This Tromso in winter guide will give you all the things to do in Northern Norway’s capital city- from the best Northern Lights tours to dog-sledding excursions and more!
If you’re seeking how to plan your trip to maximize your time there, be sure to check out our winter Tromso itinerary.
Let us know if you have any questions about things to do in winter in Tromso!
In this post...
Winter in Tromso Overview
Tromso is the largest city in Northern Norway and is often considered to be the gateway to the Arctic.
One of the most magical times to visit this Arctic dreamland is during winter when the nights are long and snow lies deep on the ground.
During the cold winter nights, the sky is often lit up by the elusive aurora that hangs out and dances above the city and hills that surround the area. Despite the lack of sunlight in Tromso in winter, there is still a trove of things you can do and experience in the Arctic city.
From the thrill of dog sledding in Tromso to spending days in cozy Scandinavian cafes, there are things to do for everyone.
This guide will take you through the most amazing things to do in Tromso during winter. If you feel I have forgotten anything, please feel free to comment below.
Average Tromso Winter Temperatures
Since winter kind of drags on in Tromso, we decided to include temperatures from November until March below (temperatures in Celcius):
- Tromso in November average temperature 2C / -2C (35F / 28F)
- Tromso in December average temperature 0C / -4C (32F / 25F)
- Tromso in January average temperature -1C / -5C (30F / 23F)
- Tromso in February average temperature -1C / -5C (30F / 23F)
- Tromso in March average temperature 1C / -4C (34F / 25F)
While the temperatures may surprise people as not being all that cold (sorry, Canadians!), it is actually colder inland.
Many tours will actually head toward the Swedish border which is much colder than the coastal and fjord areas!
When does it snow in Tromso?
Each year can be drastically different from the next. However, you can be fairly certain that you will see snow in Tromso at some point during the winter months.
Snow starts arriving in Tromso as early as September and stops in mid-May, generally. The snowiest month is January with an average snowfall of 41.1cm (16.2in).
During the year, there are 120 days of snowfall (which makes this an epic winter destination!).
Is it Completely Dark During Winter in Tromso?
Not entirely! So, the sun sets on November 28 and rises again on January 14 (2022-2023)… but during the middle of December, it is not completely dark all day. The sun just never pops over that horizon!
So, during the middle of the day for a couple of hours, it looks like dusk (or a neverending sunset).
The snow will illuminate things a bit… but you can count on it being pretty darn dark when you’re there.
But, darkness gives a lot more opportunity to see the aurora, so it is a win in winter!
Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter
1. Take a Whale Watching Tour in Tromso
Winter is the perfect time to go whale watching in Tromso and the Arctic. The warmer waters attract the herring to leave the Bering Strait and head south where the whales follow them, feasting on the huge shoals of fish as they go.
You will predominantly encounter two types of whales on the tour- the giant humpback whales and pods of majestic killer whales, or orcas.
The boat will normally take you a few hours outside of Tromso to where the whales have been recently feasting in winter.
Another thing that is important is that you should look for a sustainable tour that has the whales’ best interests in mind.
For an amazing day tour, I recommend the electric catamaran whale watching tour, where you can help scientists track and study these beautiful creatures.
You will experience seeing the whales in person, hearing their awesome ‘songs’, and assisting the scientists with the underwater footage.
If you are lucky, you may even get to encounter the Northern Lights high above the boat.
GOOD TO KNOW: I have created a guide that details how to find ethical whale watching tours in Tromso as well as what to expect, how to dress for a whale safari, and more.
2. Hunt For the Tromso Northern Lights
One of the biggest allures to visiting the Arctic in winter is the opportunity to witness the magic of the Northern Lights.
The Northern Lights tend to come out between October and April, with the depths of a Tromso winter being the prime time to see them since the nights are much longer.
During strong displays, it is possible to see the lights hang above Tromso, although it is not possible to just rely on such displays. At times when the solar activity is weak, the lights will be lost in the light pollution admitted from the city.
I fully recommend booking a Northern Lights tour in order to increase your chances of seeing the lights in their full glory, I advise taking a tour that will take you deep into the Arctic to find these mystical lights.
The 7-hour Northern Lights tour from Tromso is the perfect way to see these lights.
You will head out into the countryside crossing the borders between Norway, Sweden, and Finland in an effort to track down the Aurora Borealis.
