Northern Lights: where to eat and sleep in Tromsø

Northern Lights: where to eat and sleep in Tromsø

by Great British Chefs 30 September 2016

Seeing the Northern Lights is a truly life-changing event, and northern Norway’s Tromsø is the best place to experience them. It’s also a real foodie destination – find out the best places to visit during a stay in the Norwegian city.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Sitting an incredible 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle is Tromsø, a city that’s gone from being the base camp for Arctic expeditions to a bastion of culture in Norway’s most northern reaches. It’s quickly become known as the world’s best vantage point to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights, an otherworldly show of light and wonder which turns the sky all sorts of vivid colours. Situated right in the middle of the Northern Lights belt, with sightings common between September and March, it has one of the longest seasons for seeing the spectacle, and is the main reason visitors from all over the world make the journey to Tromsø. However, there’s so much more to do in the city while you’re waiting for a clear night.

The waters around Tromsø are surprisingly full of wildlife for such a cold, northern location. Book yourself a place on a whale watching boat and you’re all but guaranteed to see some of these majestic creatures break the ocean’s surface before plunging back into the depths below. Dog sledding is another popular activity, allowing you to take in the beautiful Norwegian landscapes whilst being pulled along on your own personal sled by Alaskan huskies. There’s plenty to see among the frozen lakes, mountains and forests, with snow foxes, reindeers and owls a common sight. Hiking, fishing and kayaking are also popular outdoor activities.

Tromsø is known as the Paris of the North, thanks to its influential culture – despite being above the Arctic Circle
Dog sledding
Dog sledding is a popular activity, and is necessary to reach some of the more remote sights around the city


Tromsø’s food scene is surprisingly eclectic, combining traditional local dishes with international cuisine. Seafood in particular is unbelievably fresh, while hearty reindeer sausages and stews are just what you need during the cold nights. The city’s restaurants are known throughout Norway, and have helped put Tromsø on the foodie map.

Emma’s Drømmekjøkken (Emma’s Dream Kitchen) is a favourite with locals, particularly for the fish au gratin, a traditional northern Norwegian dish, and the friendly hosting skills of owner Anne Brit Andreassen. The à la carte menu is made using local ingredients, with things like Cognac-marinated cloudberries and reindeer in a creamy morel sauce.

Mathallen is a restaurant that focuses on ingredients found in the wilderness around Tromsø, serving it in a modern, natural style that perfectly encapsulates everything great about northern Norwegian cuisine. The short menu changes regularly, and the chef’s tasting menu is truly special.

De 4 Roser (The Four Roses) leans towards Italian and French cuisine, but again uses the fresh fish, game and wild mushrooms of the Tromsø countryside to create something truly unique. Chilled cloudberry soup, foie gras on gingerbread and a Norwegian cheese parfait give you an idea of the dishes served by the skilled team in the kitchen.

Fiskekompaniet puts the focus on fresh, healthy food that’s almost exclusively based on fish and seafood. Everything from Lyngsfjord prawns to king crab can be sampled at the shellfish bar, while salted cod with saffron sauce and halibut with beetroot and celery purée give those after a more inventive meal something to talk about.

Of course, there are plenty of places to go to if you’re only after a quick bite or a hot drink before venturing out on one of Tromsø’s many excursions. Risø Mat og Kaffebar is known for serving the best coffee in the city, as well as plenty of sandwiches for a relaxed lunch, while Verdensteatret – Tromsø’s beloved old cinema – has a bar and café attached which serves light bites, a good selection of beers and hot drinks.

The restaurants and hotels of Tromsø are known throughout Norway, and the city is known in particular for its fresh fish and game
Cloudberries are often used in desserts, to make jams or served alongside Norwegian cheeses in Tromsø's restaurants


There are hotels for all budgets and tastes in Tromsø, both in and outside the city. Laukliens Kystferie is perfect for nature lovers, with fishing cabins dotted around the Kattfjord waterfront. Lyngen Lodge is another hotel outside of (but near to) Tromsø that’s surrounded by fjords, mountains and incredible scenery.

For something a little more urban and central, Clarion Hotel The Edge is a very modern iconic building in Tromsø with a bar on the eleventh floor and in-house restaurant, while Scandic Ishavshotell overlooks the harbour and caters to all needs with a breakfast buffet voted one of the best in all of Norway. If you’re on a budget, then you can’t go wrong with a room at Thon Hotel Polar, as it’s right in the centre and still full of Scandinavian style and charm.

Be inspired

Northern Norway: into the wild

How to get there

Despite being in the northern reaches of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is actually quite easy to reach from the UK. There are direct flights from London Gatwick to the city three times a week with Norwegian Airlines, or you can go straight to Oslo with SAS and catch a connecting flight from there.

For more information on visiting Norway, click here.

Header image taken by Ole C. Salomonsen.