13 Fun & Festive Things to Do in Vienna in Winter [2024 Update]

My love affair with Vienna is over a decade long and with no sign of stopping, and visiting Vienna in winter only confirmed that it’s a spectacular city in literally every season.

I first visited Vienna in fall of 2009, when I was studying in nearby Prague.

I was enchanted with the city from my first sight of its rooftops, dazzled by the colorful mosaic roofs that bedecked the tops of Vienna’s most beautiful churches.

Its museums also blew me away — something I was surprised by, after being spoiled for choice of museums, having a few years living in NYC under my belt.

And the pastries and cakes — oh, the cakes! That was when I knew I would revisit Vienna.

I returned to Vienna in December 2019, after a decade’s absence, to visit my family who were visiting Vienna, and we enjoyed the stunning Vienna Christmas markets and festive atmosphere.

And if I initially thought Vienna in the fall was magical, Vienna in winter is truly the time to visit!

the exterior of the spanish riding school in vienna
The winter spirit of Vienna is everywhere!

Its festive markest and decorations, its delicious street food stalls serving käsespätzel and bratwurst and garlic soup in bread bowls.

Seeing Vienna in winter, even though I went there wasn’t any snow, was even more magical than before.

There’s something so romantic about visiting Vienna.

It’s the setting of one of my favorite travel movies of all time — Before Sunrise — an epic romance which spans three movies and several decades of the characters lives.

And when you see Vienna for yourself, you’ll know why!

This guide will walk you through all my favorite things to do in Vienna in winter — whether you visit for the Vienna Christmas markets or in other parts of the winter!

Vienna in Winter: 13 Best Activities & Things to Do

Shop (and eat everything) at the Christmas Markets.

Looking out the window at the beautiful Schonbrunn palace and seeing all the Christmas market stalls below around the time of sunset
The Christmas market at Schönbrunn Palace

2024 Update: The Christmas Markets have closed for the 2023-2024 season; the first markets will reopen on November 10th (including Am Hof, Stephansplatz, and the largest one at Rathausplatz )

Living in Europe for about five years, I’ve been to my share of Christmas markets in Europe.

At this point, and in general, they all run together for me: but not so in Austria!

Vienna Christmas Markets are easily the best I’ve experienced in all of Europe, better even than Germany’s. Yup, I’ve said it and I’ll stand by it!

Surprisingly, the food at the Vienna Christmas Markets far exceeded my expectations.

I had a dreamy spätzel with butter, applesauce, and dusted hazelnuts at the Christmas market in front of Schönbrunn Palace, which was one of my favorite Christmas markets in the city.

There, I also had a phenomenal garlic soup – okay, the first of many delicious garlic soups.

Allison's hand holding a thing of cheese spaetzel (dumplings) while wearing a winter jacket in Vienna
Spätzel and applesauce, a match made in heaven!

One of my other favorite Christmas Markets at the city was in Am Hof Square, which conveniently I happened to be staying right in front of!

The cheese bratwurst there was amazing (it sounds so wrong; it tastes so right), as was the käsespätzel from heaven.

The same stall that served the käsespätzel, Tiroler Hut, also served a fantastic pork and cabbage dish that blew me away.

Other dishes worth trying are the raclette (always) and the waffles.

The only Christmas Market I didn’t love was the biggest one, the one in front of Rathausplatz.

It was crowded to the point where I basically grabbed my partner and fled the scene because I was on the verge of panicking.

If you don’t mind crowds, you’ll surely love it, but it made me really anxious!

People in their winter clothing standing in the market in one of the main central areas of Vienna's downtown where there are lots of markets in the right season
More Christmas markets, this one a smaller one found near the Spanish Riding School

For central but less intense Christmas markets, there are also excellent smaller markets in front of the Spanish Riding School, Kunsthistorisches Museum, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

For the souvenir-obsessed, the Christmas Markets also prove to be a fantastic place to shop.

We ended up taking home some beautiful ceramic mugs and an… interesting figurine which is now staring at me on my shelf while I write this.

Walk the beautiful Ferstel passage.

One of the few covered passageways in Vienna with Allison in a winter coat looking at the camera
Feeling Parisian in the Ferstel Passage

Similar to the covered passageways you’d find in Paris, Austria has its own gorgeous covered arcade, Ferstel Passage, that is one of my favorite places to escape the cold a bit and get lost.

It’s located right near Am Hof Square, so it’s quite a central location and definitely worth going slightly out of your way to visit.

The passage has pillars going all the way back, decorated with ornate marblework, with a stunning vaulted ceiling.

It leads you past several luxury shops, cafés (including one of the best coffee shops in Vienna), to a small interior courtyard with a fountain at its center.

On one end of the passage is the famous Café Central, the most famous coffee houses in Vienna.

And honestly, I can’t recommend you go there, unless you have an insane stroke of luck and manage to visit when there’s no line.

Every time I passed Café Central, it looked to be at least an hour’s wait just for a table!

So my pro tip is to walk past the lines, stroll through the passage languorously.

Then enjoy a line-free coffee at CaffèCouture, instead!

It may not be your traditional Vienna coffee shop, but it had one of the best flat whites I’ve ever had… and with a fraction of the price tag and no wait, either.

See a show at the Spanish Riding School.

the interior of the spanish riding school all lit up and ready for a show with the white stallion horses
The beautiful interior of the Winter Riding School in Vienna

The first time I was in Vienna, I somehow never learned about the Spanish Riding School — which is a shame, because when I was younger, I was totally enraptured by horses.

Now a bit more weary of them after a few haywire horse rides, I was still utterly enchanted by the exquisite horsemanship skills of the riders at the Spanish Riding School.

Seeing a show there was a highlight of my winter trip to Vienna.

The Spanish Riding School is quite a unique place: a gorgeous riding hall and stables smack dab in the middle of the city center, right next to the Hofburg Palace complex.

At the school, they use exclusively Lipizzaner horses as they have for centuries — a beautiful white stallion which originated from Slovenia but was bred for centuries by the Hapsburgs.

There are several options of how you can see the Lipizzaners, but my preferred way is at the show, when you can really see the horses in their element in the beautiful baroque Winter Riding School, which dates back to 1735.

Another close up view of the interior of the Spanish Riding school as seen from ground level
The beautiful chandeliers and Baroque detailing of the Winter Riding School

The performance lasts about an hour and a half and includes several different parts.

You’ll get to see younger horses showing off basic gaits to the more seasoned stallions showing off dressage moves in a beautifully coordinated mirror image, called the ‘pas-de-deux’.

Finally, the most interesting part is their school jumps, where the horses perform masterful jumps that really just have to be seen to be believed!

Book your tickets to the Spanish Riding School today, available on weekends only.

However, tickets to the show can be a bit expensive – if you want to save money, you can opt for standing room tickets, which are about half or a third of the price.

Alternately, you could also opt for the morning exercises which are less expensive.

Admittedly, it is a bit less impressive as it’s not as structured or rehearsed as the show, which shows both the riders and the horses at their finest. The morning exercises run every day except Monday.

A final option is a guided tour of the Spanish Riding School itself, which shows you both the winter and summer riding halls, the Stallburg arcade, and the stables of the Lipizzaners.

You’ll even get to see the Lipizzaners up close, though there is a strictly no touching and no photos policy! These tours also run daily except Monday.

If you’re not sure which sounds best and you want to read a guide about all the different options, I have a guide to visiting the Spanish Riding School and what you’ll see at a performance here.

Get down on some glühwein.

A person in their winter gear including cloves and a jacket and hood, pouring some hot mulled wine into a plastic cup with a ladel, steaming wine
Is it really winter in Vienna without glühwein

Every night in winter Vienna comes to life with people gathering at the Christmas Markets to enjoy glühwein, a hot mulled wine with spices.

And that’s not the only hot drink these stalls serve — you’ll find all sorts of other beverages of the warm and alcoholic variety (including in some cases, perplexingly to my Brazilian ex, a hot caipirinha).

People will often gather at the Christmas markets in the evening (evening being a loose term, given that sunset in Vienna in December is around 4 PM…) and drink glühwein or other hot punches, alcoholic or otherwise, until around 10 at night.

Generally, the Christmas markets operate on a Pfand (deposit) system.

When you buy your first glühwein, you’ll pay an extra 3 or 4 euros for a cute mug to drink your wine out of.

You can either keep it as a souvenir, you can refill your drink in it throughout the time you’re at the market, or you can return your mug at the end of your market carousing to get your deposit back.

Marvel at the works at the Albertina.

A series of three modern pieces of artwork on the wall at the famous Albertina museum in Vienna, one of the top museums
Beautiful Impressionist art at the Albertina

The Albertina is my favorite museum in Vienna – and in fact, one of my favorite museums in the world.

It contains an incredible collection of impressionist and expressionist art, which are two of my all-time favorite art movements.

Here, you’ll find lots of Renoirs, Monets, Picassos, Munchs, Chagalls, and more — plus a nice contemporary collection as well.

You can pre-book your tickets here to avoid lines.

The temporary exhibits are often much more crowded than the permanent collection, so keep that in mind when planning your Albertina trip.

When I went, the Dürer collection was so full that it was pretty miserable to walk through, but everything else was pretty clear.

Entrance: €17 euro per adult | Free with Vienna Pass

Attend a classical concert.

view of people playing music in vienna with a violin and other instruments.
Concert taking place in a church in Vienna

Vienna is known for its music… and how can it not be, being that it was the birthplace of Mozart?

A classy-(cal) way of getting out of the cold in Vienna is attending a concert! There are several classical music concerts, typically performed in different churches around the city.

One of the most beautiful venues is St. Anne’s Church, a stunning baroque church with exquisite marble interior and gorgeous frescoes on the ceilings and walls.

You can attend a 70-minute concert here, performed by the Viennese String Ensemble, which includes a selection of music from Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and others.

Shows begin at 8 PM and occur four times a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Book your show today!

Another option is to see Vivaldi’s Four Seasons performed by the Orchestra 1756 at the Karlskirche, another beautiful and historic church in central Vienna.

Shows generally are on Thursdays, Fridays, and some Tuesdays, but they often sell out up to a month in advance, so book your show early so you don’t miss out!

There are several other options as well, such as Mozart’s Requiem, the Vienna Residence Orchestra, and more, so classical music fans – or the classical music curious – will be spoiled for choice.

Have a traditional Viennese meal.

Boiled beaf and vegetables and potatoes in a broth, a very typical winter Vienna dish
A delicious boiled beef dish – one of my favorite dishes in Vienna

I’ll be honest — Austrian cuisine is not my favorite.

There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but I just prefer my food a little more spicy and flavorful. That said, you should at least try Austrian food while in Vienna!

However, here are two stand-out Viennese dishes that I think are definitely worth seeking out while in Vienna (besides all the cake): boiled beef, which is much tastier than it sounds, and of course, Weiner schnitzel!

After all, the ‘Weiner’ in weiner schtnizel refers to Wien, aka Vienna.

I had a really nice boiled beef just opposite the Albertina, and you can have delicious weiner schnitzel just about anywhere in Vienna!

Get cultured at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

The ceiling at the Art history museum with ornate fresco work and detailing
It’s hard to know whether to look ahead or up at the Art History Museum!

I’m not normally the type to recommend museum after museum, but Vienna truly has some of the best museums in the world, so it’d be a shame not to visit them.

Especially since if you’re visiting Vienna in winter, you’ll probably want to get out of the cold as much as you can!

The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum) is full Vienna’s older art collection, whereas the Albertina hosts newer pieces.

Here, you’ll find the largest collection of Bruegels in the world, with 12 out of his 40-odd known pieces on display permanently.

But one of the coolest things is its gorgeous ceiling painting (shown above), as well as its wall panels supporting the roof featuring work from Gustav Klimt, one of Austria’s most famous artists of all time.

Other classical artists like Rembrandt, Velazquez, and Dürer are also on display.

Cost: €16 for adults | Free with the Vienna Pass

Be stunned by the opulence of Schönbrunn Palace.

View at the Schonbrunn Palace of the interior with pastel, ornate wallpaper, and fancy home furnishings and people admiring the displays
Absolutely worth visiting the interior of the palace!

Located outside of the city center of Vienna, Schönbrunn Palace is entirely worth the detour. This exquisite palace was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs.

There are several options for how to visit Schönbrunn Palace, including two tiers of tickets. There are two main options: the Imperial Tour, which include 22 rooms, or the Grand Tour, with 40 rooms.

We opted for the Imperial Tour, thinking 22 rooms would be plenty and we’d avoid museum fatigue this way.

However, when we hit the end, we were a little bummed that we actually hadn’t booked the full tour, as it was all so impressive!

You can book your ticket and go with an audio guide, as we did, but the problem is that lines can often be insane.

We got lucky and somehow managed to visit on a day where there wasn’t much of a line (maybe because it wasn’t a weekend), but the palace website says that lines can exceed three hours during peak times (and Vienna in December is definitely peak!).

Pro tip: For more historical context AND to skip the line, you can join a guided tour of Schönbrunn Palace. Book your tour here!

Another popular, albeit touristy, thing to do at Schonbrunn Palace is to check out the Strudel Show, which takes place at the court bakery where strudel was made for the royals for centuries!

The Strudel Show is a funny, quirky show where they show you how strudel is made before plopping down a hot piece of strudel in front of you with a piping hot beverage to enjoy!

If you’re visiting Vienna in winter with kids, you’ll definitely want to plan to visit this as well (it makes good bribery for getting them to visit the palace as well.)

Avoid lines and pre-book your Strudel Show here.

(Window) shop ’til you drop on Der Graben.

A crowded street with lots of tourists walking under the lights in the festive lanterns.
One of Vienna’s most decorated streets!

Vienna is fancy. And nowhere is that more evident than on Der Graben, one of the premier shopping streets of Vienna.

Der Graben is the heart of Vienna’s shopping district, and several streets also worth shopping around radiate out from it.

You’ll find everything from luxury brands like Prada and Chanel to high street fashion to smaller boutique designers as well.

You probably won’t do much shopping here unless you have a very high limit on your credit card and a will to use it.

Still, it’s really fun to window shop and wander through the street, marveling at all the crazy window displays.

Visit the St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

checkered rooftop in the typical tile of vienna

One of the most famous churches in all of Vienna, it’s hard to miss St. Stephen’s Cathedral – so don’t!

This exquisite church was badly bombed during World War II, but it has been renovated beautifully. I mean, just look at that roof!

The interior is also exquisite, but for me personally, the roof is the main draw.

Don’t miss walking around its perimeter, as there’s a really cute Christmas market there – the oldest in the city, in fact.

Take a fiaker around the center.

Allison and her family sitting in a horse fiaker ride in Vienna
Enjoying a fiaker ride with my family in Vienna in winter

One of the major facets of central Vienna you’ll see is the fiaker, a traditional horse-drawn carriage.

Once a necessity in pre-car Vienna, the fiaker is now a tourist attraction, and taking a carriage ride around the city center is a fantastic way to spend a winter Vienna afternoon.

We took a 15-minute carriage ride for 40 euro for 4 people — they also had 30-minute rides for 75 euro — which was a bit pricy, but it was well worth the fun experience! It’s an especially great thing to do if visiting Vienna with kids.

Book your carriage ride online here!

The carriage we took was uncovered as it wasn’t a very cold day, but if it’s raining or snowing they’ll put up the roof so you can enjoy it in any kind of weather.

The horses were well-loved and well-cared for, but as with any activity involving horses, check for signs that the horse is well-treated (healthy looking hair, skin, and hooves).

To get to see a little more insight on the carriage horses, check out this tour which lets you see the fiaker stables and learn about the history of these horse-drawn carriages before taking a carriage back into the city center.

Book your fiaker stable tour and carriage ride here!

Stop for some lebkuchen!

Allison's partner with a studious look on his face trying to pick out the right cookie at a market
Studiously picking out a good lebkuchen

Lebkuchen, aka gingerbread, is a delicious souvenir of your time in Vienna and it can be found at any of the city’s Christmas Markets.

There are several ways you can get your lebkuchen, including traditional which is generally un-iced.

However, the cutest way to get it is generally frosting covered with sweet wishes on the front in either German or English!

Where to Stay in Vienna in Winter

Vienna’s city center is compact and easily transited by foot or metro, so there’s no shortage of excellent accommodation options.

I’ll let you know where we stayed first, then I’ll share some other options for different budgets.

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the peerless Park Hyatt Vienna right across from Am Hof Square with its amazing Christmas Market.

Honestly, I think it’s up there as one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed at in my life!

Interior of the Park Hyatt vienna with sofa, bed, ornate wallpaper
Marble bathroom in the Park Hyatt Vienna with soaking tub

The breakfast buffet spreads and the breakfast in bed were both equally phenomenal, the rooms were basically like mini-palaces, the bathrooms were gorgeous with a marvelous tub, and everything was controlled electronically which basically made me feel like I was in the future.

I had dreamed of staying in a Park Hyatt since seeing Lost in Translation and it lived up to my every expectation of it and more.

Other shout outs go to the incredible spa center with an excellent steam room, sauna, and rain shower with a gorgeous indoor pool, the amazing on-site restaurants and their daily tea time, and excellent personalized service.

Check prices, reviews, photos and availability here!

Where to Stay on a Budget

Of course, there are more budget-friendly options in Vienna — the Park Hyatt was where we stayed as it was a special occasion having my family meet my husband for the first time (since we eloped!).

The first time I stayed in Vienna, I was a backpacker and chose the Wombats Hostel and have nothing but positive memories of it (even though it’s basically the polar opposite of the Hyatt).

It’s a great hostel chain, social but not party-centric, with all the amenities you’d expect in dorms and also lovely double rooms at a budget-friendly price, perfect for friends or couples who don’t want to share a dorm room.

Check prices, reviews, and availability of Wombats Hostel here

Where to Stay on a Mid-Range Budget

If you want something between a hostel and a five-star hotel, Vienna has tons of wonderful and unique options that won’t break the bank.

Motel One is a trendy boutique hotel chain with a few options around Vienna – there’s one by the Hauptbanhof (great if you’re going to travel around Austria a bit) as well as one near Westbanhof.

Both offer sleek, design-focused, super-comfortable double rooms for around 100 euro a night, with lovely boutique touches and central locations near major transit hubs.

Check prices, reviews, and availability of Motel One here

What to Wear in Vienna in Winter

Allison in a peacoat, hat, glasses, sitting under a large piece of art
Peacoats and Vienna — sometimes warm enough, but sometimes you want a parka!

It was an unnaturally warm December in Vienna this year!

I wore a dress, leggings, boots, hat, and warm wool coat basically every day and was always warm. I didn’t even need a scarf most days!

However, winter temperatures in Vienna are usually colder than that.

As I write update this post in January 2024, Vienna will range from -6° C to 12° C this week (21° F to 54° F).

When I was in Vienna in December, it never colder than 10° C all week — that’s 50° F!

Here’s what I recommend packing so you don’t get too cold in Vienna in winter:

A jacket: It depends how warm you want to be! I love my North Face parka, but Vienna was too warm for a down jacket during my last visit so I was fine with a regular wool peacoat.

Warm boots: Despite the picture of a snow-covered Vienna you may have in your head, winter is not typically super snowy. I wrote my pair of waterproof leather boots rather than heavy-duty snow boots. This is the style I own: a classic equestrian boot that is waterproof with good traction.

Fleece-lined knit hat: Since your jacket is likely a dark or neutral color, it’s fun to liven up your look (and photos) with a colorful hat or two. I like a snug knit hat lined in fleece.

Warm layers: I normally find wool unbearably itchy for a base layer — that is until I found Kari Traa merino wool base layers (bottoms here and half-zip top here). Note that the classic is the kind I like — the Fryd Base is too thin for much warmth.

An enormously wrappable scarf: The bigger and thicker the scarf, the better — again, this is a place where you can incorporate color and variety in your winter looks.

Touchscreen friendly globes: These gloves are adorable, smartphone-compatible, and affordable.

Tromsø Ice Domes: 3 Easy Ways to Visit Tromso’s Ice Hotel in 2024

One of the bedrooms at the Tromso Ice Domes with ice carvings and reindeer pelts on the bed

Of all the things I wanted to do in Tromso in winter, visiting the ice and snow hotel in Tromsø — the Tromso Ice Domes — was high up on my list.

I mean, a hotel that’s entirely constructed of ice and snow, rebuilt each year in the middle of a frozen-over valley above the Arctic Circle?

What’s not to love?

No, I’m asking seriously — I never found anything… except for maybe the high price, but hey, this is Norway — what do you expect?

People inside the Ice Domes hotel, posing in the mystical ice carvings where a throne has been carved out of pure ice.
The beauty of the Ice Domes has to be experienced in person!
⌛ Planning your Ice Domes trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Ice Domes Experiences
1. Overnight stay package for two (includes ice hotel stay, transfers, meals, snowshoe hike, aurora camp, and morning dog sled)
2. Day visit to the Ice Domes from Tromso (includes tour, meal, and transfers)
3. Combination Ice Domes tour and dog sledding (best value for a way to spend a day out in Tromso)

🐋 More Unique Tromso Tours
1. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)
2. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
3. Self-Drive Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

However, there’s one critical factor to keep in mind that may take some people by surprise when planning their visit to the Ice Domes.

