Northern Norway's cultural hub and northern lights hot spot
At 350 kilometres (217 miles) above the Arctic Circle, it’s no wonder Tromsø is often called the “Gate-way to the Arctic” and the “Capital of Northern Norway.”
This city of many nicknames has also been known as the “Paris of the North.” As far back as the 18th century, visitors were pleasantly surprised to find such rich culture, intellectual life and current fashions so far north. That reputation lives on today as visitors are charmed by the city’s friendly residents, the compact and historically-rich city centre and the year-round cultural life.
But what charms visitors most about Tromsø isn’t what goes on in the city, but above it. Set right in the middle of the “aurora zone,” this city and its surrounding wilderness areas are ranked among the best places on earth to observe this incredible northern lights in the night sky. Chances of spotting the elusive auroras are made all the better by the polar night Tromsø experiences each year between late November and late January, when the sun stays below the horizon.
Although this area has been inhabited by Norse and Sami settlements since the last Ice Age, Tromsø wasn’t officially founded until 1794. In the 1800’s it was an important Arctic hunting and maritime cen-tre and by the early 1900’s it was the starting point for several Arctic expeditions. Today, this coastal city serves as a popular port of call on Hurtigruten’s Norwegian Coastal Voyage, though it’s well worth spending more than a few hours here.