Hi there! Are you planning for a winter trip to check out the northern lights? The northern lights are known as Aurora Borealis, a natural light display you can see from high latitude regions. Why is it green first of all? It happens from a chemical reaction, simply saying that there is a great collision between the earth’s gaseous particles and charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere. The most common color you’ll see is yellowish-green, it comes from oxygen molecules around 100km away from the earth–super far! If you’re super lucky, you can see a red-colored aurora which happens at least 300km away.
A little warning, Tromsø is a very expensive town, so be ready to splurge a lot of money here. You can also find cheaper northern lights destination; Alta or Varanger. There will be no direct flights to Tromsø from Bergen with Norwegian Air, so be sure to consider other airlines such as; SAS and Widerøe. How many days will be enough for this trip? Well, if you have a lot of savings, I would suggest at least 5 days so that you will have more chance to see the Aurora Borealis.
Anyways, let’s also explore what’s around Tromsø as a town and some tips about being a smart traveler there. Let’s start with some tips here;
Don’t get fooled by getting the 2-way ticket by the official airport bus
Traveling smart and on a budget can be similar. Doing decent research on the cheapest transportation is necessary! Since I didn’t do that, I purchased the overpriced official airport bus ticket for 180NOK (17€). Instead, you should get the “Tromskortet” Transport Card. It can be bought both online and offline (in minimarkets in town). To be able to commute better, download these 2 apps; Troms Mobillett (for buying the online ticket) and Troms Reise (to check out the specific time table and bus stop locations).
Book your accommodation early
Booking a month earlier is a better idea since this town has very limited space for its tourists! Home for 70,000 people, the expected tourist yearly is way more than that number. Accommodation can be very expensive if you book them last minute, I paid for a bunk bed in Tromso Activities Hostel for 50€ a night, though their customer service is very amazing. You can get a better deal;)
Here’s where you have to visit:
Skansen, The Oldest House in Town
Nothing to expect, to be honest, it’s just a very small yellow house near a roundabout. I guess it’s just overrated! I mean, the houses nearby it is built since mid 19th century. Since the road is covered with snow, the cobblestone wasn’t visible.
Have you ever wonder how do people live in the north back in the days? Coming here will be the answer. Though the museum is not interactive–it’s a very old one, you will get so knowledgable after your visit here. They show how people hunt food, how the seal is a very important source of economy, until how people create a map centuries ago!
FYI, this museum is open daily from 11:00-17:00, it’s very affordable, I got my bundle ticket of 50NOK (student price) which also includes Tromsø Museum. Interesting fact, as long as you keep the physical ticket with you, you can go back and forth for the whole year. So, if you’re in a rush to just visit half of the museum, you can!
Sunset by the port
It’s always great to enjoy nature while traveling, especially here in Tromsø!! With only 5 hours of daylight, we definitely deserve some sun on the face! During that day, the sunrise was at 09:27 and sets at 14:29, super early! It feels so weird to be far north.
Not a fan of books but I’m here for the architecture. I adore the dome-shaped roof, and their glass doors and windows, so futuristic! Since Tromsø is also a student town, you will see so many students studying inside, don’t bother them! You can clearly see that this building is newly made, the interior is so minimalistic and clean, I love it! They also play with different colors, it creates a great tint to the whole vibe. The library opens at 09:00 and closes at 19:00, so make sure to stop by and check out their beauty.
Are you a fan of photography? If yes (just like I do), this will be HEAVEN for you. I can’t tell how amazed and amused when I was there. During that time, they are showing a temporary exhibition by Erlend Berge, it was about traditional houses across Norway, it’s very eye-opening! Also, there will be a designated place for black and white pictures, so amazing.
This museum’s opening time is 10:00-16:00, and it’s free. What else can you ask for? This is a must-go in my point of view. The location is literally 5 minutes from the center.
Northern Lights Chase by Chasing Lights
Another blog post dedicated to this will be posted;) Stay tuned.
Tromsø Museum – Universitetsmuseet
Guess who’s using the most out of her bind-ticket? Me! Well, I decided to come in the first place because I have the Polar Museum ticket bought bound with Tromsø Museum. As the oldest Northern Norway’s research institution, Tromsø University Museum has strong research and development approach! The museum itself isn’t that huge, they have only 3 sections; natural sciences, cultural sciences, and the temporary exhibition upstairs.
What caught my interest was the exhibition about The Sami, they explain how they live in the 21st century, they work like other Norwegians, Swedes, and Finnish. They also show education has been compulsory for them back in that century. FYI, during winter (up to May 2020), they open on Mon to Fri at 10.00 – 16.30, Sat at 12.00 – 15.00, and Sunday at 11.00 – 16.00.
Fjellheisen (Tromsø Cable Car)
I was very curious to try this cable car since Tromsø is such a small town where you can see the panoramic view from that cable car ride. The ride wasn’t that long, maybe around 7 minutes one-way. Keep in mind that the ticket is quite expensive, 210NOK for a two-way trip, the time table is not exactly clear as they just go whenever the cable car is full (departure should be on the half-hour).