While the ice hotel may be called the Tromso Ice Domes, it is most definitely not in the city of Tromso… but rather a 90-minute drive away.

Yes, it’s nearly a hundred kilometers away from the Tromso city center, which necessitates either renting a car or booking a guided tour in order to visit this epic snow hotel in Norway’s north.

Allison Green wearing a red beanie, plaid scarf, blue jacket and smiling at the camera while visiting the Tromso Ice Domes in Northern Norway, a famous ice hotel
Happy as can be while visiting the Ice Domes. This is the face of someone ticking off their bucket list!

Since I’ve done this day trip myself, I’ve written this guide to visiting the Tromso Ice Domes.

This post will break down how to exactly to visit this popular attraction in Tromso, giving you several options for how to do it.

At first I was a little stressed on how to plan this, because there were several options and I wasn’t sure which was the best to choose… but I ended up being happy with my choice.

Luckily, no matter which way you choose to visit the Ice Domes outside of Tromso, it’s very easy to do so.

Though it being Norway, be prepared to spend a pretty penny no matter what way you pick!

This post was originally written in February 2020 after my Tromso Ice Domes visit. It has been updated multiple times to reflect impacts of the pandemic on tourism in Norway, as well as changing availability and costs of visiting the Ice Domes. As of January 15, 2024, this article was heavily overhauled, with a complete update and fact-checking, so that all information is current.

What is the Tromso Ice Domes?

The exterior of the Tromso Ice Domes with an igloo-like structure
The exterior of the Tromso Ice Domes is humble, but belies an incredible scene inside

Ever heard of the Snowhotel in Sweden, not far from Kiruna and Abisko? This is Norway’s version!

The Tromso Ice Domes is a hotel made entirely of ice (yes, entirely!) outside of the city of Tromso… but like I mentioned above, it’s pretty far out, an hour and half’s drive away from Tromso city center.

It’s a relatively new attraction, as it first opened for the winter 2017-2018 season, but it’s been running like a well-oiled machine since its establishment.

Quickly, it became one of the must-do winter excursions in Tromso, and with good reason — it’s absolutely epic and memorable, even for just a quick day visit.

If you have more than two days allocated for your Tromso winter itinerary, I definitely think the Tromso Ice Domes warrant a visit as part of that plank.

Is the Tromso Ice Hotel Really Made of Ice?

Allison Green standing in a winter coat and snow shoes and red winter hat, inside the Tromso Ice Domes with an ice wall with ornate carvings
The Ice Domes are truly a selfie paradise!

Yes! The Tromso Ice Domes hotel is constructed every year from scratch, and when you visit, you’ll learn how on an information video shown in their ice cinema.

As I learned in the video they showed us, it takes about one month to construct the snow igloo hotel.

Each year, a team of dozens of builders use several thousand tons of ice from a nearby river in order to build the ice hotel…. all in the pitch-black embrace of the polar night.

The actual structure is constructed by blowing up giant balloons to create the ‘dome’ structure.

After that, then the ice blocks are built up around the balloon dome. They are then melted together in order to create the solid ice structure that you see when you visit.

A sculpture of a woman made of ice inside the ice hotel with a soft orange lighting
One of the sculptures inside the Ice Domes during my visit

Another cool thing about visiting the Ice Domes, Tromso’s only snow hotel, is their art.

Each year, they invite local artists and ice carvers to create ice sculptures for the interior of the hotel, with a new theme each year.

But how stable is the Ice Domes? Is it safe to stay in a snow hotel? Won’t it melt if the temperature rises too high?

The Ice Domes are built to be sturdy and handle minor, temporary fluctuations in temperature.

Put simply, it’s not going to fall apart after a few days above zero.

Structurally, the ice is 3 meters thick on the outer walls and about a meter thick at the top (you don’t want the ceiling to fall in, after all!).

A tour guide giving a cheers at the ice bar in the Tromso Ice Domes restaurant and bar
Checking out the beautiful restaurant and bar of the Ice Domes snow hotel

Despite how it may initially sound, the Tromso Ice Domes are actually an incredibly roomy structure.

It’s not a cramped igloo-like structure at all, but very spacious on the inside, with several rooms to wander around.

On the interior, basically every single thing is made of ice!

Yes, basically everything from the chairs and tables in the restaurant to the ice bar itself to the bed frames.

Of course, no one expects you to sit or sleep on ice: seating surfaces are covered in reindeer pelts, Sámi-style, in order to keep you warm.

But what happens to this Tromso ice hotel at the end of the season?

For safety’s sake, the Ice Domes are purposely demolished at the end of the season.

Though being made entirely of ice, they would just melt away as summer set in on Northern Norway, so it’s quite eco-friendly!

For the current winter season, the Tromso Ice Domes are open from December 20, 2023 to April 9, 2024.

How to Get to the Ice Hotel in Tromso

The lavender-lit ice sculptures that look like trees and an ice bar in the middle of the Tromso Ice Domes
Taking some shots at the Ice Bar, alcoholic or juice-based, is a must-do when at the Ice Domes!

The most popular way to visit the Ice Domes is via a guided tour, going via a daily shuttle bus which departs from Tromso’s city center.

This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — aside from the Tromso husky safari tour, it was the definite highlight of my winter trip to Tromso.

You can skip the shuttle bus and go independently via rental car and show up at the Ice Domes to take a tour.

However, I don’t recommend planning to rent a car in Norway in winter unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced.

Without a car, a guided tour using a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Unfortunately, despite Norway’s robust public transit system, no public buses or trains will take you here.

If you want to make the most of your time, you can also combine a visit to the ice hotel with an activity.

Allison Green wearing glasses and a scarf and polar suit with some husky puppies cuddling her
Visiting with some husky pups after a hard day’s dog sledding — the ultimate reward!

For the best time, I’d suggest this combination Ice Domes tour and dog-sledding tour which is my absolute favorite activity in Tromso.

For vegans, people afraid of dogs, or those who want to skip animal tourism activities, you can try this combo with a snowmobile tour!

These activities booked through the Ice Domes are organized via Camp Tamok, an adjoining Arctic winter activity center that hosts activities like husky sledding, reindeer sledding, and snowmobiling.

If you have a short trip to Tromso and want to fit in as much as possible, doing a combo tour is a great way to combine two bucket list Tromso activities into one day out.

Personally, I think dog sledding is the most fun and most unique activity to do while visiting Tromso in winter.

Allison Green on a dog sled tour of Abisko, Sweden, with a team of huskies enjoying the beautiful Arctic landscapes around Abisko
My first time dog-sledding in Abisko back in 2016… I was instantly hooked!

I’ve dog-sledding three times and this upcoming winter 2024, I actually have two more dog sled tours booked, one in Rovaniemi as part of my winter Finnish Lapland itinerary and another when I return to Tromso in February.

That’s how much I love dog sledding!

In my honest opinion, reindeer sledding is a little boring by comparison (hardly an adrenaline rush, and a reindeer butt does not make the most scenic view).

Plus, you can snowmobile almost anywhere, but very few places have the history of dog sledding that Norway does, in my opinion!

What You’ll See at the Tromso Ice Domes: My Experience

Entrance to the Tromso Ice Domes tickets center, with sides of the pathway totally covered in snow, and a small sign that says 'tickets' leading the way.
There’s certainly a ton of snow to be found in the Tamok Valley!

Wondering what a tour of the Ice Domes is like? Here’s my brief rundown of the itinerary based on my visit.

The tour of the Tromso Ice Domes lasts about two hours, and you’ll start off in their Ice Cinema, watching a brief but fascinating mini-documentary about how the Ice Domes are constructed.

It’s quite a way to start the tour: the Ice Cinema is a gorgeous introduction to the Ice Domes, a lovely, beautifully-lit amphitheater-style room made entirely of snow and ice… with the exception of reindeer pelts to sit on.

Learning about the effort involved in constructing the Ice Domes while sitting inside of the fruits of that intensive labor is a really cool (pardon the pun) experience!

People sitting to watch a movie being projected on an ice wall showing how the Ice Domes are constructed each year
Watching the information video of the Ice Domes construction is the first part of the tour!

Following the video presentation and a quick briefing of what’s to come on the Tromso Ice Domes tour in the Ice Cinema, you’ll visit the rest of the ice hotel, starting in the ice bar-and-restauarant.

Here, you’ll enjoy a welcome shot to bring you into the Ice Domes in style!

When I went, either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic option was provided, but as of my 2024 update, I see now that they only offer non-alcoholic options as per the website.

It was really fun to drink up in a cup made entirely of ice from the ice bar, while sitting at a table made of ice, sitting on ice chairs! (How many times can I fit ice in a sentence? A lot, apparently.)

There are some cool (the puns never stop with me, I’m sorry) decorations in the ice bar.

The year I went, there was a very Instagrammable ice throne which everyone got really excited to take pictures in.

Allison Green sitting in an ice throne with decorative branches and other visual elements in purple and lavender lighting
The money shot at the Tromso ice hotel!

Insider Tip: From my experience visiting, I suggest waiting to sit in the throne and taking shots of the ice bar/restaurant until you have free time to explore the ice hotel after you see the ice rooms!

That way, you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with and it’ll be far easier to get some good photos here.

Next after the ice bar area comes the part you’ve probably been the most curious about — the ice hotel bedrooms themselves!

As with the rest of the property, the rooms are made entirely of ice as well, right down to the bed.

But hey, this is a luxury stay, not a prison: while the bedframe is carved from a block of ice, it has a lovely and plush mattress, covered in reindeer pelts to add warmth.

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel, with a reindeer pelt on the bed, with carvings behind her. She is smiling and looks happy to indulge in winter tourism in Norwegian Lapland.
If you have the money to stay overnight here… invite me as your plus one. Just kidding! Or am I?

If you decide to splash out on the bucket list adventure of spending the night in an ice hotel, don’t worry about warmth.

A thermal sleeping bag and plenty of warm accessories will help you get comfortable and sleep through the night.

After getting briefed on the ice restaurant and ice guestrooms and have an idea of what it would be like to spend the night here, you’ll have about 40 minutes at leisure to explore the Ice Domes and enjoy a meal.

My fish soup and flat Lappish homemade bread served at the tromso ice domes
Fish soup and Lappish bread with butter, a Northern Norway classic

I recommend taking photos to your heart’s content before heading over the warm room, where a delicious lunch awaits.

I had a delicious bowl of creamy fish soup, and it came with unlimited coffee or tea.

Fish soup and coffee? Norwegians will pair anything with coffee! With the amount of sunlight you get in winter in Tromso, I honestly get it.

Looking at the most recent tour offering for this 2024 update, it looks like you have your choice between a stew (most likely meat-based) and soup — so be sure to ask based on your dietary preferences what is available.

Note that Norwegian fish soup is often cream-based so it’s not a suitable option for those with lactose intolerance.

Also note that the meat stew offered on these tours is often made of reindeer… so be sure to warn the kiddos if you think that might be upsetting to them.

Allison is hand feeding a reindeer some lichen while at the Tromso Ice Domes, the reindeer looks happy as it accepts the lichen offering through the fence
Tick off meeting reindeer on your visit to the Tromso ice hotel!

You’ll also have a chance to briefly visit and feed the reindeer their favorite treat – some sweet, sweet lichen – should you want to while you’re visiting the Ice Domes!

They’re so adorable and friendly, and they’re definitely domesticated and acclimated to interacting with humans so little ones (and animal lovers in general) will be psyched at their interest.

This is a great way to tick meeting reindeer off your bucket list if you don’t have time to go reindeer sledding or visit a Sami reindeer farm.

Though I also do recommend those activities, as it’s a great way to learn about Sami culture.

After your free time, it’s back to the bus, where you’ll head back to Tromso via some of the most beautiful roads you can imagine… truly!

I’ve never minded a 90-minute commute less than on my way to and from the Ice Domes.

Staying Overnight at the Tromso Ice Hotel

It’s not just a fun place to visit on a day trip: the Tromso Ice Domes is a true ice hotel that you can spend the night in, should you have the funds.

And it’s an epic one, set way out in the Tamok Valley where the Northern lights often roar overhead, far from light pollution… which is why it makes our list as one the best Northern lights hotels in Norway!

So, if money isn’t an object, you aren’t limited to just a day visit — you can actually stay the night in this ice hotel.

You can spend the night here — and hopefully catch the Northern lights dancing overhead on their nightly photography tour and snowshoe walk!

At over $1,600 USD a night for an overnight stay for two, it was well out of my price range, even if I had found someone to split the bill with.

While the price is high, note that it does include transportation, meals, and several activities, which are all costs that add up a la carte.

But if you’re visiting Norway for a special occasion, you’re just generally a baller, or you really are living that YOLO mindset, you may want to splurge on staying the night!

If you’d like to stay at the Ice Domes, you can book here which covers the full experience!

View of the interior of the Ice Domes, with a light display that says 'Tromso Ice domes' and pink, blue, and lavender lighting in the interior of the igloo.
Staying overnight at the Tromso Ice Domes would be an (expensive) dream come true!

If you do opt for the overnight experience, it includes a guided tour of the Ice Domes, welcome drinks, and dinner cooked on a campfire while out in the Norwegian wilderness.

You also get to take an evening snowshoe tour with the possibility of Northern lights photography.

The next day, you’ll have breakfast and a morning self-drive husky sled ride before getting your transfer back to the Tromso city center.

Is it worth it? Let’s break it down.

The ice bar interior of the Tromso Ice Hotel
The beautiful Ice Domes interior bar and restaurant area, which you’ll have more time in if you stay the night.

Independently and per person, a guided tour costs about $150 USD, dinner in Norway costs about $50-100 USD, a snowshoe tour would cost $150 USD, a night in a hotel costs about $200-400 USD, and a dog sled tour costs about $200 USD.

Using the median cost for each of those figures and calculating for two people sharing a room, the cost of all those activities would be $1,400 USD for two people… which makes staying at the Ice Hotel only an additional ~$250 USD or so.

It’s still quite an expensive activity, but if you plan to visit the Ice Domes during the day, take snowshoe and dog sled tours, and can check out of your hotel for the night in order to not pay double accommodation costs… it’s actually not as crazy a cost as it appears on its face.

It’s still out of my price range personally, but it’s not a bad deal.

Drinking a cup of coffee in the warm tent at the Ice Domes
There are many ways to warm up during your Ice Domes visit, like drinking coffee in the warm tent!

As with most tours and excursions in Northern Norway, if you need to borrow any warm clothing or equipment, this can also be arranged with the hotel.

The hotel will also provide everything you need to sleep warmly, including expedition-strength sleeping bags.

Theese keep you so toasty warm that you can sleep in only thermal underwear!

Can You Visit the Ice Domes Independently?

fjords and mountains in norway while on the highway, making the way towards the tromso ice domes, a snow hotel in northern norway
The road to the Ice Domes — beautiful, but treacherous when icy. Only rent a car if you seriously know how to drive in snow and ice!

Yes and no — you have to book a tour in order to see the Ice Domes, but you don’t necessarily need to take their transfer.

If you are renting a car on your trip to Tromso, you can arrive at the Ice Domes independently.

I would not rent a car specifically to do this with the idea of saving money, but it may be worth it if you are visiting other places in the area or you are visiting the Ice Domes on the way to somewhere else, like Alta.

As per their website for the 2023-2024 season, you can take a guided tour for 1211 NOK ($113) for adults and 606 NOK ($56) for kids aged 4 to 11.

Note that kids 12+ are counted as adults, and kids 3 and under are free.

The guided tour is at noon daily and includes lunch at the restaurant. You can (and should) pre-book here.

A tipi structure at the Tromso ice domes
Not sure when to visit Tromso and the Ice Domes? When I went in February, there was a beautiful combination of daylight and plenty of time for the Northern lights to work their magic.

Since you’re in charge of your own transfer, you can stay around the area for a while after the tour is over, meeting their reindeer, walking around the premises, etc.

This is one benefit to doing a self-guided visit as opposed to taking the transfer, since you don’t have to rush to catch the shuttle back to Tromso.

I did feel like my Ice Domes visit was a teensy bit rushed, and I would have preferred about an extra half-hour to tour the area, since some of the free time was taken up with lunchtime.

What to Bring to the Tromso Ice Domes

Allison Green smiling during a selfie at the Tromso Ice Domes, wearing glasses and a red hat and a winter coat.
Definitely bundle up nice and warm for your visit to the Ice Domes!

Inside the Ice Domes, the temperature is kept a constant -5° C / 23 °F due to the insulating effects of the ice.

Even if it is much colder outside, it will always be -5° C inside, so you don’t have to worry about a sudden cold snap making it uninhabitable.

As a result, you’ll want to dress fairly warm for the day, though you’ll want to dress in layers as the bus you’ll take to the Ice Domes will be heated quite warmly.

I recommend wearing a thermal top and underwear/leggings, jeans or snow pants and a sweater on top, a warm down jacket as your outer layer, and cold weather accessories (hat, waterproof gloves, and scarf).

I also strongly recommend bringing crampons, which are little spike traction slip-ons for your shoes, as the area around the Ice Domes can ice over and get quite slippery!

If you’re not sure what to bring and you need more guidance, I have all the winter clothing and products I recommend listed on my Norway winter packing list.

Of course, you’ll definitely want to bring your camera as well for all the amazing photos you’ll take during your stay.

A cellphone works, but a proper camera with the ability to use manual settings will definitely come in handy with dealing with the low-light conditions inside the Ice Domes.

If you’re staying overnight, you’ll want to also bring an overnight bag, including whatever toiletries, medicine, a change of clothes, etc. that you would need for an overnight stay.

How to Book Your Tromso Ice Domes Visit

View of the tables at the Tromso Ice Dome with reindeer pelts and ice tables and place mats.
Staying the night? You’ll enjoy dinner at the ice restaurant!

On a budget but don’t have a rental car? The basic guided tour plus transfers is the way to go.

Want to add a little adrenaline to your day and make your trip a bit more memorable?

Opt for the dog sledding add-on and Ice Domes visit for a special experience, or a snowmobile ride and Ice Domes visit!

And for the most memorable experience of all, an overnight stay in the Tromso Ice Domes is one for the bucket list.

If you have a rental car and plan to visit the Ice Domes independently to save a few bucks on the shuttle cost, you can book it via the website here.

Abisko Northern Lights: 7 Ways to See the Aurora in 2024 (Tours & Independently)

A majestic aurora on our final night in Abisko

Cascading green waves with flashes of purple and red against a midnight blue sky: since I was a child, I was obsessed with the idea of one day seeing the Northern lights, even before I knew anything about what caused them.

Flash forward to age 26, when I finally decided to make this dream a reality when I saw some shockingly cheap roundtrip tickets to Sweden (I guess very few people try to swap the cold of NYC for the cold of Stockholm).

I knew what this meant: I could finalize realize my dream of seeing the Northern lights.

So in true type-A fashion, I laboriously researched the best place to see the Northern lights in Sweden.

⌛ Planning your Abisko winter trip in a hurry and don’t want to read the full article? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Abisko Northern Tours
1. Lights over Lapland Photography Tour (#1 most reputable company)
2. 6-Hour Northern Lights Tour with Dinner (longest aurora tour)
3. Budget Lights Over Lapland Tour (great company, but larger group and without photography equipment rental)

🛏️ Best Abisko Hotels
1. STF Turiststation: Only accommodation in Abisko National Park, 10-minute walk to great Northern lights viewing spots.
2. Abisko Hostel & Huskies: Best budget option in Abisko, with great dog sled tours!
3. Abisko Mountain Lodge: Most traditional winter lodge, best for families.

And lo and behold, the Northern lights in Abisko kept popping up as the absolute best place to see the aurora borealis in Sweden… but also as one of the top places to see the aurora in the world.

Statistically speaking, scientists agree that the Abisko Northern lights are among the most reliable in the world.

According to science, there’s an 80% success rate of seeing the lights if you stay in Abisko for three nights.

View of the aurora over the mountain near Abisko, Sweden, with green and purple colors in a zigzag shape against the sky.

Anecdotally, I have friends who had previously been to Iceland or Norway in winter and failed to see the Northern lights, even on a multi-week trip.

I didn’t want that to happen to me, especially on a trip planned to specifically to see the Northern lights.

In all my research, the the Northern lights in Abisko National Park seemed to have consistently highest success rate.

And I found that to be true — and actually, my three nights in Abisko, I saw the lights (to one extent or another) all three nights!

Flash forward to 2020, I planned a return trip to the Arctic hoping to see the Northern lights again, this time in Tromso.

Personally, when I compare my times chasing the Northern lights in Abisko and Tromso, I found I saw way better lights in Abisko way easier, for a fraction of the cost of Tromso.

I wrote this post after my epic trip to Stockholm and Abisko in the winter, and I most recently updated this post on January 4th, 2024 to ensure all tours are active and all information is correct and up-to-date.

Getting to Abisko from Stockholm

A car pulled over on the side of a road in Abisko, Sweden, to admire the Northern lights overhead
A view of Abisko’s famous Northern lights

Contrary to what you might think, flying is actually usually the best way to start an Abisko Northern lights trip, even if you start in Stockholm!

