Trondheim, the third-largest city in Norway, is an underrated destination often skipped by travellers. Here’s how to spend your time in Trondheim, Norway.
Lured by the towering fjords of the west, the urban allure of Oslo and Bergen, or the rugged beauty of the Norwegian Arctic, tourists often bypass the historical charm of Trondheim.
Yet, this former Viking stronghold holds a trove of cultural riches waiting to be discovered by the curious traveller.
An introduction to Trondheim
Nestled in the heart of Norway, Trondheim is steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. Once the centre of Viking power and today home to Norway’s biggest university, the city offers a captivating blend of the ancient and contemporary.
At the heart of Trondheim, you'll find an inviting downtown district that exudes charm and warmth. Compact and easily navigable on foot, the city center is a hive of activity where the old and new blend seamlessly.
Charming cobbled streets are lined with independent shops, cozy cafés, and unique galleries, providing an ideal backdrop for leisurely exploration.
Trondheim also offers invigorating outdoor pursuits within the city limits. With a wealth of urban hiking trails, the city opens up a world of exploration for the outdoor enthusiast.
Trondheim is a city brimming with potential adventures and experiences. So, whether you're a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone looking for something a little bit different, Trondheim could be just what you’re looking for.
If you're planning a trip, here are our recommended things to do in Trondheim, Norway.
In the heart of Trondheim, Norway, stands Nidaros Cathedral, the world's northernmost medieval cathedral. Renowned as a striking symbol of the city and Norway itself, the cathedral lures in visitors from around the globe.
Believe it or not, some of those travellers come on foot. Although not as famous as the Camino de Santiago, the St. Olav's Ways are popular long-distance hiking trails and pilgrimage routes.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, the Cathedral and its surroundings offer a range of exciting attractions that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
1. Admire the west front
Possibly the most eye-catching aspect of Nidaros Cathedral is its western facade. It's a testament to Norwegian artistry and craftsmanship, embellished with intricate carvings and an assortment of sculptures that portray historical and religious figures.
The result of a long-term restoration project from 1905 to 1983, the west front has never looked more impressive. Sculptures include those based on original drawings, some on guesswork and others simple fantasy. High up on the cathedral, there's even an archangel Michael featuring the face of Bob Dylan!
The restoration of Nidaros Cathedral's stained glass windows started in 1869 with the aim of recreating them in a Gothic style, embodying medieval themes. The west-facing rose window symbolising Doomsday contains more than 10,000 pieces of glass.
2. Explore the interior of Nidaros Cathedral
Stepping inside Nidaros Cathedral is like walking into a different era. Despite the subdued lighting, the Cathedral's interior, with its Romanesque and Gothic architecture, commands admiration.
Keep an eye out for features such as the octagonal shrine, two altars, and the medieval chapter house. The grandeur of the Cathedral's interior provides a serene space for reflection, regardless of your religious inclination.
3. Visit the gravestones in the crypt
Add a touch of mystery to your Cathedral tour by venturing into the crypt. Home to a collection of marble gravestones, this hushed, historic vault can be accessed via a narrow, steep staircase.
This may not be the best experience for the claustrophobic, but for others, it provides an intriguing glimpse into the Cathedral's past.
4. Climb the tower for Trondheim's best view
If you're up for a bit of a climb, the main tower of Nidaros Cathedral promises a reward worth every step. A somewhat steep, 172-step climb will lead you to an awe-inspiring panoramic view of Trondheim's city centre, at an additional charge.
Whether you're a professional photographer or an enthusiast, this vantage point offers an opportunity for capturing stunning shots of the cityscape.
5. Explore the Archbishop's Palace museum
Adjacent to the Cathedral lies the Archbishop's Palace, one of the best-preserved buildings of its type in Europe.
Now functioning as a museum, it tells the tale of Nidaros through the ages, showcasing sculptures from the original cathedral and archaeological findings.
Don't miss the excavated mint, where you can still see traces of wear on the floor from centuries of coin-making.
6. Royal Regalia
Another hidden gem in the complex is the small museum that houses Norway's crown regalia, including the stunning King's crown made of gold, amethysts, pearls, and tourmaline. There is also a small exhibition covering the history of Norway’s Royal Family.
This charming neighbourhood in Trondheim boasts well-preserved timber buildings and narrow cobblestone streets. Dotted with cozy cafes, boutiques, and inviting restaurants, this small district provides a glimpse into Trondheim's history.
7. Enjoy the view from the Old Town Bridge
The Old Town Bridge, locally known as “Gamle Bybro,” is the picturesque gateway to Bakklandet. Stand atop the bridge and you're treated to a panorama of the scenic Nidelva river and the colourful wooden buildings of Kjøpmannsgata.
8. Walk along Bakklandet
Taking a leisurely walk through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Bakklandet is a journey through Trondheim's past. The area is adorned with timber buildings in cheerful hues, exuding a nostalgic charm.
As you stroll along the street, soak in the ambience, admire the historic homes, and explore the many unique shops, galleries, and cafes that line the streets. If you're looking for a place to stop for coffee, this is it.
With its welcoming atmosphere and picturesque views, Bakklandet invites visitors to slow down, relax, and truly immerse themselves in the cultural richness of Trondheim. Just watch out for the cycle paths!
Enjoy the water
You’re never far from water in central Trondheim. The river Nidelva skirts the cathedral and archbishop’s palace, and loops around almost the entirety of the city centre.
9. Visit Munkholmen
Sightseeing boat trips are available from Trondheim out to Munkholmen—The Monk’s Island—in the summer season. This tiny island has a long history as an execution site, a monastery, a fortress, a prison and now simply a recreation area.
10. Kayak along the river
Bright red kayaks are a common sight on the Nidelva these days thanks to the success of Trondheim Kajakk. The local company offer kayak rental from different locations or guided tours if you prefer.