GOOD TO KNOW: I have created a guide to how to book the best Tromso Northern Lights tour and it details the top-rated tours as well as what to expect, how to dress, and more!
3. Check out the Tromso Ice Domes
Spend a day at the impressive Ice Domes, one of the most magical winter experiences in Tromso.
Located outside of the city in the middle of the Arctic wilderness, the Ice Domes are built as the winter sets in each and every year.
The complex includes works of art made entirely of ice, a bar, hotel, restaurant, and cinema- each of which carries its own theme that changes annually. If you are looking to just visit the Ice Domes for a day, the best way to go is with a guided tour.
Leaving Tromso, you will head out to the domes where you will tour the various parts of the complex and enjoy a complimentary nonalcoholic drink at the ice bar and a film at the ice cinema.
For an additional charge, you can also enjoy a delicious meal at the ice restaurant.
Alternatively, if you are looking for the full experience, you can book an overnight stay at the ice hotel.
The overnight stay includes a full program of activities from snowshoeing under the Northern Lights to dog-sledding and enjoying dinner in the wilderness. Before heading to bed, make sure you check out the awesome ice bar for a nightcap.
You will be provided with all you need for an overnight stay, including warm clothes so that you can survive the sub-zero temperatures overnight.
If you’re curious about other Norway ice hotels, check out our comprehensive guide to them all!
4. Learn About Sami Culture at a Reindeer Ranch
Reindeer have long had an important role in Sami culture and still do to this day.
Take time to visit a reindeer ranch and learn all about the rearing of these beautiful animals and the Sami culture.
There are plenty of tours advertised online and many that include reindeer sledding, but I have to say I find reindeer sledding completely unethical.
I witnessed it when I was in Tromso for the first time and I have never felt so awkward or wrong in my life and really believe the animals did not enjoy pulling a sled for human entertainment.
However, it is possible to visit a ranch without having to go reindeer sledding.
You will spend the day feeding the reindeer and learning all about their role throughout history and how they are cared for, followed by being taught all about Sami culture while eating a traditional stew cooked over an open fire.
GOOD TO KNOW: We have put together a guide to the best Sami experiences in Tromso.
We sought out ethical ones and our guide also details how to ensure you dress for the evening and what to expect.
5. Go on a Tromso City Tour
If you are looking to gain more in-depth knowledge about Tromso, then I recommend taking a private walking tour of the city.
On the tour of Tromso during winter, you will learn all about the long history of the city and its role as the gateway to the Arctic.
Other than the core history of Tromso, the tour is completely customizable and you can focus on things that matter to you, be it nightlife or museums.
The local guide will be able to show you everything you need to see.
Tours can be booked for 2-6 hour blocks and you will need to cover any additional costs if you are looking to go further afield.
It is important to wear practical clothing as the weather can change very quickly.
6. Go on a Husky Safari in the Arctic
One of the highlights of my winter excursion to the Arctic was husky sledding.
Originally, I thought I would have issues with husky sledding and the treatment of the dogs, however, unlike the reindeer sledding, I could really see that the dogs actually enjoyed the activity and were excited to be racing around the course.
There are several options for types of dog sledding tours available around Tromso with the most popular being guided or self-guided tours.
Personally, I did a self-guided tour, where, in a team of two, we were in charge of the sled ourselves.
This was a really immersive experience, and at the end of the tour, you really felt like you had achieved something.
Prior to the sledding, you are given a brief lesson to learn how to control the sled and what both members of the team must do in order to help the pups out along the way.
After the tour, you will get to warm up in a Sami Lavvu with cake and hot drinks.
GOOD TO KNOW: We have shared all of our Tromso dog sledding tips in our guide that focuses solely on the experience.
Check it out for tips on what to expect and what to wear if you go on a husky safari.
7. Take a Polar Fjord Cruise
The fjords of Norway are stunning. Up and down the coast, these former glacial valleys have formed dramatic waterways.
Take a cruise through the polar fjords around the Tromso region and marvel at the incredible scenery and try and spot the wildlife of the Arctic.
During the winter in Tromso, it is possible to see sea eagles hunting for herring, reindeer on the coastline, and various species of whales and seals on this day tour.
