Tromso had been on my bucket list for some time, most likely driven by its claim to be one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in the world! However the pandemic had other plans for us and the trip was postponed a number of times and finally happened in November. We had been to Lapland, Iceland and Sweden so I was keen to add Norway to my Nordic travel list.
In terms of flights from Dublin the two main airlines are Scandinavian or Norwegian and price wise for us they were coming in pretty similar. We ended up going with Scandinavian as it gave us the best flight times going out. Flights home with both airlines are super early. There are no direct flights so we transited via Oslo. Flights were straightforward, not too busy and our bags were checked through. Each flight was 2 hours long. Planet Buddies had kindly sent the kids some wireless headphone which we put to good use on the flights and the airport wait. Highly recommend as they come volume limited so safe for little growing ears.
It terms of flight cost for the four of us this came to around €800 for all the flights including a bag. Scandinavian still give out free teas and coffees on board which was very welcome! Staff were great on all the flights and my kids even got to see the cockpit. A very special memory they will cherish forever.
Where we stayed
Tromso itself is a small and very walkable city. I had done lots of research on hotels and kept being drawn back to one. I would be lying if I said the Tripadvisor reviews commenting on seeing the Northern Lights from the rooms didn’t sway me! We choose the Scandic Ishavshotel which has a prime location on the pier overlooking the city. Tromso is often called the “Paris of the North” due to the spectacular views. When we told our taxi driver where we were staying the first thing he said was “oh you know they have the best breakfast in Tromso”. The city itself is only 6km from the airport and that view when you leave the airport is really something.
We arrived around 7pm and headed straight to check in, it was snowing lightly and the kids were so excited. Check in was smooth, free
tea and coffee all day at reception too so grabbed a coffee and headed to our room on the 7th floor. Once we opened the door….oh my god….that view. We were allocated a Master Suite with a wrap around balcony looking over the sea and Tromso. To say we were speechless is an understatement. A wow moment for sure. There was a separate living out which had a sofa bed for the kids but just check out the view from our bed….I could have wiled away hours just looking out at it.
I suspect our taxi driver was not wrong in his assessment, breakfast was in the spacious lobby with gorgeous views. There was a huge selection of hot and cold items. It wasn’t busy any morning we were there so we enjoyed long leisurely breakfast looking out at Tromso. Breakfast is included in the room rate and it is probably one of the best hotel breakfast we have had on our travels.
The location of the hotel is perfect. You can walk to a selection of restaurants, bars and attractions. And the absolute icing on the cake, it is 100% true that you can see the Northern Lights from your window, 3 nights out of 4 on our trip the Northern lights danced over Tromso when we sat out on the balcony. An experience I will truly never forget.
What we did
When we woke on day 1, a lot of snow had fallen over night so the kids were mega excited to get out and just play. We were lucky their Reima ski gear still fit them as it was -6 outside (previous Lapland collab). First up was a visit to the Troll Museum, literally across the road from our hotel. It is the only Troll museum in Norway and as Trolls and fairy tales are an important part of Norwegian heritage we were interested to learn more.
- Troll Museum
We were very fortunate that the owner was on site that day and personally showed us around. Her knowledge and interest in the trolls is infectious and its impossible not to get carried away with the tales and stories. A really cool feature is the augmented reality which the kids really got on board with. The key for any museum like this to immerse yourself in the stories and the tales. Its wonderful. My kids favourite was the Sea Troll and they have returned to Ireland armed with so much knowledge on trolls and their meaning in Norwegian folklore. One of the reasons we love to travel with the kids is to learn about other cultures so this did just that for us and in a way that captivated the kids. Loved it.
Cost: Family ticket is 450 NOK (approx €45)
- Kvaloya Husky
That evening we were picked up by Kvaloya Husky and taken 45 minutes out of Tromso to a place called Straumsbukta where the kennels are located. There are around 40 Alaskan huskies in the kennels who were so excited to greet us when we arrived. We had our ski gear with us but if not you can borrow some there. We were then taken off to the valley for our husky ride. Magical doesn’t seem enough to describe the evening spent in great company. We were two each on the karts being guided by our expert musher and a team of energetic dogs. There was plenty snow that literally sparkled as we glided through the valley. You could hear a pin drop it was so still, so calm an so utterly magical. After around 45 mins we finished up and Tommy the owner mentioned that the stars were out so it looked good for the Northern Lights. We chatted further and he told us to turn around and there they were, speechless…bucket list ticket.
After our husky ride we headed back to the kennels to get warmed up in a traditional Arctic Lavvo. The fire was on when we arrived, the coffee was poured and a basket of waffles appeared. We sat around and chatted sharing and swapping stories. Kids and adults alike utterly captivated. They say the people is what makes travel interesting and I can hand on heart say that is true. Tommy and his team make this activity. They genuinely love what they do, they love the animals, and they animals are so happy. The Kvaloya team have gained a place in our hearts that is for sure.
I hope one day we can get to visit again.
We were picked up at 5 o’clock and dropped back to the hotel for 10. Just as we were getting in to bed my oldest shouted…Northern Lights. It was -5 we were in pj’s but we thoroughly enjoyed standing out on our balcony watching the lights dance. All in all a magical first day.
