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 50,000 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. By road it's
over 1000 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 15 degrees,
but there was a reasonable length of daylight.
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 the camera up in a handy snowdrift.
There is a true cathedral in Tromsø, simply the Tromsø Cathedral, in the city centre.
It was built in the 1860s, over 100 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 4000 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.
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 the hotel lobby.
Tromsø is well equipped for shopping, and has such facilities as the
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.
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.
Boats near Polaria at sunset, which in Tromsø at that time of year was about 5pm.
Another of Tromsø's architectural surprises is the city's library, which reminded me
of the Oceanografique park in
More boats, this time looking along the Tromsøbrua towards Tromsdalstinden mountain
in the distance.
Monument to the whaling industry which kept Tromsø solvent for many decades.
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.
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
Tromsøbrua as seen through the masts of boats in the harbour during the low
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 sun dropped down while we continued to ski, but the floodlights meant there was nothing
to be concerned about. Just taking in the scenery.