Tromsø in winter: 27 things to do & top travel tips

birds eye view over Tromso with a dusting of snow

Tromsø in winter means northern lights chasing, layering up in frosty weather, getting cosy in cafes and learning about the city’s fascinating Arctic culture. In this article, you’ll read all of my best tips on exploring the enigmatic capital of the north!

As our plane glided into the Arctic Circle, the bird’s eye landscape spread out below started to look increasingly frostier.

Snow glistened as far as the eye could see until we ultimately made out a cityscape on the horizon. The plane descended, and we touched down in Tromsø, the self-acclaimed “capital of the Arctic”.

I spent a few days exploring Norway’s Tromsø in winter and I’ve put together a complete guide of all of the best things that you can do in this enchanting city.

Table of Contents

What’s Tromsø like in winter?

“Winter time is the greatest time to be alive in Tromsø”

A winter scene in Tromso, Norway

Tromsø in winter is cold, dark, sometimes wet and often wild… so why on earth would you want to visit this Arctic city during this season?

For some, it’s the curiosity about the Polar Nights and how the city maintains its effortlessly cool yet welcoming atmosphere even when the sun doesn’t rise for 24 hours per day.

Others want to experience the Arctic at its most – well, Arctic – there are few travel experiences as embracing as taking a dip in the ocean (a chilly 2°C) at latitude 70°N or pulling on 6+ layers ready to embrace the countryside on a northern lights chase.

The lights themselves are one of the main reasons tourists flock to Tromsø in winter, along with other cold-weather experiences like visiting a Sami camp and snowsports.

There aren’t many places in the world where you can glide through stunning landscapes on a husky-pulled sleigh! 

And the city has plenty of all-season attractions, like its many museums, seeing urban spots like the Arctic Cathedral and Polaria and bar and restaurant hopping.

Whatever your reason for visiting Tromsø in the cold season, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable time full of snow, a plethora of activities and a chic vibe.

What’s the weather like in Tromsø in winter?

View of Arctic harbour covered in snow

Get chatting with any Tromsø locals, and they’ll all tell you one thing: “Tromsø wouldn’t be Tromsø without the gulf stream”.

This mass of warm water envelopes Tromsø and gives it much milder winters than other destinations on the same latitude.

While going on vacation to the Arctic in the winter might seem as dramatic as going for a hike in the Sahara desert in the middle of a hot August day, chances are you’ve felt colder temperatures than Tromsø’s before.

When I was in Tromsø, there was plenty of snow (both on the ground and falling from the sky), but the temperature hovered around freezing, with some rain that ended up turning the city’s roads into slush (which brings me to my top Tromsø winter travel tip: wear waterproof boots!).

Here are the average temperatures of Tromsø in winter:

MonthTemperature high/low (C)Temperature high/low (F)Days of rain/ snow
November2°C / -2°C36°F / 28°F13
December0° / -4°32°F / 25°F15
January-1° / -5°30°F / 23°F 13
February-1° / -5°30°F / 23°F 12
March1° / -4°34°F / 25°F 11

While the weather may seem a little off-putting, Norwegians always say “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”!

Pack some thermal clothes, pull on some Norwegian woolen socks (more about all of this in the what to pack section) and you’ll fall in love with this city in the winter, no matter what the weather!

What are the daylight hours like in Tromsø in the winter?

It really varies on when in the winter you’re visiting, but there’s near total darkness from around 21st November to 21st January, and then it becomes progressively lighter.

However, the sun generally lingers on the horizon for a while after it properly sets, giving you a little more light outside of sunset/ sunrise times.

By the end of February, there’s certainly enough daylight to enjoy the city’s colourful buildings and views across the harbour. In fact, the sunset and sunrise times at the end of February are quite similar to that of London.

Best things to do in Tromsø in winter

The best things to do in Tromsø in winter include chasing the northern lights, visiting a Sami reindeer camp, skiing and snowsports and enjoying the polar nights.

Walk over the bridge to take in the harbour views

Bridge in Tromso looking over to Arctic Cathedral

The city of Tromsø actually sits on an island. It’s the fifth largest in Norway, and you can walk across to the mainland on the 1,036-metre-long or 3,399 foot Tromsø Bridge (Tromsøbrua).

The Tromsø Bridge is open throughout the winter season – although you might want to avoid it if the winds are particularly strong!

