From medieval alleyways to a beer academy, these are the attractions you should not miss in Norway’s third-largest city.
Once the Viking capital of Norway, Trondheim is where the county’s medieval past meets its thriving future, with ancient cathedrals and cobbled streets alongside innovative restaurants and cutting-edge architecture. A bustling university town with a population of 193,000, Trondheim attracts city-goers keen to walk in the footsteps of the country’s first king and patron saint, St Olaf. It’s also a city for those looking for a vibrant arts scene, progressive culinary experience and unspoiled landscapes full of wildlife. Here are the attractions everyone should see in the city, from fascinating museums to picture-perfect islands.
Trondheim’s most popular attraction, Nidaros Cathedral is built on the site of St Olaf’s grave and is the world’s northernmost medieval cathedral. A grand tribute to Norway’s treasured patron saint, the cathedral was built from 1070 onwards, but fell into disrepair during the Middle Ages. Since 1869, it has been painstakingly restored, although craftsmen can still be seen working in the cathedral today. As legend says, when the building is completely finished, a mudslide will hit the city and the cathedral will disappear into the fjord. Now visitors can marvel at its stained-glass windows and stone sculptures or join a guided tour to the cathedral’s secret rooms. During the summer don’t miss climbing the 172 narrow steps up the tower for the best view of Trondheim’s pretty city centre.
Whether you prefer A-ha or black metal, learn more about every kind of Norwegian music at Rockheim, Norway’s National Museum of Popular Music. Tucked away in a converted warehouse, the museum is topped by a futuristic LED cube on the dock near Pirbadet. The museum traces the country’s musical history from the 1950s, using sound, artefacts and videos. There is also a Rockheim Hall of Fame, a shop, restaurant and a series of hands-on experience rooms where you can learn guitar from TNT guitarist Ronni Le Tekrø, have a go at being a DJ, try graffiti or play drums, bass or sing.
Walk through Trondheim’s compelling history at this open-air museum, set in the ruins of Norway’s oldest medieval castle. The museum comprises more than 80 historical buildings, from mountain cabins to a school for a glimpse of life in the past, as well as several exhibitions, live storytelling and theatrical performances. Don’t miss the view of Trondheim from the top of the castle’s ruins or the Detli House from Oppdal, which was recently recreated in Florida’s Disney World. The museum hosts lively events on Midsummer’s Day and the first weekend of Advent, but visitors year-round should call in for waffles at the quaint Vertshuset Tavern, built in 1739 but moved in its entirety from downtown Trondheim.
Head out of town on the 14km (9mi) Lade trail (Ladestien) to experience the beauty of Norway’s unspoiled countryside and stretch your legs on a hike. The trail winds along the Lade peninsula with views over Trondheim Fjord, passing hidden bays, shaded glades, meadows filled with wild flowers and Sponhuset, a traditional café serving delicious waffles. Between September and March, it’s also one of the best places to escape the city glare and stand a chance of spotting the Northern Lights from Korsvika beach.
Step back in time by wandering the city’s narrow alleys with their distinctive wooden buildings. Although damaged by fire many times, Trondheim still has around 40 original alleyways that have buzzed with shops, businesses and saloons since the Middle Ages. Stroll around the galleries and shops along the cobbled streets of the Bakklandet neighbourhood. Afterwards, head to the Nidelva and its famous bridge, Gamle Bybro, to snap pictures of the brightly coloured wharf buildings that line the waterfront. Join one of several guided tours of the alleyways to hear the history of the old town and discover stories of the city’s illustrious past or go on a Sunday during summer for the charming riverside flea market.
If you really want to understand the Vikings, you need to get to grips with their favourite drink. Back then, brewing beer before Christmas was required by law and those who didn’t abide risked losing their farms to the King or even being deported. To find out more, take a beer course at the Beer Academy in Trondheim. It offers fun, informative sessions where visitors can hear an alternative version of Norway’s history, learn how to make their own beer and discover how to pair beer with food, including cheese and even chocolate.
The distinctive fortress on a hill, above the Nidelven River, was built after the 1681 city fire to watch over Trondheim. It was decommissioned in 1816 but later used by Nazi forces during World War II. Visitors can now tour its dungeon and museum and take in a view over the city, fjord and the mountains beyond. If you’re touring Trondheim by bike, it’s also a great chance to use the CycloCable, the world’s only ski lift for cyclists. The lift will pull you to the top of the hill so you can visit the fortress without any hard work pedalling.
Dominated by a towering statue of the city’s founder, Viking Olav Tryggvason, the Market Square (Torvet) is at the heart of the city. It’s the best place to try some of Norway’s most traditional dishes from tiny stalls without paying steep restaurant prices. If possible, visit on the first Saturday of each month to sample brown cheese, dried fish and hot dogs at the farmers’ market. Alternatively, go at the very start of August for Trondheim’s extensive food festival, a jubilant city-wide celebration of local producers, chefs and breweries.
Two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the city centre, Munkholmen is a small island in Trondheim Harbour where Vikings used to hold public executions. Later, the island was home to a Benedictine monastery until the Protestant Reformation, and was later used as a fort and prison. Now, visitors can visit the island on a daily boat tour during summer. However, most Norwegians head there for sunbathing and swimming from Sjøbadet beach, taking picnics or dining in the island’s café. Take the ferry from the Ravnkloa fish market, but don’t forget to note return times.