Taking the train from Stockholm to Kiruna is about 105 Euro each way and takes 17 hours.

Time was a luxury we did not have, and most people on short weekend breaks will not either.

If you have the time, Kiruna is worth a few days exploring, as it’s a super cute and unique town if you have the time.

Kiruna Church Sweden covered in snow, evoking a real Arctic vibe, with a reddish-brown church and snow
A scene from Kiruna, where most Northern lights adventures begin

But I was on a strict schedule, so I headed straight to Abisko after touring Kiruna for a little less than a day.

From Kiruna, you have a few choices to get to Abisko, where you can view the Northern lights a lot easier than in Kiruna proper (due to light pollution from the city and a slightly worse microclimate).

You can take either an obscenely expensive taxi (I believe it would have been about $200 USD), heading to Kiruna by bus or taxi and then taking the train to Abisko (about $11), or booking a direct shuttle bus to Abisko (this is the best way).

There is also a once-daily public bus (line 91) that goes directly from the airport to Abisko, but it is generally really hard to line up your flight arrival time with the bus departure.

It’s worth looking into, but don’t get your hopes up. It didn’t work out for us when we visited in 2016, and we had to resort to the most chaotic way to get to Abisko from Stockholm (don’t be like us — just book the d*mn shuttle bus).

7 Ways to See the Abisko Northern Lights

There are several ways to see the Abisko Northern lights, depending on your budget and how much time you have.

The cheapest (but least reliable) is just hoping for a clear day, walking away from any source of light pollution, and looking up!

However, this isn’t the optimal way to see the Northern lights in Abisko, because weather conditions may not be favorable in your exact location and you won’t have a guide who can predict where the aurora will be at its strongest.

Lights over Lapland Photography Tour

Photo Credit: Manawa

Ask anyone and this is their top recommendation for an Abisko Northern lights tour.

The Lights over Lapland photography tour has the best reputation in town because it’s run by a passionate aurora photographer who will not only bring you to great spots but also teach you how to photograph the lights on your own.

Plus, you don’t need to splurge on your own fancy camera for this — they will provide you a DSLR camera to use, all set with the proper settings ready to go, and they’ll also give you a brief overview of the skills needed to snap your very own photos of the Northern lights.

You’ll get personalized attention since the tour is limited to eight people, and the tour is prepared for any eventuality so that you can see the lights.

Depending on whether the Northern lights are dancing, you’ll either seek out the lights on foot based out of their nearby lavoo camp, in a sleigh pulled by a snowmobile in the wilderness camp, or go further afield to chase the lights in a 4×4 van.

You’ll have four hours of aurora hunting so you have plenty of time to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

You won’t just be standing around as you wait for the lights to appear, either; during the tour, your guide will explain the cultural and spiritual significance of the Northern lights to the Sámi indigenous people of the region.

Book your Northern lights photography tour here!

Budget-Friendly Aurora Chasing Tour

Two people standing on the frozen lake, looking at the aurora above which shows green, red, and purple colors swirling in the sky.
Photo Credit: Manawa

While the Lights over Lapland Photography Tour is my top choice in Abisko, it’s also a little bit pricy.

This aurora chasing tour is a decent amount cheaper, so if you’re on a budget, this may be the way to go in Abisko.

This tour does not include photography equipment, but if you already have your own high-quality camera set up (at a minimum, this includes a mirrorless or DSLR camera, wide-angle lenses, and tripod) then this may not matter to you.

This tour goes by minivan up to 90 kilometers away from the heart of Abisko National Park if needed to one of their favorite spots, such as Lake Torneträsk, Bear Mountain, or the mountains near Björkliden.

Note that this tour has less personalized attention than the above tour, since there can be up to 18 guests per tour.

That said, if you don’t mind the lack of photography equipment or the larger group size, it’s a great option to help you save some money in pricy Sweden!

Book your budget Abisko Northern lights tour here!

6-Hour Northern Lights Tour with Dinner

bright green and purple sky in the sweden night sky in abisko

If 4 hours of aurora chasing isn’t enough for you, here’s another great value offer — a 6-hour long Northern lights chase including dinner!

This small group tour (max. size 12) includes dinner first, then departing on a minivan tour chasing the lights.

This way, your guide will bring you to the best spot for the aurora based on the night’s forecast and microclimate conditions.

They’ll set up camp with a roaring campfire and hot tea and coffee so you can stay warm while waiting for the aurora to show!

This tour’s extra value comes from its two additional hours of aurora-watching compared to other tours as well as including dinner as part of the experience.

However, keep in mind that it does not provide any photography equipment, so you’ll have to bring your own from home.

Book your 6-hour Northern lights tour here!

Aurora Watching Tour with Sami-Style BBQ: From Kiruna

The neon green swirl of the Northern lights overhead with view of the landscape of Abisko and city lights in the distance.

This BBQ & aurora watching tour departing from Kiruna combines a culinary experience with Northern lights chasing, sharing delicacies from the local Sámi culture such as smoked reindeer as you enjoy a BBQ dinner.

(Reindeer not your jam? Fish, vegan, and vegetarian options are all available, too.)

After the BBQ dinner, you’ll head out into the more remote countryside in search of the aurora — depending on the weather and where you need to go, you’ll either explore by bus or by snowmobile!

Note that this tour departs from Kiruna and brings you to Abisko, so it’s perfect if you’re not planning on staying overnight in Abisko.

Book your aurora tour with BBQ dinner here!

Visiting the Aurora Sky Station

One of the most popular ways to see the Northern lights in Abisko is to visit the Aurora Sky Station located not far from STF Turiststation.

This tour brings you from STF Turiststation to a chairlift which will bring you to the top of Mt. Nuolja, about 3,000 feet above sea level (900 meters).

The views of Abisko and Lake Törnetrask below you are pretty epic — add in the Northern lights over Abisko and it’s like a painting come to life!

The benefit of the Sky Station is that you get to stay indoors in a cozy and comfy setting while you wait for the Northern lights to appear.

The downside is twofold: one, you’re locked into one location, so if the weather conditions are poor there, you won’t really be able to change it up.

The other downside is that because you’re high up, you may experience some different weather conditions that actually make viewing the lights harder, such as if a cloud settles atop the mountain.

That said, the Abisko Sky Station is a popular choice for many, because it’s comfortable to sit in the sky station and enjoy a meal here while you wait for the lights.

While I wouldn’t recommend it as the only way to see the Northern lights, having a meal here and spending a night here would be a good way to supplement another Abisko Northern lights tour experience.

Book your Abisko Sky Station experience here!

Aurora & Guided Snowmobile Tour

northern lights and snowmobiles

If you want to combine your Abisko Northern lights chasing with a fun out-in-nature activity, this aurora and snowmobile tour is an excellent option.

Cozy up in your provided thermal suit and choose between driving your own snowmobile (alone or with a passenger) or hop on board a sled pulled along by a snowmobile.

In between glimpses at the sky for the aurora, keep an eye out on the snow-covered ground too for local wildlife like moose and reindeer along the way.

This tour is capped at 8 people to ensure a small group experience, and it lasts for about 2 hours exploring the area around Abisko and Björkliden, around the scenic Lake Torneträsk.

Book your snowmobile and Northern lights tour here!

Self-Guided Aurora Watching

A photograph Allison took of the Northern lights as they danced overhead in 2016 in Sweden.
A snap I took of the Northern lights in Abisko National Park!

That said, you don’t need to take an Abisko Northern lights tour in order to see the lights. Self-guiding is an option, too!

I was on a strict budget while I visited Abisko since it was back in my teaching days, and I was spending my money elsewhere on things like my dog-sledding tour so I didn’t take a Northern lights tour while in Abisko.

Instead, each night when I was staying at STF Turiststation I would check the aurora livestream (it’s since changed, but you can now find it livestreaming on Twitchit’s going off right now as I type this, at 3 AM Swedish time!) and then go for a little night hike with my photography gear.

The first two nights I did this, there was Northern lights activity in Abisko but I didn’t get to take very good photos, because the conditions were really fleeting and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Plus, it was really cold and standing around aimlessly without a fire or anything didn’t make it easy to have the patience I’d need for a better chance of great photos.

The final night I got better photos, walking down from where I was staying at STF Turiststation to the frozen-over Lake Törnetrask and being determined to truly see the lights.

Just as I was giving up and heading back in, the Northern lights erupted above me and I was able to snap the above photo!

It’s not a fantastic photo, but I’m proud that I was able to capture the purple element which was visible even to the naked eye.

So, yes, you can absolutely self-guide and see the Northern lights on your own! However, after taking several Northern lights tours in Tromso, I have to say that if you can afford it, taking a tour offers a far better and more comfortable experience, with a much higher guarantee of seeing the lights.

Personally, if I were to re-do this trip, I’d take a tour at least one night of my trip — it would have been worth the extra expenditure, something I can now only see with hindsight.

Where I Stayed to See the Abisko Northern Lights

The green waves of the northern lights as seen from above a mountain in sweden with lights on the horizon

Originally, we booked to stay at Abisko Hostel & Huskies.

I mean, it has huskies in the name — how could you not?

However, due to a last minute problem with the hostel (a malfunctioning fire alarm system that they were fixing), they had to cancel our reservation.

But they rebooked us for no extra cost at STF Turiststation, a more expensive (but incredibly nice!) hostel that also has cabins and private rooms.

And we had a whole 6-room hostel room to ourselves!

We loved our stay at STF so much that if your budget allows I’d really recommend staying there, because you truly can’t beat having all of Abisko National Park to yourself.

STF has multiple saunas, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals, TWO of the nicest hostel kitchens I’ve ever seen, a fireplace and lounge room.

The green hue of the Abisko northern lights illuminating a tree and low-lying clouds on the horizon
A green sky in Abisko

Plus, it’s walking distance to frozen waterfalls and the frozen lake in Abisko National Park, which are great places to go during the day while waiting for the Northern lights to appear at night.

Even if you don’t stay there, it’s a great place to go for lunch – they have a daily buffet for about $15 USD, which is a fantastic deal for pricy Sweden.

The people at Abisko Hostel & Huskies were so lovely, and really helped us out with everything related to our stay… but I can’t speak to how the dorms were as we ended up being unable to stay there.

The dogsledding tour we took with them, however, was excellent!

Daytime Things to Do in Abisko (Before the Northern Lights Come out!)

Spend the after going dogsledding with huskies.

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
Dog sledding is a must-do when you visit the Arctic!

As I mentioned before, I loved my dog-sledding tour in Abisko!

While in general, I’m a traveler who is hesitant to support animal tourism, I think dog sledding is different. (I wrote a whole post on dog sledding in Norway to explain why!)

And in Abisko, I was able to see that the staff really value the dogs’ safety and wellbeing.

They had an awareness of each dog’s personality and knew how to pair the dogs with other dogs they’d get along with.

Sled dogs aren’t like your average dog – while obviously domesticated, there’s still a touch of the wild in them.

There’s a very clear hierarchy amongst sled dogs, and certain dogs need to be at the front of the line or else they get really upset.

I appreciated how the staff knew about this, anticipated it, and kept the dogs happy — they were literally howling with happiness, ready to run before we left.

At approximately $170 USD, a two-hour sled ride with the dogs is certainly an expensive treat, but it was well worth it to me.

However, for me, the realization of a childhood dream was worth the added cost.

Book your dog sledding tour in Abisko here!

Chase (frozen) waterfalls in Abisko National Park… or even climb them!

frozen waterfalls in Abisko National Park

Abisko National Park is a stunning setting even if it weren’t for its frequent dalliances with the Northern lights — and seeing it by day is a must.

Take some snowshoes (if you’re staying at STF Turiststation, they’ll rent you some!) and go for a hike to find the beautiful frozen waterfalls.

The staff at the front desk can draw you a map to find it, just a 15-minute trudge through the snow away.

If you’re feeling exceptionally brave, we saw people ice climbing up the waterfalls, using a belay set-up and climbing with pickaxes and crampons.

Back when I saw this with my own eyes in 2016, it was a big ol’ nope for me, but now 2023-era me who loves rock climbing is wondering when I can get back and try my hand at ice climbing!

Book your ice climbing excursion here!

Learn about the indigenous Sámi culture.

The Arctic region of Europe has its own Indigenous population: the Sámi people, who inhabit the Sápmi region which includes parts of Northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as Kola peninsula in Russia.

The Sámi people have lived off and cared for the land for centuries and continue to live in this region today, despite attempts from the nations who claimed Sápmi land in their borders to erase or assimilate Sámi culture.

The exact arrival of the Sámi in the region and who they originated from is still unknown, but most scholars agree at the Sámi have been inhabiting the Arctic region continuously for at least 2,000 years.

Despite harsh Arctic weather, attempted forced assimilation through political and so-called ‘educational’ means, and the division of their ancestral lands into four distinct nations, the Sámi continue to preserve their traditions, language, and culture.

One fascinating facet of this culture is the unique relationship between the Sámi people and the semi-domesticated reindeer they herd through the wild lands of the Arctic region.

For many centuries, the Sámi hunted reindeer as a wild species, but since the 1500s, that changed when some Sámi began herding reindeer and domesticating them, similar to free-grazing cattle. 

Reindeer husbandry is still a major part of the Sámi economy, though now tourism plays a role in that, with many Sámi people choosing to remain static through the winter period and establishing a farm that tourists can visit rather than roaming nomadically as they would historically do.

Visits with the Sámi people often include checking out the reindeer farms and getting a chance to feed reindeer or go reindeer sledding. 

This Sámi tour is the one I would recommend as it is also run by Lights over Lapland, which enjoys a great reputation in the region. 

The 7-hour tour consists of a visit to a reindeer farm in Rávttas, a small Sámi village 45 minutes away from Abisko.

The tour is inclusive of roundtrip transportation and lunch. On the tour, you’ll get the chance to meet and feed the reindeer, learning about Sámi culture from an English-speaking Sámi tour guide, and enjoy a short reindeer sled ride

Book your Sami village experience here!

What to Pack for a Trip to Abisko’s Northern Lights

Allison Green posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway in a red thermal suit with the green aurora overhead, surrounded by snowfall
Seeing the Northern lights on a tour in Tromso – much better equipped this time!

Despite being located north of the Arctic Circle, Abisko isn’t always as cold as you might think.

It’s colder than Tromso in winter, but warmer than Rovaniemi in the more-popular Finnish Lapland region.

Temperatures of -20°C / -4°F are common, and on rare occasions, the weather will reach as low as -40°C / -40°F.

However, when I visited in mid-February, the weather really wasn’t that bad. In fact, Abisko was warmer than the weather in NYC that I had left behind!

We usually had temperatures of around -1°C/30°F during the day, and as low as -9°C / 15°F at night.

However, the weather is unpredictable, so you will most certainly want to pack accordingly.

Here’s what I recommend you bring (for a more complete list, check out my winter in Sweden packing list)

  • Down Parka
  • Base Layers (either merino wool or other performance fabric)
  • Warm Sweaters + Waterproof Pants
  • Wool Socks + Snow Boots
  • Touchscreen-friendly Gloves + Waterproof Gloves over them
  • Hand Warmers (Electric or Disposable)
  • Tight-knit Hat + Large Scarf
  • Mirrorless/DSLR camera + Wide Angle Lens (+ Extra Batteries!)
  • Tripod + Lens Defogger

30 Truly Magical Things to Do in Tromso in Winter (2024 Update)

Tromso in winter is an absolute wonderland: a pristine city center, glittering freshly-fallen snow, glimpses of the aurora winding overhead.

There’s no shortage of charms this Arctic City, aptly nicknamed “The Paris of the North” for its cultural prominence, has to offer.

You’d think a wintry city near the top of the world, above the Arctic Circle, would be rather sleepy, but Tromso in winter proves otherwise.

⌛ Planning your wintery Tromso trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Tours & Experiences
1. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
2. Self-Driven Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
3. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

Arriving in Tromso by plane? Book your affordable airport transfer here.

Winter is Tromso’s peak season, where people from all over the world flock to see winter in its purest form.

Depending what month you visit Tromso in winter, you’ll either have some or no daylight.

That’s because Tromso experiences the “polar night”, a 6-week period where the sun never reaches above the horizon, from November 27th to January 15th each year.

I wanted to be able to have a bit of sunlight to my days, so I planned my Tromso winter trip for early February and it was perfect.

In fact, I loved it so much that I have a return trip to Tromso planned for February 2024!

view from the top of tromso's cable car of tromso at night with all the city starting to light up below you

Once the sun finally makes its reappearance, the days lengthen rapidly, and I was enjoying plenty of sunlight and lots of hours to look for the aurora!

I’ve gathered 30 incredible things to do in Tromso in winter, but I know that may be overwhelming for some people who have a limited amount of time in Tromso.

Therefore, I’ve structured the post to list my top 10 favorite things to do in Tromso first, then I break it into extra Tromso activities — foodie, cultural, and adventure — which you can add to your Tromso bucket list as you see fit.

If you want to see how this looks spread over a period of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days, check out this 1-5 day Tromso itinerary for the winter.

I traveled to Tromso in February of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I have edited this post several times since to reflect changing restrictions, attraction availability, entry requirements etc. This post was updated on December 29, 2023, and it will be updated again upon my February 2024 visit.

10 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Chase the Northern lights with experts

Allison Green in a red thermal puffy jacket with the green northern lights overhead in a snow field

Of course, the main reason people visit Tromso in the winter is for a chance of glimpsing the magical Northern lights!

However, it’s not quite as easy as you’d think. You may imagine that the Northern lights swirl overhead like a never-ending light show going on all night… yet unfortunately, that is very rarely the case.

I was lucky enough to see the Northern lights three times during my week in Tromso: a tiny, minute glimpse on a night sailing tour, once from my Airbnb in Tromso, and a wild show on my Northern lights tour (I went with this company).

I highly recommend going with the same company as I did for several reasons.

For one, they truly went above and beyond to ensure we got to see the Northern lights properly, which meant driving all the way past the Finnish border and setting up camp in the one place that didn’t have cloud cover.

We stayed for quite a while, eating fire-roasted sausages (reindeer, pork, and vegan options) while sitting on reindeer pelts out in the snow.

We drank cocoa and coffee to keep warm by the fire as we waited for the Northern lights to resume their dance.

Allison cooking sausages over an open fire

Every so often, the guide would call out to us that the lights had returned and were dancing again in the sky.

Once they were out, he’d arrange for Northern lights portraits (like the above picture of me looking like the Marshmallow Man who attacks New York City in Ghostbusters — which is entirely not his fault but the fact that I was wearing both a parka and a thermal suit…)

I’ll be honest: you can try seeing the Northern lights on any selection of tours, like dog sledding and reindeer sledding tours.

That said, I did several night activities hoping I’d get a glimpse of the lights, and on almost all of them, I had a fantastic time doing the activity but saw (almost) no lights.

So if the Northern lights are on your Tromso bucket list, don’t settle for anything less than a true Northern lights tour or you might end up disappointed.

I also rounded up all the different types of Northern lights tours in Tromso here, with my personal experience from 6 of the 11 different tours — check it out!

Go dog-sledding with an enthusiastic team of huskies

View from the driver's seat as Allison goes on a dog sledding self drive adventure in Tromso in winter

Dog sledding is my favorite thing in the world!

I first tried it in Abisko when I visited in the winter of 2016, and I couldn’t wait to do this on my trip to Tromso this winter.

It’s truly a breathtaking and spectacular experience, one that’s a lot more work than it seems if you opt for the self-driving experience!

I tried out a variety of dog-sledding tours in Tromso: a daytime self-driving tour was my the first dog sled experience I did in Tromso, and I loved it!

Since I loved my driving my own dog sled in Abisko, so I knew that was the way I wanted to go in Tromso, too.

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
My first time dog-sledding in Abisko!

I hadn’t try a musher-led tour before and I wanted to see what the difference was for my readers, so I also did a nighttime guided dog-sledding tour — but they also ofter daytime guided sled tours as well.

When I say guided, I mean someone else drives (or mushes) and you just sit back in a sled and enjoy!

For me personally, I had more fun self-driving — it’s more active and the rush of wind at your face as you help your dogs man the sled is just incredible.

You get your heart racing and pumping as you see the incredible fjord scenery all around you and you really feel like you’re part of the pack as you help your dog team manage the sled!

Check out this self-driven dog sled tour here!

Allison Green wearing a blue scarf and polar suit, with a dog kissing her cheek after a dog sled ride

However, for many people, I think they would enjoy a guided tour better.

It’s a far better option for families traveling with younger children (the minimum age is 4 for guided tours, as opposed to 7 for self-driving tours).

It’s also better for those who are not very physically fit as self-driving is far more active than you imagine…

Just think: you’re running to help push a sled in shin-deep snow!

Also, for those who are a bit anxious about dog-sledding, I’d suggest a guided sled ride.

Check out details of the guided sled tour here!

But if you have a keen sense of adventure and are at least mildly fit (I’m no picture of health, but I managed perfectly fine), you definitely ought to try a self-driving sled ride… it’s a trip of a lifetime.

Personally, it’s my favorite winter thing to do in Tromso.