As you sail along, you will be taught all about the history of the region from a geographical aspect as well as the human side.
The tour includes hot and cold beverages, as well as a light lunch that consists of a dish made of fish from the Arctic.
8. Go Snowshoe Hiking in Tromso
One of the best ways to explore the beautiful Arctic scenery is to head out into the wilds with a pair of snowshoes and a trusty guide.
You will start your tour by being picked up in a Tesla, which thankfully means the groups will be kept small and intimate, and then you’ll be taken to pick up your snowshoes.
The guide will drive you along the scenic fjords to the perfect snowshoeing spot where you will then head out on a snowshoeing expedition.
On the expedition, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the Arctic and look out for the wildlife that inhabits these lands.
As you hike above the majestic fjords, keep an eye out for marine mammals with seals and whales often playing and hunting in the fjords.
You will need to wear warm clothes, such as ski clothing and gear.
Since this activity is relatively strenuous, you should be of a certain level of fitness in order to be able to complete the hike.
9. Visit the Polar Museum
The Polar Museum is one of the best places in the city to learn all about Tromso’s rich and interesting history.
Long considered the gateway to the Arctic, this cold northern city was the starting point of many Arctic expeditions and home to many hunters.
Polarmuseet (Polar Museum) is a relatively small museum in Tromso that takes you through the cultural, natural, and archeological history of the region.
You will learn all about the arctic expeditions that set off from the city and how hardy hunters survived overwintering in this harsh land.
There is also an amazing display about the first woman to overwinter in the Arctic.
The museum is relatively small but is a great place to escape the cold outside.
Displays are in Norwegian, but you will be provided an English guidebook to help you navigate your way around the museum.
You can find the Polarmuseet at Søndre Tollbodgate 11B in Tromso.
10. Marvel at the Library of Tromso
Scandinavia is known for its cutting-edge design and the library of Tromso is a prime example of contemporary modern design.
Located close to the harbor, the library was completed in 2005, taking inspiration from the Mexican architect Candela.
The library is located over four floors and houses an extensive collection of books, as well as the city archives.
In addition to the books, you will also find incredible works of art and an amazing staircase in the middle that will take you up to the various floors.
Because of the design of the building, it really pops out amongst the surrounding buildings and the library has become an important landmark in the city and is often used by locals as a meeting point.
You can find the Library of Tromso at Grønnegata 94 in Tromso.
11. Check out the Arctic Cathedral
One of the most imposing pieces of architecture in the city of Tromso is the Arctic Cathedral, a large concrete cathedral that was built in the 1960s.
The large cathedral towers above the surrounding buildings and is visible from much of the city and as you land at the airport.
The Arctic Cathedral holds 600 people and has a grand glass facade at the entrance, creating a dramatic first impression. There is also an amazing stained glass window depicting God’s hands reaching down to Jesus.
Referred to as the opera house of Norway due to its similarities with the Sydney opera house, the building is not just a place of worship but also hosts an array of concerts throughout the year.
During the winter in Tromso, the cathedral hosts Northern Lights concerts from Thursday to Sunday. The concerts feature an array of music from classical to traditional Sami joik and much more.
Tickets can be purchased at the door with concerts typically starting around 23:00.
You can find the Arctic Cathedral at Hans Nilsens vei 41 in Tromso (on the opposite side of the river across from the main city).
12. Photograph the Tromso Cathedral
One of the most interesting buildings in Tromso is the large, wooden cathedral. The cathedral is the only one made entirely out of wood in the whole of Norway.
The ground the cathedral stands on has been home to religious buildings since 1225, although the current building was built in the 1860s.
The Tromso Cathedral was originally able to seat close to 1000 people but renovations and extra additions within the cathedral have limited that capacity down to around the 600 mark.
During the winter months, head into the cathedral and take time to climb up its spite and view the shimmering lights of the city in the darkness of the later part of the year.
Surrounding the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world is a lovely park that has a World War II memorial and some other statues.
In the evenings, there are also concerts and various performances that can be enjoyed throughout Tromso’s winter.
You can find the Tromso Cathedral at Sjøgata 2 in Tromso.
13. Go to the Perspective Museum
One of the most interesting museums in Tromso is the Perspective Museum which features collections of photographs detailing the diversity of Tromso’s past and present.
