I want to see Tromsø in the winter. With a population around 72,000 [75 thousand when university students are in town], it sits 217 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Norway.
It was settled at the end of the Ice Age. Viking longboats arrived in 890. We arrived on a cruise ship in 2016.
We amused ourselves walking down the streets in the morning and taking a short tour in the afternoon.
We noticed several older wooden houses and buildings but did not learn until later that Tromsø has the largest concentration of wooden buildings in North Norway. They all were built before 1904. Norway is forested and has long relied on frame buildings, but they also had many fires. In 1904, a major fire in Ålesund destroyed 800 homes and prompted other cities including Tromsø to ban new wood construction.
The oldest house was built in 1789. Nearby is the 1837 customs house which now is the Polar Museum dedicated to exploration of the Arctic including attempts to reach the north pole.
The wooden cathedral was dates to 1861. After stopping for a cup of coffee*, we walked by their oldest cinema built between 1915 and 1916 and still in operation.
After German invaded Norway in 1940, Tromsø briefly served as non-occupied Norway’s capital. It was the only northern city to avoid war damage.
Our afternoon bus ride took us by the northernmost university in the world [They celebrate “northernmost” everywhere in this area.] and then across the bridge to the mainland to see the stunning 1965 Arctic Church. By chance, one of our compatriots was an organist who was permitted to play the church organ.
Leaving the church, we rode a cable car to Mt. Storsteinen for a view out over the harbor.
Security is less of a concern in these northern cities. I asked the only guard at the Tromsø dock for permission to take a photo which was graciously granted with a smile.
Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis, the northern lights, from mid-August to late April. That alone may bring me back to Tromsø.
Click on photos to enlarge them.
* Norwegians drink the second highest amount of coffee per capita in the world. [Finland is first.] The earliest Norwegian coffee report is in a 1694 customs official’s inventory: one coffee pot.