And whichever tour you choose, you’ll be given plenty of pup cuddle time!

Go whale watching in the waters outside of Tromso

an orca at the top of the waters in the icy landscape of norway's coastal area

Whale watching in Tromso is atop many people’s Tromso in winter bucket lists… but there’s a lot to consider when planning whale watching as part of your Tromso itinerary.

First thing to consider is when in winter you are going. If you are visiting Tromso in November through January, you are almost guaranteed to see whales on your whale watching tour…

Of course, remembering that this is a wildlife excursion and there are no guarantees in nature.

However, by the end of January, the whales tend to leave the Tromso area. I was able to snag the last day of whale watching excursions when I arrived on February 5th….

Unfortunately, the excursion was canceled as the whales had already migrated out of the area!

So if whale watching is high on your Tromso list, be sure to visit during whale season and don’t assume it’s all winter long like I did.

whale tale in tromso area

Another thing to consider is the significant time investment that whale-watching in Tromso requires.

The whales used to feed in the Tromso fjords, but now they no longer go there, and instead go to Skjervoy… which is about a 3 to 4-hour boat ride from Tromso.

You’re talking about 7-8 hours of boat travel time in order to have about 2.5 hours of whale watching time… a trade-off I think is well worth it.

That said, if you have a very short amount of time in Tromso or if you’re very prone to boat sickness, this may not be the excursion for you.

I recommend this hybrid-electric catamaran cruise, with the same company I did a wildlife and bird fjord safari with.

Visit a Sámi reindeer camp

The Sámi people are an indigenous people who live in the far north of four countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia.

Their history in the Nordic lands goes back millennia and they are the original people of the Arctic north.

The Sámi people have herded reindeer for centuries, moving large herds of reindeer around Northern Norway to forage and living nomadically.

Now, many Sámi reindeer herders make some money during the harsher winter months by bringing their reindeer down from the north to reindeer farms outside of Tromso.

Climate change is making it harder for the reindeer to find food naturally up in Northern Norway in winter.

These farms serve a dual purpose of providing Sámi people a good income from tourism during the winter months — something they were historically shut out from — and ensuring the reindeer have plenty to eat during the winter season before they get brought back up north to graze in Sámi lands.

Allison feeding reindeer at a Sami reindeer camp

On the farm, you’ll get a chance to hand-feed reindeer, go reindeer sledding if you want, try reindeer stew (or a vegetarian option if that’s a bit too on the nose for you), and listen to a Sámi reindeer herder share his story and the history of Sámi people.

If you’re wondering if reindeer sledding in Tromso is ethical, I would say yes, in the same way that horseback riding is.

Reindeer have been domesticated by the Sámi people for thousands of years, trained to traverse huge distances and yes, pull sleds.

Using reindeer for tourism as opposed to animal agriculture is a relatively new phenomenon, but these reindeer are domesticated and the behavior of pulling a sled is not unusual for them at this point in their evolution.

This is the exact company I went with and highly recommend it!

Everything about the day was magical, and I enjoyed my reindeer sled ride (though dog-sledding is definitely a bit more ‘high-octane’ fun!).

They also offer the same activity but at night if you want to try to spot the Northern lights or if that just fits into your itinerary better!

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

I was really impressed by our Sámi storyteller!

He was so passionate about preserving Sámi culture but also acknowledging how the culture has changed — such as herders using drones to herd their reindeer.

He was quite young, very open and honest, and not afraid to touch upon important issues like bigotry and anti-Indigenous sentiment.

It’s important to be aware that Norway has historically been quite oppressive of the Sámi population — same as other Nordic countries.

Many state-sanctioned measures attempted to erase Sámi history from Norwegian culture through forced assimilation measures (Norwegianization or Fornorsking av samer).

These practices included prohibiting the teaching of Sámi language or culture in schools, banning Sámi clothing, stripping away land ownership rights of Sámi people, and even separating Sámi children from their families to be sent to boarding schools elsewhere in Norway.

a sami man in traditional costume and a reindeer on a lasso with a sami tent (lavvu) in the back

This legalized form of cultural genocide continued into the 1980s.

Measures have been taken to atone for Norway’s horrible treatment of the Sámi, including reparations, an official apology, and a truth commission to further acknowledge the extend of what the Sámi experienced.

While Norway is making strides towards better treatment of their indigenous people, it’s important to note that anti-Sámi bigotry continues to this day, with Sámi people being assaulted for speaking their native language in public.

It’s important to be aware of Sámi history as we enjoy Northern Norway, their ancestral lands.

Visit a stunning Ice Hotel for the day — or night!

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

The easiest way to visit the Tromso Ice Domes is via a guided tour and shuttle bus which departs from Tromso. 

This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — it was a definite highlight of my time in Tromso.

Unless you plan to rent a car when in Tromso in winter, a guided tour with a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes as public transportation will not take you here.

View of the bed at the Tromso ice domes with beautiful ice carving above the bed

The Tromso Ice Domes are not actually located in Tromso city, but rather about 100 kilometers away in Tamok Valley… but it’s well worth a side trip during your time in Tromso!

Your standard Ice Domes tour includes watching an informational movie about how the hotel is built each year at the ice cinema, an ice shot of local juice at the ice bar, guided tour of the ice hotel, visit with the reindeers, and a meal with coffee and tea.

northern lights and snowmobiles

The most popular package is to combine a visit to the Tromso Ice Domes with a snowmobiling ride through the stunning Tamok Valley where the ice hotel is set.

I was aching to do this, but unfortunately, the snowmobiling portion of the tour requires that you have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile, and mine just expired, so I was unable to do so.

However, if you can, I highly recommend bundling the Ice Domes and a snowmobile ride as the area around the ice hotel is truly spectacular and I wish I had more of a chance to explore it.

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes, a great Northern lights spotting destination!

The priciest but most unique way to experience the Ice Domes is by staying in it overnight — but it won’t come cheap. Check prices here.

It’s definitely worth it for a special occasion, but it’s out of most people’s — including mine! — price range.

Sail into the fjords at night for a shot at spotting the aurora

Allison Green sitting in a polar thermal suit, with a hat on, on a catamaran net on a snow-covered boat

How does sailing away past the city lights through a glassy fjord in search of the Northern lights sound?

If you answered “pretty darn magical,” I’d say you’re spot on.

I took a sailing and Northern lights trip that I booked on Manawa during my time in Tromso and it was an absolute delight.

We weren’t super lucky with the weather, but we did spot a glimmer of Northern lights… which I hastily snapped with my smartphone, because by the time I got my tripod out, it had already gone.

Allison looking up a tiny glimmer of the Northern lights seen over the city of Tromso while on the fjord sailing

Regardless of only seeing a brief glimmer of the lights, I had an amazing time sailing… mostly because the crew was so lovely, making sure we were warm, well-fed and caffeinated, and comfortable.

We ate a delicious fish soup — truly the best I had in my week in Norway!

I must have eaten at least 5 bowls of fish soup and drank tons of tea and coffee to stay warm.

I truly enjoyed the scenic cruise and seeing the city lights as we entered and left Tromso harbor, even if the Northern lights didn’t cooperate so well!

Catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral

lights on in the triangular shaped arctic cathedral in downtown tromso with pale blue sky as the sun has just set in the city.

The Arctic Cathedral in Tromso is located in Tromsdalen, across the bridge from the more touristic part of Tromso.

It’s an easy and beautiful walk over the bridge from downtown Tromso, but you can also take bus line 28 from Tromso center.

You can visit the Arctic Cathedral during opening hours like for a 70 NOK (around $6.50 USD) entrance fee.

Their winter opening hours are from 1 PM to 5 PM on all days except Wednesday, which is from 2 PM to 5 PM.

But if you’re visiting Tromso in winter, I recommend trying to see one of their Northern Lights concerts — if you can stay up late enough one night!

You’ll have to check their calendar for dates, but the most are in December.

Take the cable car for sweeping views over Tromso

View from the top  of the cable car called Fjellheisen with the landscape of Tromso and its fjord below

Also in Tromsdalen is the Tromso cable car (Fjellheisen), which offers you sweeping views over the city of Tromso and the fjord landscape.

Views here are simply remarkable!

You can visit independently as I did: return tickets are NOK 225, about $21 — not bad for Norway prices, and definitely not bad for those amazing views!

You can hike around the area for some incredible scenery, but be sure to wear proper shoes with crampons as it can get quite icy and slippery here.

After you’ve walked around a bit and checked out the views, you ought to stop by the cafeteria for a delicious Norwegian waffle and a cup of coffee!

Prices are surprisingly reasonable — they are standard Norwegian prices (so not budget) but not inflated for the view.

Take a bird and wildlife fjord cruise

Allison Green wearing a parka and hooded jacket with a yellow hat while on a fjord cruise of Tromso in winter

While I couldn’t go whale watching during my time in Tromso in winter, I was able to go on a wildlife and bird safari through the fjords of Tromso and it was incredible!

During the 5 hour cruise (this is the exact tour I took), I was able to see an amazing array of wildlife from the boat.

In that time, I spotted seals, otters, dolphins, and even Norwegian sea eagles which are truly incredible (no whales, though — they stopped visiting the Tromso fjord area long ago, even in ‘season’).

The cruise included a fantastic lunch with fresh Arctic fish and warm drinks, plus they had insulated bodysuits in case you were cold…though I was pretty toasty warm in the parka I packed for Norway!

Other Active Winter Things to Do in Tromso

Go snowshoeing

A group of three friends snowshoeing in the Tromso area

With only a week in Tromso in February, I had to make a few cuts to my original Tromso itinerary.

Unfortunately, that meant I missed the chance to go snowshoeing while in Tromso last winter.

However, I’ve down snowshoeing before in Swedish Lapland when I was staying in Abisko in winter and I absolutely adored it!

It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a surprisingly difficult workout.

It’s also important to note that unless you are picking a well-trodden trail, it’s better to only snowshoe with a guide.

With as much snow as there is in Tromso, some places are not safe and are at risk for avalanches, so be sure to go with a licensed guide and never do anything crazy like try to hike up to the Tromsdalen cable car by yourself!

Not sure who to go with? I did my nighttime dogsledding with Tromso Wilderness Center and absolutely loved it.

I’d heartily recommend their tour company for snowshoeing with huskies to keep you company or any other excursions!

Check out their snowshoeing with huskies tour here!

Try your hand at snowmobiling

snowmobile with the aurora behind it during the night in tromso with wild lights in the sky

Alas, another thing I didn’t get to do on my trip to Tromso in February — this time not because of time.

Rather, it was because my driver’s license expired in December before my trip began, and I didn’t have time to renew it before leaving for Tromso!

I wanted to add on a snowmobile excursion to my trip to the Tromso Ice Domes (which you can do here) but it also would have been fun to take an aurora snowmobile ride!

Book an epic aurora snowmobile ride here!

Go cross-country skiing

Woman in red jacket, hat, and black pants cross-country skiing in a Norwegian landscape

Norwegians love cross-country skiing — it’s a super popular activity in Tromso!

It’s not something I’ve ever tried… I’m uncoordinated enough without two planks of wood strapped to my two left feet.

If you enjoy skiing but aren’t planning to do any downhill/alpine skiing on your trip to Norway, you may want to give cross-country skiing a try!

This cross-country skiing activity is beginner-friendly and comes with everything you need for a fun day out cross country skiing!

Try your hand at Arctic fishing

a boat on an icy landscape with pink pastel colors in the sky in tromso

If anyone in your group is a fan of fishing, you can’t miss a chance to fish Arctic-style!

Enjoy the beautiful winter dawn colors in Tromso as you enjoy a peaceful day out fishing with local fisherman who have handed down the secrets of the best fishing spots from generation to generation.

And the best part? Whatever you catch, they’ll cook for you on the boat! It doesn’t get fresher than that.

Try your hand at arctic fishing on a luxury catamaran!

Cultural Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Get cultured at Northern Norway Art Museum

red walls of a museum room with a painting of a norewgian street scene

For a small city of about 70,000 people, Tromso has quite a bit of local culture that’s well-worth exploring.

This city has several world-class museums that give you a better sense of Tromso beyond the Northern lights and dog sledding activities which, while fun, are admittedly quite touristy!

One of the best places to dive into Tromso’s culture is the Northern Norway Art Museum (Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum).

This art museum features artists who were from Northern Norway or made Northern Norway the subject of their art.

My favorite part about seeing these beautiful paintings was seeing the use of light done by these artists.

Nordic light is like no other, dreamy and creamy in winter with so many pastel tones, and brilliant and vibrant under the midnight sun.

It has so many shades and tones you won’t see in other art around the world, and it was really cool to see.

There was also some really cool Sámi sculptures while I was there, and it was great to see their initiative in showcasing more Sámi art, which has historically been shut out from Norwegian culture.

Admission to the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum is reasonable – around 80 NOK or about $9 USD – and it’s a must for any art fiend.

Allow about an hour or two to peruse the museum, depending on your pace.

Peruse the free exhibits at Perspektivet Museum

a grey wood building called the pespective museum in tromso, norway

They say Norway is expensive, and they’re not wrong, but one of the great things about Norway is that many museums are free or rather affordable!

The excellent Perspektivet Museum is always free, and it’s well-worth visiting to see a more contemporary side to Norwegian art.

When I visted the Perspektivet Museum, there were a few different photography exhibits focusing on different aspects of Norwegian life.

When I visited, the theme was “Homo Religious”: all about mankind’s different relationships with religion and the many forms that took even in a small place like Tromso.

I was surprised and pleased to see such diversity showcased in Tromso, and it was really interesting to see how people have come to this unique corner of the globe and brought their religion and customs with them.

It answered questions I never knew to ask, like how do Muslims who celebrate Ramadan fast in Tromso during the midnight sun, when the sun never goes down?

Exhibits change often, but the theme is always diversity in Tromso through photography, so you’re sure to learn a lot about Tromso and the people who live here no matter what the exhibit. Absolutely worth a visit!

Learn Arctic history at the Polar Museum

a wild snowstorm in tromso with the red barn like structure of the polar museum covered in snow

This museum was a true highlight for me, as I’m a total nerd who is absolutely enraptured by people who explore extreme environments…

… that’s mostly because I’m a wimp who will never be brave enough to do even a fraction of what they do!

The Polar Museum was super cool because it showcased so many incredible Arctic explorers who went on missions to discovered uncharted and never-yet-touched lands (by man at least), such as Svalbard and the North Pole.

I really loved learning about all the explorers who left Tromso in search of understanding the globe we live on more fully.

It was so interesting to read about the harsh and extreme conditions they underwent in order to discover a previously unknown part of the globe.

I was also particularly enraptured with the story of Wanny Wolstad, a fierce explorer who was the first woman to be a fur trapper on Svalbard, the ultra-northern Norwegian archipelago.

Her story was fascinating (read a bit about it here) and I’m so glad the Polar Museum made sure to highlight her story, as women’s voices are often lost in stories about discovery and exploration.

Visit the Tromso Cathedral

the winter light falls on the beige and brown tromso cathedral with a clocktower and single spire in the downtown area, where the sidewalks are clear of snow but the park has some snowpack

Not to be confused with the Arctic Cathedral over in Tromsdalen, the Tromso Cathedral is located in the heart of the City Center.

It’s a fairly standard Lutheran church, and to be honest, it’s not particularly interesting compared to the more architecturally rich Arctic Cathedral.

That said, since it’s in the heart of Tromso, you’ll inevitably walk past it.

If you’re interested, you can enter the church but there’s a small entrance fee, roughly 30 NOK / $4 USD.

Another church worth seeing is the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady, also not far from the center.

It’s a cute wooden church which holds the cool honor of being the northernmost Catholic church in the entire world!

Marvel at the architecture of the Tromso Library

Intriguing modern glass architecture of the Bibliotek, the tromso library, on a street filled with snowfall

Now this is more my speed architecture wise!

The Tromso Library (Bibliotek) is a really cool piece of modern architecture right in the heart of the city.

Visiting Tromso in winter adds to the visual effect, because it looks really cool next to the snow — almost like an igloo from the future!

It’s a modern style that looks different at every angle, something that I personally really enjoy in architecture.

Inside, the architecture is really beautiful and all the windows make it so light and airy.

Better yet, it’s free to use the internet there in case you need to warm up and browse the internet or kill some time between activities without wanting to spend a lot of money on coffee and cakes.

Check out local art at the gallery

Photography in a gallery, with one photo showing a motion-blurred photograph of reindeer running in a muted display of colors.

I love looking at local art galleries while I’m traveling… even though I’m admittedly a window shopper as I rather don’t trust my own taste in art!

In between some of my activities I spent some time checking out the Galleri NORD.

I was really tempted by some of the art — particularly this beautiful piece which features an almost abstract rendering of some Arctic reindeer running — too bad it was (quite) a bit out of my price range.

There’s lots of exquisite art here and it’s located just around the corner from the Radisson Blu Hotel, a common tour pickup point, so it’s absolutely worth browsing!

Experience Norwegian coffee culture

A cup of coffee served in a tea-cup style cup with a saucer, with festive decorations behind.

In my opinion, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cup of coffee on an Arctic winter day. And I think Norwegians would agree, as they drink on average 4-5 cups of coffee a day!

I had coffee at a number of cute Tromso cafes during my time there. Two standouts are Smørtorget, also near Galleri NORD and a great place to stop between tours if you’re doing both a morning and an evening activity, as well as the charming Svermeri Kafé og Redesign which is a coffee shop mixed with some cute furniture and decor pieces also for sale. They have delicious cakes as well!

Svermeri is located near the Polar Museum and makes a great stop after visiting the museum.

Sip drinks at the Magic Ice Bar

Since I went to the Ice Bar at the Tromso Ice Domes, I didn’t feel a need to check out the Magic Ice Bar as it’s a little on the pricy side.

It’s 350 NOK per person to enter, about $33 USD. That includes warm gear and a welcome drink plus a cocktail of your choice… which honestly isn’t bad given the price of alcohol in Norway.

However, if you don’t have time to squeeze in a visit to the Ice Domes but you do want that Ice Bar experience, it’s right in the heart of Tromso.

It seems like a fun, quirky way to spend some time, though of course, since it’s -5 degrees Celsius in there, it’s certainly no way to warm up!

Drink at Tromso’s oldest pub

interior and bar scene at the olhallen pub, where they serve mack beer and other varieties of beer on tap

Now, this is more my style! I really enjoyed having a craft beer at Ølhallen, the oldest pub in Tromso which features over 72 taps of beer!

It has a long history in Tromso, one that you’ll learn if you visit the adjacent former Mack brewery for a cool beer tour (more on that below).

The bartender here is really knowledgeable and can definitely point you in the right direction!

I recommend going with one of the smaller breweries rather than Mack beer, which you’ll find all over Tromso, so you can find a more unique brew worth your kroner

Again, alcohol is very expensive in Norway, so expect to spend the equivalent of at least $10 USD on a small beer!

Tour Tromso’s own brewery

view of the interior of a brewery in tromso with art on the beer fermenting tanks

Next door to Tromso Ølhallen is Kjeller 5, a beer shop that sells tasty Norwegian craft beers and also does cool brewery tours!

Behind the beer shop are the former Mack brewery premises.

Mack used to be the northernmost brewery in the world. However, now there are at least two breweries in Svalbard, though they didn’t mention this on the tour and kept calling themselves the northernmost brewery…

Still, it was cool to learn the history of Mack and how they moved from this smaller brewery here to a larger brewery just outside of Tromso.

While their main operations are elsewhere, they still brew a few microbrews here, and you’re able to see the facilities and learn about the microbrewing process on their daily brewery tours.

It wasn’t the best brewery tour I’ve ever done, but it was interesting nonetheless and worth the price (190 NOK / ~$21 USD for a one-hour tour plus tastings).

Prices may have changed since I visited in 2020, but I wasn’t able to find updated prices — check it out in person.

Foodie Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Have a beautiful harborside meal at Fiskekompaniet

fish with potatoes and salad at a fancy restaurant in tromso

One of the best tricks for enjoying meals in Norway on a budget is going for lunch rather than dinner!

While I was visiting Tromso on a mid-range budget, I opted to eat my meals out for lunch and at home for breakfast and dinner (when it wasn’t included on a tour, that is).

On my last full day in Tromso, I splurged on a 2-course lunch special at Fiskekompaniet and it was fantastic!

For about $35 USD, I enjoyed a meal of a spectacular fish soup and delicious local cod prepared beautifully.

Enjoy burgers, shakes, and games at Burgr

a burger and fries at the local burger joint in tromso on a metal table

It can be hard to find a good deal in Tromso… but Burgr is a very noteworthy exception, especially at lunch time!

I forget the exact price, but I had a meal with burger and fries for about 140 NOK / ~$15 USD. Not bad for notoriously expensive Norway!

The burger was excellent and they have all sorts of fun, inventive spins on the standard burger if you want something a little more out there.

There are also some video games you can play while you’re waiting for your burger, which is a fun way to pass the time!

Try a reindeer burger at Nyt

a reindeer burger with norwegian brown cheese and norwegian rye bread

This meal won’t be for everyone, because it’s about as Norwegian as it gets, but I loved it!