Cost: Adult 1750 NOK (approx €175) child 990 NOK (approx €99)
We had to be up in good time for Day 2 to join our fishing trip which departed quite literally outside our hotel.
- Fishing trip on the Arctic Queen
We were welcomed aboard the yacht and were immediately blown away. It sells itself as a luxury cruise and that is exactly what it is. It is pretty spectacular. The kids and husband were very excited to get going fishing, after the safety demo we were on our way. The first place we stopped was so choppy and I was too afraid to let the kids out on deck so our skipper decided to head for the other side of the bridge to hopefully calmer waters. He was absolutely right and we spent a few hours attempting and surprisingly successfully catching fish. Our skipper expertly gutted the fish we caught and made the most amazing fish soup which all four of us devoured on the trip back to Tromso. In fact my mouth is watering just thinking of it now.
This is a wonderful trip in absolute luxury, it is 3 hours long and it goes so fast as we were enjoying every minute. Our skipper was knowledgeable and helpful and made this trip for us. The kids will forever have incredible memories of catching and eating pollock from the Arctic Sea. It didn’t matter what way you looked the views were breath-taking. Seeing Tromso from the water was special and feel so lucky to have been able to do this trip. A real highlight for us. The fjord landscape is stunning and seeing it from the water is really the best way to do it.
There are warm suits available for use if needs be. There was tea/ coffee and snacks on the trip also but the fish soup is the highlight! 100%. The trip is run by Arctic Cruise Norway.
Cost: Adult 2250 NOK (€225) and Child 1465 NOK (€147)
- Magic Ice Bar
After a quick relax and refresh in the hotel we headed to the Magic Ice bar for a visit. Magic Ice is located centrally just minutes walk from our hotel. You get a winter poncho and gloves to wear and upon arrival are served a local drink (which included alcohol for adults) and soft drink for the kids. The drink is served in an ice glass where you sit on ice benches and tables or you can wander around taking in ice sculptures which depict some of Norway’s famous explorers.
It is an ideal and novelty way to spend an hour in Tromso.
Cost: Family ticket includes drink 515 NOK (€51)
We woke on day 3 to the snow completely gone and temps had gone up from -5 to +5. There was a light drizzle so we opted to lie on and savour the view a little. After another lovely breakfast we headed out to explore the streets of Tromso. The shop fronts had begun to be decorated for Christmas and the lights twinkled making it feel christmassy in November. It starts to get dark around 3 in November and I understand that from December the sun sets until January making it almost dark all day.
It was starting to rain so we decided to pop into Polaria. Polaria is housed in a very unique building on the pier in Tromso and is possibly the worlds most northerly aquarium. I believe it is only one of two places in the world where you can see bearded seals up close. We arrived just before 12 in time to watch the Northern Lights movie and then proceeded upstairs to the seal feeding display. This really is the highlight and not too be missed. The kids really enjoyed this. This is a lovely way to pass an hour but do keep an eye on the seal feeding times as its worth timing your visit to coincide with this. Polaria gives an insight into sea life in the artic with a mix of displays and hands on exhibitions.
Cost: Family ticket 445 NOK (€45)
After Polaria we meandered down through the streets of Tromso. We were keen to try the hot dogs from a unique place called Raketten affectionately known as “the Rocket”. A teeny tiny place with some big claims….best hotdog in Tromso and smallest bar in the world. The location is spectacular looking over Tromso with a fire to keep warm. I heard from some locals this place gets very busy and its not hard to see why.
We ordered hotdogs and sat down by the fire and soaked up the atmosphere. There was something special about the setting, maybe the gentle 50s music, the warm fire, the view or the food or maybe all things combined but it was lovely and not too be missed. The lady who served us was so lovely and friendly too.
And as they say all good things must come to end and that wrapped up our Tromso trip but not before the Northern Lights came out and put on a lovely show which we viewed from our balcony. Loved every minute. We hit the bed early for our 4am start for our flight home. The Scandic had prepared breakfast boxes for us for our early flight which were really good and devoured when we got to the airport. Safe to say Tromso has a very special place in our hearts.
Mamma F Insider tips
- Tromso is expensive, particularly for eating out. We took snacks for my pair to save the “hangry”
- Everybody we met were so nice and friendly. The night we landed we went to Pastabriken to grab a takeaway, however when we landed it was quiet as they were finishing up so they let us sit in for our meal. Its the little things.
- Take reusable water bottles, most places including the Scandic had both still and sparling taps available. We were sent Super Sparrow bottles a while back and they are well loved!
- The right clothes – cannot stress this enough, when we arrived it as snow and -5 by the time we left it was +5 and wet. Kids were head to toe in Reima and the Dadda Fairy was kindly gifted some leather gloves for this trip from Trendhim. He as very glad of them for those cold evenings out and about.
- In November the daylight hours are short so its worth planning around this.
- We took Dr Bronner’s organic hand sanitiser with us as its gentle for little hands as we knew we would use it on our first trip since the pandemic. The kids adored the pleasant lavender scent.
- I know it sounds mad but the cold can be harsh and the snow reflect the sun so we took our go to skin protection P20. My pair are so fair we have used this before in Lapland with no complaints.
Note: Massive thanks to Poul at the Scandic and Trude at Visit Tromso for all their help and invaluable advice making this trip happen.