One side is suitable for cyclists and another is for pedestrians; double-check the right one before you go, as cyclists come flying down here!

It’ll take you around 10-15 minutes to walk over the bridge – be mindful of slippery ice (I fell over at one point!).

From the middle of the bridge, you can gaze over the Arctic waters, watching the boats take to sea and sail towards the fjords, and look back towards the city centre and forward to the Arctic Cathedral and suburbs of Tromsø.

Snap a photo of the Arctic Cathedral

The arctic cathedral, covered in snow, close to Tromso

There are a few buildings dotted around the city of Tromsø with a particular type of architecture – we coined it “arctictecture”!

One of the best examples of these contemporary buildings is the Arctic Cathedral. Despite the name, it’s not a cathedral at all, but an exceptionally grand parish church.

The cathedral was created in 1965 by architect Jan Inge Hovig; he wanted to build a church that represented the spikes of light that fell upon Tromsø at certain times of the year, giving the Arctic Cathedral its unique, jagged, triangular appearance.

He built the church with huge windows, which let maximum light in the winter months – but in the summer time, when Tromsø is bright up to 24 hours per day, people would wear sunglasses in church – and apparently, this led to the population of the church falling to sleep behind their glasses!

The priest didn’t like this, so he ordered the largest stained glass window in Europe!

The church is still used for ceremonies, weddings and funerals, but you can enter as a tourist.

It costs 55 NOK to enter, and while it’s worth checking out the inside if you’re interested, I think it’s far more special from the outside – if you’re looking for free things to do in Tromsø in winter, just head over and enjoy the exterior.

Northern lights chase

Girl standing in front of the northern lights in a snowy landscape in Norway, near the border with Finland

“We’re not actually chasing lights”, our guide, Trine, explained as we drove through the Arctic wilderness on our northern lights minibus tour “that term was actually coined by Joanna Lumley!”.

“What we’re actually doing is a clear sky chase” she progressed. “We’re hunting for the most cloud-free sky in the area”.

We’d embarked on a northern lights tour, leaving the dark skies of Tromsø behind us as we drove toward the border with Finland.

Generally, Tromsø is thought as one of the best places in Europe to see the northern lights, but our tour was sadly not to be – we saw a brief glimpse of the lights on the horizon, and our guide managed to take some beautiful photos with expert tricks, but it was nowhere near the display that I got in Reykjavik one month prior.

However, in our chase, we did make it over the border to Finland (country 62 for me!).

You’re never guaranteed to see the northern lights in Tromsø (or anywhere in the north!), but there are plenty of northern lights tours leaving all winter.

You can book this tour on Get Your Guide, which includes a tour guide, transport, a hot drink and a snack – and hopefully the chance to spot the enigmatic lights!

What is the best month to see the aurora borealis in Tromsø?

Bright lights lighting up the sky, with a snowy landscape underneath

Typically, the best month to see the aurora borealis is December; this is the darkest month when the sun doesn’t rise for the entire 30 days.

However, you can spot them anytime from September to April; but as a general rule of thumb, the further away from 21st December, the less likely you are to see them.

PUST Sauna

On our last day in Tromsø, we woke up early, downing a quick cup of coffee before hastily pulling on layers over our swimming costumes.

We teetered down to the edge of the harbour, before a warm welcome at PUST Sauna.

The outside of PUST sauna, sitting on the waters of Tromso harbour in winter

Translating to “breathe” in Norwegian, PUST floats on the harbour, reaching toasty temperatures, to combat the freezing exterior of Tromsø.

Of course, if you get too hot, you can take a quick dip into the biting Arctic waters – they dropped to a chilly 2°C/ 35.6°F when we were there!

While certainly a bracing experience, it wasn’t quite as piercing as I thought it may be – largely due to the fact that I’d fully defrosted in the sauna by this point.

The combination of the relaxing sauna and the revitalising dip in one of the world’s northernmost waters was akin to having three shots of espresso; I was immediately awakened and ready for my last day in Norway!

You can book tickets on PUST website.

Polar museum

Inside the polar museum in the heart of Tromso, with decor from polar animals

As you stand in front of the Polar Museum, looking out onto the harbour, it very much feels like you’re standing on “the last frontier”.

Due to its advantageous Northern position, Tromsø has long been a location where expeditions to the Arctic have departed from.

You can learn all about these at the Polar Museum.

