One of Scandinavia’s oldest cities, Trondheim is Norway’s third largest, with a population of 170,000. Founded in 997 by Viking king Olav Tryggvason, it was first named Kaupangen (market or trading place) but soon changed to Nidaros (still the name of the cathedral), a word referring to the city’s location at the mouth of the Nidelven River. The city was the first capital of Norway, from 997 to 1380, and still is the city where kings receive their ceremonial blessing.
Trondheim became a pilgrimage center because the popularity of King Olaf II Haraldsson (later St. Olaf), who was buried here after being killed in a battle in 1030. Today Trondheim is a university town as well as a center for maritime and medical research.
Situated by the Trondheim Fjord, the city is surrounded by forests. The boat trip to historical Munkholmen is a good way to view Trondheim from the sea. For a panorama view, climb Tyholt tower for an overview of the city and its surroundings.
Or take time to walk the wide streets of the historic city center, which are lined with brightly painted wood houses and striking warehouses.
Coming Ashore In Trondheim
Cruise ships dock at one of two piers within walking distance of the city center. A statue of Leif Ericson, donated by the Leif Ericson Society in Seattle, Washington, is located at the seaside, close to the old Customs Building, the cruise ship facilities and the new swimming Hall.
Shore Excursions & Diversions In Trondheim
- City Sightseeing including Nidaros Cathedral and Sverresborg Folk Museum. The tour begins with an overview of the city center and a stop at Nidaros Cathedral, a national shrine built in 1075 on the site of St. Olaf’s grave and the traditional coronation center of Norway’s kings. Frequently damaged and rebuilt, the present Norman-Gothic structure dates to the 12th century and is one of the finest churches in Scandinavia. The tour continues to Sverresborg and the open-air Trondelag Folk Museum, which presents an authentic slice of Norwegian life and architecture as well as one of Norway’s oldest stave churches and Sami turf huts.
- Walking Tour of Trondheim Old & New. This tour begins along the Nidelven River with a stroll past village architecture, a mix of old and new to Nidaros Cathedral, the Town Hall, the National Museum and 1830’s building with rococo style exterior carvings. Visit the old wharf and cross the Bybroen Bridge to the historic working class neighborhood known as Bakklandet. Today, the area houses modern pubs and some of Trondheim’s most popular restaurants in timber houses.
- Nidaros Cathedral, Ringve Museum & Gardens. After visiting the 12th-century Nidaros Cathedral, continue to Ringve Museum, Norway’s only specialized museum for musical instruments. The main part of the museum is situated in a manor house, built in the 1860s and surrounded by beautiful gardens and forests.
- Thamshavn Narrow-Gauge Railway & Copper Mine. This tour takes you along the shores of Norway’s third longest fjord, Trondheimsfjord, upriver to Fannrem, to board the narrow-gauge Thamshavn railway. Reopened in 1983, the railway was originally built to transport ore from the mine to the harbor. Board a carriage that dates back to 1908 to visit a 300-year-old copper mine before returning to Trondheim.
- King Olav formulated a Christian religious code for Norway in 1024, during his reign. It was on his grave that Nidaros Cathedral was built. The town became a pilgrimage site for the Christians of northern Europe, and Olav was canonized in 1164. Although construction began in 1070, the oldest existing parts of the cathedral date from around 1150. It has been ravaged on several occasions by fire and rebuilt each time, generally in a Gothic style. Since the Middle Ages, Norway’s kings have been crowned and blessed in the cathedral. The crown jewels are on display here. Forty-five minute guided tours are offered in English from mid-June to mid-August.
- The Archbishop’s Palace is Scandinavia’s oldest secular building, dating from around 1160. It was the residence of the archbishop until the Reformation in 1537; after that it was a residence for Danish governors, and later a military headquarters. The oldest parts of the palace, which face the cathedral, are used for government functions.
- Built after the great fire of 1681, the Kristiansten Fort saved the city from conquest by Sweden in 1718. During Norway’s occupation by Germany, from 1940 to 1945, members of the Norwegian Resistance were executed here; there’s a plaque in their honor. The fort has a spectacular view of the city, the fjord, and the mountains.
- Near the ruins of King Sverre’s medieval castle is the Sverresborg Trondelag Folkemuseum, which has re-creations of coastal, inland, and mountain-village buildings that depict life in Trondelag during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Haltdalen stave church, built in 1170, is Norway’s northernmost preserved stave church. In the Old Town you can visit a 1900 dentist’s office and an old-fashioned grocery that sells sweets. A special exhibit examines how the stages of life — childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age — have changed over the past 150 years. The audiovisual Tronderbua depicts traditional regional wedding ceremonies with artifacts and a 360-degree film.
- Scandinavia’s largest wooden palace, Stiftsgården, was built between 1774 and 1778 as the home of a prominent widow. Sold to the state in 1800, it’s now the official royal residence in Trondheim. As Scandinavia’s largest timber mansion, the architecture and interior are late baroque and highly representative of 18th-century high society’s taste. Tours offer insight into the festivities marking the coronations of the kings in Nidaros Cathedral.
- Other diversions include Ravnkloa, the city’s fish market; the old town bridge , first built on this site in 1681; the National Museum of Applied Art and Craft, the Maritime Museum, and the Jewish Museum, co-located with the city’s synagogue, which is among the northernmost in the world.