Sure, Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on your trip -- especially if you know where to find the most value for your dollar. Here’s how to stick to a budget in Tromso, a gateway to the Arctic and a prime location for spotting the Northern Lights or basking in the Midnight Sun — and that, if done right, can be a welcome relief to spending the big bucks in Oslo.
What to Do
A Midnight Concert at the Arctic Cathedral
Norwegian folk songs fill this iconic A-framed church most nights and the show is nothing short of ethereal, especially in summer when rays from the Midnight Sun stream through the stained glass. The experience costs around $20.
Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden
It’s free to enter this floral haven, which is open year-round. Its 25 collections of flowers — from pink rhododendrons to blue cushion plants — are best seen in bloom from May to October.
The smart splurge: You’ll never regret crossing the Northern Lights off your bucket list if you visit on an expedition from November to March ($165 with Active Tromso), or kayaking among the mountains from June to September ($129 with Active Tromso). The price tag is well worth the cost for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Where to Eat
The best restaurants along the harbor in Tromso tend to be expensive, that is, with the exception of this cozy casual restaurant where you can order a juicy reindeer burger for under $20.
Mack Pub and Brewery
There are 67 types of beer on tap at this bar, made next door in a brewery that’s been around since 1877. Try the Nordlys (Northern Lights) lager or a Polar Bear Pilsner, or book a tour of the brewery for $20 per person, which gets you two samples.
The smart splurge: Harborside restaurant Fiskekompaniet serves delectable fresh catches like steamed arctic char and panfried whale steak, worth the $40 cost on a special night out.
Where to Stay
This hotel in the city center costs around $115 per night per person for a standard room on a weekend this July. (The same hotel in Oslo would be around $60 more per night.)
A standard room with a view of Tromso harbor on the weekend of July 28-30 is $124 — also less than Oslo’s Scandic Byporten, which is around $40 more on the same weekend.
How to Get There
This town is usually a stop on Norwegian coastal cruises and can serve as a great weekend trip from Oslo. Roundtrip flights from Oslo cost around $225 this July (14-16), which is prime time for catching the Midnight Sun. But you can save if you visit just after this busy season, with flights in early to late August at about $189 roundtrip. Later in the year when you can spot the Northern Lights in, say, November on a weekend, prices are around $150.
Another option — one that even locals use — is a cruise down the coast of Norway with Hurtigruten, a line that specializes in 5-day trips from Kirkenes in the far north to Bergen in the South. You’ll not only stop in Tromso but also cities including Trondheim and Alesund. It costs $843 in the summer for an ocean-view room, or about $169 per day. Prices are even lower in the winter months ($510 for a 5-day cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen in an ocean-view room on the MS Vesteralen, coming down to $102 per day) — a better deal than many hotel rooms you’ll find in Oslo, and you’ll get to see multiple cities, too.