The museum exhibits constantly change and feature different aspects of the cultural diversity of this amazing city. There are also exhibits featuring photographs celebrating diversity’s impact on other regions of the world, such as the former USSR.
Through their work, they hope to encourage social awareness and tolerance among people of different backgrounds.
The museum is free to visit and is truly a great place to spend a few hours learning about the region and people from a completely different angle.
Since the exhibitions are often changing, I recommend checking their website to see what will be on display while you are visiting.
You can find the Perspective Museum at Storgata 95 in Tromso.
14. Peruse the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden
The Tromso Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden is the northernmost botanical garden in the world and it includes an eclectic range of plants, shrubberies, and rockeries.
During the winter months, the flowers disappear from the gardens with the last flowering plants dying when the first snow comes in October.
However, the evergreen shrubs and rock formations remain visible. When the snow lay thick, even the shrubs and rocks start to disappear, and getting around the gardens can be incredibly difficult without some skis.
The free-to-enter gardens also provide a lovely view of the surrounding area.
You can find the Tromso Botanical Garden at Stakkevollvegen 200 in Tromso.
15. Ride Fjellheisen for a Great View
Fjellheisen is a cable car that takes you around 420m above Tromso to Storsteinen Mountain ledge.
From the top of Fjellheisen, you will experience mind-blowing views over Tromso and the surrounding fjords.
In Tromso in winter, the viewpoint makes for an epic spot to try and observe the Northern Lights dancing above the city.
At the top of the cable car is a fantastic restaurant where you can enjoy a traditional, local meal while you wait for the lights to come out to play.
If you are visiting during the daytime, the restaurant also offers more of a cafe-style menu with light lunches and snacks available.
The cable car takes around 4 minutes to reach the top of the hill and each of the two carts (adorably named Seal and Polar Bear) holds around 28 people.
It is important to take appropriate clothing up to the top of the cable car as the weather can change within seconds. You can find Fjellheisen at Sollivegen 12 in Tromso.
Please note, that this is across the bridge near the Arctic Cathedral.
16. Walk around Tromso Harbor
The harbor in Tromso is nothing but picturesque, with small fishing boats bobbing in the frigid Arctic Sea to a backdrop of traditional, red Scandinavian-style wooden houses.
Take the time to wander around the harbor, take in its quaint beauty and see the snowy mountains that provide a dramatic backdrop.
Around the harbor, you will find plenty of little cafes and restaurants to stop into and warm-up and appreciate the views of the Tromso harbor in a relaxing and cozy setting.
For those traveling to and from Tromso by the Hurtigruten, the harbor will be your arrival and departure point with a purpose-built ferry terminal servicing the city.
Many of the sea-based tours will also depart from the harbor, so it’s worth making sure you are familiar with the harbor and the various parts of it to make finding your tours easier, especially during polar nights when the light is low and things can be slightly disorientating.
17. Indulge in Some Delicious Seafood
As one of the coldest places in the world, Tromso boasts varieties of delicious seafood that you can’t miss during your trip here.
All along the waterfront, you can try everything from sea bass to king crab, succulent soups, and more.
The Fiskekompaniet is one of the best places to try Norway’s most delicious seafood.
Although it is a bit of a splurge, the varieties of seafood dishes are mouthwatering, and certainly worth the steeper prices.
Other favorites here include oysters, blue mussels, shrimp, shellfish, Arctic char, scallops, and more.
The lunch hours at Fiskekompaniet from Monday to Friday are 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM, and the dinner hours from Monday to Saturday are from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM.
And yes, it’s still very possible to try out delicious seafood in the middle of winter! And, our restaurant recommendations below help you decide where to do just that!
18. Have Sushi at Rå Sushi
Delicious sushi in Europe is often difficult to find but Rå Sushi, thankfully, is one of the better sushi restaurants I have been to in Europe.
The menu is fairly extensive serving a range of different types of sushi, from really fresh sashimi to delectable sushi rolls.
The interior of the restaurant is charming and cozy offering views over Tromso’s darling harbor.
I recommend ordering a set platter of sushi so that you can try the various types of sushi. Alternatively, you can order individual items from the menu.
You can find Rå Sushi at Stortorget 1 in Tromso.
