The view of Tromsø from the Storsteinen mountain ledge has become famous thanks to the city’s cable car. Here's how to make the journey for yourself.
As the only city of note for hours in all directions, there's a lot to see and do in Tromsø. From a packed calendar of cultural events to Arctic-themes museums and attractions, Tromsø offers a lot to the curious traveller.
It's one of my favourite places to visit in Northern Norway and almost every time I visit, I make the effort to get up to Storsteinen. The view is spectacular at any time of year.
The easiest way to get there is to take Fjellheisen, the city's cable car. A popular tourist attraction, the cable car is a must-do when visiting the city for the first time.
Watch a winter trip on Tromsø Cable Car
During the winter months, Tromsø in Northern Norway offers visitors breathtaking views, unique experiences and a great chance to see the fantastic northern lights while they are at their strongest.
Although the city can be dark and wet early in the winter, February and March sees the welcome return of longer days. It’s the best time of the year to head up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge on the city’s cable car, Fjellheisen.
The year-round view (weather permitting!) from Storsteinen is wonderful but the winter version is breathtaking, even for a country blessed with so much natural beauty as Norway. Take a look at this short video I made to see for yourself:
Deep blue, ice-cold fjords contrast with the snow-capped peaks stretching out to the horizon creating a scarcely believable winter panorama. As the sun dips towards the horizon, the sky adopts a soft pink hue, reflecting off the snow and casting a warm glow across the mountains.
Once the sun has set, Storsteinen is a fantastic spot to hunt the aurora. While you are hampered a little by the city lights, the resulting photographs can be truly spectacular. Now you've watched the video, read on for more information.
Introducing Tromsø cable car
The cable car Fjellheisen travels from 50 metres above sea level up to 421 metres in just four minutes, is a popular tourist attraction in the city.
Passengers arriving in Tromsø on the Hurtigruten or Havila coastal voyage ships or cruise ships will be offered excursions to the cable car, but it's possible to get there by local bus. More on that later.
You enter the building on the right hand side, where you can buy a ticket from the ticket window. If you've already bought in advance on the app, you simply walk straight in to the waiting area.
After scanning your ticket, you queue for the next available cable car. They run every 15 minutes or so, but will run continuously when there is demand. They may run less often early in the morning or late in the evening.
The cable cars themselves are not especially big. But unless there are two cruise ships in dock or it's a sunny Saturday in the middle of summer, you shouldn't have to wait too long for a ride.
What to do at the top
Following the short four-minute ride, most visitors head immediately for the main viewing platform for a sensational view of the city in its natural surroundings.
Watch out for ships arriving in port and planes landing or taking off at the airport runway on the far side of Tromsø island.
The viewing platform can often be crowded especially right after a cable car has arrived. But if you wait a few minutes, the crowds will clear and you'll get a better view. However, there's plenty more space outside!
Outside the building, there’s a lot of space to spread out and get a much clearer view. For the more adventurous, hiking trails and skiing trails guide the way.
Bear in mind that strong winds can often result in a much colder temperature at the top of the cable car than at the bottom, so take an extra layer, even on a sunny day.
Back inside the top station, a cafe and restaurant offers meals, snacks, and beverages including beer. Ice cream and soft drinks are available too. And yes, there are bathrooms!
The cafe is a great place to take a break if there's a big queue for the cable car back down.
The sherpa steps alternative
At 345 Norwegian kroner ($33), a return trip on the cable car isn’t cheap. However, there is an alternative that’s one of the best free things to do in Tromsø.
A sherpa-built hiking trail of almost 1,000 stone steps has made hiking up to Storsteinen–and back down again–much easier.
The new trail was built to reduce erosion on the previous hiking paths and has since become a popular tourist attraction in its own right especially in the summer for evening hikes under the midnight sun.
Those attempting the stone steps outside the summer season will need to make sure they have suitable equipment. In winter, this means spiked boots and crampons at the very least.
Depending on the amount of snowfall, the trail is often closed due to the avalanche risk during the winter and early spring.
Although the sherpa steps meet the cable car at the top of Storsteinen, they start from a different location. The trailhead starts a little way up the hill from Fløyvegen, behind the Arctic Cathedral.
How to get to Tromsø Cable Car
If you value convenience first and foremost, book yourself on to an excursion offered by Hurtigruten or your cruise ship. The advantages of these is that they include transport and often include a short guided tour of the town to or from the cable car.
If you are seeking to save money on the pricey excursion or you are visiting Tromsø independently, you have several options.
Walking to the cable car station is absolutely possible as there is a pedestrian walkway on the main bridge that crosses the water. However, it will take you 35-45 minutes and involves a couple of uphill sections. While the walk in the summer is pleasant, I don't advise the walk in the winter.
If there is more than three of you, consider a taxi. Otherwise, the public bus is a good option. The bottom station of the cable car is just a few minutes walk from the Solliveien bus stop. Check timetables and fares along with how to buy a ticket here.