In Tromsø, Norway, the phrase world’s northernmost gets quite a workout.

There’s the world’s northernmost brewery (Mack Brewery), world’s northernmost university (Arctic University of Norway), world’s northernmost Protestant cathedral (Tromsø Cathedral) and the world’s northernmost botanical garden (Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden). Add to that Tromsø’s designation as the “world’s northernmost city of more than 50,000 people,” and you get the idea that this is a place known for its northernness.

Sitting at a latitude of 66 degrees north, Tromsø also been called the “Gateway to the Arctic.” And in the late 1800s, the city became known as the “Paris of the North.” It is unclear how the title originated, but most likely Tromsø appeared more sophisticated to visitors when compared with other areas of rugged northern Norway.

Our mid-June arrival in Tromsø  – pronounced Trom’suh – had fallen during the sweet spot of the “midnight sun” – between May 28th and July 14th – when the sun remains above the horizon all day and night. Overcast skies had prevented us from experiencing the phenomenon in Lofoten, and we were hoping the weather gods would cooperate in Tromsø. As it turned out, the midnight sun decided to spin some magic before we arrived, breaking through the clouds around 10 p.m as our ship was making its way north from Lofoten. Herb captured the moment from the top deck.

The midnight sun lights up the Norwegian Sea…
…and disappears into the clouds.

Crossing Tromsø Bridge

Banks of moody clouds were blanketing the skies over Tromsø, but with a rain-free forecast, Herb and I kept our plan of touring the city on foot. Tromsø’s port and city center are located on Tromsøya Island, which is connected to the mainland by the Tromsø Bridge and the Tromsøysund Tunnel.

Our first destination was the Fjellheisen Cable Car that takes visitors to a lookout spot on Mount Storsteinen. We headed out early, passing shops and cafés not yet open for business. This was clearly the first city we had visited in Norway, and with a population of about 77,000, it’s twice the size of Ålesund and many times larger than the hamlets of Svolvaer and Henningsvaer.

The Tromsø Bridge was the first cantilever bridge built in Norway. When it opened in 1960, it was the longest bridge in Northern Europe. The bridge is 3,399 feet long with 58 spans and features a pedestrian path on the south side and a bike path on the north. The Arctic Cathedral sits just beyond the mainland side of the bridge. With a 30-minute walk ahead of us to Fjellheisen, we opted to visit the cathedral on the way back to the city center.

Sailing Into Tromsø.
View on our walk from the port.
Heading across Tromsø Bridge.
Looking out from middle of the bridge.
The best photo spot for the Arctic Cathedral is at the end of Tromsø Bridge.

Fjellheisen Cable Car to Mount Storsteinen

Our walk to the Fjellheisen Cable Car took us through winding streets of residential neighborhoods. We made a couple of wrong turns, but quickly found our way, eventually arriving at a signpost directing us to our destination. We purchased tickets at the lower station and boarded a cable car for the four-minute ride to the top.

The upper station on Mount Storsteinen sits at 1,381 feet above sea level. An outdoor viewing platform offers a panoramic look over Tromsø, a stunning sight even on a cloudy day, with snow-capped mountains and ice-blue waters surrounding this city in the far north. Looking down on Tromsø bridge provides a clear understanding of how the island and mainland fit together and how challenging travel between the two must have been before 1960.

A signpost telling us we are headed in the right direction!
Fjellheisen’s ticket office and lower platform.
View from the top.
A close-up of Tromsø Bridge.
Selfie at the top!
Fjellheisen’s upper station, restaurant and viewing platform.
Fjellheisen operates two cable cars called Seal and Polar Bear.

Arctic Cathedral

Back from Mount Storsteinen, we retraced our route to Tromsø Bridge, stopping at the Arctic Cathedral before returning to the city center. Designed by architect Jan Inge Hovig and completed in 1965, the Arctic Cathedral was constructed with 11 aluminum-coated concrete panels on each side of the roof that provide its distinctive form. In 1972, the glass mosaic was added on the eastern side and is considered the largest stained glass window in Europe.

The name Arctic Cathedral is actually a misnomer; the building is a parish church of the Church of Norway rather than a cathedral.

The Arctic Cathedral’s glass façade entrance…
…and interior glass mosaic window.

A Walk Around Tromsø

We spent the rest of the day wandering around Tromsø. It’s a lively city, full of interesting architecture, sculptures and shopping that veers from the typical souvenir fare – although to be sure, there are plenty of those as well. Cold weather clothing shops are also plentiful, a nod to the area’s popularity for winter activities and its reputation as a destination for viewing the northern lights. The Tourist Information office by the cruise ship terminal is worth a visit, with a helpful staff and locally crafted items for sale.

