Tromsø is a beautiful & cosy arctic city in the very north of Norway. It’s a perfect spot for watching northern lights, go snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, touring the Fjords and relax in homely little cafés or Pubs in the evenings. As heard from locals it seems to be the city with the highes concentration of Bars and Restaurants in the country. Might be because there are 15.000 students out of 75.000 inhabitants in Tromsø.
As a vegan I can say that Tromsø is not only very vegan friendly but also suitable for gluten- or lactose-intolerant or any other dietary requirements. It is also very helpful that a new law in Norway requires Restaurants and Cafés to declare all ingredients on the selling-signs. If it’s still not on there people are very friendly and happy to assist with any kind of questions or extra wishes.
I would say that Tromsø is worth a weekend trip and also more for all that want to see northern lights, love nature or simply like winter sport.
Following you can find some tipps to make your stay as beautiful and relaxed as ours was. If there are any questions left open, please feel free to get in touch 🙂
… Hotel Clarion “The Edge”: very nice hotel, good restaurant and amazing breakfast (vegan, gf, df, all available), very friendly and helpful staff, unfortunately no gym but modern rooms with Korres Amenities.
… Hotel Clarion “Aurora”: Don’t go. You pay the same as in The Edge but get lowest Quality possible. Everything fancy was out of order (Rooftop Jacuzzi/ Café and espresso machine/…) only good thing: staff was friendly.
…Risø Mat & Kaffeebar: amazing coffee originally prepared as on a coffee farm in colombia
…Lugar34: alternative and creatively decorated café at the heart of Tromsø with many cakes also 1-2 vegan cake choices and sandwiches with vegan options.
…Art Café: small café across the street from The Edge and the Museum. Although it seems to be in the basement, it is very nice to sit and the food options are high quality and delicious. We had vegan broccoli soup and Tagliatelle Arrabiata. Whatever you order, make sure to order the homemade freshly baked bread as a side… we are still talking about it!!!
…Sky Bar: Rooftopbar on Clarion the Edge: open on Fri&Sat offers a nice view over the city. Unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to go but it looked great.
…Suvi: Sushi and more japanese food with many vegan options. Little hint for making it a longer stay: order “tapas” style. First we ordered the miso soup, then some avocado and tofu nigiri and as a main the asian pancakes. Very tasty and funny to eat – the pancakes are fajita style: DIY.
…Kitchen & Table: we didn’t eat here because they didn’t have a table but it’s a fancy restaurant located in the hotel “clarion the edge”. A bit more pricy with two fresh meals for vegans and a lot of other options. If you order a table by the window, you have a beautiful view over the quay and the water
…Rorbua Pub: cosy pub over 2 floors with very old beer bottle collection, standing tables, beer barrels as tables and tree stumps to sit on. The bar offers a great variety of local and international beers and other drinks and their live music was a highlight. Classic-rock & pop songs on the acoustic guitar
…Taxi: is quite expensive (20€) but it takes 10 min from the airport to the city center and we found it the most convenient option while it was stormy and -5 degree outside. There is also an airport shuttle bus.
…Walking: the city is not very big so walking is not only the nicest but also the healthiest option to explore the city.
we flew from FRA to TOS, it was a short but little bumpy non-stop flight.
If you can, try to get a window seat the view over the Fjords is breathtaking!
Sights & Activities:
…Fjellheisen Tromsø: Cable Car to the top of Storsteinen (421 m) opposite of Tromsø city center, 10€pp. check their webpage before you go if they are operating (might change due to weather conditions) The cable car leaves every 30 min up and down and you can have nice walks up there, if you stand the cold weather 🙂
…Tromsøbrua connect the ride with a walk across the Bridge. The walk itself is lesser beautiful but the view is totally worth it. Standing in the middle of the bridge over the water offers you an amazing view over the sea.
… The Polar Museum is located in an old fishers hut in the city centre. It gives you a brief introduction into arctic history of hunting, fishing and surviving the winters in the arctic circle. It takes ca. 1-1.5hrs depending on how much info you want to absorb.
