Set amid the dramatic wilderness of Norway’s northern fjords, some 400 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Tromso is a city with more than a hint of the adventurous about it. This is, after all, one of the best places in Scandinavia to see the Northern Lights. But, there’s far more to this ‘gateway to the Arctic’ than just the wild dance of the aurora. And, those that look beyond the ethereal headlines will be rewarded with a varied arts and music scene, and a vibrant nightlife that makes this one of Norway’s most buzzing cultural hubs.
To help you get the most out of your stay in Tromso, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite restaurants and bars, so you don’t waste time hunting for good food when you could be out hunting the Northern Lights. But, it’s worth remembering that during peak season the best restaurants get booked up fast, so it’s always worth reserving a table in advance to avoid disappointment.
Away from the well-established institutions of Tromso’s culinary scene, such as Emma’s and Mathallen, Barbus Bistro deserves more attention. It's a very modern gastronomic experience, with a superbly crafted menu showcasing the finest in Nordic cuisine. We particularly recommend the mussels, which come accompanied by a shrimp broth, dill, fennel, and a generous serving of bread. You can also expect a delightfully warm and welcoming service, with the staff more than happy to chat and explain the restaurant's philosophy in delivering simple, personally crafted dishes. Indeed, further highlights include ox cheeks with mashed root vegetables, reindeer with celery root puree, and pan-fired cod with Jerusalem artichoke puree. Be sure to cap it all off with a delicious sea-buckthorn berry sorbet. Throughout, the chefs have complete freedom over the menu, but also listen to the front-of-house team. It's this culture of innovation that's made Bardus a hit with both locals and tourists alike.
Bardus Bistro, Tromso
For a combination of lovingly prepared, homely food and an all-round elegant dining experience, head to Emma’s Dream Kitchen. One of Tromso’s dining highlights, this is a restaurant that is all about honest, authentic food. The menu is skewed towards largely traditional Norwegian classics – the dried cod is delicious ¬– peppered with the occasional French classic; expect crème brûlée for dessert and French style furnishings that make dining here a wonderfully cosy affair.
After something a little less formal? Emma’s UNDER is located below the main restaurant at street level. Seating up to 40 guests, and taking drop-ins, this is the perfect spot for a reasonably priced light bite in the centre of the city – we recommend the hearty, locally sourced fish au gratin, warm and satisfying on a cold winter’s day.
Emma’s Dream Kitchen, Tromso
If seafood is your thing, Tromso has endless choices, due in no small part to its pretty harbour setting. Indeed, before the tourists arrived, this was a city built on the fishing industry, and you’re still likely to find fresh-from-the-boat seafood in most restaurants. However, not everywhere knows to prepare and cook it with quite the panache of the sleek and contemporary Fiskekompaniet. Situated right in Tromso’s central harbour, this upmarket seafood restaurant comes complete with stunning sea views and an aim to deliver delicious, healthy dishes.
The menu here is small but perfectly formed, with a preference for quality over quantity. And, it changes daily, so guests can enjoy the very best that the ocean has to offer. Having said that, their hearty fish soup is something of a staple, and the perfect winter warmer for a night of Northern Lights viewing. Or, why not experiment with the three-course Chef’s Choice menu? it’s likely to include the freshest catch. Then, wrap things up with a chocolate mousse accompanied by sea buckthorn sorbet and crumble, or a delectable selection of petit fours – the perfect end to the perfect meal.
With a menu to match its fantastic quayside location, Roast – part of the Scandic Ishavshotel – offers a dining experience to remember. The interiors are typically Scandinavian – minimal and hip – while menus showcase Norwegian classics with a modern, international twist. Ingredients are seasonal, although you’re guaranteed a tempting steak or freshly caught fish at any time of the year. The highlight here, however, has to be the signature Roast Board, a tasting board of the restaurant’s best chargrilled meats, perfect for sharing. What’s more, with the Scanic Ishavshotel being a popular pickup point for Northern Lights evening tours, Roast is the ideal spot to grab an early dinner before heading out to hunt the aurora.
Roast, Scandic Ishavshotel, Tromso
Often cited as the best sushi restaurant in Norway, Raa Sushi is the place in Tromso to indulge in that quintessential Japanese culinary art form. Expect the likes of maki, sashimi and nigiri, all made from the freshest Ingredients and paired with a superb selection of Japanese teas. It’s a superb place for a sit-down meal, but if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat, they have a takeaway branch, too.
Raa Sushi, Tromso
A great value-for-money option in Tromso, the cosy Huken Pub serves a small but delicious menu of hearty, home-cooked meals; their burgers are particularly good, if a little messy! And, if you’ve already eaten then it’s still worth stopping here for a drink – it is a pub after all. But, it’s the eclectic furniture that makes Huken truly special – think old-fashioned suitcases turned into table tops, lamps made from Singer sewing machines and an array of board games to keep you entertained.
Ølhallen – The Oldest Pub in Tromso
A trip to Tromso wouldn’t be complete without a drink in its oldest pub. Ølhallen’s palpably rich history dates back to 1928 when it was a popular watering hole for fishermen and farmers, later becoming a spot for Arctic explorers to share tales of derring-do over a candle-lit beer. Today, it’s one of the most well-known and popular pubs in Tromso. Perhaps, as it has been for so many before, this could be the perfect starting point for a traditional Tromso pub crawl...
Olhallen Bar, Tromso
Casa Inferno is a fabulous alternative if you can’t get into some of Tromso’s busier restaurants on a Friday or Saturday night. It's a lively pizzeria, tucked away just off Tromso’s two busiest streets, drawing a busy crowd of locals and tourists. You might have a short wait of 10 or 15 minutes, but it's a good chance to enjoy a drink at the bar and soak up the vibrant weekend atmosphere. Then, you can expect attentive staff and a choice of around 20 pizzas, with plenty of favourites on offer. And, despite the quick pace of service, everything runs like a warm, welcoming and well-run machine.