Built in 1861, Tromsø Cathedral is the only Norwegian cathedral made of wood and the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world.
Tromsø Cathedral’s clock tower and turquoise steeple, topped with a banner showing the year it was built.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to visit both the North and South Poles. In 1928 he set out on a rescue mission to find a crew of fellow adventurers who had been lost in the Arctic…and he never came back. This bronze memorial was erected in a small park near the Tromsø Cathedral.
The Arctic Hunter Monument depicts a whaler in his boat.
The Tromsø City Library and Archive was built from the shell of a 1960 cinema, with only the roof remaining from the original structure. Opened in 2005, the library is part of a complex that houses the Town Hall, City Archives and a cinema.
Artwork on the exterior of Torgcentret, a Tromsø shopping center.
Another town, another troll.

After seeing a display of children’s books in the window, we stopped in a bookshop called Norli Bokhuset. We had no idea whether they carried any English titles, but figured we’d ask just in case. “Oh, yes,” the shopkeeper told us, “the Troll Olav series is one of the most popular in Norway. We definitely have an English version!” After deliberating over the various titles, we selected the book about children who discover a troll on board a Norwegian cruise ship, carrying it home with us to deliver in person to our little grandsons.

And although they’re still too young to understand the significance of where the book came from, one day they will know that their grandparents picked out a special book just for them all the way above the Arctic Circle.


  • Fabulous photos of the midnight sun! I’ll probably never visit Tromso except through your photos and narrative. You made me feel as if I actually visited this place with you. Thanks!

    • Thanks so much, Steve! We were thinking about you and Dixie in Norway, wondering if we were visiting some of the same towns. Glad to provide a little armchair traveling to Tromsø! 🙂

  • So nice to finally see Tromsø! We were there last August when we embarked on a silversea cruise. (Loved the itinerary….Silversea not so much!). We flew in from Oslo and we’re met at the airport. As soon as we got into the bus, it started raining. We navigated through a tunnel to the port for a chaotic check-in at the Scadic hotel and then trekked to the ship in a driving, cold rain.

    We loved Norway and we are planning to return in 2025.


    • Oh, Jennifer, that’s incredibly disappointing! Were you heading from Tromsø on a cruise to Svalbard? I hope you’ll be able to *see* Tromsø if it’s on your 2025 itinerary. Weather, of course, can get the best of us even with back-up plans – especially in a place like Norway. The good news is that there is so much to see and do in Norway that a return trip will be the icing on the cake!

  • Tromso is a wonderful city. Josiah and I decided that we could actually live there! We loved the gothic church in the city and had a fabulous lunch across the street. Such great views from the mountain. I’m surprised we didn’t see you there. Thank you for the fabulous phot of the midnight sun–breathtaking.

    • Susan, I’m surprised we didn’t see you either! We loved Tromsø as well. It felt like a real city, especially after our visits to the smaller Norwegian towns. I’m not sure about living there, though. The midnight sun is fantastic, but I think those winter polar nights with only two hours of twilight would get the best of me!

  • Love Tromso. Looks like the weather cooperated for your visit, which is always good … but especially when your day involves walking and a cable car. We stayed in Tromso three days before an expedition to Svalbard in 2011. Did a lot of sightseeing during those days, but never did think to take the cable car. I wonder why? Anyway, now that I’ve seen the photos, I will have it at the top of our list when/if we ever get back to Tromso … this time for a “real” expedition instead of what to me was a mock expedition on Silver Sea’s Silver Explorer. In a funny coincidence, it was in Tromso that we watched Prince Albert of Monaco get married a few days before we embarked the Silver Explorer, which until April of that year was named Prince Albert II.

    • Erin, I remember reading about your Norway expedition, but didn’t realize you had spent three days in Tromsø! I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed the city as much as we did. Do take the cable car if you ever go back. It’s worth it for the views, especially if the weather cooperates. I have no Prince Albert references, though 🙂

  • Mary, those views are spectacular! How lovely to visit in such clear weather and reading Jennifer’s comment highlights the luck of the draw. One thing we can’t control. I’m so glad you enjoyed Tromso and pleased the trolls didn’t get up to mischief 😉

  • Thank you, Gill! The views from Mount Storsteinen really gave me the feeling that we were in a faraway place and set the stage for our visit there. And yes, for better or worse, the weather is our most unpredictable traveling companion. The trolls were quite visible all over town, but they remained well-behaved.😉

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