- a) Geography
Tromsø City, with a population of 70 000, is the largest city and the largest urban area in Northern Norway, and the second largest, after Murmansk, in the Arctic Circle. It holds an important position in Sápmi, the cross-national area of the Saami people. Most of Tromsø, including the city centre, is located on the small island of Tromsøya in the county of Troms, 350 kilometres (217 miles) North of the Arctic Circle. Substantial parts of the urban area are also situated on the mainland to the east, and on parts of Kvaløya—a large island to the west, both connected to Tromsø island by two bridges and a tunnel. Tromsø city, due to the effect of the Gulf Stream, is warmer than most other places located on the same latitude. Tromsø has a typical coastal climate, with moderate winter temperatures – the average of January is – 40 C (24.8 F). However, the city is rich in snow. The snow record from 29 April 1997 is 240 centimetres; ten years later on the same date the snow depth was zero. Between November 21 and January 21 the sun disappears under the horizon and we experience the Polar Nights. Tromsø is situated right in the centre of the Northern Lights zone and is, therefore, together with the interior ice in Greenland and the tundra in Northern Canada, among the best places on earth to observe this spectacular phenomenon. The warmest month is July with an average temperature of 11.80 C. (53.20 F). The Midnight Sun bestows its light and riveting colours upon Tromsø from May 21 to July 21.
- b) City layout
Although Tromsø Municipality covers an area of 2558 km², Tromsø city centre is very small, with a characteristic, compact and historical core. The Arctic Cathedral, a modern church from 1965 and probably the most famous landmark in Tromsø, is situated on the mainland bridgehead three kilometres from the centre, and offers a magnificent sight to the centre’s quayside. The Northern House of Literature, The City Library, The Polar Museum, The Northern Norway Museum of Art, Tromsø Art Museum, and Polaria Aqaurium are placed in the city centre. UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, UNN – The University Hospital of Northern Norway and Tromsø Museum are situated on the island about five kilometres North and south of the city centre. These institutions are surrounded by a dense mixture of residences, business offices, shops, hotels, cafés, restaurants and bars. Tromsø has the highest number of old wooden houses in Northern Norway, the oldest house dating from 1789, and the intimate city centre is cherished by citizens and visitors, enhancing the participation and enjoyment of festivals and culture events.
- c) Infrastructures
Tromsø is easily reached by visitors. It takes only 90 minutes by plane from Oslo, there are 12 direct flights a day from and to Oslo, and Tromsø Airport is a scant 10-minute drive from the city centre. The Coastal Express, the traditional coastal lifeline in Northern Norway, has daily departures from Tromsø all year, both Northbound and Southbound, and smaller express boats cover the nearest towns and islands with several departures every day. A network of tunnels has been built under the city, making it quick and easy to reach all parts of the city, including the airport and the mainland. Public transport (Bus) is available all over the city, and to other regions in the North of Norway.
- d) Multicultural profile
Tromsø has a long heritage of international interaction, and appears today as a multicultural city, with inhabitants representing 146 nations, whom are successfully integrated in the society. For almost two hundred years the Pomor trade (1740-1917) with Arkhangelsk in the North of Russia was extremely important to the North of Norway, creating an international environment in Tromsø and other coastal cities in the North. As fish was traded for rye flour, language and culture were likewise “traded” and intertwined. A pidgin language, “Russian-Norwegian” developed among the Russian sailors and local Norwegian merchants and fishermen. The influence of this mutual cultural exchange is still visible in contemporary cultural life in Tromsø.
From early on, the seasonal migrations of the Saami people, the immigration of Kvens from Finland and trade with Russian Pomors formed this region’s international integrity. Tromsø’s diversity provides a wealth of material for complementary and contradictory perspectives on literature, cultures, society and life. Tromsø City and Region constitute a plural and democratic society; it is culturally, linguistically, religiously and ethnically diverse. Saami literature and culture is vibrant today, as is that of the Russians – one of the largest immigrant groups. The city is in constant growth, attracting new people from far and near. Today, almost one out of ten residents in Tromsø has an international background.
- e) Paris of the North
More than a century ago, visitors to Tromsø were surprised to find culture, urban lifestyle and the latest European fashions in the far North, and the city was named “Paris of the North”. This reputation lives on. Visitors are still charmed by the city’s outgoing and obliging residents, by a compact, historical and characteristic city centre with a pulsating cultural life performed in a diversity of cultural centres, concert halls, theatres and cafés. The large cultural engagement among the citizens of Tromsø is a result of a long tradition of cooperation between the private and public sectors and between professional and amateur artists and perfomers.