11. Enjoy the city centre trail
Midtbyrunden is the perfect introduction to central Trondheim. Water is almost always in sight along the marked urban hiking trail as it takes you along the fjord, river and harbour.
Even though this route encircles the city centre, it doesn't take you through the main shopping areas. It mainly consists of dedicated footpaths along the waterfront, so you rarely feel any bustle.
Once a shipyard, Solsiden today combines its industrial past with a vibrant waterfront residential and commercial area. It’s well worth a walk around the streets, full of converted warehouses and factories and former industrial items now functioning as works of art.
One major reason to come to Solsiden is the many and varied restaurants and bars, most of which have outdoor terraces, making this a year-round destination.
Enjoy the forest
The city forest Bymarka is a vast recreation area on the western side of Trondheim. There is an extensive network of hiking trails, which become cross-country skiing trails when there is snow on the ground.
13. Visit Lian lake
The lake at Lian is a popular trip at any time of the year, whether for a picnic, stroll around the lake or a longer hike through the forest.
The best way to get to Lian and Bymarka is on the city’s only tram line. Speaking of which…
14. Ride the Trondheim tram
A trip on the Trondheim tram also offers a tour of the city with great views in parts, as well as affording you the bragging rights associated with riding on the world's northernmost tram.
There is just one line in Trondheim, making the tram easy to use. From the city centre stop on St. Olav’s gate, it takes about 20-25 minutes to reach the final stop at Lian.
15. Visit Skistua
The tram to Lian isn’t the only way to get to Bymarka without a car. You can also take the local bus to Skistua on weekends. Skistua is a mountain cabin with small cafe, a great start or end point for a hike through Bymarka.
Museums in Trondheim
Although I recommend the Archbishop’s Palace museum at Nidaros Cathedral, there are many more museums worthy of consideration in and around the city.
16. Trondheim Art Museum
In the shadow of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim Art Museum plays host to both Norwegian masterpieces and contemporary art under the safe roof. The same ticket also grants you entry to the smaller art museum at Solsiden.
17. University Science Museum
Located downtown, the NTNU science museum profiles cultural and natural history from Norway and around the world. Current exhibitions include the neanderthals, Viking Age and the Middle Ages.
18. Kristiansten Fortress
The historic hilltop Kristiansten fortress stands guard over the town below. It played an important defensive role but today is a popular recreation area.
Built in the 17th century after a devastating fire that ravaged most of the town, it has an interesting story and the views alone make it well worth a visit.
19. Ringve Museum
Norway’s national music museum is located in a country estate on the leafy Lade peninsula. It’s packed with hundreds of musical instruments from Norway and around the world.
Trondheim has not one, but two music museums! And they are very different. Rockheim profiles contemporary Norwegian music through a series of interactive exhibits.
21. Royal Residence
Just a one minute walk from the market square you’ll find the large, wooden Royal Residence. The yellow front looks smart if a little anonymous, but step around the back and you’ll find the charming gardens and park. It’s possible to see inside the Royal Residence, but only on a guided tour during the summer months.
22. Trøndelag Folk Museum at Sverresborg
The ruins of Sverresborg castle high above Trondheim are now home to one of Norway's biggest folk museums. The history of Trøndelag (central Norway) is revealed in detail through indoor and outdoor exhibits. The museum is split into the castle ruins, farm buildings, town buildings, and the indoor museum.
Watch live sport
Depending on when you visit Trondheim, you may be able to catch some live sport, Norwegian style. Here are some of the options.
23. Football at the Lerkendal Stadium
Lerkendal Stadium is one of the biggest football stadiums in Norway and home to Rosenborg. Although traditionally one of Norway’s biggest clubs, they have struggled in recent years.
During the Norwegian football season, there will be games on some Sundays at the Lerkendal, and occasional Saturdays. It’s usually possible to get a ticket on matchdays.
24. Handball at Trondheim Spektrum
Trondheim is also home to high level handball teams, and an ice hockey team, among other sports clubs that you can check out while you’re in the city.
25. Ice hockey at Leangen
Norwegian ice hockey fans in Trondheim have had a tough time of it in recent years. Following the financial failure of Trondheim Black Panthers and Rosenborg Hockey, Nidaros Hockey is the latest attempt to bring top level hockey back to central Norway.
Currently playing in the second tier, Nidaros play home games usually on Saturday and Sundays at the Leangen Arena, near Ikea.
Other things to do in Trondheim
Still looking for more ideas? On we go…
26. Find the hidden details in the market square
Torvet, Trondheim’s market square, has been a focal point of city life since the reconstruction that followed the great fire of 1681. It’s well known for the statue of city founder Olav Tryggvason.
Today the square hosts many public events, including food markets and the annual Christmas market. But there are lots of details throughout the square to watch out for at any time of year.
27. Afternoon tea at the Britannia Hotel
Since its recent renovation, Trondheim’s Britannia Hotel has earned a deserved reputation as one of the best hotels in Northern Europe. Dining venues include a brasserie, Jonathan’s grill and a Michelin star restaurant Speilsalen.
The stunning main dining hall Palmehaven plays host to afternoon tea. While far from cheap, the Britannia’s afternoon tea is one of the biggest treats on offer in Trondheim.
Where to stay in Trondheim
If you’re staying in Trondheim overnight, you’ll need a place to stay. The city offers a diverse range of accommodation to suit all budgets, from the luxury of the Britannia Hotel detailed above through to budget hotels and even hostel beds.
We recommend a search at our friends Booking.com to give you a feel for what’s available on your intended travel dates. If you choose to book through our link we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you), which helps keep the lights on here at Life in Norway HQ.
What are your favourite things to do in Trondheim? Let us know in the comments below.