Discover the 19th-century winter camp at Franz Josef Land and Henry Rudi, who was a trapper; he actually earned the name “King of the Polar Bears”!

Encompassing three floors, the museum’s home to a few eerie taxidermies showcasing how people survive living nomadically in the Arctic, re-enactments of camps and plenty of artifacts.

Most of the signs are in Norwegian, but you can borrow a pamphlet with English information.

Troll museum

The troll museum in Tromso, with a figure of a statue

Delve into Norwegian folklore at the Troll Museum.

Trolls are significant in Norwegian mythology and here, you can learn stories about their most famous.

If you’re looking for Tromsø winter activities with kids, this museum offers iPads with AR technology where you can see the trolls moving.

It’s a small museum, located on the third floor of a building near the harbour, but you could easily spend a few hours exploring!

The Arctic University Museum of Norway

Situated around 2.5 km from the city centre (you can take a bus or taxi to reach it), the Arctic University Museum of Norway is an ideal stop-off to absorb Northern Norway’s unique culture.

The museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts, exhibits and specimens that showcase the rich cultural and natural history of the region.

Learn about the indigenous Sami people, explore the unique Arctic flora and fauna, and discover the scientific research being conducted in the area.

One of the most meaningful exhibits is about the Sami people and how they historically faced oppression; it’s important to learn about this while you’re in northern Scandinavia.

There’s also an exhibit dedicated to the northern lights, where you can top up your knowledge of this natural phenomenon – ideal visiting before going northern lights chasing!

You’ll also learn about the Vikings and their history in the area and their latest exhibition explores the part that people from Northern Norway played during WWII.

There’s a tremendous amount for any history buffs to enjoy here; if you have a spare afternoon in Tromsø, it’s well worth spending a few hours here to absorb it all.

World’s Smallest Bar

The world's smallest bar in Tromso, with a sea of people's heads in front

Fancy a drink at the world’s smallest bar? Well, it’s (apparently) here in Tromsø!

While it claims to be the tiniest on the globe, I bought some hot chocolates from here while we were watching reindeer racing (more on that below) and to me, it seemed more like a kiosk.

However, if you want to tick off a superlative, then it’s one not to miss!

Plus, it’s a beautiful structure, dating back to 1911, and it glows in the winter dusk light.

See a few northernmost places in the world

The northernmost burger king in the world in Tromso

Thanks to its position at just 1,406 miles (2263 kilometres) from the North Pole (and far north above most inhabitable places!), you’ll find a few “northernmost” places in Tromsø!

These include:

  • Northernmost Burger King: It’s not that much different from the other branches of the fast food company; but you can chow down on a whopper (meat or vegetarian) to your heart’s content here, knowing that you’re one of the northernmost people doing this in the world!
  • Northernmost Hard Rock Cafe: You can find Hard Rock Cafes all over the world, but this is the closest to the North Pole!
  • Northernmost brewery: This one’s a little contentious; Macks Ølbryggeri was founded in 1877 and is alleged to be the closest to the pole, but there is a small craft brewery in Svalbard.


Seals at Polaria, swimming through the blue water of an underwater tunnel

Delve into the Arctic waters at Polaria, an exhibition about ocean life around Tromsø.

Here, you’ll find seals in an aquarium, along with jellyfish and a myriad of fish.

My Tromsø guidebook tells me that “Tromsø is not just the city one sees as a visitor; it’s also a reflection of how the earth is changing” and at Polaria, you’ll have a chance to learn about the ocean and why it’s so crucial that we conserve it.

Ride on the Storsteinen Cable Car

Ascend to the top of Mount Storsteinen to wow at an unforgettable Tromsø view.

From the top, you’ll see the entire city along with the Lofoten Alps in one panoramic view. There’s also a restaurant, Fjellstua, where you can grab a bite to eat!

The cable car is very weather dependent; we didn’t actually have a chance to summit to the top during our stay due to rough weather (although it was on our itinerary!).

If you have a brisk, sunny clear day, there’s no better activity – but I’d recommend avoiding it on less calm days (it’ll be closed in high winds anyway) and if it seems that your view will be impaired at all.

Take to the water on a fjord safari

Fjord safari near Tromso, with snow-covered hills in the background and the cold water in the foreground

Central Norway’s renowned for its fjords, but you’ll find them as far north as Tromsø, too!

Fjords are created from retreating glaciers, and they are commonplace across countries like Norway, Iceland and Greenland.

