Found in a dockside wooden warehouse dating from 1837, which served as Tromsø’s Customs House until the early 1970s, the Polar Museum celebrates the city’s history as the epicenter of Arctic exploration and of Norway’s controversial sealing industry. The museum opened in 1978, on the 50-year anniversary of polar explorer Roald Amundsen setting sail from Tromsø on his ill-fated last expedition. The permanent displays showcase the harsh lives of the indigenous Sami peoples in the Arctic during the 16th and 17th centuries and highlights the desperate need to survive that fueled the hunting and trapping of seals, polar bears, reindeer, whales and walruses almost to the point of extinction for their meat and skins. A number of gruesome hunting tools and traps are on display among the stuffed polar bears and animal furs.
The museum also pays homage to Norway’s great explorers: Fridtjof Nansen—who opened up the Arctic Circle in the 19th century—and Amundsen, who beat British explorer Robert Scott in the epic race to the South Pole in December 1911. A vast collection of memorabilia relating to his voyages includes a model of the airship Norge, in which he flew over the North Pole in 1926.
The museum is open January 1 through June 16 and August 15 through November 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is also open June 15 through August 14 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission costs NOK50 for adults and NOK25 for seniors, students and children between the ages of 7 and 18. Children under 7 enter free. A family ticket costs NOK80.