Tromso, Norway

Tromsø -- affectionately nicknamed "the Paris of the North" -- is a lively city, located spectacularly on an island in Northern Norway, and surrounded by mountains, fjords and islands in all directions. It is the largest city in the region (2004: pop. 62,000), and residents will frequently point out that their outpost is home to the "World's Northernmost brewery", a university, a planetarium, and a mountain cable car.

The city's most famous landmark is the Arctic Cathedral ("Ishavskatedralen"), whose unique architecture is evocative of snow and icebergs. Its stained-glass windows are among the largest in Europe. The Tromsø Museum has a good permanent exhibit on the Lapps (or "Sami" people) who are the indigenous people to the Northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The Polar Museum exhibits artifacts relating to arctic hunting and fishing, while the new Polaria Experience Center focuses on Arctic nature and environment, and features a "walk-through" seal aquarium.

The Northern Lights Planetarium features shows that are tailored to local phenomena, especially its namesake, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), and the Midnight Sun. "Fjellheisen," the Mountain Cablecar will take you 420 meters above the sea, where you can enjoy a nice meal at the restaurant and delight in the view of Tromsø.

Fishing, subsistence farming, and trade of Arctic goods were the traditional occupations in Tromsø. While education, administration, and high tech industries have displaced them, the locals' outlook on life is still colored by their roots. Residents are typically open, direct and hospitable with a good sense of humour that most certainly has been an asset when the going gets rough. The city offers a number of excellent restaurants (Emma's Drømmekjøkken deserves a mention), and has many cozy bars and a lively night life.

Tromsø offers many options outdoors - whether in summer or winter, on land or at sea. Choices include sea or inland fishing, whale safaris and scuba diving, skiing and hiking, mountain climbing, biking, and swimming (the local beach, "Telegrafbukta", or Telegraph Bay, rarely gets above 14 degrees Centigrade, though). As for accommodation, the choice includes everything from first-class hotels to youth and family hostels to the very unique experience of staying in a fisherman's cabin or "Rorbu" with a rowboat moored right outside your door.

Sights

Arctic Cathedral

Tromsdalen church, also known as the Arctic Cathedral, was consecrated November 19th, 1965.

The architect, Jan Inge Hovig, has succeded his task in constructing a masterpiece. The church is a landmark for the city, and can be admired from ships passing through the channel of Tromsoe, as well as from the air.

The famous architectural shape is largely due to 11 aluminiumcoated concretewalls on each side of the building. The main entrance to the west is sorrounded by a large glassfasade and a cross reaching to the top of the building. The famous glassmosaic covering the eastern wall was finished in 1972. The artist Victor Sparre created with his glassmosaic one of his most outstanding pieces of art. It is depicting the hand of God with three beams og light; one through Jesus, one through man, and one through woman. The glassmosaic is filled with rich symbolisms and catches the attention of all visitors.

The benches, made of oak, the prismlights, the altar and the pulpit, is designed to mould with the strict simplicity of the church in general.

 
Polaria

Housed in a very distinctive building that represents ice floes that have been pressed up on land by the rough seas of the Arctic, you will discover Polaria, just five minutes walk from the centre of Tromsø. Polaria has an Arctic aquarium, interesting knowledge-based exhibits, a panoramic cinema, and a gift and souvenir shop.

Polaria was established in 1997 on the initiative of The Department of the Environment, in order to spread knowledge and awareness of Arctic flora and fauna, climate and environmental consequences, to tourists and other visitors. Polaria is a part of the Polar Environment Centre, which houses a number of research bodies, the largest of them being the Norwegian Polar Institute.

In our panoramic cinema, you can look forward to the Ivo Caprino film "Svalbard - Arctic Wilderness". A little auk takes you on an airborne trip with you in a helicopter, along the west coast of Spitsbergen - the largest island in the group known as Svalbard. Along the way you can experience the unique animal and plant life, enjoy dramatic flights over massive icebergs and meet the King of the Arctic. Outside the summer season we also show the film "Antarctica", an entertaining film about the Antarctic continent, with penguins in the starring role.

After the film visitors are taken along the "Arctic Walkway" where you can experience first hand some elements of Arctic nature - a snowstorm, a dozing polar bear, the tundra and the Aurora (Northern Lights). In the aquarium the main attraction are the bearded seals. The bearded seal is an arctic species, and they are very popular among children and adults alike, due to their quiet disposition and intelligent nature. The high points are the tunnel that goes under the aquarium itself and the training and feeding of the seals. The aquarium has interesting exhibits of the most common species of fish in the Barents Sea.

The exhibitions are under continuous development, and are an excellent place to gain useful knowledge on Arctic flora and fauna, environmental issues, geology and natural phenomena.

The Polaria shop is an original gift and souvenir shop with a wide variety of local crafts, seal products, books, toys and other souvenirs related to our theme.

 
Cable Car

In just four minutes the cable car in Tromsø takes you up to "Storsteinen" (420 metres above sea level), where you can take pleasure in a fantastic view overlooking the town and surrounding mountains. At the Fjellstua restaurant, you can enjoy a cup of coffee, lunch or dinner, while delighting in the view. Fully-licensed bar. Outdoor café, kiosk and post box with it's own stamp.

 
University Museum of Tromso

This impressive museum features Norway's most extensive exhibits on Sami culture and history. Northern Lights exhibit with a northern lights machine. Fossils, dinosaurs and earthquakes. Religious art from 13th - 19th centuries. Arctic Norway - The white fairy-tale. A new Stone Age exhibit focusing on fire will open in 2006. Adapted for wheelchair users. Gift shop.

 
Polar Museum

The Polar Museum is housed in a restored wharfside warehouse from the 1830s. In a picturesque maritime setting of old houses with the 1789 Skansen complex next door, the Polar Museum is a pearl of old Tromsø. The museum contains exhibits about our proud Arctic history, both trapping and polar expeditions.

 
Arctic Alpine Botanical Gardens

The world's northernmost botanic garden (2 hectares) featuring Arctic and alpine plants, blossoming from mid May to October. Rhododendrons, exotica from Patagonia, hundreds of primroses and thousands of Alpine plants from around the world grow in an Alpine landscape, along with traditional perennials and other spices.

 
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