Tromsø sits close to one of these fjords, and you can embark on a boat tour away from the harbour, where you’ll take in the dramatic snow-covered cliff scenery, dotted with charming houses.

It’s a bit chilly out on the fjords in the winter months, but these tours still operate.

Wrap up in a coat (ski gear is highly recommended!) and enjoy the views from the deck, heading to the warm indoor area where you can enjoy coffee and pastries when you get chilly!

Drink at Macks Ølbryggeri brewery

A ginger beer in Mack's brewery, with serving taps in the background

When Tromsø’s at its coldest, step into Macks Ølbryggeri for a few warming pints!

Being the (debated) furthest north brewery in the world, Macks Ølbryggeri dates back to the late 19th century.

A microbrewery and beer shop selling 60 different beers and ciders, this atmospheric pub is full of locals and tourists enjoying its range of beverages (I had the ginger beer as I’m not a beer fan) and the hearty atmosphere.

Celebrate Sami day or Sami week

Reindeer racing in Tromso, Norway

Sami week, a celebration of Indigenous Norwegian culture and history takes place in February every year.

A few activities and events take place throughout the week, including the Arctic Market, where you can purchase local products and the Norwegian Championship in Lasso Throwing.

We attended the Norwegian Championship in Reindeer Racing, which is a race tournament consisting of reindeer pulling their owners on skis!

Do an evening Sami tour

Reindeer in a snowy enclosure near Tromso in Norway

If you’re not around in February for Sami week (or even if you are!), you can learn more about the history of the region’s native people by going on a Sami tour, which is one of the best ways to see reindeer in Tromsø.

We piled onto a coach on our last evening in Tromsø and drove for around 50 minutes, in the dark night, to reach a Sami camp.

Here, we were met by our Sami guide and taken to a reindeer pen, where we were invited to feed them.

The reindeer lurched as soon as we entered the pen, hungrily wanting their food. Holding my bucket high above my head, I tiptoed to what I thought was an empty corner, until a reindeer spotted me and trotted over, showing a very keen interest in what was in the bucket!

While it certainly was a bit of an overwhelming experience – the reindeer darted around sporadically, hunting down anyone with food – seeing these creatures interact made all my childhood Christmas dreams come true.

We then headed into the Sami hut to eat traditional food (reindeer stew for the non-vegetarians; I had a veggie alternative) and hear some stories about Sami culture. We learned about weddings, family, jobs, reindeer and traditional life.

The Sami camp hut

Northern lights festival

Dating back to 1988, the Northern Lights Festival is a huge ten-day extravaganza that makes the most of the dark nights by brightening them up with local and international music.

It’s foremostly a classical music festival, although it forays into other genres! It takes place at the end of January or the start of February each year.

Tromsø cathedral

The yellow Tromso cathedral with a blue roof, with bare trees surrounding it, a cloudy sky and snow on the foreground

While it’s not quite as renowned as the Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø cathedral is a Gothic Revival building dating back to 1861 when it was constructed by Norwegian architect Christian Heinrich Grosch.

It has a beautiful yellow exterior and bright blue roof and is made from wood – in fact, it’s one of the largest wooden cathedrals in Norway, with over 600 seats.

Walk past to snap a photo of the outside, or visit the interior – it’s generally open until 5 pm in winter.

See the Tromsø city library

The modern arctic library in Tromso

Another example of “Arctictecture” is the beautiful library.

Dating back to 2005 (although the roof was part of a historic cinema from 1960) it was built by Kjell Beite and has an arched ceiling and bright windows.

Along with the city’s library, it also houses Tromsø’s archives.

Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden

Dating back to 1994, the Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden has become one of the most important botanical gardens in the world for the study and conservation of Arctic and Alpine plant species.

This botanical garden is very different from others that you may be used to; rather than encompassing subtropical flora, Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden’s conditions provide the ideal environment for plants that thrive in cold and harsh conditions.

The garden is home to over 5,000 plant species from around the world, including many rare and endangered species. And this won’t come as a surprise, but it’s the northernmost botanical garden in the world!

The garden’s open all year round but, like gardens in other parts of the world, the plants certainly aren’t blooming in winter.

However, it’s free to enter and explore the snow-covered landscape that’s dotted with frozen lakes and mini waterfalls.

