How many reasons do you need to visit Trondheim, Norway? Founded by Vikings as a trading post in 997 AD, Trondheim is one of Norway’s oldest cities, and one of its largest. Located on a peninsula it enjoys a relatively mild maritime climate (by northern European standards, of course). Trondheim also boasts a vibrant cultural life and despite its size, its historic city center still feels intimate. And, the city is well known for its many festivals, variety of excellent restaurants as well as musical and art scene.
Many tourists know the city is set up for cycling exploration with cycling paths and even a bike lift (yes, you read that right) to help cyclists make it up one of the steeper streets in old town Bakklandet. And, yes, there are museums galore including the Ringve Music Museum (exhibiting rare musical instruments), Rockheim (which, as its name indicates, is all about rock and popular music), the National Museum of Decorative Arts, the Nordenfjeld Museum of Applied Art, and the Trondheim Museum of Art. Each is very cool in its own right.
And certainly there is shopping when you visit Trondheim. From tree-lined Munkegata, Trondheim’s main street running between Trondheim Cathedral and Ravnkloa (a public open space by the harbor) to the pedestrian-only streets of Nordre and Olva Tryggvasons where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll and excellent people watching or spend your money in one of the numerous quaint specialty shops. Did we say coffee? Yes, about every time you turn around there is a welcoming café jammed with people warming up or chilling out.
But there are other very good reasons to visit Trondheim – eight of them in fact:
Nidaros Cathedral — Billed as the world’s most northern Gothic cathedral, Nidaros was built over the tomb of St. Olav, the Viking king credited with bringing Christianity to Norway. Construction began in 1070 and it was completed in 1300. Spend time enjoying the grounds outside before entering the cathedral itself. Once inside, you can wander around freely. Be sure to check performance schedules to see if there is a recital so you can appreciate the magnificent sound from the cathedral’s recently restored organ. In the summer, between June and August, there are tours. Plus, the tower is open, allowing visitors to climb up 172 dark and narrow steps to take in a magnificent view of Trondheim. Entry fee is 70 Norwegian Korner (NOK) for adults and 30 NOK for children (about $8 and $3.50 USD at the time of this writing). Tower visits are an additional 30 NOK. At Kongsgardsgata, but seriously you can’t miss it since it is THE site in Trondheim nestled into the bend of the river that cups the town. nidarosdomen.no
Archbishop’s Palace and Museum (Erkebispegården) – Next door to the cathedral, the medieval Archbishop’s Palace is not only the oldest building of its kind in Scandinavia, it’s also one of the best preserved such palaces in Europe. Dating back to the late 12th Century, the palace’s west wing now houses a number of historic displays, including the Norwegian Crown Regalia exhibit – a spectacular collection of Norway’s crown jewels – as well as the Army and Resistance Museums with their focus on Trondheim’s military history from Viking times to WW2. Over in the south wing, the Archbishop’s Palace Museum has sculptures and archaeological finds from nearby Nidaros Cathedral. After visiting the statues, gargoyles and carvings from the cathedral, drop to the lower level, where a selection of the many artifacts unearthed during the museum’s construction in the late 1990s are on show. Entry 70 NOK, adult; 30 NOK, children. Crown jewels 70 NOK, adult; 30 NOK, children.
Old Town Bridge (Gamle Bybro)/Bakklandet – Around the river’s curve from the cathedral, this very picturesque bridge (see photo, above) was built in 1681 at the same time the Kristiansten Fort (on the hill overlooking the river, see below) was under construction. At one end of the bridge was an excise house, which is now a kindergarten. The bridge and gates look today just as they did in 1861 – and may we vouch for how photographic the entire scent is. The view up the Nidelva river with the colorful buildings is memorable, as depicted in the iPad watercolor, above. Or, be there at sunset to catch the buildings light up with the glow of the sun, enjoying photographing the memorable scene. Spend some time too wandering around the streets of now trendy, old town Bakklandet at the east side of the bridge. We counted about five coffee shops within less than a block so settle in!
Kristiansten Fort – From the Old Town Bridge, head uphill to visit the fort (passing by the “world’s first” bike lift, which really is an automatic assist to get your bike up the extremely steep street). The fort was built shortly after Trondheim’s great fire in 1681, but in more recent history, the Nazis use it in WWII as a prison; it is where they executed members of the Norwegian Resistance. The view from the walls to Trondheim below is spectacular – especially at night. We spent one very chilly evening waiting hopefully for a show of Northern Lights – and were grandly rewarded (Read about the lights here: “Aurora Borealis: Hunting the Northern Lights”). There is also an extremely popular restaurant with what looks like a great outdoor seating area … in nicer weather.
Sverresborg – Trøndelag Folk Museum – Across the river from town center on a hill is the open-air folk museum surrounding the ruins of King Sverre’s medieval castle. There are fine indoor exhibits, but go for the outdoor museum with a small city, farms, a stave church and a telecommunications museum reflecting Trondheim’s past. Even a historic dentist’s office. Open fields beckon for picnics and play. Even in the winter it was a real family affair and a must for your list if you have kids along. You may need a few hours here with all of the walking around the hills, poking in and out of old buildings, and the big climb to the view over town from the top. Although in mid-winter we just enjoyed a solo wander, there are guided tours in Norwegian and English several times daily. Take bus 8 (direction, Stavset) from Dronningens gate if you don’t want to hoof it for an hour or so. Entry 125 NOK, adult; 50 NOK, children, includes guided tour. sverresborg.no
Stiftsgarden Royal Residence – Smack in the center of town, Stiftsgarden is the largest wooden palace in Scandinavia. It was sold to the Norwegian State in 1800 and today is the official Royal Residence in Trondheim. Admission is by tour only, every hour on the hour. The publicly accessible garden around the east side (enter via Dronningens gate) is considered one of Trondheim’s loveliest gardens. Entry fee 80 NOK, adult; 40 NOK, children.
Medieval Church Ruins in the Library (Bibliotek) — During excavations for the library on Kongens gate, archaeologists found the ruins of a 12th-century church, thought to be St. Olav’s Church (Olavskirken), which included a graveyard. The ruins were carefully preserved and are now visible beneath the courtyard from elevated walkways. Also to see are the skeletons of two adults and a child. Free too! (Tip: Take the opportunity to visit the nice bathrooms or just hang out and read a book or magazine!)
Trondheim Harbor and Wharves (Bryggene) – Take the time to visit to the city’s old port area at the mouth of the Nidelva river. It is easy to spend hours wandering around the colorful old wooden warehouses built on piles above the water, many of them converted to classy specialty stores and deluxe homes. A maritime fan? Then schedule a visit to the Trondheim Maritime Museum with its model ships and displays illustrating Trondheim’s maritime roots.