Large mural showing a face peering over a graffiti wall
Monday walks,  Norway,  Photographing Public Art,  Street art

History and street art in Tromsø

Tromsø is in many ways a surprising city, and full of extremes. Located well inside the Arctic Circle it experiences both Midnight Sun (in summer) and Polar Night (in winter). It can boast the world’s northernmost university, its northernmost botanical garden, northernmost cathedral – and northernmost brewery!

Once dubbed the ‘Paris of the North’ because of its surprising levels of sophistication for these latitudes, it was also a hub for Arctic expeditions by explorers such as Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen.

For this ‘Monday Walk’ I’m joining two walks in Tromsø, one with a couple of friends that took us out through a residential area to beautiful Telegrafbukta, and one an organised guide-led city walk. I’ll throw in a bit of the history the guide shared, but my main aim is to showcase some of the city’s street art, doubling up with Natalie’s Photographing Public Art challenge.

Near Polaria

Let’s start our first walk near the Polaria aquarium and museum, outside which we found this sculpture of Helmer Hanssen. He was a polar explorer who accompanied Amundsen to the South Pole in 1911. There is also a life-size bronze polar bear statue here.

Our walk towards Telegrafbukta, where we were joining our friends for a picnic (yes, in this climate!) took us past a couple of sculptures I’ve already shared in black and white. Here they are in colour:

Also near the waterfront we found a boathouse with an eye-catching mural.

City centre scenes

Let’s leave Telegrafbukta for another day (although like some of the sculptures I’ve already shared a couple of views from there in black and white). Instead we’ll return to the city centre and join our guided walk outside another museum, the Polarmuseet. This is housed in an 1837 wharf house and presents Tromsø’s history as a centre for Arctic hunting and starting point for Arctic expeditions.

Nearby is a bust of Roald Amundsen and a sculpture of a walrus.

Tromsø’s city centre on Tromsøya island has the biggest concentration of historic wooden houses north of Trondheim. The oldest, Skansen, was built in 1789 on the remains of a 13th-century turf rampart.

Large wooden house painted deep yellow
Skansen, the oldest building in Tromsø

Our walk took us past the Arctic Hunter sculpture in the centre of town (also previously shared in black and white). This is in truth a sculpture of a whaler with his harpoon. The reality is that whaling is historically part of the coastal culture here, and it still permitted today within tightly regulated annual quotas.

We finished our guided walk near another statue of Amundsen, not far from the Lutheran cathedral.

But I’ll finish with a selection of street art seen on this guided walk and on my other walks around the city.

I visited Tromsø in June 2023


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