Magic ice bar Tromsø

The Magic Ice Bars are a Norwegian chain of sub-freezing bars with branches in Bergen, Lofoten Islands, Tromsø and Reykjavik in Iceland.

Like ice bars across the world, the furniture, decorations and glasses are all made of ice – drinks aren’t served solid though!

Layer up in a warm poncho and gloves, and sip on some delicious cocktails while admiring the grand ice sculptures – there are plenty of photo opportunities, and the sculptures change all the time, so it’s always a new experience.

We didn’t actually visit Tromsø’s branch, but we went to the one in Bergen; see some photos below.

Whale watching tour

Take to the waters from Tromsø’s harbour and witness the surrounding water’s marine life.

While winter isn’t the best time to spot whales in other Northern European destinations like Iceland, it’s actually whale season in Northern Norway!

You’ll find orcas and humpback whales on a short boat ride from Tromsø harbour.

By December, they’re settled in the Arctic waters, which means that you have a high chance of seeing them any time in the winter months.

You can book whale-watching tours on Get Your Guide; this tour incorporates a hybrid-electric catamaran tour from which you can watch the whales feed.

This catamaran is silent, which limits the disturbance to the creatures.

Husky sledding

One of the top things to do in Tromsø in winter is, without a doubt, sledding with huskies on the nearby island of Kvaløya.

The 130 excitable dogs leap at a chance to pull sleds across the Arctic wilderness.

You’ll receive full instructions on how to drive a sled and then put yourself into pairs; one of each will be a driver and one will be a passenger.

As the dogs charge forward, you’ll glide over the Arctic landscape, seeing the intricacies of its nature from this unique vantage point.

Cold weather gear is provided (although I’d recommend wearing warm, waterproof layers to begin with!) and once the tour is complete, you’ll be invited to sit around a fire and enjoy a hot beverage and delicious chocolate cake.

Tromsø Ice domes

As the name suggests, Tromsø Ice domes are built entirely out of snow and ice!

Tromsø Ice domes is an ice hotel, where tourists to Tromsø can experience sleeping in a room that’s a constant -4°C (you’ll have warm sleeping bags and insulated gear, of course!).

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the set of Frozen as you enjoy the ice sculptures and grand lighting illuminating the breathtaking ice.

You can book packages for the ice hotel on their website.

However, if you don’t fancy sleeping in the snow, there are tours available on Get Your Guide.

You can visit the hotel, enjoy a drink, and learn about how it operates – and then go back to your warm hotel in Tromsø in the evening!

This tour also includes visiting reindeer, whereas this tour incorporates husky sledding AND visiting the domes.

Snowshoe hiking

Snowshoeing’s all the rage in Norway (we didn’t go snowshoeing in Tromsø, but enjoyed it a little further south in Flam).

A fantastic snowy activity for people who can’t ski, snowshoes are attached to your feet and enable you to walk through very deep snow; meaning that you can enjoy Norway’s breathtaking mountainous scenery, even in the depths of winter!

What did I say about embracing the cold, rather than running away from it, in Tromsø?

We were actually invited to partake in a snowshoeing race in Tromsø’s centre as part of the reindeer racing celebrations – we declined, as all other participants look like they did it at least semi-seriously!

But it’s a fun excursion to do at a more leisurely pace!

This tour is bookable on Get Your Guide and includes not only a snowshoe tour, but a husky camp visit – so you can tick off two bucket-list Tromsø attractions at the same time!

City tour

Explore Tromso in winter with shops and snow-covered streets

Want to see Tromsø like a local? Book a private walking tour with your own guide!

This tour is bookable on Get Your Guide, and whether you’re interested in local food, culture, sightseeing, or nightlife, your guide will tailor the tour to fit your travel interests.

Learn stories of Polar expeditions, see the gorgeous Arctic cathedral, or tick off all the northernmost establishments on this 2-4 hour excursion!

Lyngen Alps snowmobile safari

Ready for some snowy fun? Join Camp Troll’s Lyngen Alps snowmobile safari for a day of adventure!

On this trip, you’ll learn about Norwegian folklore while driving around giant mountains.

At base camp, your guide will give instructions and a safety demo.

Then it’s off to explore the Lyngen Alps by snowmobile, taking in the towering mountains and evergreen trees.

There are two people per snowmobile (even if you book as a solo traveller), and you’ll both have a chance to ride. The day finishes with enjoying a hot meal around the fire.