The reindeer burger at Nyt has a trifecta of three things Norway: reindeer meat (delicious!), brunost (Norwegian brown cheese — not bad, but not my favorite thing in the world), and rye bread.

I had it at Nyt for lunch and quite enjoyed my meal!

I had better reindeer dishes elsewhere in town (see my review of my sandwich at Bardus below), but overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to other visitors to Tromso.

The price was around 150 NOK / $17 USD.

Note that the service here is a bit slow, though, so it’s not a place I’d recommend if you’re really crunched for time.

Eat a sophisticated meal at Bardus

A delicious reindeer open faced sandwich plated beautifully at Bardus Bistro.

Besides Fiskekompaniet, this was my favorite meal in all of Tromso!

I had the reindeer open-faced sandwich at Bardus Bistro and oh my god, it was truly incredible.

The reindeer was served rare and it was absolutely delicious, better than steak to be totally honest!

It was paired with duck paté, greens, and a lingonberry jam aioli. It was life-changingly good.

It was a little more expensive than other places in Tromso, 180 NOK / ~$20 USD for a sandwich at lunch, but it was worth every kronor.

Have the affordable daily lunch at Mathallen

A fish casserole with boiled potatoes and carrot salad

Really on a budget? Get the lunch of the day at Mathallen, easily the best deal in all of Tromso!

I spent 99 NOK on this really tasty fish gratin — I promise it was much better tasting than the picture suggests — with buttery baby potatoes and a sweet carrot salad.

It’s much more expensive to eat there at night — we’re talking tasting menus that run between 700-900 NOK, (~$80-100 USD) — so this is a fantastic deal given the quality of food at Mathallen.

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

colorful houses in red, yellow, blue, etc. of the city of tromso covered in snow in the winter months where the city is a delightful wonderland.

First things first: when it comes time to pick where to stay in Tromso in winter, book early. The best deals go fast, as accommodation is limited and Tromso is soaring in popularity as arctic travel gets really big.

Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $150 USD per night at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

If you want to stay at bucket list places, like some of the ice hotels and Northern lights hotels in Tromso and Northern Norway, expect to spend $300+ a night!

northern lights over the city of tromso with its fjord in the winter with beautiful green colors in the sky


The best budget option in Tromso is hands-down Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel: 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby.

Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee.

Check prices and availability here


If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

The decor is irreverent yet modern with an arctic and polar theme, many with vibrant pops of color that make the hotel have a lot more personality than many other Nordic hotels which tend to be a bit more muted in terms of decor.

Breakfast is included and the location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.

Check prices and availability here

winter landscape of the city of tromso as seen at night when the lights in the city start to twinkle on and change the city into its night scene


There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora.

Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights!

Just 250 meters away from the Hurtigruten cruise dock, it’s perfect if you’re staying in Tromso for a few days before embarking on an adventure on the Hurtigruten.

Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.

Check rates and availability here

How to Plan a Winter Tromso Itinerary for 1 to 5 Days (2024 Update)

The lit-up Triangular architecture of the Tromso Arctic Cathedral against a mountain backdrop in the snow in winter.

If you’re planning your Arctic Norway itinerary, congratulations: you’re in for a bucket list worthy experience of a lifetime!

A trip to Tromso, nicknamed “The Paris of the North” for its important role in Northern Europe’s culture, is a must on any visit to Northern Norway. 

⌛ Planning your wintery Tromso trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Tours & Experiences
1. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
2. Self-Driven Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
3. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

Arriving in Tromso by plane? Book your affordable airport transfer here.
The green and purple hues of the Northern lights dancing in the sky over the city of Tromso with a bridge lit up and visible connecting the two sides of Tromso

This beautiful city serves as the gateway to all sorts of arctic adventures, whether you base yourself in Tromso the entire time or you fly in there and explore more of Northern Norway in a rental car or by bus.

Before getting into this Tromso itinerary, though, we’ll quickly go over the basics of planning a trip to Tromso in winter.

This post was written after my February 2020 trip to Tromso and was updated on December 29, 2023 to reflect changes in prices and availability since my trip so that it is current for 2024. It will be updated again after my upcoming trip to Tromso in February 2024.

Getting to Tromso

People arriving at the airport in Tromso

There are several ways to get to Tromso, and a number of airlines that serve this Northern city, including SAS (which I flew) and Norwegian Airlines, amongst others.

 No matter where you are coming from, I recommend flying into Tromso, as it’s incredibly far from the rest of Norway, particularly Southern cities like Oslo, as it’s one of the northernmost cities in Norway.

From Tromso, you can easily catch a bus into the city center to where you have your accommodation booked. The Flybussen costs 125 NOK one way (200 NOK return), around $13 USD one way ($19 USD return).

It’s also possible to schedule a transfer for a group if you want to have a guaranteed easy trip to your hotel.

It’s a little more expensive but it will give you peace of mind. It may be worth it if you have a long journey before you arrive in Tromso!

Book your Tromso airport transfer here!

Weather in Tromso in Winter

Allison posing with a friendly husky after a dog sledding tour in Tromso

The weather in Tromso is characterized by extremes, with several weeks each of polar night and midnight sun in winter and summer respectively.

In the winter, the weather in Tromso is obviously on the cold side of the spectrum, but perhaps less cold than you might think!

December temperatures often have a high of 32° F (0° C) and a low of 25° F (-4° C). Temperatures in January and February are similar, just a few degrees cooler. 

That’s not too shabby for the Arctic, and it’s definitely warmer than many North American and European destinations at a far lower latitude!

The reason for this is that the jetstream across the Atlantic Ocean pushes warmer air towards Tromso, so Norwegian Lapland isn’t quite as cold as other Arctic destinations, like Swedish and Finnish Lapland. 

As a result, you do need to pack warm clothes for Tromso, but not necessarily clothes for extreme cold. 

The weather in Northern Norway does get colder the further out from Tromso you get, but all the activities you partake in will also rent thermal suits so you don’t have to worry about dressing for that beyond your average warm layers.

If you’re not sure what to pack, read my full winter in Norway packing list here.

How This Tromso Itinerary Works

Sami woman handling a reindeer in the arctic

I structured this itinerary for Tromso to be additive.

What does that mean? 

Basically, the first day contains the “core” activities in Tromso city center and the following days contain the best activities and day trips from Tromso in (in my personal opinion) descending order in terms of importance and uniqueness.

Feel free to swap around the days a bit to fit your preference or so that you don’t have two similar activities back-to-back. 

However, this Tromso itinerary is planned so that you can just pluck as many days as you want from this itinerary to fill out the time you have — whether it’s one day or five days in Tromso.

If you have more than five days in Tromso, you can just spread out the activities a bit.

Spend more time enjoying the city center, checking out the many Tromso museums and restaurants, and just enjoying Northern Nordic culture in this unique place!

Rather than give you a set “X day Tromso itinerary”, you can mix and match to suit your travel style, budget, and time allocated for your visit to Norway.

Tromso Itinerary FAQ

Colorful houses in Tromso Norway with snow all over the place
  • How many days do you need in Tromso?

This is an incredibly hard question to answer! The true and honest answer is that it depends.

Tromso is a small and compact but culturally rich city. Its highlights can be seen in a day, and you can get a good feel for the city in that time. 

However, most people visit Tromso not for the city itself but for all the incredible activities you can do in Tromso.

Chasing the Northern lights, going dog-sledding, meeting Sami reindeer herders, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing: the list of activities in Tromso goes on and on.

The good news is that many activities run both during the day and at night, so you can typically do two half-day activities per day in Tromso. 

Dedicate one full day to simply engaging in sightseeing in Tromso, and then for every two activities you want to do, account for at least one day if you like to travel at a quick pace.

Add one extra day for downtime if you prefer to travel slower.

For example, if you’re visiting Tromso and you want to do whale watching, dog sledding, a Sami reindeer camp, and a Northern lights chase, you should spend at least 3 days in Tromso, but 4 would be even more relaxed.

If you want to spend some time in other parts of Northern Norway, such as staying in one of the ice hotels and Northern lights hotels, add on more time.

  • How much spending money do I need for Tromso?
Pastel colors on the Tromso fjord at sunrise with snow-capped roofs in the city center and looking onto the peaceful waters of the fjord

Travel costs in Tromso are on the high side, mostly because of accommodations, food, and activities.

Expect to spend roughly $200-300 USD per night on a hotel, $20-30 USD per meal (one course, no alcohol), and $150-250 per activity.

There are ways you can reduce costs — staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel, cooking meals instead of eating every meal at a restaurant, doing fewer activities.

That said, overall, a trip to Tromso will be on the more expensive side of things. And with good reason: it’s a bucket list trip if there ever was one!

For a typical day that involves two activities, one meal (assuming the other is provided during an activity, as is often the case), and one night in a hotel, plan around $300-400 USD per person per day, assuming two people or a family are sharing a hotel room. 

Note that this does not include travel costs, which will range wildly depending on where you are flying into Tromso from!

northern lights over a lake
  • Is Tromso a good place to see the Northern lights?

Surprisingly, for its popularity, Tromso is not the best place in the Nordics to see the Northern lights. 

If you truly want to see the Northern lights, Abisko in Sweden is widely considered to be the best place to see the Northern lights.

Finland also has better odds for Northern lights in destinations like Rovaniemi. 

Why is that? Simply, Tromso is coastal, and with coastal weather comes lots of cloud cover and snow, blocking the Northern lights.

I spent one week in Tromso and I saw the Northern lights three times… and one time, we had to drive all the way across the Finnish border two hours away!

  • Will I need a car in Tromso?
The Tromso roads in winter with lots of snow built up on the sides, but snow-plowed so that people can drive through it still, showcasing hazardous road conditions in Tromso in winter

Definitely not! I typically love renting a car when I travel, but Tromso has a great, easy-to-navigate bus system and is very walkable if you are staying in the center. 

Parking is expensive in Tromso and most activities include pickup and drop off, so there’s no real reason to rent a car while in Tromso, especially if you’re not a confident winter driver.

However, if you are staying outside the city center — say, if you are doing the Arctic Glamping that I outline below — or you just prefer to comfort of having your own wheels while you travel, you may want to rent a car.

If you do decide to rent a car, check prices and reserve your car at Tromso Airport in advance here!

Your Tromso Itinerary, Day by Day

Day 1: Getting to Know Tromso

Wander around the City Center.

Brownish-tan wooden cathedral in a square in Tromso Norway in winter with snow on the ground and buildings lit up in evening

The Tromso city center is remarkably cute and compact, making it easy to hit up all the must-sees on a quick self-guided walking tour when you visit Tromso.

The main square in the city is located around the Tromsø Cathedral, the world’s northernmost Lutheran church! Its construction dates back to 1861, and it is unusual in that it is a cathedral made nearly entirely of wood, when most cathedrals are typically made of stone.

After checking out the cathedral, take a stroll down Storgata, the main pedestrian street in Tromso. This is a great place for window-shopping and people-watching, and you may spot some souvenirs you want to buy later in your trip.

The Tromso Library (Tromsø bibliotek og byarkiv) is another interesting spot to see in the city center due to its unique architecture.

Check out the Cathedral of Our Lady in Tromso, another historic wooden church that dates back to 1861. Its architecture is really beautiful and it has a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, wander down to the Tromso Harbor, for all sorts of colorful building facades right on the fjord’s edge. It’s really scenic — it’s gorgeous to see all the colors against the striking white snow and glassy water of the fjord!

Visit the Polar Museum.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

Not far from the Tromso Harbor is the Polar Museum (Polarmuseet) which is a really interesting place to visit in Tromso.

It’s a fascinating place that excels at storytelling the tales of Arctic adventurers — both men and women — who explored the Polar region and went out to sea in order to hunt and trap in the Arctic.

Tromso served as the gateway for many of these polar expeditions and you can learn a ton about all the adventurers who departed from Tromso in search of places that were never yet explored by man before.

A good portion of the Polar Museum is dedicated to the explorations of Roald Amundsen, who was the first verified person to travel to the North Pole (though that is contested) as well as the South Pole (which is uncontested).

It also tells the story of Fridtjof Nansen who skied across Greenland and later lobbied for refugee rights after WWI (and received the Nobel Peace Prize for it!).

The museum also takes a look at other Arctic adventurers who are often overlooked.

I appreciated that the museum took a good deal of time to also look at female explorers who made amazing accomplishments to lesser fanfare.

I learned stories of explorers such as Monica Kristensen Solås (a famed Arctic and Antarctic explorer) and Liv Arnesen (the first woman to reach the South Pole independently). 

The stories are told compellingly with lots of English-language signage so it’s a great way to learn a bit more of the history of Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, and Norway’s outsized role in exploring these previously little-known polar regions.

Check out the Arctic Cathedral.

Large white church with a big cross and snow and views of mountains in distance on a sunny winter day. Arctic Cathedral is a must on a Tromso itinerary

After checking out the Polar Museum, take a stroll across the beautiful Tromsø Bridge to the other side of the fjord, Tromsdalen.

The bridge is actually quite wide — over a kilometer long! — so allow around 15-20 minutes to reach the other side of the bridge. It’s a beautiful stroll though, and the views can’t be beat!

Once you reach the other side of the bridge, you will find the stunning Arctic Cathedral.

This is an absolute wonder of architecture and it’s one of the most iconic landmarks of Tromso.

Entrance to the Arctic Cathedral costs 80 NOK ($8 USD) and it’s well worth it to see this beauty, dedicated to and inspired by the arctic landscapes that surround it, from inside.

Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car.

Views from over the cable car up to Fjellheisen looking over the fjord of Tromso and the city just after sunset

Want the best view in Tromso? It’s from the top of Storsteinen (420 meters / 1,377 feet) above sea level.

After checking out the Arctic Cathedral, make your way over the Fjellheisen cable car station, about a 15-minute walk from the Arctic Cathedral. Bring your crampons because this way can be really icy!

Easily accessible via a 4-minute cable car, taking the Fjellheisen cable car is a must when in Tromso.

Where else can you can look over the entire city of Tromso as well as the fjord?

The Fjellheisen cable car is admittedly rather expensive – 415 NOK ($41 USD) for a roundtrip ticket.

But trust me – these views are worth the price!

From the viewing platform, you’ll have a beautiful view of Tromso and the fjords and islands that make up this beautiful city and its environs.

You can also walk around (again, you’ll want your crampons for this — it can get really icy) to explore other areas of Storsteinen and the views they offer.

But really, the viewing platform offers the best panorama — great during the day as well as at night for spotting the Northern lights! 

Have a nice meal & hope to spot the Northern lights.

Northern lights over the city of Tromso as seen from the viewing platform at Fjellheisen cable car

While at the mountain station, be sure to visit Fjellstua Café, which has a nice selection of Scandinavian food at a reasonable price (for Norway, that is).

Depending on the time of year you visit, it’s well worth it to time your trip up the Fjellheisen cable car for golden hour, watch the sun set over the beautiful landscape and spend some time with a cup of coffee or late lunch / early dinner.

Note that because sunrise and sunset times vary so much depending on the month, this is hard for me to explain when you should go. 

When I went in early February, the sun set at 3 PM, so I timed my trip up the cable car around 2 PM, walked around for an hour and watched the sunset, then spent some time with a coffee and waited for it to get dark.

I didn’t have the patience to stay all night hoping for a glimpse of the aurora, and I knew I had lots of opportunities to chase the Northern lights throughout the rest of my trip, so I headed back down without a glimpse of the lights.

However, you could also time your visit to the cable car for later in the evening for a better chance of the lights… or you may visit Tromso during the polar night when it’s basically almost always evening anyway! 

Having seen the views from both day and night, I can tell you both are beautiful. However, I think it’s best to see the view from daylight if possible and think of nighttime as a bonus if you have the patience!

If this is your only day in Tromso, I’d suggest heading back down the cable car, returning to your hotel to freshen up, and then going on an aurora chasing tour for the night.

If you’re spending another day in Tromso or more, I’ve scheduled the aurora chasing tour for the following night, so you can spend the evening at your leisure.

Day 2: Dog Sledding & Aurora Chasing in Northern Norway

Start the day with a dog sledding experience.

View from the dog sled over the beautiful landscapes of norway in winter

Wake up bright and early and be sure to eat a hearty hotel breakfast — you’re in for a workout today! 

Find the pick up point for your dog sled adventure and get carted away to the beautiful island of Kvaloya, where your dog sledding tour will take place.

I highly suggest doing a self-drive dog sled tour.

Not sure what self-drive means? I overview the differences between the two kinds of tours in my post on dog-sledding in Tromso.

This is the exact tour that I did and I loved the experience.

And what’s not to love, controlling your own dog sled as you zip through the snow with views of fjords and the Lyngen Alps surrounding you everywhere you look? 

Allison posing with a friendly husky after a dog sledding tour in Tromso

While you self-drive the dog sled, taking turns with a partner, you are traveling as part of a small group with several mushers and local guides.

Don’t worry, they’re fully available to help you keep your dogs safe and not get lost while you embark on a winter adventure!

However, if you are traveling with young kids or you want a less active experience for whatever reason, a guided dog tour sled is also a great option.

A guided dog sled tour means that a musher conducts the sled and you sit and enjoy it. It is definitely less hands-on, but it’s also a great experience.

Personally, I have done two self-drive husky safaris and one musher-led tour. I much preferred the self-drive experience.

That said, I can absolutely see the benefits of a musher-led dog sled tour, especially for families with kids or for those with mobility limitations.

Book your self-drive husky adventure or your musher-led tour!

Visit one of Tromso’s museums or aquariums.

The perspective museum a beautiful photography museum in tromso

After your dog sled adventure, you’ll have some free time between your morning and evening activities.

Use this time to see a few of the other sights in Tromso that you didn’t get to see earlier.

If you’re not sure what to do next on this Tromso itinerary, this is a great time to check out some of Tromso’s excellent museums! 

I visited a number of museums during my week in Tromso and I can definitely identify a few highlights. 

One favorite museum was Perspective Museum (Perspektivet Museum) which focuses on, well, different perspectives in Norway through the lens of photography. 

The diversity of Tromso is the primary focus of the museum, and when I was there, there was a special exhibit on the different religions of Tromso and how those were practiced by its residents.

Best of all? The museum is free! Allow yourself about 30-60 minutes for the museum.

Another great museum is the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum (Northern Norwegian Art Museum) which focuses on the fine art of Northern Norway.

The red walls of a room in the Northern Norwegian art museum

I appreciated that they were dedicated to showing a diverse array of art including art by women and Sami artists. 

Admission is 80 NOK (about $9 USD) and you could easily spend about an hour or two here.

One other museum option is Polaria, which is the world’s northernmost aquarium!

It is rather small, but it focuses on Arctic sea life, especially seals, who have training and feeding sessions there daily. 

It also focuses on the issues addressing the Arctic, such as global warming and rising sea levels, while still being entertaining for children and families.

Have an early dinner.

A tasty reindeer open face sandwich at a restaurant

You’re in for a late night tonight when you chase the Northern lights, so be sure to eat a light early dinner to hold you over. 

Most Northern lights tours — at least the one I did! — include a dinner around the fire.

That said, this often won’t be until 10 PM or later, once you set up your aurora camp, so it’s better to be well-fed walking into your aurora tour!

I suggest eating at Bardus Bistro — the reindeer and lingonberry open-face sandwich was one of my favorite meals in Norway!

Go on a minibus tour to see the Northern lights.

Allison posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway

If there’s one essential tour during your first time in Tromso, it’s a Northern lights minibus tour

This is the best way to see the Northern lights because it is an activity specifically dedicated to chasing the lights wherever that may take you — even into neighboring Finland!

Meanwhile, other “Northern lights tours” or tours “with a chance of Northern lights” are stationary and so your chances are far lower of seeing the lights. 

When you take a minibus tour specifically dedicated to seeing the lights, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see the beautiful aurora borealis!

I wrote a guide to all the different ways you can experience the Northern lights, but this is the #1 way I would choose if I could only pick one.

Book your minibus Northern lights tour here!

If I could pick more than one, I would make sure it was a minibus tour and also one other tour focused on another activity with the aurora as a bonus rather than the main agenda. 

Seeing the aurora is incredible but personally, unless you’re a photographer specifically hoping to photograph the aurora borealis as much as possible, I think one night chasing it in earnest is enough!

Day 3: Hit the Fjords & Meet Reindeer

Pick a whale-watching cruise or a fjord wildlife cruise

Orcas coming out of the water for a breath of air in Norway in Skjervoy a popular whale watching destination near Tromso

The fjords of Northern Norway are an incredible delight and cruising through the fjords on a boat is one of the top things to do in Tromso in winter! 

If you visit in time for whale watching season, from November through late January, then you really out to make time for a whale watching cruise. 

It is pretty much a full day endeavor and you will be quite tired afterward, but it’s well worth it.

Where else can you predictably see orcas and humpback whales in such large numbers?

There’s nowhere else I can think of, and I grew up in California, home to some pretty amazing whale watching!

Note that the whales used to visit the fjord of Tromso itself, but due to changing migration habits and food locations due to climate, the whales now are mostly found off the island of Skjervøy. 

This is a good deal removed from Tromso by boat, so it will take quite a while to get out there. Make sure to bring some seasickness tablets or bands to combat the rough waters if you are prone to seasickness!