… Elverhøy Church is a romantic red church in the forest on top of the hill where very nice houses and villas can be found. As it is surrounded by trees it’s the perfect photo spot. I also found it on instagram first and then asked the hotel how to get there. It’s a 30 min walk from the city centre. Go there by daylight.
We chose Wandering Owl as our tour operator for the small-group experience due to great(and also many) tripadvisor recommendations. To us, it proved as the best choice we could have taken and here is why …
Before the trip we informed wandering owl about the total length of our stay and that we are flexible because weather conditions weren’t too good for northern lights these days. It was cloudy and we had lots of snow. Wandering owl was very flexible and set our tour to the best date according to weather conditions to have the full experience seeing the lights.
At that evening, we got picked up at the tourist info at 6pm. We were 8 people (small group experience) and our guide Delphin. Other groups we saw leaving the info point with 15-30 ppl in huge busses. Although we had heavy clouds and snow Delphin informed us that they were expecting a break in the clouds somewhere 1,5 hrs northeastern of Tromsø. Delphin brought us to a beautiful lake far off from all cities and lights. All equipment (snow boots and suits) and also a hot soup (they even had 2 vegan options) for dinner were provided around the nice little bonfire at the lake. The landscape was breathtaking, the lake in a snow-covered mountain scenery with bright full moon. The promised break in the clouds appeared 20 minutes after arriving and setting everything up. It took another 10 minutes where the sky cleared up more and more until we could see a little greenish shimmer between the clouds on the background of deep blue night sky. As you are talking about it so much and we also read a lot before wethought ok no! thats just in our heads now… but at second glance it got even a little greener and then it took just a few more seconds until we finally had the dancing green lights as known from all the pictures and postcards. We had a spectacular 5 minutes staring into the sky, speechless about how beautiful nature can be at it’S best. The lights were visible with blank eyes. They got stronger and weaker in just minutes. It was thrilling to watch and wait for the next highlight. What was visible through camera was even more incredible. The lights are brighter and sometimes you find lights on your picture that you couldn’t even see by blank eyes. That’s why it’s worth to have the settings already prepared upfront. At the end it’s a chase and nature is not very predictable 🙂 So we didn’t only have a great time viewing the lights but also a very happy time reviewing all the nice pictures afterwards.
We spend 4 hours at the lake when the clouds got stronger again. Delphin got in contact with other guides and found out about chances to see more the lights. He drove us to that point (ca 45min from the lake back into Tromsø direction). suddenly Delphin stopped at the side of the road and asked us to quickly come out of the car. He found it. Another open spot cloud free spot in the sky where the northern lights just started to dance again. Beautiful, breath taking and nice to have another surrounding with a little valley with some small huts and mountains all around.
What we found out there: all other tour operators and bigger tours were stopping on roadside stops (such as this) all the time. They didn’t go to any “lost” places out in the nature. They spend their evening at little parking lots along the road. Some even had a bonfire but is it comparable? I would say no. Therefore we were very happy with our choice.
Wandering owl also highly cares about nature and tries to leave as little traces as possible. Therefore bonfire is prepared in a bowl they take with them, reusable soup bowls are used and no litter will be left.
We were back in Tromsø at 1:30am and were dropped off at the hotel.
Tipps for watching the northern lights:
- take 2 camera batteries and keep them close to your body. They will get empty very quick outside at minus degrees (it’s real!)
- take 2 SD Cards, 1 of ours somehow didn’t work
- Prepare your camera settings but also ask the guide for help, they are usually pros (I used this page: Happy World and Moose)
- Take a good tripod and that’s it. I personally did not need a remote release as long as you release carefully.
- Go in March or October, aurora activity is highest in these 2 month and you will have best chances to see northern lights. Still you need to have the weather on your side. For forecasting check out NorwayLights
- MOVE! Don’t sit and wait. Delphin invited us to walk around, explore the area on our own, warm up at the fire and stay active. If you just sit and wait it might get boring but even more important: you get cold! And that’s what you definitely not want when you are staying there for hours and want to enjoy the spectacle.
- Watch out for animals, we saw a lot of arctic birds and also a moose
- Manage your expectations. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t see the lights. The team is really willing to make it a nice trip but as said: it’s all about natures mood.