Tromsø is located in northern Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Yes .. it is right up there, very cold and very beautiful! In February this year, we decided to take a winter trip and Tromsø is special for all the options it offers. The main focus was to see the Aurora Borealis, our first ( and frustrated!) attempt was in Iceland a few years ago. But just like Iceland, the trip to Tromsø is worth it with Aurora or without Aurora!
ARRIVING IN TROMSØ
The city itself is very small and close to the airport. The vast majority of flights come from other cities in Norway, mainly Oslo. Our flight was London – Oslo – Tromsø, it was 2 hours to Oslo and then another 2 hours to Tromsø.
We made the journey from the airport to the city centre, using the local bus. The buses are very frequent, there is space for kids buggies, bags and the trip is very quick about 20 minutes. A cheaper option than the traditional taxi.
The Nordics follow a ‘Switzerland’ pattern in terms of price for accommodation, food, tours, etc. Everything is considerably more expensive than in Europe in general, even for those who live in England. 😉
We circulated most of the time on foot! If you are staying in the city centre, there are good options for restaurants, supermarkets and meeting points for the tours are also very close. The only exception is to visit the Arctic Cathedral which is one of the postcards of Tromsø that is on the other side of the bridge. Don’t do it like us – super explorers! – we went across the bridge on foot, it was soooo windy, a child’s cap flew, it was a drama, I don’t recommend it! Take a bus and cross the bridge.
WHERE TO STAY
We chose to stay in an apart-hotel very well located in the center of Tromsø, the Enter City Tromsø . The room was super spacious and had a mini pantry with a stove and some utensils which were a hand on the wheel with the boys. As the tours sometimes had crazy schedules, we shopped at the supermarket and made breakfast and some meals in the room! The not so positive side is that there is no daily cleaning of the room. If I’m not mistaken they are twice a week, but I found it ok.
WHAT TO DO – 6 DAYS
We stayed in Tromsø, 5 nights – 6 days! You can get to know the region in less time and squeeze more tours in fewer days, it’s possible! But we were with two children, 2 and 6 years old, who found fun in every pile of snow that we passed through the street, so it was very good in our case to make a more relaxed and no rushing schedule!
We were there in February and at that time of year, the sun usually rises around 8/8:30 and sets between 15:30/16 hours. These are relatively short days and very cold, most of the time the temperature was negative – between -1 and -5 degrees and usually at some time of the day it snows. The maximum we got was 3 degrees. It is worth taking this into account when planning your itinerary, staying in such cold for a long time is kind of exhausting.
The boys, despite not being used to this temperature, were in a good mood most of the time, they even sing Frozen songs!
But let’s talk about the tours;
Our first day was mostly in transit, we took the flight early in the morning in London with a connection in Oslo and we arrived in Tromsø around 2 pm. We checked in at the hotel and during the rest of the afternoon we took the opportunity to stroll through the city centre, along the main street – Storgata – and the port area, which is very beautiful. We went shopping at the supermarket, I must confess that I love a supermarket! Especially when we are travelling, I find it a nice way to get to know the local culture, what people eat and of course try the typical products too. If you like pancakes be sure to try svele – a typical pancake in Norway!
We had dinner on that first day at a tiny burger place but the food was amazing! I will make another post with our choices of restaurants during this trip.
We started the day with a tour to the Ice Hotel which is close to Tromsø, it takes a half long bus ride to get there but it is worth it. The visit is super interesting! It starts with a video telling a little about the history of the hotel and the construction process that happens every year, I was shocked! Then there is a guided tour of the facilities, tasting drinks at the ice bar and at the end, you have some free time to explore the hotel on your own. The boys went to visit the baby Reindeers that they raised there and were able to feed, they loved it! It also has a mini restaurant that you can book for lunch. We just had a snack, had hot chocolate and had lunch back on town.
Ah! And for those who are interested, there is the possibility of spending a night in one of the hotel’s ice rooms, but that would be a bit too much for us!
At the end of the day we took the tour to the night camp to see the Aurora Borealis! There are several tour options to try to see Aurora, the most common is the bus tour that is literally running through the areas with the Aurora forecast, but we thought that this option would be very tiring with the boys. After exchanging messages with the local tourism agency, we decided to test the night camp. The agency has some camping settings and they take the groups to the place where the lights are most likely to be seen that day.
The meeting point is in the city centre, where buses leave for the camp. Ours had two large huts and during the night we had a barbecue in the fireplace, they serve soups and hot drinks to help to keep your warm as usually, it is very VERY cold!
I found it a good option to do with children, but we weren’t very lucky with our guide, who shouldn’t be enjoying children very much and made some stupid comments when Bernardo woke up in the middle of the night and cried a little. Completely unnecessary … but anyway! Aurora appeared, at first just a little bit then she was strong and beautiful! And it made it all worthwhile, it really is an incredible experience.
I recommend planning this tour in our of your first nights in Tromsø, just in case the aurora doesn’t show up, you will have another chance during your trip. Some agencies give you a discount to re-book the tour.
Both the Ice Hotel and the Aurora tour we booked with Destination Tromsø.
We came back super late in the evening from the Aurora tour, arriving at our hotel about 1 am! So we planned a ‘free morning’ the next day to sleep and rest. Before lunch, we went for a walk in the city centre.
