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What to See and Do in Tromso, Norway

Folks> This is a post asking for opinions and suggestions from those who have been there, done that, and have gotten the T-shirt.

A group of three will be in Tromso Oct 1 - 5. The primary goal is see the Northern Lights. We are crossing our fingers that it will happen.

We wish to supplement that primary goal with some touring of the area. I will have a rental car for transportation. Our time is flexible.

There is a lot of online tourist department "what-to-do" info, but we would prefer advise and suggestions from travelers like us.

We were thinking of crossing the border into Finland just to get that t-shirt as well. But we know nothing about that country or if it is worthwhile to do so.

If you would be so kind as to help us fill in our tour calendar it would be appreciated.

Posted by
3829 posts

In Tromso, the Arctic Cathedral is a must see. And the most northern brewery in the world is there and has a good pub attached-with tee shirts for sale.
There is also a Polar Museum to visit.

Posted by
36 posts

Suki> Thank you so much. I will put the Arctic Cathedral and Polar Museum on my list. Who doesn't like a pint? The brewery may be the first place we go. :)

Posted by
48 posts

Hope you'll share insights from your trip when all's said and done! I'm contemplating a similar one for later in the year. And I'd especially appreciate a brew pub review. :-)

Posted by
1 posts

Curious is you decided to go on to Finland. I'll be in Tromso Oct. 2019....similar times as you went. Any tips? Did you use any particular tour companies?

Posted by
36 posts

As requested by the last couple of posters:

I did make the trip to Oslo and Tromso. Oslo was a very worthwhile adventure. Tromso not so much. We did not accomplish our goal of seeing the Northern Lights due to bad weather for four days. But one cannot control the weather. In retrospect, I should have spent the money going to Iceland, Canada, or Alaska where I might have had a better chance at that goal.

As opposed to several attractions in Oslo, there is not much to do in Tromso. Although, we did take a 2 hour drive to the Vasstrand area which was a pleasant rural drive with some Kodak moments along the way. Tromso, was not unlike visiting Kansas to see the largest ball of twine. Unless one is into that sort of thing, there are other more exciting places to visit.

Norway is a Democratic Socialist country. I make no political opinion associated with the fact. It's just a reality that the economic environment associated with it means high prices for everything. Gas, entertainment, dining out, staple goods, etc. A McDonald's Happy meal will cost $15.

The Norwegians that we met were very hospitable. Everyone that we encountered, excepting the much older generation, spoke English quite well. We felt safe in our travels.

We did not make it to Finland because we spent that allocated trip time waiting for the weather to improve in Tomso. But we did make Sweden on our return trip to Oslo. We stopped in a couple of small towns in the western section of Sweden. Some more Kodak moments and some good resturant food. That section of the country has very nice roads.

Norway is an exception to the other 37 countries I have visited. One cannot easily rent a car and drive to their featured tourist attractions. It is more or less a tour bus country.

Posted by
1099 posts

Thanks for your follow up on your trip to Norway. Did you go to the brewery and Arctic Cathedral like Suki mentioned?
We went to Norway this past July and loved it.
Btw, I live in Alaska and the weather is also not always cooperating for those who come here to see the northern lights. In my 17 years here, I have seen maybe a dozen times, but I don’t get up in the middle of the night anymore to try and see them.

Posted by
675 posts

One cannot easily rent a car and drive to their featured tourist
attractions. It is more or less a tour bus country.

Why?? It is totally easy to rent a car for a round trip, few thousand European tourists do that every year or drive up by their own vehicle. Norway has 18 official scenic routes you can explore but there are even more routes that are minimum same attractive.

The reason for the high prices is not the social market economy. We have it in Germany as well but the prices in Norway are over 40% higher in average for some different reasons. I would avoid mixing in the "democratic". Norway is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament but this is politics, not economy. And do not believe that Norwegians and tourists pay the same prices for some services, e.g. transport.

Important for travelers to understand that Scandinavia is not city hopping what a lot of people do. A lot of attractions are in the countrysides, in smaller towns or villages.

Final recommendation for Tromsø: main attraction lookout point Fjellheisen with cable car was not mentioned so far.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks for your follow up on your trip to Norway. Did you go to the brewery and Arctic Cathedral like Suki mentioned?
Btw, I live in Alaska and the weather is also not always cooperating for those who come here to see the northern lights. In my
17 years here, I have seen maybe a dozen times, but I don’t get up in the middle of the night anymore to try and see them.

We did visit the Cathedral. It was nice and worth the visit. But we have been spoiled by the Air Force Academy cathedral in Colorado and some others in England and Germany. We did not do the brewery. Instead we took the Fjellheisen tram to the top of the mountain overlooking Tromso. At the time, 1st week in October, it was snowing. That negated using the walking trail, but for Texans who rarely see snow here, that was an added "adventure". There is a small cafe should one wish to linger at the top.

I have been to Alaska twice. Great state for tourism. I especially enjoyed the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward. I did know that the northern lights were visible in Alaska. there. Unfortunately, it's a 10-12 hour trip via airplane to get there. The layover in Seattle or Portland is long. But the trip is on our list.

Posted by
36 posts

MarkK> I appreciate your suggestion of not mixing in the "democratic". But please know that wasn't my term. It came from the owner of the vacation rental where we stayed in Tromso. A very personable and educated individual who spoke perfect English. Regardless of why, it is still expensive there. BTW, I have spent time in Germany, as well. A country high on our list to revisit.

Let me clarify the rental car statement. Yes, it is easy to rent one. It is not convenient to drive the country.

I agree that Scandinavia is not convenient for city hopping. And the western half of the country has many of those scenic drives. The travel distances to many of the more popular tourist attractions can be a days drive.