Book your whale watching tour here!

Unfortunately, on my winter trip to Tromso, I was unable to see the whales as my tour was canceled, since the whales left Tromso earlier than expected. 

Such is the nature of seeing wildlife in the wild!

In place of that, I booked a fjord cruise with a focus on wildlife in the fjord of Tromso itself (rather than out in Skjervøy), and it was amazing. 

Allison smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

It’s a great substitution for a whale watching cruise, though of course, you won’t be able to see whales in the fjord of Tromso anymore.

However, we got to see sea eagles, pods of dolphins, and all sorts of other incredible arctic wildlife.

It was really beautiful and memorable and I was so happy to do it that it (almost!) took away the pain of not being able to go whale watching).

While I’m prone to seasickness in general, every time I went out on the water near Tromso (twice), I found the water to be pretty calm and easy on my stomach. 

However, I’ve heard the water is rougher by Skjervøy, so that’s something else to keep in mind when choosing between the two activities.

If you are very prone to seasickness, the calmer waters of a Tromso fjord cruise are a safer bet.

Book your wildlife fjord cruise here!

Have lunch or spend time relaxing at the hotel.

The lunch special of fish gratin at Mathallen served with potato and carrot salad

Depending on what kind of tour you did, and whether food was included or not, it might be just about lunchtime! 

In which case I suggest grabbing the lunch special at Mathallen, which is a delicious place to eat that has relatively affordable prices.

Not feeling Norwegian food? Grab the lunch special at Burgr for a delicious burger and fries.

Do a Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour.

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

When in the Arctic, it’s a must to visit a Sami reindeer farm for a variety of reasons.

For one, reindeer are adorable. But more importantly, the Sami people contribute greatly to the culture and history of Northern Norway: these are their ancestral lands, after all.

I go into more detail on who the Sami people are and why reindeer are important to them in my article on reindeer sledding in Tromso.

For the sake of brevity in this already mega-detailed Tromso itinerary, I’ll just say that learning about Sami culture and history is an integral part of being a responsible tourist in Norway.

Supporting the preservation of the rich Sami culture through tourism is an easy and enlightening way to ensure that Norway’s tourism riches extend to their Indigenous population.

You could do this activity during the day, as I did, but I had one full week in Tromso so it was pretty easy for me to spread out my activities.

If you have a limited amount of time to dedicate to a Tromso itinerary, this is a great activity to do at night because the scenery is pretty limited and you can interact with reindeer just as well by night as you can by day! 

Book your Sami camp + Northern lights excursion here!

If you go reindeer sledding, the sledding portion of the itinerary lasts no more than 20 minutes, so the lack of light isn’t a big deal.

Additionally, the majority of the tour experience takes place in the lavvu, the traditional Sami tent.

This is where you’ll eat a meal (bidos or traditional Sami reindeer stew — vegetarian options also available) and then listen to Sami storytelling and joiking (the traditional Sami song). 

Since so much of the activity is inside, it’s a great option for nighttime on day 3 of this Tromso travel guide.

And you’ll be far out from the light pollution of Tromso which gives you a good shot of seeing the Northern lights if they are out and about that night!

Day 4: Do a Day Trip to the Ice Domes

Wake up bright and early for breakfast.

Drinking a cup of coffee in Norway

Time for another early day in Tromso! 

Eat some breakfast at your hotelbecause your tour starts soon, and you’ll be off to the races most of the day.

Head to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

This was one of my favorite day tours in Tromso because the ice hotel is simply magical. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere I’ve been before!

Every year the Tromso Ice Domes are rebuilt from scratch during the dark months that lead up to the polar night, the period of six weeks where the sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter in the Arctic Circle. 

The people constructing the Ice Domes work around the clock to get the ice hotel up and running before the tourist season begins.

They take huge chunks of frozen ice from rivers nearby so they can start crafting an ice hotel that will melt away with the coming of summer!

A day tour is extremely easy to manage: it includes a shuttle transfer (1.5 hours each way from Tromso to the Ice Domes) and guided tour of the property. 

Not sure how to make this work? I have a full guide to visiting the Ice Domes on a day trip here.

The tour will explain how the Ice Domes are built from scratch, and they will show you the ice bar and restaurant, as well as the rooms where guests can stay the night.

The tour also includes some free time to take photos, feed the reindeer on-site, or grab a cup of soup at the restaurant (which is delicious, by the way!)

Book your Tromso Ice Domes day tour here!

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes, a great Northern lights spotting destination!

For the sake of clarity, this Tromso itinerary will assume that you are heading back to Tromso after your tour, but do know that if you have the budget for it, you can spend the night at the Tromso Ice Domes!

It’s expensive, but it’s an incredible bucket list item that you’ll never forget, and if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip, this is exactly the kind of thing you should splurge on.

If you do an overnight tour with an ice hotel stay, it’s not just that.

You’ll also get to do a snowshoeing tour, an aurora camp to spot the Northern lights, dinner and breakfast the following morning, and a husky-sledding tour the next day, and then you’ll be transferred back to Tromso.

If doing the overnight tour, skip to tomorow’s section of the Tromso itinerary. If just doing a day trip, continue reading!

Check out the overnight Ice Domes package here!

Enjoy a nice lunch in Tromso.

Eating a meal at Burgr to have a burger and fries

While you could eat a meal at the Ice Domes, I don’t really recommend doing it unless you’re super hungry because it really takes up some of your limited time touring the Ice Hotel. 

I did because I was starving (and the food was good!), but I ended up feeling a bit rushed on my tour, so I wish I waited until back in Tromso to have lunch!

On this day, you could eat at one of the other remaining great restaurants in Tromso.

If you haven’t been to Burgr, Mathallen, or Bardus Bistro yet, I would pick one of those three. 

If you’ve exhausted those three, my next choice would be Nyt, which has a tasty reindeer burger, or Emma’s Dream Kitchen.

The latter is where I had a surprisingly tasty dish of fried cod tongues (there are much more ‘normal’ items on the menu, but this was super tasty!)

Spend the late afternoon your way.

The red walls of a room in the Northern Norwegian art museum

Here you have some free time to explore whatever you’ve missed in Tromso.

This could be doing some shopping along Storgata or spending some time checking out a coffee shop.

Another option is paying a visit one of the other museums you haven’t gotten a chance to see yet.

Whatever you choose, there’s plenty to do in Tromso to fill up a few hours.

Have a drink at Ølhallen.

Having a drink at the old ale hall in Tromso

Ølhallen is the oldest pub in the city of Tromso, run by the Mack brewery.

Fun fact: Mack used to be the northernmost brewery in the world (the honor now belongs to Svalbard Bryggeri, even further north in Svalbard).

It’s a cute and typical Norwegian pub, and it’s a fun experience to end your night here.

Beer is expensive in Norway, but it’s definitely worth getting a pint or two here as it’s a true Tromso institution.

You could also grab food here for dinner if you’re hungry, but it’s nothing to write home about.

I’d suggest having a meal at one of the other Tromso restaurants I’ve mentioned above.

See a show at the Arctic Cathedral.

lit up cathedral in norway

The Northern Lights concert in the Arctic Cathedral is a can’t-miss addition to your Northern Norway trip.

The concert lasts about an hour and 15 minutes and includes a variety of Norwegian folk songs as well as classical music, set in the Arctic Cathedral which has amazing acoustics and a cozy ambiance enlivened by candlelight.

The times vary throughout the year, but there are the most available in December.

Day 5: An Active Adventure to End Your Trip

Do a snowmobile and aurora camping tour.

snowmobile in norway

For the last day of this epic Tromso itinerary, spend it actively: on a snowmobile, exploring the Lyngen Alps by day, and then under a glass roof lavvu at night with (hopefully) glimpses of the aurora overhead!

This overnight aurora camping & snowmobile tour includes a transfer to the Lyngen Alps by minivan, followed by a 2-hour snowmobile safari in the Lyngen fjord and Alps. 

Afterwards, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious lunch with your small group. Then, the choice is yours!

After your lunch, you can grab a pair of snowshoes or some cross-country skis and go exploring on your own terms, or you can spend time in your crystal lavvu (a glass-roof ‘camping tent’ that is warm and cozy!). 

In the evening, you’ll get a quick photography workshop and dinner, then you can go outside of the aurora camp to try to spot the Northern lights and snap some photos of them.

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

Continue as you like, or head back to your lavvu to warm up and try to spot them through the glass ceiling!

The day ends with a group breakfast before your transfer, which gets you back to Tromso by 11 AM — just in time to make an afternoon flight!

Book your overnight aurora and snowmobile tour here!

Continuing on from Tromso

red fishing buildings on rocky islands in norway

If you want to extend your Arctic adventure past Tromso, there’s so much more Northern Norway to explore! 

Some common places that people add to their Northern Norway itinerary include the Lofoten Islands and its cute fishing villages like Svolvaer, the Vesterålen islands, Senja, and Alta.

You can visit by road trip or via the Norwegian cruise line, the Hurtigruten.

You could also explore some of southern Norway and fjord Norway, like Bergen, Oslo, and Trondheim. 

Other people continue onwards to other points in Scandinavia and Lapland (Sápmi) and the Arctic Circle, such as Finland (Rovaniemi, Levi, Helsinki, etc.) and Sweden (Abisko, Kiruna, etc.). Iceland, Svalbard, and other Nordic destinations are also possible.

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

An intersection in the town of Tromso with stop lights and colorful houses and a church spire

First things first: when it comes time to pick where to stay in Tromso in winter, book early.

The best deals go fast, as accommodation is limited and Tromso is soaring in popularity as arctic travel gets really big.

Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $100 USD per night per person at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is hands-down Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby.

Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee.

Check availability and prices

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

The decor is irreverent yet modern with a polar theme. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in.

The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.

Check availability and prices

Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora.

Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights!

Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.

Check availability and prices


the arctic cathedral with snowy landscape around it while visiting tromso in the winter

When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway — and of course, weather as unpredictable as it is in the Arctic — it’s especially important to me that I have travel insurance coverage!

SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!

11 Things to Do in Winter in Sedona: Insider Secrets to a Perfect Trip 

The sedona landscape in the winter with beautiful clouds and snow-capped landscape

As a proud Sedona resident, let me just start by saying that planning a winter trip to Sedona is one of the best vacation decisions you could make!

Smaller crowds, plenty of festive activities, and temperatures that won’t have you cooking like a baked potato the moment you step outside… it’s all part of the package. 

Winter in Sedona is simply the best.

Christmas decorations hanging up on a famous Sedona landmark evoking the combination of a desert landscape and festive decorations

Plus, if you think that the red rocks of Sedona look beautiful all on their own, just wait until you see them with a light covering of snow.

This is the stuff dreams are made of, people — so add it to your Arizona bucket list, stat! 

The Lowdown on Winter in Sedona


A snow-covered red rock landscape in the winter in Sedona with its characteristic geography covered in trees and snow with blue sky and clouds behind it

So, you’re probably re-reading that first section and thinking to yourself: “Snow?? I thought Sedona was supposed to be the desert!” 

Believe it or not, this part of Arizona can actually get its fair share of snow! Now, it’s no Colorado winter.

The snow usually only sticks around the tops of the red rock mountains, but it’s not uncommon to see some flurries during your visit. 

Of course, it’s also not impossible to find clear skies and sun that will have you eager to throw on your summer shorts. 

In other words, prepare for every type of weather! 

Dig out your sandals from storage but don’t forget your trusty winter beanie.

A pair of traction devices for hiking (like crampons) never hurts, but also make sure you have sunblock on hand.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea!


An icy trail leading to the beginning of a popular Sedona hike, imploring people to take caution while hiking in Sedona in winter and wear proper footwear

Winter in the desert… What could go wrong? Honestly not much! 

The rattlesnakes are hibernating, the crowds are down, the weather is beautiful, what more could you ever ask for? 

Well, to be completely honest, there is one thing to look out for… ice

While Sedona doesn’t get much snow, cold night time temperatures and shaded nooks on the trail lead to impromptu ice skating rinks… oftentimes right on the side of sheer drop-offs. 

Now, this isn’t a normal occurrence and you won’t find yourself shimmying across ice patches in fear of your life every time you hit the trail, but it’s important to know that it happens.

Always check with the Red Rock Ranger Station about icy conditions on the trail and don’t be afraid to turn around if you find yourself in a slippery situation. 

Your safety is always worth more than completing a trail!


a man in a jacket and hat watching the sun set at a cathedral rock viewpoint in sedona in winter

If you couldn’t tell already, the lack of crowds is my favorite thing to talk about but this isn’t to say that it’ll be a ghost town! 

At the end of the day, it’s still Sedona (read: busy).

But after you’ve spent your summer stuck in an hour’s worth of traffic every time you want to go five miles, winter “crowds” feel like a dream. 

You may still struggle to get a parking spot at popular spots like the Cathedral Rock trailhead during peak hours…

… but hit it at sunrise and you may be one of the only people up there. Starting to catch my drift? 

Where to Stay in Sedona in Winter

An infinity pool at a rseort in sedona in the winter with two chairs laid out on the sun deck

One of my favorite things about winter in Sedona is that the world is your oyster!

The crowds have pretty much disappeared (because apparently people prefer to be scorched during the summer months, I know, I’m puzzled too).

Maybe it’s because people aren’t doing their summer-vacation epic mutli-state Southwest road trips or smaller Arizona-only road trips.

And with less demand comes cheaper accommodations, meaning often-pricy spa resorts become a heck of a lot more affordable!

Luxury: Enchantment Resort

Easily one of the fanciest, sought-after options in Sedona, the Enchantment Resort will still cost you a pretty penny but it will feel like a bargain compared to its summer price tag!

This option is for those truly seeking luxury in the form of multiple pools, a spa, a golf club, and more.

Check availability and prices here

Mid-Range: Las Posadas of Sedona

Tucked away in the charming village of Oak Creek, Los Posadas is as close to Sedona as you can get without being in the center of all the excitement.

This incredible hike is pretty much just a rock scramble to the top, and a crab walk down. Totally worth it though!

Alternative Route: To keep the good times rolling (and for a better chance at a parking spot), start at the Baldwin Trailhead for a scenic creekside addition to the main Cathedral Rock trail.

This will put you at 3.7 miles roundtrip with 931 feet of elevation gain. (AllTrails information here) — a lot more hike with just a little more elevation gain.

Devils Bridge

man standing on a snow-covered landmark of sedona in winter, the devils bridge rock formation, with a snowy landscape behind him and some light fog

Most people think that this hike is only 2 miles round trip, and it is… as long as you have a 4WD high-clearance vehicle.

If not, you’ll be adding an extra 2 miles, and I’m here to tell you how to make the most of it.

To start off: do not walk the 4WD road at Dry Creek Vista like everyone else.

Start at the Mescal Trailhead for a much more enjoyable (but equal length) route.

Bonus Tip: Double your reward by going for sunrise — you’ll have that classic walking across Devils Bridge picture in no time, vs. waiting in line at any other time of day! 

Subway Cave

Person in long shirt and long pants hiking in Subway Cave in sedona in the fall or winter months when it's a little cold out but no snow out

I was originally a little hesitant to put this one on here since it’s not technically an official trail, but look.

The views are simply amazing and everyone already knows about it thanks to Instagram, so I figured I should give you the tools for success. 

While I can tell you that it’s located along the Boynton Canyon Trail, you’ll have to do your research to find the cave itself. 

Scavenge the internet and study the directions… or follow everyone else that is going to the same place.

Whatever you do, just make sure to have an offline GPS app of some kind, just in case.

Birthing Cave

cave called the birthing cave opening to reveal red rock landscape of sedona with trees and cloudy sky

Okay so still not technically an official trail, this one has managed to find itself on Alltrails so it is much easier to find, and much shorter too!

This trail will give you some similar cave vibes without the extra fuss of the Subway Cave.

As an added bonus, it’s my favorite place to watch the sunrise! 

See the icicles at West Fork.

ice and snow building up to create icicle fairytale landscape at the west fork area of sedona

The West Fork Trail (AllTrails info here) in Oak Creek Canyon offers something new and spectacular with every season.

Cool off by the water during the summer months, marvel as the canyon becomes a blanket of reds and oranges come fall, admire spring flowers, and escape into a winter wonderland.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving!  

Of course, that natural beauty is also the reason why the parking lot is managed by a concessionaire and costs $12 per vehicle to enter.

This place is always popping! 

I couldn’t tell you which season in West Fork is my favorite but I can tell you that the winter months give this place a completely different feel that’s simply incredible. 

Gigantic icicles line the canyon walls, snow lingers in shady corners, and the creek bubbles as it navigates under the ice.

It feels so unlike Sedona in the very best way! 

The trail itself is 6.5 miles roundtrip, but you can explore this place as much or as little as you want and still have a magical time. 

Hop on the Christmas Train.

verde canyon railroad in the winter with blue painted vintage train going through a snow-covered red rock landscape of arizona

It’s not everyday that you get a chance to go for a festive train ride, let alone pick from one of two amazing choices!

Sedona is located smack dab in the middle of two charming towns that both pride themselves on their Christmas spirit. 

The Verde Canyon Railway, located in Clarkdale, offers a scenic train ride all year-round but at Christmas time, the train is transformed for its Magical Christmas Journey!

You’ll be greeted by a real life bald eagle and have the chance to explore a miniature village before hopping on the train to the North Pole. This is a great option for the kiddos!

You can book a ticket online here for the whole package deal complete with champagne toast, appetizers, and a railway ticket for the gorgeous ride!

Check availability and book tickets here!

Note that pickup is not included, though, so you’ll have to make your way to Clarkdale yourself… though you will likely want a rental car while you’re in Sedona, anyway, to access all those great hikes!

The Grand Canyon Railway, located in Williams, is meant to be a real-life impression of the famous Polar Express!

Start your journey in the winter wonderland that is Williams and enjoy movie impersonations (and hot cocoa!) as you make your way up to the North Pole and back.

This tour includes pick-up and drop-off in Sedona, will let you take the famous Grand Canyon Railway one-way [return is by van], and also allocates plenty of time to explore Grand Canyon National Park in winter by way of a heated van tour!

It’s a great way to combine a winter Grand Canyon trip with a scenic snowy festive train ride!

Check availability and book tickets here!

Attend a festive event.

Local wares for sale at a Sedona christmas market style event with beautiful handcrafted ornaments

From the Sedona Tree Lighting to the Festival of Lights at Tlaquepaque, there is no shortage of festive events in Sedona in winter!

Every weekend there seems to be something new going on (of course, that’s not just during the holiday season!) 

In other words, be prepared to spend some cash on adorable locally crafted items.

Of course, that’s usually the real reason why most people attend holiday festivals in the first place. 

Increase your options for attending an event during your visit by considering the whole Verde Valley!

Check out the Verde Valley Events page to see what’s happening in Sedona as well as nearby charming Arizona towns like Campe Verde and Cottonwood, which make perfect easy day trips from Sedona

Marvel at the night sky.

Dark sky with milky way illuminated as seen over the beautiful landscape of Sedona, Arizona

Considering the fact that Sedona is home to more than 10,000 people, there is no doubt that the city has put in a lot of effort to obtain its International Dark Sky Community certification. 

That’s right, Sedona is home to some of the darkest skies in the country!

And the bottom line is, you can experience it from just about anywhere. 

At night, the bustling tourist city that is Sedona goes pitch-black. There are no annoying street lights creating an obnoxious glow around your night sky. 

When you look up, all you see is darkness and stars… stars like you’ve never seen before!

Still, a pesky car driving by with its headlights ready to blind you will destroy your night vision, so get off the main road for the best night sky viewing experience.

Really, any trailhead on the outskirts of town will do! 

Say hello to the Milky Way for me! 

While you definitely have a great experience DIYing your own stargazing tour, you can make the experience even more fun and quirky by doing this Sedona Stargazing and UFO Tour!

This tour not only takes you to great stargazing viewpoints… it also lets you use military-grade night vision goggles to watch unexplained UFO-esque activity flying above your head, normally undetectable to your own eyes!

While I haven’t done the tour myself just yet, supposedly, the lights are wild — they flash, change size, and move around unpredictably!

If you watched a little too much X-Files as a kid (*raises hand*) this may be the thing to add to your Sedona itinerary.

Check availability and book your stargazing tour here

Catch an epic sunset.

Sedona landscape with snow and sunset illuminated clouds in the background

Ah yes, Sedona… the place where bad sunsets simply don’t exist. 

Literally no matter where you are or what you are doing, if you are in Sedona, you will experience an epic sunset. 

The way the sun reflects on the red rocks as it sets is something that never gets old.

Plus, you don’t have to be in any particular spot to see the sun itself setting. 

You just want to be near the red rocks as they’re illuminated by the setting sun, and the good news is, there are red rocks everywhere you look.

That being said, I do have a few favorite spots…

The Obvious Choice: Airport Mesa

Winter sunset at the popular sunset spot of Airport Mesa in Sedona, with snow landscape and pink sky

While the sunset views here are incredible and it’s always on my list when friends or family come to visit, there’s no denying that it is the busiest sunset spot in Sedona.

