Simply put, Tromsø parties. By far the largest town in northern Norway and administrative centre of Troms county, it's lively with cultural bashes, buskers, an animated street scene, a midnight-sun marathon, a respected university, the hallowed Mack Brewery – and more pubs per capita than any other Norwegian town. Its corona of snow-topped peaks provides arresting scenery, excellent hiking in summer and great skiing and dog-sledding in winter.
Many Tromsø landmarks claim northernmost titles, including the university, cathedral, brewery, botanic garden and even the most boreal Burger King. Although the city lies almost 400km north of the Arctic Circle, its climate is pleasantly moderated by the Gulf Stream. The long winter darkness is offset by round-the-clock activity during the perpetually bright days of summer.
Tromsø received its municipal charter in 1794, when the city was developing as a trading centre, but its history goes way back to the 13th century, when the first local church was built. In more recent times, the city became a launching point for polar expeditions, and thanks to that distinction, it's nicknamed 'Gateway to the Arctic' (more appropriate than 'Paris of the North', a soubriquet ironically touted on T-shirts).
The main part of town stretches along the east shore of the island of Tromsøya, linked to the mainland by a gracefully arched bridge.