When Lonely Planet released their list of the best places in Europe to visit in 2015, we gave a little cheer for not one, but two gorgeous Nordic destinations receiving a nod.
Akureyri was named the top European destination of the year and the gorgeous Tromsø, Norway snagged the 9th spot on the list.
While Lonely Planet's blurb about this oasis in Norway's far north focused on the undeniably cool Krystall Hotel that is slated to be opened by Christmas 2016 -- it's a floating glass hotel in the middle of a picturesque fjord! -- we can think of a few more things to love about Tromsø that you can experience right now...
There's no denying it: Tromsø and the surrounding are is absolutely stunning. The city, itself, with roughly 70,000 inhabitants, is easy and enjoyable to navigate by foot and boasts a lovely pedestrian street in its centre. Outside the city centre, the area is a never ending expanse of incredible scenery.
Embark on a short (but scenic) trip up Mount Storsteinen aboard the Tromsø Cable Car and you'll be hard-pressed to leave your eyes resting in one place for too long. The colourful and picturesque city creeps up a hillside in one direction, the sun glistens off Sandnessundet straight in another, and all around are mountains, mountains, and more mountains. From this vantage point it is hard not to feel like you are on top of the world.
The modern-day landmark of Tromsø is the Arctic Cathedral, a parish church built in 1965 that is sometimes called the "opera house of Norway" due to its similarities to Australia's famed Sydney Opera House. The church is situated on the island of Kvaløya, across the straight from central Tromsø, making it visible from many points in the city.
And if striking modern architecture isn't your thing, then perhaps the charming wood structures that have been meticulously maintained throughout the town will be. Tromsø Cathedral is the only wooden cathedral in all of Norway and the northernmost protestant church in the world.
Though the existing cathedral was built in 1861, it sits on a site in the centre of Tromsø where a church has likely stood since the 13th century.
Though Tromsø is the largest Norwegian town North of the arctic circle, it is still very isolated and surrounded by large expanses of wilderness. What this means, in addition to providing lots of nature to gawk at and minimal light pollution in the winter months -- Tromsø enjoys the most sightings of the northern lights annually -- is ample wildlife.
You're likely to spy a reindeer or two or three grazing in the woods alongside the roadways, or crossing the road ahead of you... so do try and resist the urge to stare up at the mountains or out to sea when you're behind the wheel. The area also hosts a wealth of birdlife and an island inhabited solely by musk ox!
More fun facts about Tromsø:
- Despite being located so far north, Tromsø enjoys a mild climate thanks to the Gulf Stream. Winter temperatures average around -5° Celcius.
- Thirsty? You'll be shelling out roughly €11 for a pint of beer in Tromsø bars.
- The world's northernmost university is the University of Tromsø. If you've every wanted to study the aurora borealis or Saami culture, this is the place to do it!
- The bulk of the city is located on the island of Tromsøya, but the larger district of Troms is a large archipelago, connected with bridges and tunnels.
- Interested in hiking? Hitching a ride on the cable car to the top of Mount Storsteinen, 421 m above sea level, will give you panoramic views over the area and a great starting point for many hikes along marked trails. There is also a restaurant at the peak to grab a quick bite before your adventure continues.
Interested in checking out this vibrant northern hub? Here are some vacation packages including Tromsø:
- 71° North - North Cape and the Snow Hotel (7 days/6 nights)
- Aurora Safari by Rail & Cruise (8 days/7 nights)
- Aurora Adventure Week in Tromsø (6 days/5 nights)
- Tromso Aurora Break - Huskies and Snowmobiles (4 days/3 nights)
- The Arctic as it Should Be (10 days/9 nights)