Tromsø, the gateway to the Arctic, is a North Sea boomtown -- both a trade and a financial center. The surrounding snow-topped mountain peaks reach 1,800m (5,904 ft.), and mountain plateaus have good fishing lakes and birch forests. Tromsø has been the jumping-off point for several Arctic expeditions, including one of the most famous. The great explorer Roald Amundsen took off in a plane from Tromsø to meet his death in 1928 on an Arctic ice cap. Visitors today come here to hike in the summer or go dog-sledding during winters in this Klondike country.

Tromsø is the administrative center of the county of Troms, a trade center and the site of one of Norway's four universities. It is the capital of northern Norway and the country's fourth-largest finance center. Tromsø is 1,744km (1,081 miles) north of Oslo, and 566km (351 miles) north of Bodø.

Lying 400km (248 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø gets the midnight sun from May 14 to July 30 -- but not one ray comes through from November 25 to January 21. The climate has a heat record of 88°F (31°C) and a low of -4°F (-20°C).

The title of "Paris of the North" is a bit much, but Tromsø surprised even 19th-century visitors with its sophistication. A church was established here as early as the 1200s, and Tromsø was a thriving community in the Middle Ages. This trading station and fishing port attracted seamen who trafficked in polar bears, seals, and arctic foxes. Its city charter wasn't granted until 1794, however.

The city limits of Tromsø, the largest municipality in Norway, extend for 2,558 sq. km (998 sq. miles), though most of the area is not built up. Tromsø is home to some 63,000 residents, 9,000 of whom are students at the world's northernmost university.

If you should arrive in this polar town in summer, the time of the Midnight Sun, you'll find Tromsø rocking around the clock, with more pubs per capita than any other town in hard-drinking Norway.