I much prefer to get off the beaten path when I visit a country. Just not 8 hours at a time, which is why I suggested tour bus or air travel. Unlike Germany or England, the country does not have the autobahn or M carriageways. Plus the country is mountainous. Roads don't usally go over them.

Appreciate your input.

Posted by
675 posts

@rmill.ace: Thanks for sharing your views.

Just for my wish to understand: Why do you rate Norway as "not convenient to drive"?

Personally I do not see a huge difference of driving huge parts of Norway compared to driving in Texas which I did in 2015. To me Norway is much more interesting to drive. Of course in both countries I missed my Autobahn :-) OK, not really.

Maybe for your interest the German Federal Statistical Office made a research on the price levels for travelers in Europe (German language article). Short message: Costs for traveling and accomodation in Norway are 45% higher than in Germany.

https://www.destatis.de/Europa/DE/Thema/WirtschaftFinanzen/WirtschaftFinanzen.html

The general cost of living were researched 2017, here the level was +42.7%. One reason is the more complex landscape (compared to Germany) which needs higher costs for infrastructure and transport but based on and paid by much less population.

Just to give you an example: Norway's most northern state Finnmark has the same size like our second largest state Lower Saxony but only as much people live in Finnmark how we can put into full Berlin Olympic Stadium which have to pay for administration and infrastructure of the state :-)

Posted by
36 posts

MarkK> We could debate this highway/driving issue until Mount Vesuvius erupt again. To answer your question, and not taking into consideration the pleasant and visual aspects of a cross country drive in Norway, I would rate it rather low compared to most other European countries.

Oslo to Tromso via car is a 22 hour drive. From Oslo to the Myrdal to do the Flam Railroad it is a 5 hour drive. It is a 27 hour drive from Bergen to Tromso along the western coast line. That does not compare to driving in Texas. Since you have visited Texas, I am sure that you are aware that our highway systems have speed limits of 70-75 miles per hour...even on our two lane highways. While driving in Norway, I found those limits to be 55 mph or less.

I've traveled all over the world and typically do a hire car for the convenience that it offers. Which BTW, as you mentioned, it allows me to visit the small towns that offer the real pleasures of a particular country. One of which was visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

I suspect that most visitors to another country have a time schedule. All I was trying to mention is that Norway may require them to consider that a car hire involving extended driving lengths should be considered in that schedule.

Posted by
675 posts

Thanks, I was just interested. Do not want to argue on that.

All I was trying to mention is that Norway may require them to
consider that a car hire involving extended driving lengths should be
considered

Totally agree on that. Nobody would consider taking a car to just move from Oslo to Tromsø or only Oslo to Stockholm. Normally you take flight, bus, train or from Trondheim the ship. If tourists do the drive they have the beauty of a car round trip in mind, e.g. exploring Helgelandskysten. Means the way is their purpose; not the final destination only. A lot of European tourists do that with their own car but that is a different way of travel to what you described.

This is also what a lot of travelers do not understand: Scandinavia is not city hopping only, it is nature experience. That is definitely a huge difference to traveling in large parts of Asia and the US.

The parts of Nowegian motorways with 110-120 km/h you will find around Oslo. For the other parts you shall have in mind that the weather and light conditions in minimum half of the year are very different to Texas. Just have a current look into Bodø port webcam.

Posted by
270 posts

You can't control the weather, but you can control where you go. And Tromsø is actually not a great place to see Auroras, the coastal location means that it is often very cloudy.

Posted by
7 posts

Rmill.ace. I just happended to see this thread and it was perfect because we are on an Arctic Circle cruise from Copenhagen in June and this was the one port I wasn't sure what to do. We will not see Northern lights of course but LOTS of daylight. The church and brewery sound interesting. Are both of them in town (the brewery question is for the others since you didn't go). No interest in renting a car or foing to Finland - was there last year. My question for all is can we see enough to fill a day without taking a guided tour? I saw a few boat trips but they seemed a bit pricey and we have other fjord tours along the way. We are in port from 9-5:30 (on board)

Posted by
675 posts

My question for all is can we see enough to fill a day without taking
a guided tour?

Yes, enough to see and do in Tromsø, some with own quick tours, e.g. the brewery.

As hobby photographer my two highlights were Fjellheisen and also driving up E6 to Lyngenfjord with some reindeers around the street. Also the Arctic University Museum has some interesting information about that region and the Sami culture.

For the history buffs: battleship Tirpitz (second Bismarck) was sunk between isles Håkøya and Store Grindøya (close to Tromsø). There is still a memorial plate on Håkøya but nothing else to see. A Tirpitz Museum is located in Kåfjord, close to Alta (~ 300km from Tromsø, ship was stationed there 1943).

Posted by
11259 posts

If I had the time on a trip to Norway and Finland, , I would definitely go to see Tromso, and most likely Trondheim too, time permitting. From Germany to Norway is a ferry connection, ie, from Kiel to Oslo....very convenient.

How? By taking the train. My first trip to Europe included going to North Sweden, took 24 hrs from Malmö. Likewise on the return two weeks later. I find Finland a great deal more interesting than Norway, should have gone there in the '80s and it is still on the "bucket list."

Posted by
1413 posts

We visited Tromso twice this year in conjunction with summer (midnight sun) and winter (northern lights) cruises. The Cathedral is near the bridge where the cruise ships dock. It’s a good photo op and there are often concerts held in the evening. The brewery is about 2 miles from the Cathedral. We enjoyed visiting a husky farm in July and did a dog sledding excursion in February. There may also be opportunities to try a RIB boat or kayaking if the weather is warm enough (we did that but in other ports). We did not go to Finland but it would definitely be worth it if you are chasing the lights. Good luck, have fun!