Along the coast beyond the Arctic Circle stretches Norwegian Lapland, a land of sunlit nights. Tromsø ¸ is the capital of these northern latitudes, with a population of 52,000 including 13,000 students at the world's northernmost university. In summer, it also becomes a thriving resort city full of Midnight Sunseekers. Undamaged by World War II, Tromsø ¸ is one of the few towns in North Norway that has preserved its charming old buildings. In fact, the city was Norway's capital for 38 days in 1940 when the royal family and the Norwegian government waited to be transported into exile in England.
Among Tromsø ¸ 's attractions, the Arctic Church rates high as a stunning example of modern architecture. Built in the shape of an iceberg, its aluminum exterior reflects the rays of the Midnight Sun. In contrast, the Tromsø ¸ Cathedral is one of Norway's largest wooden churches and the northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world.
At the end of the last Ice Age, Norse people arrived to make a precarious living between the glaciers and the water's edge. Rock carvings found in this area bear testimony to their early presence. The region's original inhabitants, were the Same who roamed the heaths and mountains with their reindeer herds.
Tromsø ¸ has also been a starting point for many Arctic expeditions and has therefore been given the name "Gateway to the Arctic." Just to the north lies the famous North Cape, christened by the Englishman Richard Chancellor when he voyaged around these frigid shores in 1522. King Oscar II was the first to climb to the top of the Nordkapp Plateau in 1873, the only way to reach the Cape before a road made access easier.