Tromso on a Budget - 14 Free Things to do & see in the Paris of the North

The Arctic is a fascinating place and Tromso is a great starting point to explore it. It's relatively easy to get to and combines nature with city life. But is it possible to visit Tromso on a budget?

Of course, considering its location in Norway - one of the most expensive countries in Europe - accommodation, flights and food will still be expensive, but as long as you book flights in advance and check out my list of top budget accommodation in the city, you can save a lot of money!

And luckily, there's lots of stuff you can do and see for free in town so you don't have to spent all your savings on overly expensive tours! Today I'm showing you the 14 best free activities!

Hunt the Northern Lights

This is probably the best about Tromso: the Northern Lights. And yes, you can see them for free! Of course, there are Northern Light tours for tourists which is great when the sky is cloudy and they drive you to less cloudy areas.

However if the sky is clear, you’ll most likely see them in the middle of Tromso too! I could see them from my bedroom when I was still living in the city center!

Although, if you want to take really nice pictures of the lights, you’d need to get away from the lights of the city. No problem though as Tromso Island is big and you can get outside of the city within a half hour walk.

Download my guide to Tromso here for a list of the best spots to see the Northern Lights in the city!

Experience the Midnight Sun

Interested in more natural phenomena of the Arctic?

If you visit Tromso during summertime, you’ll experience the Midnight Sun (aka 24 hours of daylight) included in your stay. It’s so nice to take a walk around the city centre in the middle of the night while it’s still bright outside.

Go for a hike

Speaking of going on a walk, the Arctic nature can best be experienced outside of the city on a hike through the forests or in the mountains. There are so many hiking routes for you to choose from and all of them are clearly marked.

My favourites: walking around Lake Prestvannet, hiking from the Northern tip of Tromso Island to the Southern tip or going up Mountain Storstein or Mountain Tromsdalstind on the mainland.

Click here to download a detailed hiking guide to Tromso.

Visit Perspektivet

Tromso also has some culture for you to offer and some of it is even for free. Perspektivet for example is a photography museum with changing exhibitions – all of them for free!

Visit the Northern Norwegian Art Museum and the Gallery of Contemporary Art

If you’re interested in art, the Northern Norwegian Art Museum and the Gallery of Contemporary Art should be on your must-see list of places for your Tromso visit.

Both are free of charge* and both host wonderful Norwegian art you might not be able to see anywhere else.

*Update 2019: The Northern Norwegian Art Museum has now introduced an entrance fee of 80 NOK, so it’s no longer free to visit, unfortunately! 

Go on board of the Hurtigruten

Want to see what it’s like to cruise around on Norway’s coastal steamer? The Hurtigruten can be found at Tromso harbour every day from 2.30 to 6.30 pm and can be visited free of charge.

You can have a look around the ship, drink coffee in the cafeteria and even use the whirlpool on deck while having a fabulous view on the Arctic Cathedral.

Spend some time at the beach

Yes, Tromso has a beach and even though it might not be warm enough to go for a swim during your visit, you should definitely head out to Telegrafbukta anyway.

It’s such a beautiful place in the South of Tromso Island and the perfect place for an evening walk at the ocean!

Visit the Botanic Garden

The Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden in Tromso is showcasing plants from the world’s Arctic and Alpine regions, like the Himalaya and the Rocky Mountains, and is situated right below the University.

To walk through the Gardens is free and should be on your list of things to do if you visit the city between May and October!

See Reindeers and Polar Bears

Tromso is in the Arctic so of course you’ll see reindeers and polar bears!

Okay, the polar bear might only be a stuffed one at Mack Brewery but you can also see real reindeers near the University (in captivity) and over on Tromso’s neighbouring island Kvaloya (wild), besides seeing them all over the city centre for decorative purposes.

Take in the view of Tromso from above

Tromso is such a beautiful place – and even more so if seen from above! The sight of Tromso Island, in the middle of the fjord between the mainland and the island Kvaloya is just so amazing!

You can enjoy this view after hiking up Mountain Storsteinen, though as this might be a tough hike not exactly suitable for less well trained people, you can always go for a much easier hike from the University to the ski jumping tower and look at the mainland and great parts of Tromso from there.

The views will be equally nice, promised!

Free Events

If you're lucky to visit Tromso at the right time, you might be able to attend one of the many free events that are held in the city annually.

There's for example SMAK - the Northern Norwegian Food Festival which takes places each year in September or the Midnight Sun Marathon held in June.

You should also consider visiting during 17th of May - Norway's National Day when there's a big parade in town, or in early February for Sami National Day when the city hosts a championship in lasso throwing and a big market where you can buy Sami handicraft and try reindeer burgers.

You see, it's totally possible to visit Tromso on a budget, even though the city is situated in the Arctic and in one of the most expensive countries in Europe! So go ahead and book your holiday!

If you want to read more about Tromso, go ahead and download my 70-page guidebook to the city here.


What would you like to do in Tromso if you visited?

Pin it for later!

Follow along:

This post first appeared at Nordophile.

You might also like: