The year of the Wood Horse is said to be a time of fast victories and unexpected adventure. It is also supposed to be an excellent year for travel, and the further away and more off the beaten path the better. And so we galloped into the Chinese New Year by flying 22 hours to the northernest end of the globe.
Our destination? Tromsø. Situated in the Arctic Circle and just 2,000 kilometers from the North Pole (hello Santa!) – it is home to spectacular snow-covered landscapes, exhilarating husky sled rides, magical reindeer-drawn sleighs and the elusive Northern Lights.
The flight into Tromsø was in itself a visual treat. I found myself with my nose pressed against the airplane window the entire time, gasping in wonder at the majestic snow-covered North Norwegian Arctic mountain peaks and fjords.
Like everyone else, we were drawn to Tromsø by its well-positioned location within the Arctic Circle making it one of the best places in the world to catch the Northern Lights. I had expected a boring little town to while away the day but discovered a charming little gem of a town. The main shopping street, Storgata, is lined with traditional wooden buildings, delightful cafés and for the shopaholics, the tiny town centre has 2 H&M stores! Tromsø is easy to get around on foot as everything is within walking distance. Only thing is to watch out for the slippery, icy sidewalks.
View of the city from the top of Mount Floya
Despite the sub-zero temperatures, we took strolls along the harbor every day and couldn’t get enough of the hundreds of colorful houses dotting the mountain slopes. And as the sun set, we drank in the picturesque sight of the slopes coming alive with thousands of pretty twinkling lights as houses lit up Norwegian candles and lights at their windows.
The setting sun at 3pm
Dining in Tromsø was another pleasant surprise. Friends had warned us of the exorbitant Norway prices. On our first day, our jaws dropped when we walked past Burger King and saw that it cost S$18 for a whopper. But then we soon discovered that it wasn’t too bad if we headed to the local cafes and restaurants (about S$20- S$25 per head) and food was excellent. Here are our favorites spots.
Coffee by Elli, Storgata 106, Tromsø 9008
This cosy cafe is packed with sugar and spice and all things nice. As you step out of the freezing cold into the welcoming warm interior, you are greeted with the friendliest of smiles. The cakes at Elli’s are all homemade and you can feel the love with each bite. I am smitten with their Grandma’s apple cake. Served warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with cinnamon, it was the best apple cake we’ve ever had. My only regret of the entire trip was that we didn’t get a chance to go back for a second slice!
Aunegården, Sjøgata 29
Housed in a 19th-century building that functioned as a butcher’s shop until 1996, this cafe is brimming in character and serves excellent sandwiches. salads and homemade cakes at reasonable prices. We popped by for an early dinner one evening, and couldn’t resist stopping by again the next evening because the food was just so goooood!
A must-try is their signature beef sandwich. Perfectly toasted norwegian bread, succulent pieces of tender beef paired with feta cheese and pineapple – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. And if you have space for dessert, try their delicious homemade cakes.
Just a couple more things to share for those planning a trip to Tromsø:
- Getting there – We flew Singapore — Frankfurt — Oslo –Tromsø. We booked directly through Lufthansa for our flights to Oslo before connecting to a SAS domestic flight to Tromsø . See if you can get a window seat as you fly into Tromsø from Oslo and treat yourself to some spectacular scenery.
- Where to stay – We stayed at the Clarion Collection Hotel With and highly recommend it. It’s centrally located just by the harbor and is a stone’s throw from the main shopping street. It’s also just a 5-minute walk from the usual pick up points for day tours and Northern Lights tours. Rooms are clean, comfortable and come with free wifi. Good service and best of all, the hotel feeds you round the clock – important if you’re trying to save money on meals. They serve a substantial breakfast buffet, and there are free waffles in the afternoon and a simple dinner buffet in the evenings from 6pm. Coffee and tea are also available throughout the day.