Polar nights marathon

If you want a real challenge, pull on your running shoes (make sure that they have a very firm grip!) and head out on the Polar Nights marathon!

A marathon unlike no other, this takes place at 3:00 pm in Tromsø, but as it’s in Polar Night season – when the sun doesn’t rise – you’ll be running in near complete darkness. You may even see the northern lights as you go!

If you don’t want to do the full marathon (26 miles/ 42 km), you can opt for a 13-mile (21 km) half marathon or even a 10km or 5km run.

How to get to Tromsø in winter

Boat with norwegian flag in Tromso harbour

We flew to Tromsø from Bergen with Widerøe, a Norwegian airline that provides an invaluable connection between Bergen and other cities in central and northern Norway.

The flights were pleasant, with plenty of legroom, 2×2 configuration (perfect if you’re travelling as a two), free tea and coffee and the chance to log on to an entertainment system. 

Girl standing in front of a Wideroe plane in Tromso, with snow on the ground. She is wearing black tracksuit bottoms, a cream jumper and black coat and has her arm in the air.

However, Tromsø’s winter weather can certainly be wild and this means one thing: frequent plane delays and cancellations. 

Our Widerøe plane was delayed on the way from Tromsø back to Bergen (apparently due to an issue with the aircraft, although planes were cancelled the day before due to weather).

This meant that we missed our connection in Bergen, so I’d highly recommend planning on spending a night in Bergen (or Oslo) before catching an international flight. 

There are so many reasons to visit the Arctic, but the weather’s reliability is not one of them! 

Where to stay in Tromsø in winter

We stayed at Thon Hotel Tromsø (which is run by the same team who manage Thon Hotel Polar across the street).

With 152 comfortable rooms, each with USB chargers, flat screen TVs, pod coffee machines and luxury bathrooms, it’s the ultimate space to relax after a busy day exploring the highlights of Tromsø.

The breakfast was delicious and varied, with pastries, plenty of fruit, smoothies and cooked breakfast items.

When staying at Thon Hotel Tromsø, you also have the opportunity to use the gym facilities at Thon Hotel Polar across the road.

It’s also in an excellent location, just steps from the heart of Tromsø, making it easy to explore places like Tromsø Cathedral, the Polar Museum and the Troll Museum.

If you’re on a budget, check out Smarthotel Tromsø.

With smaller rooms, this budget-friendly hotel compromises on space, but not on facilities – each room has a flat-screen TV and modern bathroom, with a lobby shop and lounge area.

Or, if you want something a little more luxe, I like the look of Clarion Hotel The Edge.

Situated right on the waterfront, this hotel has large, bright and comfortable rooms, some with water views.

There’s also a gym and bar on site (depending on how you like to unwind!).

What should I pack for a trip to Tromsø in the winter?

There are a few obvious and not-so-obvious things to pack for your winter trip to Tromsø.

Here are a few must-haves!


Girl standing infront of a mirror wearing a jumper, scarf and wooly hat

It goes without saying that when you’re in the Arctic, you’d be wise to pack some warm garments. But in Tromsø, it’s not quite that straightforward – while it is certainly cold, sometimes you won’t need as many layers as elsewhere in the country, due to the gulf stream warming the city up.

So what’s best to wear in Tromsø in winter? Layers. Pack thermals, tracksuit bottoms, warm jumpers and an exterior layer consisting of waterproof trousers and a coat (ski gear works well).

Don’t forget winter boots, and make sure that they’re waterproof before heading out. I have some sturdy hiking boots, but they’re quite old and I only realised that they aren’t quite as waterproof as they once were when I got out to Tromsø!

And you’ll need a hat, scarf and gloves – if you’re venturing inland to do activities like looking for northern lights or husky sledding, you might want a base glove layer and ski gloves.

Girl standing infront of the illuminated Arctic Cathedral in Tromso, Norway

If you don’t already have thick winter socks, I’d recommend buying them when you’re in Norway. Nowhere does warm socks like the Norwegians – I bought a few pairs to take home with me!

If you want to check out Pust, don’t forget a swimsuit and a waterproof camera (I use a GoPro) if you want to take photos.

Other items

Either way, you’ll want a good quality camera – either on your smartphone or a separate camera. Tromsø’s a beautiful place, and you’ll want photos to remember it by!