But if you can fight the crowds (yes, even during the winter months) and are willing to pay $3 to park, you’ll be rewarded with unmatched views of some of Sedona’s most iconic rock formations. 

You can also hit the Airport Loop trail to avoid some of the crowds! 

The Adventurous Choice: Schuerman Mountain Vista 

Sedona winter landscape at sunset with pink clouds illuminating the beautiful red rocks of the mountain ranges

This is, by far, my favorite sunset spot hands down — maybe the 1.7 mile roundtrip hike with about 370 feet of elevation gain scares people off, but it’s always quiet.

Somehow this trail (AllTrails info here) has managed to stay off the radar even though it offers one of the most spectacular sunset views of Sedona’s red rock country… with zero crowds!

I can’t tell you how many times I have had this place all to myself. It’s the definition of a hidden gem!

So, do me a favor and let’s just keep this between you and me! 

The Perfect Middle Ground: Secret Slick Rock

A sunset on cathedral rock in Sedona Arizona with a natural pool at the base of the formations

This not-so-secret trail offers one of the best reward to effort ratios for sunset hikes in Sedona.

This is a beautiful hike clocking in at just 0.7 miles roundtrip with about 80 feet of elevation gain. AllTrails info here.

A short hike will take you to a massive slab of slick rock (aka plenty of room to spread out) with a close up view of the famous Cathedral Rock. 

When the weather’s right, you’ll even find water in the potholes that make for a perfect reflection image of Cathedral!

You know the one that you see in all those pictures? Yeah, it’s taken here! 

15 Wonderful Things to Do in Naples in Winter

view of a snow capped volcano mt Vesuvius as seen from a hill in Naples in winter

If you’re looking for a popular winter vacation destination with fewer crowds, Naples is the perfect destination for you!

Located in Southern Italy, Naples has mild winters, making it the ideal city to explore in the off-season.

Over my 15 years living in Italy, I traveled to Naples on multiple occasions and winter may just be my favorite season to visit the city! 

A winter scene with lights in Naples Italy in the gallery

Although some popular areas and attractions may still be slightly busy, you’ll get to enjoy pleasant strolls around the city center, visit stunning museums, enjoy delicious food, and even take a few nice day trips nearby.

In this guide to visiting Naples in winter, you’ll find a bit of everything.

There’s interesting museums, impressive archaeological sites, all the best shopping spots, and even the most festive places to experience the Christmas atmosphere.

Things to Do in Naples in Winter

Check out the Presepe display on Via San Gregorio Armeno.

Pink-toned Bell Tower of the church of San Gregorio Armeno, which is located above Via San Gregorio Armeno. This famous narrow street has colorful displays of Nativity scenes in winter in Naples.

If there is just one thing you absolutely have to do in winter in Naples, it’s taking a beautiful stroll along Via San Gregorio Armeno to admire the Presepe displays.

Presepe is the Italian term for the nativity scene, and it’s a long-standing, cherished tradition in Naples.

You’ll see a Presepe in most Italian squares during Christmas time, but Via San Gregorio Armeno is the go-to place to admire these elaborate and beautiful displays.

A Presepe Christmas nativity scene which you can admire in Naples in winter on the famous streets that are known for them

While Christmas is the time when everyone shops for figurines and decorations to make their Presepe at home, on this particular street in Naples, you can see them year-round.

Of course, the best time to visit the renowned street, also known as Presepe Street, is from early November through mid-December.

It’s probably best to avoid the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Eve unless you’re a fan of crowds. 

No matter when you visit Naples, don’t forget to check out this lively street!

Enjoy exploring the city with fewer crowds.

A street scene view in the large Southern Italian city of naples -- staircase, balconies, street scene in the city, with stairs, buildings, etc.

The best part of visiting Naples in winter is being spared the huge crowds that overtake the city during summer.

From November to February (except, of course, for the Christmas holidays!) you can take your time to explore the city with much fewer crowds.

It’s also true that Naples has mild winters, so more and more people are opting to visit during the off-season.

Nevertheless, you can still enjoy a relatively empty city, shorter lines for the biggest attractions, and overall, just a more pleasant visit.

Check out the imposing Piazza del Plebiscito, explore the popular Via Toledo, go window shopping on Via Chiaia, and stroll along the Lungomare di Napoli for beautiful views of the sea and Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

Get festive at the Christmas Markets in Vomero.

Christmas ornaments as seen as a market in Vomero, Naples

Naples isn’t exactly renowned for its Christmas markets, but the tradition has started to gain popularity, so you can now find a few markets, mainly in the Vomero neighborhood.

Vomero is a lively hilltop district around the central square of Piazza Vanvitelli.

The area is best known for the medieval fortress, Castel Sant’Elmo, and the scenic views of the Gulf of Naples.

However, the neighborhood is also the best place in Naples for Christmas decorations and markets.

The Christmas markets in Vomero run from early December until January 6th.

You can find stalls selling Christmas decorations, local food and drinks, and souvenirs around Piazza degli Artisti, Via Enrico Alvino, and Via Angelica Kauffmann.

Visit the hilltop Castel Sant’Elmo.

View of the clocktower of the Castel st Elmo in Vomero Hill in Naples with view of the bay, people viewing the castle in winter clothing.

While in Vomero, you should also pay a visit to the stunning Castel Sant’Elmo.

Perched at the top of the Vomero hill, the medieval fortress stands on the site of a 12th-century fortified residence.

This castle offers spectacular panoramic views of the city, the Gulf of Naples, and of course, a snow-capped Mt. Vesuvius dominating the bay.

In summer, Castel Sant’Elmo is among the most popular tourist attractions in Naples, especially around sunset, when the view of the gulf is even more stunning. In winter, you can enjoy a crowd-free visit. 

However, nearly the entire visit is outdoors, so this might not be the best place on a rainy day — check the weather before planning this part of your Naples winter outing!

If you’re around on a clear winter day, you should head to Castel Sant’Elmo just before sunset. You can pair this with a visit to the nearby Christmas markets!

Even better, the entrance fee is really cheap! Visit on a Tuesday or any other day after 4 PM, and you’ll only pay 2.5€.

Discover Certosa e Museo di San Martino

Beautiful cloister in the Vomero Hill area with ornate arches and doorways in the building

Just below Castel Sant’Elmo, Certosa di San Martino is a former monastery complex overlooking Naples from the Vomero hill.

The monastery was built in the 14th century and expanded several times later before ultimately being turned into its current form as a museum

Today, Certosa di San Martino houses the National Museum of San Martino.

Inside, you can admire several works of art and artifacts from the Spanish and Bourbon eras, from paintings and sculptures to carriages and ships.

If you ask me, the best things to see in the museum are the traditional presepe displays (Nativity scenes), which make this the perfect place to visit in Naples in winter.

However, don’t forget to check out the monumental courtyard with its beautiful cloisters.

Admire the Veiled Christ at Museo Cappella Sansevero

Veiled christ statue in one of the chapels in Naples, the most famous statue in the city
Cristo Velato statue | Photo Credit: David Sivyer, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Veiled Christ, Cristo Velato in Italian, is one of the main things to see in Naples.

The sculpture is considered one of the world’s great masterpieces, a white marble sculpture that will leave you in awe of its incredible life-like details.

The sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino sculpted the Veiled Christ from a single marble block, which is impressive enough.

But the detailed rendering of the transparent veil covering Christ’s body and his face is what makes the sculpture awe-inspiring.

The representation is so realistic that many believed it was created through alchemy!

You can admire the stunning sculpture and many others in the Sansevero Chapel, a 16th-century family chapel that is now a museum.

The chapel is among Naples’ most popular tourist attractions, so get your tickets online in advance.  

You can also join a guided tour that includes entry to the Sansevero Chapel along with a tour of downtown Naples with stops at other landmarks like the Naples Cathedral, Santa Chiara Monumental Complex, and Chiesa Del Gesù Nuovo.

Book this Downtown Tour and Veiled Christ Entry a few days before your visit.

Discover the underground side of Naples.

Underground portion of Naples with interesting iconography on a crypt underground

If you happen to be in Naples on a cold and rainy day, the best way to escape the bad weather is to join a tour of Naples Underground.

You’ll head beneath the modern city to discover its history dating back to ancient Greek times!

A whole complex of archaeological discoveries lies beneath the city, unveiling what Naples looked like as far back as 2,400 years ago.

The only way to explore this area of Naples is with a guided tour that will lead you through narrow galleries and remains of Roman buildings.

The most popular experience is this Naples Underground Guided Tour in the heart of the city.

However, other underground tours are available, like this Bourbon Tunnel Guided Tour or the Catacombs of San Gennaro.

Visit the magnificent Castel Nuovo.

Woman in winter weather clothing standing in front of the castle Nuovo in Naples, with an italian flag flying, an indoor and outdoor castle complex great to visit in colder months

Unlike Castel Sant’Elmo, Castel Nuovo has several indoor areas you can explore, including the Civic Museum and the Palatine Chapel.

This helps make it the perfect place to visit on a cold and rainy winter day in Naples!

Castel Nuovo, also known as Maschio Angioino, was built under the reign of Charles I of Anjou in the late 13th century.

The stunning castle is located in a scenic location close to the sea and was named Castel Nuovo (New Castle) to distinguish it from the older Castel dell’Ovo.

Inside Castel Nuovo, you can explore the imposing rooms and halls, visit the Palatine Chapel and the Chapel of the Souls in Purgatory, and check out beautiful works of art inside the Civic Museum.

Access to all available areas of the castle is only 6€, which is a great deal for how much you get to see!

Admire Naples’ art museums.

Museo di Capodimonte at museum located in the Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy.

There are lots of art museums in Naples which are the best place to spend a rainy winter day.

One cool such museum is the Museo di Capodimonte, located in a Bourbon-era palazzo called Palace of Capodimonte.

This museum features classical works, such as pieces by Caravaggio and Titian, so it’s more for the fans of the classics.

If you’re an admirer of contemporary art, be sure to check out the Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli, also known as PAN.

The museum is inside a historical 17th-century building and houses various art exhibitions, from paintings and sculptures to photography and visual arts.

The exhibitions at PAN change every few months, so you’ll have to check what’s on when you visit Naples.

Depending on the exhibition, entry may be free or there may be a small fee. 

However, the great thing about PAN is that it stays open until 7:30 PM!

That makes it the perfect place to visit in the late afternoon when it tends to get cold outside.

Check out the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

building entrance to the Naples archaeology museum in a salmon pink ornate building with italian flag on top of it

The Naples Archeological Museum (or MANNMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) is one of the best museums you can visit in Naples.

MANN is home to one of the richest archaeological collections in the world, including many artifacts unearthed during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum (both of which you can visit from Naples, as well).

The Egyptian collection, the Farnese collection of Roman antiquities, the collection of daily life objects from the Vesuvian area, and the Magna Graecia collection are just a few of the impressive collections you can see in the museum.

Even better, you can admire frescoes from Pompeii and sculptures from the Villa of Papyri in Herculaneum.

The museum is huge, so you should set aside a few hours for your visit.

Aside from the permanent collection, you’ll often find temporary exhibitions, too.

The entry ticket gives you access to the museum for two consecutive days, so you can also split your visit across two days if you really want to see everything!

Take a half-day trip to Pompeii or Herculaneum Archaeological Sites

interesting mosaic work in pompeii on the floor of a building

Visiting the archaeological sites near Naples in winter has two main advantages: avoiding the huge summer crowds, and enjoying a pleasant stroll without the unbearable heat of a southern Italian summer.

I visited Pompeii in February, and it was the best timing, a pleasant sunny day with just under 20°C (68°F) and only a small crowd that immediately spread out around the huge site, leaving me to wander in peace.

With some luck, you can have a similar experience any time from November to February at both Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Herculaneum is much closer to Naples, less than a 20-minute train ride from Naples Central Station.

The site also provides more covered areas and is more compact, so it’s easier to visit if you don’t have much time or if the weather is drizzly and not pleasant.

Pompeii is about half an hour away by train and much larger, so it requires at least half a day to visit.

Not sure which to visit? Check out our guide on Pompei vs. Herculaneum if you need help choosing.

Have delicious pizza at one of the historical restaurants.

A famous Neapolitan style pizza is a must eat in Naples in winter

When in Naples, eating pizza is a must!

Although the dish became widely popular after Italian immigrants brought it to the US, Naples is the birthplace of pizza.

Therefore, you can expect to enjoy phenomenal Neapolitan pizza at a few historical places throughout the city.

My top picks? Gino e Toto Sorbillo, Antica Pizzeria Brandi, and L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele are just three places worth checking out in Naples.

Each of these spots has its own story and reason to try. 

Gino e Toto Sorbillo is often referred to as one of the best pizza places in Naples, but you’ll need to brace yourself for a wait, because the line is long, and they don’t take reservations.

Da Michele is another popular spot, made famous by the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

As you may remember, Julia Roberts is “having a relationship with her pizza” in the movie!

Well, you can try the very same pizza and see if it lives up to that lofty praise. The line can be long here too, so get there early!

Lastly, Brandi is referred to as the birthplace of the Margherita pizza.

Supposedly, pizza maker Raffaele Esposito created the Margherita in this very spot for Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889.

Whether or not the story is true doesn’t matter, since the pizza here is delicious!

Attend a show at Real Teatro di San Carlo

ornate detailing of the exterior of the Naples opera house called Teatro san Carlo on a sunny day

Many people have heard about Teatro alla Scala in Milan or Teatro La Fenice in Venice, but Real Teatro di San Carlo is the world’s oldest continually active opera theater.

Importantly for the art form, it has served as a model and inspiration for many other European opera theaters too!

Founded in 1737, San Carlo Theater features a lush interior in classic 18th-century style and an impressive royal box with the best seats in the theater!

You can attend many events here, including opera, ballet, and symphonies.

If you don’t want to attend a show, the theater also offers guided tours.

The tour lasts half an hour and allows you to admire the main stage hall, the royal box, and the foyer. 

However, I would argue that the best way to see the theater is during a show. Check out the upcoming events; prices start as low as 10€!

Go shopping in Galleria Umberto I

Christmas decorations seen in the Galleria Umberto I in Naples with lit up display

While Via Chiaia is one of the most popular areas to shop in Naples, it’s no fun if the weather isn’t playing nice.

Luckily, on a rainy day, you can simply head to Galleria Umberto I, a stunning covered gallery.

Even if you’re on a budget and can’t do much shopping, it’s still worth visiting the covered arcade simply to admire the beautiful architecture!

The stunning Galleria Umberto I was built in the late 19th century, placed in central location close to Via Toledo and Castel Nuovo.

In designing it, it was meant to be an important and monumental building equal to other nearby landmarks, like the Royal Palace of Naples and Real Teatro di San Carlo.

For its beauty, convenience, and grandeur, Galleria Umberto I immediately became a significant place in Naples — it even housed the first movie theater in the city!

Go on a day trip to Reggia di Caserta.

The pinkish hued exterior of the Caserta royal palace near Naples, a great winter day trip

Lastly, if you’re up for a short day trip, head to Caserta, just a 40-minute train ride from Naples, and visit the magnificent Reggia di Caserta.

Once a 18th-century royal palace, it was actually the largest built in Europe at the time! For that reason, it eventually became part of UNESCO’s list of sites in 1997.

The stunning Palace of Versailles is noted to be its inspiration, and while Reggia di Caserta has a character all its own, it’s just as majestic.

The palace has lovely gardens with fountains and statues if you want to explore the outer areas; meanwhile, the inside has ornately decorated rooms, extraordinary staircases, and stunning art pieces everywhere you look.

Interior of the Reggio caserta with orange marble work and fresco painted ceilings with a mostly white minimalist interior

You can visit the palace on your own or join a guided tour with a local guide who will tell you more about the magnificent palace.

If you decide on the individual visit, book your tickets online

Alternatively, check out this 3-hour Royal Palace of Caserta Tour for all the historical context on this spectacular site.

Eguisheim in Winter: 5 Enchanting Things to Do

A charming cobblestone street in a European town, lined with half-timbered houses exhibiting a mix of colors like blues, pinks, and whites. The houses are adorned with festive decorations including wreaths, garlands, and Christmas ornaments. Each dwelling has unique architectural details like overhanging balconies, wooden shutters, and decorative moldings. A prominent feature is a covered passage with a conical, shingled roof, supported by stone pillars

A salmon-pink castle, a charming castle, a city literally built in circles around it: what’s not to love about Eguisheim?

Add on the fact that it’s part of the Alsace Wine Route, has some of the region’s most adorable half-timbered houses, and has its very own Christmas market with 30-odd stalls selling unique wares… yup, Eguisheim is even more perfect in winter!

While more often visited as a day trip from nearby Colmar, a quick drive, taxi, or even shuttle away, there’s plenty to do in Eguisheim to take up some time if you have it to spare while visiting Alsace.

It’s worth it to come see for yourself why Eguisheim one of the best French destinations in winter in Alsace (and one of its most beautiful villages year-round)

Here are just five things to get you started!

5 Things to Do in Eguisheim in Winter

Admire Eguisheim’s Château and Chapel.

A picturesque European town square during the daytime, showcasing historic and architecturally distinct buildings. To the left, a peach-colored building with a whimsically pointed roof and a small balcony contrasts with the gothic spire of a tower behind it. Adjacent to these, a majestic red-brick church with ornate details and a prominent bell tower rises against the clear sky. A stone wall, adorned with white star decorations and flanked by tall evergreen trees with red ornaments, forms the foreground.

Right at the heart of the town of Eguisheim stands Château Saint-LéonPfalz.

Named for a Pope St. Leo IX (born in Eguisheim well over a millennia ago, in 1002), this humble castle is still worth a visit when visiting Eguisheim.

From château to religious site to historical monument, this spot in the heart of Eguisheim is a can’t-miss, especially in winter, when the general area around the castle is home to the town’s Christmas market!

You’ll find quite an array of little stalls selling everything from mulled wine to Alsatian street food to handcrafted souvenirs and gifts.

It’s a great central place to start your winter explorations in Eguisheim, since the town is quite literally bit in a spiral formation out from the castle!

While you can’t visit the castle itself, you can visit its adjoining chapel, Château Saint-Léon IX, which is free to enter and has beautifully painted ceilings!

Explore the decked-out central square and fountain.

A picturesque town square adorned with festive decorations. Prominent features include a historical fountain surrounded by greenery and holiday ornaments, traditional half-timbered buildings with vibrant facades, and a church with intricate architectural details. The atmosphere is imbued with the spirit of the holiday season, complemented by benches, wooden setups, and hanging Christmas stockings on building windows.

Just outside the walls of the central castle area, you’ll find the Place de Saint-Léon as well as the fountain of the same namesake, the Fontaine de Saint-Léon.

In the winter in Eguisheim, this humble little fountain takes on a more ornate vibe, adorned with festive foliage, cut-out gingerbread men, and just generally all things Christmas.

Many little pop-up chalets also put out some outdoor seating so you can enjoy a hot beverage in this central, scenic part of Eguisheim.

I recommend grabbing lunch or a glass of Alsatian wine at Caveau d’Eguisheim right in the square area.

For some pastries, head to Maison Alsacienne de Biscuiterie — it’s exquisite!

Wander around the festive streets of the Old Town.

A quaint courtyard surrounded by traditional half-timbered houses with richly colored facades. Features include a cobblestone pavement, an empty white signboard, a decorative cone-shaped structure atop a wooden barrel, and seating arrangements.

Like many towns and cities of Alsace, from Colmar to Strasbourg, Eguisheim’s compact Old Town is home to lots of beautiful half-timbered architecture that gives it that classic fairytale aesthetic.

This represents the blend of French and German history showcased in Alsatian design: the German detailing of half-timbered houses mixed with a French idea of how a city should be laid out and its central places.

Something unique about Eguisheim is the fact that the town is designed quite literally in circles around the Château, making for an unusual walking path!

The Old Town is a great spot to stop for a coffee, pastry, or bite to eat as well: many of these cute half-timbered houses are actually small shops and restaurants!

See Eguisheim’s most iconic street in festive decor.

A charming cobblestone street in a European town, lined with half-timbered houses exhibiting a mix of colors like blues, pinks, and whites. The houses are adorned with festive decorations including wreaths, garlands, and Christmas ornaments. Each dwelling has unique architectural details like overhanging balconies, wooden shutters, and decorative moldings.

You’ve probably seen this photo any time you’ve seen Eguisheim before (if you ever have that is — this town is still a little off-the-beaten path!).

During the Christmas season, Eguisheim’s most charming street of Rue de Rempart — an already narrow street that bifurcates into two narrower paths when split by this narrow little building — is even more charming with its festive decor!

But what exactly is this narrow little building? It’s called Le Pigeonnier, and yes, like the name suggests, it used to a be a pigeon house!

The good this is that you simply can’t miss seeing this beautiful little street scene, as if you walk the entirety of the Rue de Rempart (the central circular street around Eguisheim’s Old Town) you will certainly pass it.

A few places to stop along the way also include Bar St. Léon if you’d like to grab something to drink or L’Authentique Pain d’Épices Alsacien for some uniquely Alsatian gingerbread!

Stay for nightfall to see the holiday lights and lit-up Christmas Markets.

