This past weekend, Brendan and I travelled north to the Arctic Circle in Norway, to a small city called Tromsø. The purpose of the trip was to see the Northern Lights, which made this our third attempt in as many countries to see the elusive Aurora – but more on that later – this post is a quick review of the town of Tromsø, along with a few pictures to show you how beautiful this part of the world is.
Market square (torget) in Tromsø with its statue of a whaler spearing a sea creature
We flew into Tromsø in the late afternoon on Thursday as the sun was setting, and the views as we approached the Arctic town were simply breathtaking. It was probably the most spectacular landscape I’ve ever seen from a plane window, but as a result of being seated in full view of a flight attendant I couldn’t sneak any photos for you to enjoy! We caught the shuttle bus into town and settled into our very basic (but still pricey – welcome to Norway!) hotel for the evening.
The next day, we went directly to the Tourism Information Centre to form a plan for the weekend, and shortly afterwards found ourselves wandering towards Mack, the world’s most Northerly brewery. Unfortunately the brewery itself has now moved outside of Tromsø but there is a small showroom which displays a little of the brewery’s history and also boasts a pretty awesome light fixture:
After looking around the showroom, we strolled to the adjoining Ølhallen (beer hall) which happens to be Tromsø’s oldest pub. We ordered some Arctic beer and enjoyed every penny of our £10 drinks as we took in the quirky surroundings including a stuffed polar bear, killed by the infamous local polar bear hunter Henry Rudi (this poor specimen was just one of his 713 kills!)
On Friday night we joined a Northern Lights chase tour (details coming soon!) which ended at around 1am, at which point we were exhausted. We slept in as late as possible without missing the hotel’s free breakfast and then walked back up the main street of Tromsø to reach Polaria, the environmental education centre shaped like icefloes against the Arctic shores.
Once inside, we watched two short films about the Aurora Borealis and Norway’s northern archipelago Svalbard. We were also there in time to see the seal feeding and training session in the aquarium section of Polaris (12:30 & 3:30pm daily). Two Bearded seals (only found in Arctic seas) and two common seals reside at the polar aquarium, and showed off for the crowds during their training time. This gorgeous bewhiskered lass was blowing me kisses when I snapped the photo below:
Saturday evening was cloudy so we didn’t try to view the Northern Lights but instead attended a midnight concert at Tromsø’s most recognizable building, the Arctic Cathedral. The thirty minute concert was simple and beautiful, with a number of traditional Sami folk songs sung acapella or with minimal accompaniment. The perfect acoustics of the cathedral made the music sound even better; it was well worth a walk across the long and muddy Tromsø bridge!
Sunday consisted of some more relaxing and strolling through the streets of Tromsø. We stopped for lunch at Kaia, a restaurant overlooking Tromsø’s harbour, and enjoyed a meal of reindeer carpaccio and Norwegian soup (we politely declined their special offer of a Mexican buffet). As the sun set we marvelled at the stunning colours of the sky and their reflections in the glassy water.
After lunch it was time to pack and walk back into the town centre to meet our bus for the evening’s trip to a Sami camp where we witnessed such an incredible display of the Northern Lights that we didn’t even notice the -10°C temperature…well, not for the first hour anyway!
Those are just a few of the highlights of our time in Tromsø, but stay tuned for more info, and in particular tips on how to see the Northern Lights (why not like this blog’s Facebook page for instant updates to your feed?)!