A thermal coffee cup may also come in handy – lots of places in Norway offer free tea and coffee, and you can keep a warm cup with you at all times by using one of these.

If you forget any toiletries, you can purchase them in Norway, but they can be pricey (my partner paid the equivalent of £5 for a pack of plasters!). So to save money, make sure you take all of your usual toiletries with you.

Tromsø in winter FAQs

Looking out over the water from Tromso

What is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø?

The best time to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø is from November to March when the nights are long and dark. However, sightings are never guaranteed and can be affected by weather conditions.

What is the weather like in Tromsø in the winter?

Tromsø can be very cold in the winter, with temperatures ranging from -5 to -15 degrees Celsius. It is important to dress warmly and bring appropriate winter gear.

What are the best activities to do in Tromsø in the winter?

There are many activities to add to your Tromsø winter itinerary, including dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and skiing. Also, don’t miss a northern lights tour with an experienced guide! Additionally, you can explore the city’s museums, like the Polar Museum and Troll Museum, see the Arctic Cathedral and enjoy the city’s atmosphere. 

View of the classic Norwegian houses over the fjord water

Can I drive in Tromsø in the winter?

I wouldn’t recommend it –  the roads can be icy and snowy and avalanches are common! Locals who drive are very used to the conditions – many have learned in them – and know the terrain like the back of their hand. So, to get around Tromsø, I’d recommend using public transport or booking a tour. 

Is it dark all day in Tromsø in December?

The sun doesn’t rise in Tromsø from 21st November to 21st January, and in December it’s at its darkest, so yes, it is dark all day. You may occasionally see a little light on the horizon, but this is less likely the closer you are to 21st December (winter solstice). 

Is Oslo or Tromsø better?

They’re very different places! Oslo is Norway’s capital, home to lots of museums and galleries, and Tromsø is high in the Arctic. I’d say that Tromsø’s better, as it’s more unique, but that’s my personal opinion and both cities are worth visiting. Daily flights connect the two cities, so you can see them both in one trip.

What is the best month to visit Tromsø?

Tromsø changes significantly throughout the seasons. In February, we had enough light to take in the city’s charm, although I’m curious to visit in December to see what the total darkness is really like!

In June, you can enjoy midnight sun, but Rebecca from Visit Tromsø, who showed us around the city, said Autumn (Fall) was her favourite time to visit, as the sunlight is wonderful and you can see the northern lights without freezing!

View of Polaris from the water

How many days is enough for Tromsø?

I’d recommend spending at least three days in Tromsø to see the city and do some activities around it, including looking for northern lights, experiencing Sami culture, dog sledding and seeing reindeer! If you have longer, you could go skiing or snowshoeing in the nearby mountains. 

Why is Tromsø famous?

Tromsø is famous for Arctic exploration and its proximity to the North Pole, while still being accessible enough to explore. It also has prestige for its northern lights opportunities and its dynamic culture. In fact, it’s known as the “Arctic Capital”, which is reflective of both its large size and its pulsating atmosphere. 

How close is Tromsø to the Arctic Circle?

Tromsø is very much in the Arctic Circle – 350 kilometres (217 miles) north of it! In fact, the city’s halfway between Oslo and the North Pole – around 2250 kilometers (1,400 miles) from both. 

The roof of Arctic Cathedral, with a cross in the window, with lights in the background and bare trees in the foreground.

Is Tromsø worth visiting?

Whether you want to chase adrenaline by reindeer sledding, cruise around the stunning fjords by the city, see urban hilights like the Tromsø Library and Tromsø University Museum, leave light pollution behind as you hunt for the northern lights or witness the Norwegian championship of reindeer racing, Tromsø in winter is definitely worth visiting. 

Are you ready for Tromsø in winter? 

Lit up buildings in Tromso with a reflection over the water

A frontier city, somewhere that’s “North of Normality”, the Arcitc Capital… Tromsø has a charm that immediately pulls you in the second you step into its snow-covered landscapes.

It’s somewhere that’s not just visitable in the winter months, but it excels during this time; activities like northern lights chasing, visiting Sami camps, dog sledding and snowshoeing aren’t possible in the other months of the year. 

For this far north, the weather’s positively balmy, and everyone you meet has a cheery, welcoming attitude. It almost feels like Tromsø in winter is a magnificent secret that only people in the city know about… but board a plane, book a hotel and get out here, and you’ll see that it’s a secret that’s worth knowing. 

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