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At a latitude of nearly 70 degrees north, four days’ sailing from Bergen and barely a two-hour flight from Oslo, Murmansk or Longyearbyen, at the same latitude as Alaska and Siberia, between the island landscape, fjords and mountain peaks, you find Tromsø – Gateway to the Arctic and capital of Northern Norway. As far back as a century ago, visitors were surprised to find culture, intellectual life and the current fashions so far north, and the city derived the name Paris of the North. That reputation lives on today visitors to Tromsø are charmed by the city’s patriotic, loud and obliging residents, by a historical, compact and characteristic city centre, by a live and active cultural life all year round, by the Northern Lights, Polar Nights, Midnight Sun, by the exciting attractions, good possibilities for excursions and widely varying weather. The experience will be complete as soon as you leave the city and visit the 1800m high Lyngen Alps to the east, go on a voyage of discovery out towards the Atlantic Ocean, experience fertile agricultural villages beneath steep mountains and learn more about Norwegian and Saami culture and that of the residents of Finnish origin.
Tromsø is the largest city in the Nordic countries north of the Arctic Circle and is home to the world’s northernmost university, brewery and cathedral. The city lives on education, research, administration, fishing exports and satellite technology. The centre of the north has 64492 residents and the Municipality of Tromsø covers an area of 2558 km². Around 50,000 live in the centre of Tromsø, while the remainder is scattered throughout the whole municipality.
Human settlement in Tromsø dates back around 10,000 years, while the Saami culture here goes back at least 2000 years. Scandinavian language and culture could be found here from 300-400 AD, and Lyngen experienced immigration from Finland as early as the 1700s. A strong Norwegianising of the formerly Saami and Finnish areas of Tromsø and Lyngen started around 1900, and from the 1960s a high level of moving from the districts began. Tromsø was founded in 1794, although the first church was built here back in 1252. In the 1850s, Tromsø became the centre for Polar sea catches in the Arctic region, while in the early 1900s the city was the starting point for a host of expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, somethingthat gave the city the nickname Gateway to the Arctic. In 1940, Tromsø was capital of the non-occupied Norway for a few weeks, but totally avoided war damage as the only city in Northern Norway. In the years after 1960, Tromsø has experienced an exceptional growth in population, which is in part due to the establishment of institutions like
the University of Tromsø and the Norwegian Polar Institute.
In spite of their location so far north, Tromsø enjoy a moderate insular climate. Summer weather ranges from five degrees Celsius and rain to 28 degrees and fantastic swimming conditions for the undaunted. Winter in Tromsø is not especially cold. The record low temperature in Tromsø is minus18 degrees Celsius, while the average January temperature is minus four, but in return there is often a lot of snow. The Midnight Sun is visible from around May 21 to around July 21. Between November 21 and January 21, the sun disappears under the horizon and we experience the Polar Nights. It is not completely dark during the middle of the day, and the light and colour in the sky is amazing when the weather is favourable.
The Northern Lights are particles that are hurled into space after storms on the sun’s surface. They are attracted by the magnetic North Pole, and enter the atmosphere in a ring-like zone around the pole. In a process that is identical to that inside a light tube, the energy is released as light. Tromsø is situated right in the centre of the Northern Lights zone and is, therefore, together with the interior ice in Greenland the tundra in northern Canada, among the best places on earth to observe this phenomenon. Most of the Northern Lights outbursts visible from Tromsø are green, but large outbursts can also include other colours. In order to see the Northern Lights, it must be dark and clear – the reason that we never see the Northern Lights between May and August. The greatest frequency is between 6pm and 2am. Some visitors prefer to see the performance from a mountain top shielded from the city’s lights, while others are just as impressed right in the city centre.
"Studentbyen Tromsø" (Student City Tromsø), with its 10,000 students, is an exciting place to study. The University of Tromsø and Tromsø University College offer a wide variety of study options in a number of different subject areas. But student activity does not just comprise lectures, study groups, studying and examinations. You need a place to live, food, recreational activities and opportunities to get to know fellow students. The Student Welfare Association offers housing, operates cafés at the educational Institutes, childcare facilities, bookshops, a student centre (Driv), a student sports hall (Kraft) and its own counselling service. "Studentbyen Tromsø" offers much more, including a teeming cultural and nightlife.