In many ways Tromsø is the Arctic capital of Norway. People from more than 100 different countries live permanently in Tromsø. The Tromsø municipality has a population of around 70000, of which 60000 live in the city. Tromsø is the largest city in northern Norway and also the largest Nordic city north of the Arctic circle. Tromsø even has its own university and brewery. No other universities or breweries in the world are located this far north. The city is surrounded by hundreds of islands, dramatic mountains and deep fjords and is a convenient 1h40min flight from Oslo.
The university provides many opportunities for scientists from all over the world to study about the northern lights, Arctic environment, fisheries, climate change, oil resources in the ocean and many others. As a result of this activity, there are several museums dedicated to the Arctic life and nature, as well as an Arctic experience centre and aquarium.
The town had a flourishing cultural life as it served as the gateway to the Arctic, for expeditions and marine activities. It is nicknamed Paris of the North because the finer ladies in Tromsø could afford to wear the latest fashion from Paris.
I chose to spend 5 days in Tromsø because I wanted to do some hiking and to experience the midnight sun. Since Tromsø is located above the Arctic circle, it enjoys a special phenomenon called the midnight sun which is visible from 21 May to 21 July. There is even a midnight sun marathon on 21 June, but it’s a pity as I would be in Oslo by then. Although Tromsø is located so far north, it has a mild maritime climate. The city’s lowest recorded temperature in winter is -18°C which is not that cold considering its latitude. In summer, the temperatures can rise to 28°C, though average summer temperatures are around 11°C.
Tromsø is also famed for skiing and the northern lights in winter. During polar nights from 21 Nov to 21 Jan, the sun does not rise above the horizon. So the city is covered in darkness for most parts of the day. Having been hosted by a super nice Norwegian family who live about 45 km away from the city, I got a chance to experience the great outdoors and living in the countryside. This also gives me the chance again to come back in winter to see the northern lights as so far, I have not been successful in seeing it.
Tromso city is small and can be easily explored on foot. From taking a leisurely stroll along the harbour to walking down the main shopping street of Storgata, you can find several souvenir and handicrafts stores. I had time to visit the Polaria museum which turned out to be an educational and fun visit. I learnt about the formation of the northern lights and also visited the aquarium where the seals are being fed (12.30pm and 3pm daily) while they performed some stunts for the audience. In the aquarium the main attraction are the bearded seals. The bearded seal is an arctic species, known for their quiet disposition and intelligent nature. The aquarium has interesting exhibits of the most common species of fish in the Barents Sea.