Where to spend a sunny day in Tromsø

Tromsø offers plenty of scenic places, but the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden is special

Photo: Vanessa Brune
You don’t have to go far to get to the best free attraction in Tromsø, the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden at Tromsø University Museum. The garden features plants from high-altitude and high latitude areas all over the world.

Vanessa Brune
Tromsø, Norway

I’ve never really been one to care much about flowers—that is, until I came to Tromsø. Of course, the Arctic isn’t exactly a place where you should expect perfect summer weather, but despite its climate, the region offers one thing that says summer like nothing else: flowers!

Yes, flowers do actually grow in the Arctic; it’s not all permafrost in Tromsø. In fact, during the summer, the most beautiful wildflowers can be found all over town, randomly popping up overnight in people’s gardens and public green spaces, blossoming until temperatures get colder again.

And I’m not talking about tulips or poppies here. Arctic wildflowers are special and there’s nothing that makes me happier than the sight of “Tromsø Palm Trees” and fireweed on an evening walk under the glow of the Midnight Sun.

So on the hottest and sunniest day of 2016, I made my way to the botanic garden in Tromsø to go on a little photo hunt. I’ve actually been to the gardens many times before as it’s situated right next to the university campus, but visiting when it’s warm and sunny is just a completely different experience—and a very memorable one too.

There is just no better way to spend a sunny day in Tromsø!

Photo: Vanessa Brune

The Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden
Tromsø’s botanic garden is actually called Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden and features flowers of all kinds of arctic and alpine regions of the world, not just northern Norway. During July, for example, the highlight of all the blossoming flowers has got to be those blue poppies from Tibet. I love how they look under the sunlight with Mt. Tromsdalstinden, the highest mountain of Tromsø, as a backdrop.

Aside from Himalayan flowers, the Rocky Mountains, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile are represented with their alpine flora as well, and these flowers thrive well in the short and cool summers of Tromsø. The garden is therefore designed to resemble the arctic and alpine regions of the world as a whole, which is why you can also find lots of pine trees, rocks, and small ponds everywhere.

The 25 collections of the botanic garden feature not only different arctic and alpine regions but also varying traditions and historical customs. Thus you can find a traditional northern Norwegian garden, an ode to the botanic garden of Kirovsk on the Russian Kola Peninsula, a spice plant and herb collection, and even living fossils in the botanic garden of Tromsø, among others.

I spent a wonderful Saturday morning exploring and admiring the flowers and was joined by quite a few cruise tourists from the nearby Mein Schiff, who must have realized that a warm and sunny day is rare in Tromsø and that it’s better spent outside than on a sightseeing bus. Luckily for all of us, the café of the botanic garden was open to offer refreshments and some shade!

Photo: Vanessa Brune

More information
Are you planning to visit Tromsø and the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden yourself? Here’s what you need to know:

The Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden is part of Tromsø University Museum and located close to the university campus and the cruise ship harbor at Breivika. It first opened in 1994 and is the northernmost of its kind, as are so many other sights of Tromsø.

While it’s open year-round, it’s best visited between May and October, as that’s when the snow has melted and you can actually see flowers. However, a visit in April might give you the chance to see the very first flowers breaking through snow cover, or even flowers covered by ice due to night frost, so it’s not just summer that’s a lovely time in the garden!

Visiting the garden is free and busses number 20, 21, 34, and 42 pass by on their way to and from town. A visit will take about one to two hours, so it’s the perfect thing to do if you’re short on time and need some time away from the tourist crowds.

Vanessa Brune is a German expat living in Tromsø where she works with digital marketing and runs the blog www.snowinTromsø.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.