In the afternoon we took a really cool tour to a place where they breed Alaskan Huskies until then I thought that there were only Siberian Huskies … lol
Tromsø Villmarksenter is approximately 30 minutes from the city, so once again the tour starts with a short bus ride. Once there, everyone receives thermal clothes that we put on top of all the layers we already had because it is very cold during the sleigh ride.
We had time to visit the dogs and play with them. They are super docile! Then we got to know a little about the history and the sports that they practice with the animals.
Then it was time for the expected sleigh ride, each of us went on a sleigh with one of the boys. I felt like I was in a movie, going through stunning scenery! The way the instructor ‘directs’ the dogs is super interesting. The most trained dogs go ahead leading the sledge, and they only do a certain number of laps per day within the exercise quota that is suitable for them. I love dogs and I wouldn’t be able to go on a tour like that if I thought I was hurting the animals in any way.
After the sleigh ride, we to see the nursery where the puppies are, beautiful and cute.
Finally, they take the group to a mega hut where they serve hot drinks and chocolate cake. Perfect!
The booking for this one we made directly with Tromsø Villmarksenter
Our fourth day in Tromsø started early with a cruise through the fjords! This was not our first time in Norway, we had already visited Oslo and Bergen and took a cruise through the fjords on that trip as well. Our memory was of a landscape so beautiful that we didn’t even think twice and decided to repeat it! It was two very different experiences. On this tour in Tromsø we opted for a smaller, more rustic boat! Our guide was a biologist who sometimes told us more about the local wildlife and the animals we saw ahead. At some times of the year, it is possible to see whales, in February it is very unlikely!
Our boat had a hot jacuzzi and I found it hard to believe that Flavio and the boys were going to enter. It wasn’t long before the three of them were playing inside. I was fine outside, having tea and taking pictures.
On the way back to Tromsø the tour ended in a restaurant and museum with a mini guided tour telling the history and culture of Norwegian cod fishing with a tasting of caviar and other delicacies. It was very interesting! Whoever takes the cruise has a discount for lunch at the restaurant that houses the Full Steam mini-museum and that’s what we ended up doing!
We have booked the cruise with Artic Expeditions.
The fifth day was more relaxing with a visit to some tourist spots in the city, we also thought about having some flexibility if we hadn’t seen Aurora Borealis on the first attempt.
In the morning we head to the Science Center od Northern Norway , which is a super interactive museum that the boys really enjoyed! They show a very interesting film about the northern lights on a daily basis, which is shown in a nice planetary auditorium. We stayed there for a long time!
In the afternoon the plan was to take the cable car to see the city from above, but it was windy and with snow forecast so the cable car stopped working. We took the opportunity to go back and visit the Arctic Cathedral and walk a little more through the city.
REINDEERS AND THE SAMI CULTURE
We ended our stay in Tromsø with a flourish! On our last day, we left early in the morning to visit a reindeer breeding site.
The Reindeer field is approximately 30 minutes by bus from the centre, getting there you will receive some instructions before going to the area where the animals are. Each visitor can take one of the buckets with the appropriated food to feed the animals that are docile but some are very hungry!
The boys were very excited, I was a little worried every time a hungry reindeer approached us… but little by little I was relaxing! In the middle of the site, there are some huts that you can enter at any time to warm up by the fireplace, have a hot drink and eat cookies.
Then they started to call small groups to take the sleigh ride on the reindeer. It was less exciting than the tour with the Huskies but it is beautiful and fun too.
Then they serve a lunch that is a typical soup and we go back to the big tents to learn a little about the Sami culture that would be the Aboriginal people of Northern Norway, very nice. Even my children sat quietly listening to the stories!
Back in Tromsø we checked out at the hotel and went to a cafeteria that we love Kaffebonna, I will talk more about her in the post about restaurants.
In the afternoon we took the bus to the airport and started our journey back.
ABOUT THE MANY MANY CLOTHES LAYERS
During most of our stay in Tromsø the temperature was negative! Cold very cold! We have lived in London for four years and the winter here is very mild compared to other countries in Europe so we are not used to these literally freezing days. For this trip I bought extra thermal clothes for the boys and shoes suitable for ice and snow are also essential.
For children, the daily layers were like this;
– Long-sleeved thermal blouse and ringlets – thicker tights type!
– A thinner coat
– A wool or fleece coat
– And the winter / thermal and waterproof jacket over
– Sometimes the trousers over the top still had another waterproof trouser over them – because after all they loved to throw themselves in the snow and on the ice and there was no chance of them getting wet!
In addition to all these layers were always gloves – preferably thermal and waterproof too! Beanie and scarf.
For me and Flavio, the layers were very similar, excluding waterproof pants. It was a long process to go from indoors to the street, but you don’t have many options!
On trips, we usually take the yoyo, which is one of the most practical strollers in life, especially if your trip involves airport and planes. But walking on snow and ice with Yoyo is not for everyone!! It is definitely not the appropriated stroller.
As one of the objectives of the trip was to experience the harsh Arctic winter… we were psychologically prepared for all this. WE LOVED Tromsø and all the experiences involved!