A magical nighttime scene in a European alleyway, illuminated by twinkling blue lights strung overhead. Traditional buildings, with features such as wooden beams and rustic stonework, line the cobbled street. The facades of the buildings are decorated with festive garlands, wreaths, and ambient lighting from windows

Speaking of night, any day trip to Eguisheim should include a little bit of time in the evening so you can see all the town’s festive lights come on!

Luckily, since the sun sets between 4:30 and 5:00 PM in the winter, it’s pretty easy to stay ’til dark!

This is when the lights twinkle on on the town’s Christmas markets in Place du Marché aux Saules and Place Monseigneur Stumpf, making them even prettier.

For the 2023 season, the Christmas markets will be open from 24 November to 23 December and then again from 27 December to 30 December.

17 Cozy Things to Do in Colmar in Winter: An Alsatian Fairytale Town

Colmar, Alsace, France, medieval half-timbered houses in historical Old town colorful illuminated for Christmas celebrations

Colmar is possibly the most picturesque town in Alsace — a high distinction in a region that counts Riquewihr, Strasbourg, Kayserberg, Obernai, and Eguisheim amongst its neighbors.

With its half-timbered colorful houses, its labyrinth of alleyways, its canal, its artisan shops, not to mention its cute cafés and rustic eateries, Colmar really looks like a fairy-tale village straight out of a Disney movie!

For full transparency, visiting Colmar in winter is not warm — but that’s probably no surprise here. 

⌛ Planning your Colmar trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Colmar Winter Experiences
1. Colmar Half-Day Winter Wine Tour (with Hunawihr & Riquewihr)
2. 3-Country Christmas Market Tour (with Germany & Switzerland)
3. 45-Minute Chocolate Making Workshop at Choco Story

🛏️ Best Colmar Hotels
1. Hotel Le Maréchal (4-star hotel in Little Venice, part of the city walls)
2. Mercure Colmar (boutique design hotel near Unterlinden Museum)
3. Hôtel Turenne (conveniently located budget option)

Not sure how to get to Colmar? Fly into Strasbourg and then take a train or an airport taxi with Welcome Pickups to avoid any headaches or scams. Alternately, renting a car may be helpful if you want to visit smaller villages in Alsace (I always use Discover Cars for the best price search functions!).
Christmas market in Colmar, the streets of the village

However, there is just something about Colmar that feels like a warm, cozy, comforting embrace — they’ve got the concept of hygge down, the same way Nordic capitals like Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki do.

And don’t underestimate this town! There are actually a lot of things to do in Colmar in the winter, beyond just its Christmas market.

Sophisticated art galleries, delicious cuisine, culture, history, shopping, the Statue of Liberty … Wait, what ? 

Read on to discover all the best activities to do in Colmar in winter!

Colmar in Winter: 17 of the Coziest Things to Do!

Explore the unique architecture (and the story it tells) in the Old Town.

the wintry display of christmas themed decorations in colmar france part of alsace region, three buildings with festive decorations

One reason that the look of Colmar and the Alsace region is so unique compared to the rest of France is that it has been subject to numerous territorial disputes between France and Germany.

The history of Alsace (and Lorraine as well) is a tumultuous one, marked by an ever-changing ruling and a struggle for identity. 

Today, Alsace, and especially Colmar, boasts a unique fusion of German and French influences, with many locals speaking both languages.

The power struggles in Colmar’s history have forged a prominent impact on the architecture, the cuisine, and the culture. 

As you’ll explore the Old Town of Colmar, called La Vieille Ville in French, you’ll quickly notice the German influence in the structure of the many timber-framed houses and buildings.

But it’s not all Germanic vibes: on the other hand, the squares and the overall layout carry that very distinctive French touch.

The half-timbered structures retrace their history all the way back to the medieval times, creating that dreamy fairytale mood that Colmar is famous for. 

The Old Town features a variety of lively market squares, most prominently the Place de l’Ancienne Douane and Place de la Cathédrale

Try the best of Alsatian cuisine.

A delicious type of Alsatian flatbread similar to pizza called flamkuchen with cheese, bacon, onion

Arguably, the best thing to do in Colmar on a cold winter day is to indulge in some delicious Alsatian cuisine… all in the name of research, of course. 

Just like its culture, traditions, and architecture, the cuisine in Alsace is a fusion of its influences: a mixture of pared-back, sophisticated French flavors and more hearty, rib-sticking German dishes. 

Flammkuchen is probably the most famous dish in Alsace, and definitely worth a try when you’re visiting Colmar (in any season, but it’s especially satisfying in winter).

Called Tarte Flambée in French, it is similar to a pizza, with a thin, crispy dough and crust, topped with bacon, onions, and crème fraîche in its original version.

Want a spin on the classic? It also comes in delicious variations with mushrooms and different cheeses. 

Different kind of meats served atop a bed of fermented cabbage

Sauerkraut, which is written as Choucroute in French, is widely used in Alsace and neighboring Germany.

It’s basically a salty, fermented cabbage, which can be accompanied by all sorts of meat (sausage shines especially bright here) and is typically also served with potatoes. 

Another thing you may want to try in Alsace that is lesser-known is Baeckeoffe, a traditional casserole with slow-cooked meat, marinated in spices, onions, and potatoes. Perfect to warm up on a cold day! 

Eat some tasty Alsatian sweets.

Sugar-dusted small alsatian bundt cakes wtih raisins inside

Got a sweet tooth? Kugelhupf is a typical Alsatian cake, baked in a special bundt-like mold which gives the cake its name.

Similar to French brioche, it has a soft texture, sometimes prepared hearty with raisins, and sometimes spiced up a little with some lemon zest and dusted in sugar.

Another treat, Bredele, are specifically made for the festive season in Alsace, similar to traditions in Germany, where they’re called ‘Plätzchen’.

Bredele are sweet biscuits or cookies, shaped in various forms, usually involving a lot of butter and sugar (like all the best cookies do!).

For even more sweet action, you can visit Choco Story Colmar, where you can visit the chocolate museum or even take a 45-minute chocolate-making class!

Go shopping at the Colmar Covered Market. 

An elegant building, known as the Covered Market in Colmar, stands beside calm waters. Its beige facade is adorned with bright red shutters and large arched windows, topped by ornate stonework and decorative pediments. Overflowing flower boxes with vibrant red blooms and cascading greenery are positioned along a balustrade, adding a touch of nature to the urban setting. An arching stone bridge spans the waterway in the foreground, reflecting the city's blend of architectural charm and functional design.

The Covered Market or Le Marché Couvert de Colmar is the heart and soul of Colmar’s food scene. If you are a foodie, this is your paradise! 

The market should be high on your list when visiting Colmar, especially in winter!

Whatever the weather is like, you can shop here all year round since the market is entirely covered from the outside elements. 

The endless variety of vendors assemble the best of authentic Alsatian products, all locally sourced.

Curated by the artisanal traditions and expertise of the local farmers, this market is a great emblem of Colmar’s heritage and culture. 

Aside from the obvious shopping you can do, you can just as well come here to have breakfast, lunch, or a snack.

The market hall is lined with restaurants and bars, inviting locals and tourists to come for a drink or a meal. 

Soak in the lively atmosphere, watch the locals go about their day, enjoy a coffee, do some shopping, try some new food — honestly, Colmar’s market is always worth a pause. 

Visit the stunning St. Martin’s Church.

A detailed view of a Gothic cathedral showcases its intricate stonework, ornate arches, and a prominent spire with a green finish. The structure's historical significance is highlighted by its impressive facade and tall windows. Surrounding the cathedral, modern life is evident with a variety of parked cars lining the street and a lamppost.

The stunning La Cathédrale Saint-Martin was originally built in the 13th and 14th century in the typical Gothic architecture of the time.

But in the 16th century, a fire destroyed parts of its structure, forcing consequential renovations and decades of restoration — creating a unique hybrid situation.

As you can see, the original built is still apparent today. From the outside, you can easily spot the typical arches and the sculptures adorning the cathedral, and the interior is rather impressive. 

The Saint Martin Cathedral is well worth a quick visit, and lucky for your wallet, entry is free! 

Wander around picture-perfect Little Venice

Colmar Old Town in Alsace, France on a cloudy day in winter with traditional colorful half-timbered houses in little Venice quarter, decorated for Christmas

If you’ve ever Googled Colmar before, Little Venice is usually the top search result when it comes to images.

This is where all the typical features of Colmar are most prominent — and it’s what makes the town feature so high on many people’s list of the top French towns and villages

With the crisscrossing canals and the colorful houses that date back to the Middle Ages, exploring Little Venice almost feels like walking through Cinderella’s hometown!

You’ll find an array of cozy cafés, bistrots and restaurants in this area. If it gets too cold, you can easily find a cute little coffee shop to hide from the chill outside!

It’s also the most photogenic part of Colmar, so make sure to have your camera ready for an unstoppable number of Instagram snaps!

Get in the festive spirit at the Christmas Market.

A bustling Christmas market in Colmar comes alive as night falls. Traditional half-timbered houses, adorned with twinkling fairy lights, create a warm and festive ambiance. One prominent building, illuminated in a radiant purple hue, stands out amidst the surrounding structures.

One of the perks of the German influence in Alsace is the amazing Christmas Markets.

You’ve probably heard of Strasbourg’s Christmas Market (or read about in our guide to Strasbourg in winter), which is amongst the oldest and most important in Europe. 

Colmar’s actually has several Christmas markets, spread across mainly the Old Town and Little Venice areas.

This makes for a more intimate, authentic atmosphere, compared to the bigger markets in Alsace. 

Colmar loves Christmas. It’s a serious affair!

The Old Town is positively beaming (almost blinding) with festive lights and Christmas decorations, while a seemingly-infinite stream of vendors and chalets selling their wares line the streets. 

Aside from the typical Christmas market shopping, you’ll find delicious Alsatian street food specialities to warm your heart from the cold.

Don’t miss the cookies, aromatic roasted almonds, and, of course, mulled wine (vin chaud in French, glühwein in German). 

There is also usually an ice skating rink set up on Place Rapp at the end of November. Prices vary, but shouldn’t exceed more than a few euros. 

Explore more Christmas markets on a day tour (of three countries!).

The city of Freiburg in Germany with all its Christmas market decorations around dusk when the lights are just starting to twinkle on.

Not enough Christmas market action?

This international Christmas market tour will bring you to three different Christmas markets… in three different countries (great for country counters — I see you, I am you!)

Start by visiting the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach in France, also part of the Alsace region. It’s a UNESCO site, plus its Christmas market is adorable!

You’ll cross your first border of the day to head into Germany, where you’ll visit the excellent Christmas market of Freiburg, a sight definitely worth seeing.

And then there’s one final border to hop — Basel in Switzerland, where you’ll see its dazzling Christmas market all lit up at night when it’s at its most festive.

Three countries and three Christmas markets all in one easy day — that’s what I call convenience!

Check this Christmas market tour itinerary and inclusions here!

Learn about the origins of the Statue of Liberty.

An intricate bronze statue stands prominently in the courtyard of the Bartholdi Museum. Two figures, draped in flowing robes, work in unison to support a large, tarnished sphere. The patina on the globe and figures speaks of age, adding a historical resonance to the scene. The woman on the right reaches upwards, her delicate fingers grasping a piece of the globe, while the other figure appears to be guiding or steadying it from the side.
One of Bartholdi’s sculptures at the Bartholdi Museum

Did you know that New York’s Statue of Liberty has its roots in Colmar?

In fact, Colmar is the birthplace of French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi! 

Bartholdi grew up in Alsace before moving to Paris to study.

He traveled to Egypt and Yemen, notably to pitch ideas for grand monuments at Port Said, all of which were declined — but that would later lead to his greater feats of architecture later in his life.

Eventually, in 1871, Bartholdi arrived in America and was quickly inspired.

The idea for the now-iconic New York monument was allegedly presented by a French historian (whose identity isn’t really clear) as a celebration of the first 100 years of American Independence.

This was partly to serve as a symbol of French-American friendship (and let’s be honest, probably partly a thumbing of the nose at England!). 

Eventually, the copper statue was gifted to the United States by the people of France in 1886.

Bartholdi created the design of the statue, while Gustave Eiffel (who also designed the Eiffel Tower) built the structure. 

In Colmar, you can visit the Bartholdi Museum, which retraces the life and work of the sculptor from Alsace, including his famous work Les grands Soutiens du monde from 1902, meaning “The Great Supporters of the World” in English.

Note that the museum is closed in January, so if you’re visiting Colmar in January, it’s a no-go.

That said, It’s open from 1st February to 31st December. Entry is around €5. 

Check out the Quartier des Tanneurs. 

White painted half-timbered houses in the Tanners Quarter area of Colmar, with lots of wood beams and geometrical lines in the old-fashioned architecture

In past centuries, the town of Colmar, as well as Strasbourg, was an important hub for leather production and refinement. 

The Quartier des Tanneurs is named after the leather artisans (tanners) who worked and lived here, laboriously dying and tanning leather for all sorts of pieces. 

Today, the cobblestones and historic streets offer a glimpse into Colmar’s past, preserving all its charm!

As you walk along the timbered houses, it’s easy to imagine what life must have been like hundreds of years ago – minus the tourists, of course. 

Le Quartier des Tanneurs spreads from Rue des Tanneurs to Place de l’Ancienne Douane and makes a lovely winter walk.

Stop at Koïfhus on Place de l’Ancienne Douane. 

A grand historical building, known as the Koïfhus, stands majestically in the heart of Colmar. Its distinct green and red patterned tile roof captures immediate attention. A central bronze statue, mounted atop a sturdy stone pedestal, dominates the courtyard. The figure, adorned in period attire, extends an arm forward.

As you’ll reach the very lively Place de l’Ancienne Douane, one landmark is bound to catch your eye: the Koïfhus, otherwise known as l’Ancienne Douane

This area used to be the business center of Colmar, with this particular building serving as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry — well, up until 1930.

Prior to that, it was a meeting point for the deputies of Alsace, a warehouse, a bank, and home to the Magistrate. 

Amongst its many purposes, Koïfhus was also used to handle customs (hence the word ‘douane’, which you may have noticed means ‘customs’ from visiting French airports!) — particularly as it enjoyed an ideal location at the junction of two main commerce streets. 

Today, it is the oldest public building in Colmar and still used for various events and town meetings!

Its surrounding vibrant square is lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, placing it at the center of Colmar’s culture, and it’s extra cozy in the wintertime.

Hide from the cold at Unterlinden Museum.

The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar emerges as a splendid blend of medieval architecture and modern surroundings. The building's defining feature is its green and red patterned tile roof, reminiscent of traditional Alsatian design. A sturdy, well-preserved tower, constructed from brown and beige bricks, anchors the corner, with Gothic windows

The Unterlinden Fine Art Museum is built within a beautiful Dominican convent in the heart of Colmar.

Important recent renovation words have included the addition of a secondary building, connected to the main entrance via a submarine gallery, that runs underneath the canal – which is pretty cool if I do say so myself!

This new gallery has three exhibition spaces, which means more room for the rather extensive permanent collection of the museum (a win win!). 

For architecture geeks, you won’t be disappointed: the museum combines Gothic and Renaissance styles, reflecting the structure’s 13th-century roots as well as the subsequent renovations and modernization. 

The Unterlinden features an impressive collection of art works from various eras. The most prominent piece is the Altarpiece of the Dominicans, an important work by the German artist Matthias Grünewald. 

Completed in the late 15th century, the altarpiece was originally made for the Dominican Church, depicting a series of images from the Passion of Christ.

Unterlinden is also home to a myriad of archaeological and historical artifacts.

Combined with the masterful paintings, the Fine Art Museum pays homage to Colmar and Alsace, showing its multifaceted history through the lens of art. 

Entry is €13 or €15 with an audio guide — it’s definitely worth the extra two euros to have an understanding of what you’re seeing, according to me. 

Visit the Dominican Church of Colmar.

The facade of the orange/sand-colored Dominican church of colmar on a partly cloudy day.

While the 15th century Altarpiece of the Dominicans is on display at the Unterlinden Museum, there’s more to the history of this church than just that!

Other works of Grünewald are also exhibited in the Dominican Church of Colmar, another place worth a visit. 

Besides that, it’s also just a charming historic church that has a very different vibe than the other churches in Colmar.

And since the entry fee is a mere 2€, it’ll hardly put a dent in your holiday spending.

Admire Little Venice from the river. 

A boat going down one of the canals of Colmar in the winter, surrounded by leafless trees showing the season, yellow and pastel colored half-timbered houses.

Little Venice would not be Little Venice without the obligatory canal cruises — after all, can you say you went to Venice if you didn’t ride a gondola?

Traditionally called barques, the small boats take you on a short 25-minute cruise of the canal for about €10. 

Don’t worry about it being winter; the cruises run all year round. In fact, as a winter traveler, you get to skip the crowds!

However, the service is more limited in winter, so you’ll have to check the schedules when you’re there.

Highlights of a canal cruise include the Quai de la Poissonnerie and the gorgeous Turenne Bridge

Rest assured, if it’s too cold for a cruise, contrary to ‘real Venice’, you don’t miss anything if you don’t go.

You can easily explore Little Venice on foot, but if it’s warm enough, this short ride is well worth the experience (just bundle up!). 

Have fun at the Toy Museum. 

Horses, other rideable figures at the toy museum in Colmar, a beautiful town in Alsace
Toy Museum in Colmar | Photo Credit: Vincent Desjardins, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How else do we say it? Le Musée du Jouet is pure joy!

This museum features an extensive collection of toys dating from the 19th century to modern times.

Housed in a former cinema, giving it extra cool points, the museum is a great interlude away from the cold for kids and grown-ups alike.

The collection includes a variety of dolls, trains, battle games, different generations of robotic and mechanical toys — all very well-preserved throughout the ages!

This is a fun, unconventional way to learn about kids’ lives in the past… and reminiscence about your own childhood with just the right amount of nostalgia!

Entry is around €6 for adults and free for young children. 

Explore other towns of the Alsatian Wine Route.

White wine in turkheim area of alsace wine region

As mentioned above, Colmar isn’t the only scenic town that’s part of the Alsatian Wine Route — which also doubles as an epic list of Christmas markets worth visiting in December!

You could rent a car and explore parts of the Alsatian wine route independently,but then you can’t sample the famous wines of the region so freely!

This tour brings you to two of the most beautiful towns in Alsace — Riquewihr and Hunawihr — as well as straight to a winemakers’ cellar, when you can taste some of the best wines of the region.

With the option to taste up to six wines and visit two unique towns, this small group tour capped at eight people offers a great value for those who want to see a bit outside of Colmar but are limited on time, don’t want to rent a car, or want to imbibe to their heart’s content!

Book your Alsatian Wine Route day trip here!

Take a day trip to the winter wonderland of Strasbourg.

the winter scenery of france strasbourg canal with some snow on the winter decorations and half-timbered houses along a canal at blue hour just after sunset

A mere 1-hour drive away from Colmar, Strasbourg is France’s most European city.

The city is home to the European Parliament and an overall mini-cosmos of modern Europe!

With its international institutions, Strasbourg attracts visitors from all corners of the globe and is home to a growing cosmopolitan community.

You could easily spend a couple of days here, especially in winter, but it’s also suitable as a day trip! 

If you are coming to Strasbourg in December, make sure to check out the famous Christmas Markets.

In the heart of Strasbourg, the historic Petite France district is a UNESCO Site and a must-visit for any first-time visitor. 

Strasbourg also has several museums, including the Fine Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum, which both rank amongst the best in France.

Similar to Colmar, Strasbourg’s districts are crisscrossed by a series of little rivers, and cruises are offered all year round.

If your time is limited, such as if you’re visiting from Colmar on a day trip, a river cruise is a great option to see all the major sites from the cozy comfort of the heated boat!

Where to Stay in Colmar in Winter

Maison Pfister, Traditional Alsatian half-timbered house Colmar

Luxury: Hotel Le Maréchal 

Part of the city’s original fortified walls, the 4-star Hotel Le Maréchal  stands the test of time.

Right in Little Venice — like, literally set right on the canal — it’s a short walk to the main Colmar Christmas Market in Place des Dominicains.

The tasty on-site restaurant, A l’Echevin, is a big hit for those seeking traditional Alsatian cuisine, too!

Check prices and availability here

Mid-Range: Mercure Colmar Centre Unterlinden

The ultra-trendy Mercure located a two-minute walk from the Unterlinden Musuem is a great choice for something design-focused on a budget.

There’s a daily breakfast available, a bar with Alsatian wines called Les Cepages, and you can also use their sauna.

It’s about a 15-minute walk from Little Venice, but it’s still in a convenient part of town with a lot of shops, restaurants, sights, and attractions.

Check prices and availability here

Budget: Hôtel Turenne

Conveniently located a 10-minute walk from the train station on the edge of the Old Town, Hôtel Turenne isn’t a bad option for those on a budget.

Its rooms are pretty spacious given the price and they’re also rather bright, letting in the little winter sunlight there is for a fresh-feeling room.

Overall, it’s not the most unique hotel you’ll find, but the combination of price, location, and comfort make it a great budget choice.

Check prices and availability here