The Paris of the North

Last week, I visited the city of Tromsø in northern Norway. This wasn’t exactly a day trip — Norway has a very long coastline, and the distance from Bergen to Tromsø is greater than the distance between Bergen and parts of France…

I love this city!

Tromsø is one of the world’s northernmost cities. Sure, there are a handful that are further north — in the case of the scientific settlement on Svalbard, Longyearbyen, even significantly so. But none of those towns breaks 10,000 with the sole exception of Alta, until Tromsø shoots up to 55,000 inhabitants.

My sincerest apologies to the inhabitants of Norilsk, but it doesn't exactly give Tromsø a run for it's money.

My sincerest apologies to the inhabitants of Norilsk, but it doesn't exactly give Tromsø a run for it's money.

In terms of major cities above the arctic circle, Tromsø competes only with Murmansk (with its rapidly declining population), and Norilsk (a city so polluted that it’s closed to foreigners).

For all that, Tromsø doesn’t feel like it’s on the edge of the known world. Instead, it has a certain je ne sais quai that makes it eminently liveable. Maybe it’s the moderating effects of the gulf stream. Maybe it’s the world’s northernmost university (or symphony orchestra, or brewery, or botanical garden). Maybe it’s the suspiciously normal suburban streets. Sure, you catch a whiff of the frontier on the arctic air now and then, but there’s no edge to it. There’s a sense of being in a real city — a cultural center — true civilization.

Just catching up...

Tromsø is one of the Norway’s biggest cities, home to the country’s first cinema, a major newspaper and a high standard of living easily comparable to that of Bergen. I’d move there in a heartbeat, and not just to have the story to tell. During my brief February visit, the city’s museums, architecture, liveliness and breathtakingly beautiful surroundings quickly drew me in.

Seal show at Polaria aquarium

Crossing the bridge

Tromsø Public Library with a great snow-roof!

There’s a reason they call Tromsø the Paris of the North

The Arctic Cathedral

The Symbol of the City

The harbour in the blue evening light

Unmelted snow floating in the harbour

Fine winter weather downtown

A phone booth!

Some streets did have that vague, charming frontier feel!

Could you live here?

Surprisingly normal looking suburbia

Bonus: Doing your grocery shopping by sled dog is a very real option.

Or you can dress like these cool guys.

The city is visited daily by the Hurtigruten cruise ship.

Lovely waterfront, complete with brave ducks

A famous statue in downtown Tromsø

An arctic skyline

Northern Lights above our cabins!

One response to “The Paris of the North

  1. Nice reportage on Tromsø. I lived there for 7 years and can see that you captured the local atmosphere pretty well🙂

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