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There are only a handful of places within the Arctic Circle that are in any way sizeable, of which Tromsø is the furthest north city in the world with over fifty thousand inhabitants. It is a city of northern superlatives, being the location of the furthest north university, brewery, and to the best of my knowledge, Burger King. Although well within the sub-polar zone, it gets quite mild summers due to the lingering effects of the Gulf Stream, but winters are still punishingly cold. It is one of the best places on earth for viewing the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).

I was really surprised that such a relatively civilised place could exist so far north, yet Tromsø is a remarkably well equipped modern city, with plenty of attractions. We stayed at the very cosy Radisson Blu by the harbour. By road it's over one thousand miles from Oslo, so we flew with Norwegian, the country's budget airline. Norway is not known as a budget destination, and Tromsø was no exception, so just a few days was sufficient to check it out. We went in a February, when it was still a good minus fifteen degrees, but there was a reasonable length of daylight.

Arctic Ocean Cathedral

The Arctic Ocean Cathedral, technically known as Tromsdalen Church, is one of the icons of Tromsø, with its highly modernist 1960s angular style.

I managed to get a decent long exposure shot of the east stained glass window on the Arctic Ocean Cathedral, by setting up my camera on a handy snowdrift.

Arctic Ocean Cathedral

Tromsø Cathedral

There is a true cathedral in Tromsø, simply the Tromsø Cathedral, in the city centre. It was built in the 1860s, over one hundred years before its modern counterpart across the bridge, and is the only wooden cathedral in Norway.

Tromsdalstinden is the second of Tromsø's icons, the hulking mountain which peers conspicuously at the city. It's over four thousand feet high, but is a reasonably easy summer climb.



Tromsøbrua or the Tromsø Bridge completes the line up of Tromsø's calling cards, it was built in the 1950s making it older than the Tay Road Bridge in Scotland. It's a cantilever design, and is now supplemented by a more capacious tunnel to its north.

Tromsø has some of the best examples of traditional Norwegian wooden buildings in the city centre.



Old warehouses on a wharf by the Polar Museum, near our hotel.

Polaria Aquarium is one of Tromsø's quality attractions, completed in the late 1990s and designed to look like a collapsing row of books. We went to see the performing seals.


Polar bear

Fortunately you're not likely to encounter anything like this wandering around Tromsø, but the city was historically a centre for hunting and whaling and there are plenty of remnants, such as this chap in our hotel lobby.

Tromsø is well equipped for shopping, and has such facilities as the Nerstranda Senter, apparently with branches in Copenhagen and New York.

Tromsø shopping centre

Mack brewery

The world's most northerly beer comes straight from here, the Mack Bryggeri (brewery). We tried a few varieties, and I heartily recommend them all.

Attached to the Mack brewery is the Øl Hall or Ølhallen, Tromsø's oldest pub. Your Norwegian doesn't have to be very strong to figure that one out.

The Øl Hall

Coca-Cola bottling

We took a tour of the Mack production lines, although that day it wasn't beer they were churning out, but Coca Cola under license. They bottle most of northern Norway's supply, and recycle almost all of the plastic used.

The Mack brewery's latitudinal credentials are proudly emblazoned on their glass tankards.

Øl, says it all


Boats near Polaria at sunset, which in Tromsø at that time of year was around five pm.

Another of Tromsø's architectural surprises is the city's library, which reminded me of the Oceanografique park in Valencia.

Tromsø library


More boats, this time looking along the Tromsøbrua towards Tromsdalstinden mountain in the distance.

The monument to the whaling industry which kept Tromsø solvent for many decades.

Boat statue

Tromsø from the bridge

Central Tromsø as viewed from the Tromsøbrua, long after sunset but while there is still a faint glow on the horizon.

This was one of the main reasons for making the trip, Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to see the Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights. It wasn't easy to photograph but that didn't stop me trying. We saw them two nights, this was the second time round where they were much stronger.

The northern lights of old Tromsø

Aurora borealis

At one point there was proper fire in the sky, as the glowing wisps shifted from red to purple to green, all far too quickly to catch on film. Although blurred, this was one of the best shots I got to demonstrate their intensity. However, cameras don't do it justice.

Roald Amundsen is celebrated by a couple of statues throughout town, not to mention pieces of the aircraft from which he was never recovered in the Polar Museum. He is of course most famous for being the first person to reach the South Pole, beating Captain Scott and his team by five weeks in 1911.

Roald Amundsen

Bridge and boats

Tromsøbrua as seen through the masts of boats in the harbour during the low afternoon sun.

We took an afternoon to go skiing on the convenient nearby slopes, and in spite of the biting cold and being unable to look into the wind (goggles or not), we were rewarded with some excellent views of the city. Tromsø's setting is indeed spectacular, this is truly the Arctic.

Tromsø from the ski slopes

Tromsø winter sunset

The sun dropped down while we continued to ski, but the floodlights meant there was nothing to be concerned about. Just taking in the scenery.

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