19. Get Greasy at Burgr
Burger restaurants have become commonplace over the world. Normally, I tend to avoid them as I am pretty picky about burgers and not the world’s biggest fan, however, something about Burgr drew me in.
I headed there on a cold and wintery day and the cozy setting really appealed to me.
The interior of the restaurant is decked out with retro video game decor, providing a cool and funky vibe and this theme carries throughout the menu with all the burgers referencing classic Nintendo games.
The burgers themselves are tasty and not over-sauced (nothing worse than too much sauce on a burger in my honest opinion).
Another great draw of the restaurant is the price point with Burgr being a very budget-friendly place compared to other spots in Tromso.
I highly recommend the Doom burger paired with one of their tasty craft beers.
The Doom burger has a habanero mayo that will definitely warm up from the inside after a day of exploring the Arctic.
You can find Burgr at Skippergata 6A in Tromso.
20. Warm Up with Coffee at Smørtorget Cafe
Scandinavian cafe culture is a thing to be admired.
From world-class coffee paired with delicious cakes and a whole world of open-faced sandwiches, there is something that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Smørtorget Cafe, formerly Smorkringla Cafe, is a great little spot to escape the cold for a bit while exploring the city.
The cafe is known for serving some of the best cakes and lunches in the city, and all for a very reasonable price.
After you have eaten a slice of cake and had a coffee to warm up, check out the attached little store selling small second-hand trinkets for the chance to find something unique and special to take home with you.
If you’re popping into the cafe for lunch, I highly recommend trying the homemade soup.
You can find Smørtorget at Fredrik Langes gate 9 in Tromso.
21. Hang Out at Kafe Globus
Kafe Globus is a vibrant and popular cafe in the city center.
Serving an array of daytime eats, it’s the perfect spot for lunch if you are looking for something other than the standard Norwegian fare most cafes offer up.
Along with awesome coffee, Globus sells a range of internationally-inspired platters, such as a fantastic Middle Eastern platter or a spicy Indian-inspired one.
Alternatively, you can try a range of the items included in the platters in tapas form and create your own around-the-world culinary experience.
For those just looking for a quick coffee to warm up from the cold, the coffee served at Globus is really superb and they will try to accommodate any needs, such as creating drinks that may not be on the menu.
For vegans and vegetarians, Globus has a range of suitable options, including various plant-based milk for coffee.
You can find Kafe Globus at Storgata 30 in Tromso.
22. Bundle Up at the Magic Ice Bar Tromso
Ice bars have become popular around the world, however, I think Magic Ice Bar in Tromso is one of the best I have ever been to.
This fantastic bar is a great place to head to for something out of the ordinary on your trip.
As you enter the bar, you will be provided with warm clothing and gloves to help you survive the sub-zero temperatures (trust me these are needed).
Within the bar, you will find out that everything is made of ice with impressive works of art and statues made from ice contained within the bar.
The artistic elements are enhanced by the use of LED lights to make them really pop and add a new dimension.
The bar is fully stocked and the drinks are relatively reasonably priced for Norway.
The gloves are very useful when it comes to drinking since the glasses are all made from ice.
There is a set fee to enter the bar that also includes a welcome drink. All drinks after that will need to be paid for.
You can find the Magic Ice Bar at Kaigata 4 in Tromso.
Where to Stay in Tromso
If you’re looking to find the best Tromso hotels for your budget, we have three recommendations covering luxury, mid-range, and budget options.
You can read our accommodation guide linked above for additional recommendations and details, but here is a quick glimpse into our top picks for hotels in Tromso:
We hope that you find many things to do in Tromso in winter that suit your needs and desires in this magical city of the north.
If you have any additional questions or suggestions, please leave us a comment or send us an email!
More Norway & Tromso Travel Guides
- Where to stay in Tromso
- Tromso snowmobiling guide
- Tromso airport to city
- Renting a cabin in Tromso
- Best Tromso museums
- Best ice hotels in Norway
- Best Tromso Northern Lights tours
- How to book a husky safari in Tromso
- Reindeer and Sami experiences in Tromso
- Taking the Hurtigruten to Tromso
- The Perfect Tromso Itinerary (2-5 day options)
- Ethical whale watching tours in Tromso
- What to pack for winter in Norway
- Tromso Airbnb options
- Tromso in summer travel guide
- Tromso travel tips
- Best day trips from Tromso
Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.