By the time you reach the viewpoint, there are different spots you can choose from. You can either stay at the closest viewpoint, which is just right by the indoor café/restaurant or go for a short walk to the second viewpoint, where you can get a clearer view of the whole Tromsø. It might get super windy that the short walk can get a little bit dangerous. The opening time is 10:00-23:00 daily.
As a fan of marine animals, this is on my list. But I gotta give an honest review to you, it is not worth it! The adult ticket is 175NOK and students for 90NOK for a 3-room aquarium. The building is old and unrefreshed, though the seal feeding was quite interesting. There’s also an aquarium hallway where you can sit and enjoy some beautiful animals; seals and sharks.
Dinner at Burgr
Can we eat cheap in Tromsø? Not really. I decided to go here with some new friends because it’s one of the most affordable places in town. My burger was around 150NOK, but since I share a french fries with a friend, my total was 175NOK, not too bad for such a well-made burger. The vibe is also chill, you can spend hours talking here.
Beer Tasting at Ølhallen
Since it was a Saturday (they close on Sundays), though I was tired, I decided to come here because of my love for craft beers. Another information, their opening time is 11:00-00:30 on Mon – Thu, 11:00-01:30 on Fri, and 10:00-01:30 on Sat. The atmosphere is so amazing, this is literally a real old school pub, located just next to the world’s most northern brewery, Mack, they serve 72 fresh Norwegian beers on tap. Ølhallen is also the oldest bar in town, serving since February 1928!
Since there were so many of those–it’s super hard to choose, I decided to take the tasting trays of 5 different beers brewed by Mack (which cost me 270NOK). They served me from bright ale to dark and creamy stout. It was hard to choose, but the fruity and flower-smelling pilsener was amazing! Just look how happy I am with all those beers, you’ll definitely enjoy them<3
Night Stroll Around the Town
Since Tromsø is also a student town, it was pretty crowded and dirty (people were super drunk already) while walking on the street. But definitely worth the walk to check out the simple but fun nightlife in this small town.
Dog Sledding by Klook
Another blog post dedicated to this will be posted;) Stay tuned.
The walk through the bridge was unbelievable, the wind was extremely strong that it will push me away, but I survived! The view that you’re gonna get is so breathtaking, you can see the port from the height, I even saw someone fishing just by the coastline. It was a 25-minute walk east from the city center, you can also get the bus if you’re not a fan of walking.
By the time you reach, the exterior of the building is so futuristic, it looks a luxurious igloo! If you’re an architecture fan, you will fall in love with the 11 aluminum-coated concrete form the cathedral has. This masterpiece by Architect Jan Inge Hovig was opened on November 19, 1965. They open daily from 13:00-18:00, and the adult ticket price is 50NOK.
By the time you’re inside, you can sit there forever, such a Zenn feeling. The glass façade is beautiful, just look at how detail the interior is. If you can’t get enough of this view, you can also go for the Northern Lights Concert at 23:00 every Thu – Sun which costs you 200NOK.
Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art
Wondering what to do after 15:00 where most places are closing? This contemporary art hall is open from 09:00-17:00 (daily except Mon and Tue). When I arrived, there was no one, though it’s nice for me though. The entrance is free, and they offer so many free postcards and art magazines. You can also buy some art books, beautiful design notebooks in their shop. During that time, I went to the temporary exhibition about the moon and light, it was quite scary as the room is a labyrinth, but the show was very unique. The receptionist is super friendly, she even suggested some places to eat.
I am so down for Norwegian art, so I decided to pass by this one. An adult ticket is 80NOK and children under 18 are free. There are so many landscape paintings from across Norway, those earthy colors calm my eyes, including the Aurora Borealis drawn by pencil from the 1830s, WOW. They also have some clay and metal 3D arts.
The temporary exhibition was by Betsy Akersloot-Berg, she’s a marine painter that travels across the world, dating back to the early 1900s. She literally stayed by the coastline every time she travels, her paintings are unbelievably real, I can feel that I travel back in time!
Dinner at Huken Pub
Remember the nice receptionist that I talked about before? She suggested this place as it’s famous among students, so here I am. The place is super small but cozy, I literally got the last available table, some people gotta leave since there are no more space available. The interior is all wood, with some antiques around! They also have some choices of alcohol, including different types of bottled beer (from Mack too). I ordered this burger, it taste so mouth-watering. The price is also super amazing, that lovely burger costs me 155NOK, worth it<3 FYI, they open daily only from 14:00-02:00.
Chase your own Northern Lights at Prestvannet Lake
Since I am a curious cat, I decided to go to this lake, which is located 20 minutes by bus from the city center. It started snowing and I lost hope to find the Aurora, but guess what? She appeared for like 2 minutes before the big clouds full of snow hits back. The hike around the lake was very interesting though, there were some locals running through the dark, so peaceful.
The whole trail I guess was around 2km? I even walked to the frozen lake, it was quite scary since I don’t wanna fall to the water! There were some benches for you to chill out there, enjoy the frozen lake! There are so many houses around since it is a residential area. The last bus back to the city center reaches midnight and it leaves every 15 minutes, so don’t worry and enjoy the most of your time there:)
Now the question is, do you think this trip is worth it?