Travel
2 min

Arctic adventure in Norway

Tromso’s gay scene is lit by the aurora borealis

The aurora borealis over Tromso. Credit: Sennheiserz

If you have a penchant for taking vacations to unusual or off-the-beaten-path locales, how about a trip to Tromso, in Norway's Arctic, for a breathtaking view of the aurora borealis?

Situated directly under the aurora zone, Tromso is ideally placed for viewing the northern lights on clear winter nights. In daylight, picturesque Tromso is a beautiful small city that sits on an island in a fjord surrounded by mountains.

Finnair will open a new route to Tromso for the 2014 winter season. The city will be served by a two-hour flight from Helsinki three times a week between Jan 1 and March 28, 2014. Flights are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Ticket sales started July 10.

The aurora borealis may outshine the local gay scene, but the number of gays and lesbians living in an Arctic city — and the nonchalant, accepting attitude — might surprise you.

With more than 10,000 students among Tromso’s population of 70,000 people, the city has a youthful energy, and there are plenty of profiles on gaysir.no, Norway's main hook-up website.

"The real head-turners being ginger muscle boys, largely unavailable in the other parts of the world but profuse in the superlative city for viewing the Northern Lights," mentions Out Traveler in "Gay Life Around the Arctic Circle."

Tromso doesn't have a dedicated gay bar, but there's usually a young, visibly gay crowd at Verdensteatret Bar (Storgata 93 b). Le Mirage (Storgata 42) seems to be a favourite for hipsters.

Blogger Theo DeCelles offers this assessment of Tromso in his blog dazedinthenuclearpharmacy.com: "There are currently no gay cafes in tiny Tromso, but there are places where gays go which is pretty much everywhere. Although the best place to start up a conversation with a handsome stranger during the day is Cafe Perez [Skippergata 6], which is tiny. Tromso is a sleek and chic university city. I would recommend Verdensteateret for the evening, which is in the lobby of Europe's oldest cinema. The place is total Euro hipster with DJ's playing old vinyl in a place where everybody is dressed mostly in black but allow other various shades to highlight the minimalist decor. The lobby has couches where people dance in the aisles under the egg shaped lighting fixtures. Norwegians go out late. They have an activity called a 'forespiel,' which means 'foreplay' in English. It's not a sexual thing but a social thing. Alcohol is so amazingly expensive that people get together to drink at friends’ apartments and then go out about 1:00 AM in the morning. The best place to stay in Tromso is the Rica Grand Hotel [Storgaten 44], which has a lively dance club called Grunder with a balcony overlooking the main street in Sentrum and another dance club in the hotel basement. Both drinking establishments are not gay but it's Norway, nobody cares." 

Tromso will appeal to the outdoor sports enthusiast, as the city serves as a base for winter sports such as downhill skiing, snowshoeing, dog and reindeer sledding, and glacier hiking.  

With the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, from January to March the city is relatively warm — for the Arctic. Average highs are around minus two Celsius, with lows of about minus six.

The Sami people are the indigenous inhabitants of the Arctic, including the far north of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Tromso — or Romsa in Sami languages — is also a centre of Sami culture in the Norwegian Lapland and hosts Sami Week, held every year in connection with Sami Day on Feb 6. 

If you're considering a visit to Norway, check out our Oslo city guide.

For map locations and website links to more than 100 places of interest, see our gay Oslo listings pages.

Visit Norway (Northern Lights section)
visitnorway.com/northern-lights

The Northern Lights explained
northernlightscentre.ca

Finnair
finnair.com