and the menu was limited, particularly as we went when they were still serving the lunch menu. The trouble with the polar nights, is that you have no concept of time. It throws your body clock out completely. We were thinking it must be nearing dinner time, when in fact it was only lunch time! I had a traditional Norwegian dish – Bacalao, which is dried and salted cod, with potatoes, white wine, garlic and dill which was really tasty. Barry went for braised Ox Ribs, which is traditionally served at Christmas in Norway. The meal was good, but left us still wanting to splash out on something really special.
Steakers was the most expensive meal we had, but well worth it. We went all out and had starters and mains and weren’t disappointed. When we arrived, the restaurant was busy but they managed to squeeze us in just opposite the bar. We started the meal with snails for Barry and a reindeer trio for me, which was served with lingonberry and sour cream. It was so good; nicest reindeer I’ve ever had! After Barry first trying snails in Berlin and being slightly disappointed (they were nowhere near as good as what I’ve tried in Paris) I was really hoping that these would be up to scratch and I’m pleased to say they definitely were. Coated in garlic butter, Barry enjoyed them a whole lot more than his previous experience.
For our mains I went for spareribs and Barry a T-bone steak. When the ribs came out my jaw hit the floor. There wasn’t one rack, not two, but three whole racks of ribs! I was sure I wouldn’t be able to finish them all. They obviously have abnormally large cows in Norway as Barry’s steak was of equal proportion. We battled our way through our mammoth mains and I somehow managed to eat every last rib (bar one that Barry had to sample). The waiter was so impressed at my achievement and so was I! Sadly, it left me no room for dessert though. The meal was amazing and well worth the £120 given how large the portions were.
What Next In Tromso?
Tromso is a truly beautiful place. The scenery is beautiful and the people are really friendly. It is expensive and maybe not always worth the money you pay (namely beer and pizza!) but I guess if it was any cheaper then it would be come heavily overcrowded with tourists. The above is just the tip of the iceberg of what we did in Tromso. They’ll be more blogs to come with all of the amazing excursions we did that took us further afield from the town centre so stay tuned!