Trondheim's Historic Center
Start: Torvet at the junction of Munkegate and Kongens gate.
Time: 2 1/2 hours.
Best Time: Mornings after 8:30am when the Fiskehaller is at its most active.
Worst Time: Any time in midwinter after 4pm when it's dark, or one of the typical rain-soggy days of Trondheim.
Begin your tour at the:
Here is Trondheim's most prominent traffic circle, at the edge of which is the tourist office and in the middle of which rises the Trondheim Torg, a soaring granite column. At its top stands a statue of the world's most handsome Viking -- in this case, an idealized portrait of Olaf Tryggvason, founder (in A.D. 997) of Trondheim. Markings on the pavement, tracking the seasonal direction of the sun, define the column on which he stands as the world's largest sundial.
From here, walk north along the Munkegate (the "Champs-Elysées of Trondheim"); its exceptional width was conceived as a firebreak during the rebuilding of Trondheim after a fire destroyed many of the city's wooden buildings in 1681. On your right side, within a 2-minute walk, is the wood-sided, rustic-looking exterior of Trondheim's most prestigious home, the low-slung 18th-century premises of the:
2. Kongen Lige/Stiftsgården (Royal Residence)
Built in 1778 as the home of the (then-Danish) king, and with 140 rooms that cover almost 4,000 sq. m (43,056 sq. ft.) of floor space, it's the largest secular all-wooden building in northern Europe. Positioned (at least, in the opinion of modern-day security guards) alarmingly close to the street, it's the home of the Norwegian monarch and his/her associates whenever they're in Trondheim on official business. If you're interested in visiting its interior as part of the occasional 30-minute tours conducted only in midsummer, know in advance that its entrance is on the back side, near the building's functional and rather unimaginative garden.
Continue walking north along the Munkegate to the:
3. Ravnkloa Fiskehaller
This glass-sided, very clean, and modern venue is one of the best places in Trondheim for a snack. You can opt for a bagful of fresh peeled (or unpeeled) shrimp or perhaps a salmon sandwich at this cornucopia of seafood and all things fresh. For more details on this place, refer to the box "Beauty from the Sea -- On Ice," below.
Adjacent to the fish market is the ferryboat pier for the boats that travel to Munkeholmen (Monk's Island), a short distance offshore.
Fronting the piers is a contemporary-looking statue, erected in 1990 by artist Nils Aas and dedicated to Den Siste Viking (The Last Viking). Its somber caricature was inspired by a novel (Den Siste Viking) by Johan Bøjer, a former resident of Trondheim who honored the brave and tough fishermen of Norway for their bravery and fortitude.
From here, walk east along the Fjordgata, then right (south) onto the all-pedestrian Nordre Gate; its edges are lined with Trondheim's densest collection of shops. Within a few blocks, rising from the center of the street, you'll see an exuberant testimonial to young love, the:
4. Statue to Student Life
This is a life-size male-female depiction of young people swept away in a frenzy of love, dancing ecstatically on a pile of granite books.
Continue walking south on Nordre Gate to the smaller of the town's two medieval churches:
5. Vår Frue Kirke (Our Lady's Church)
Built in 1150 and enlarged in 1686 and again in 1739, this bulky, boxy, and dignified church (and its bell tower, tacked onto the existing structure in 1739) is almost as wide as the nave of the church itself. Regrettably, there were once 17 medieval churches in Trondheim. Now only two (this church and the cathedral, visited later as part of this walking tour) remain. Consider yourself lucky if you happen to arrive during its rare, regularly scheduled opening hours (Wed only, 11am-2pm).
From here, turn left onto Kongens Gate and walk east for about a block to Kongens Gate 1. Here, at the corner of the Kjøpmannsgata, behind an impressive-looking 19th-century redbrick facade, is the:
6. Vitensenteret (Children's Technological Museum)
Originally designed in 1833 as the Trondheim branch of the Bank of Norway, it was rebuilt in 1900 into the late-Victorian design you see today. Most visitors come here as part of school groups from the surrounding region, and unless you have small children in tow, we recommend you move on to other venues.
Directly across Kongens Gate, behind a Hanseatic-inspired facade that's adorned with an eight-pointed star-shaped window and the city's seal, is the:
7. Gamle Rådhus (Old Town Hall)
Originally built in the 1700s, this is now mostly a decorative monument, because most of Trondheim's day-to-day administrative duties are handled by a contemporary-looking new Town Hall positioned close to the cathedral and noted later as part of this walking tour.
Now turn right onto Kjøpmannsgata. In a short distance, on your left side, you'll see a row of the oldest warehouses in town, each individual building painted in a cheerful palette of colors. A short distance later, on your left, you'll arrive at the wood planks and iron girders of the:
8. Old Town Bridge (Gamle Bybro)
Originally built of wood in 1861 as a replacement for an all-wood predecessor in 1685, this is the most evocative, beloved, and frequently photographed bridge in Trondheim. Locals refer to it as the "Bridge of Happiness" and claim that your dreams will come true if you wish for them fervently as you walk across it. As you're articulating your dreams, note the neo-Gothic mass, atop the ridge on the distant horizon to your right, of the headquarters of Trondheim's University. Also look to your left from the bridge, noticing the dozens of carefully preserved 18th- and 19th-century warehouses rising on pilings above the river -- proof of how extensive the maritime economy of Trondheim once was.
Continue walking straight across the cobble-covered intersection (Øvre Bakklandet on one side and Nedre Bakklandet on the other) after you cross the bridge, and walk uphill along the street identified as Sykkelheis. Within 27m (89 ft.), on the right side, you'll see the civic government's contribution to fresh air and exercise, the:
9. Sykkelheis (Municipal Bicycle Lift)
Designed to assist bike riders in their ascent of the steep hill, this mechanized conveyor belt (most of which is concealed underground beneath a metal-edged groove in the pavement) hauls bicycles, with their riders, up a steeply inclined stretch of a scenic bike path. The cost for 15 minutes of continuous operation is NOK100 ($20/£10), which you can pay by inserting coins into the machine's coin slot. Frankly, most individual riders either walk their bikes or cycle in low gear up the relatively short hill, but as a conversation piece, the Sykkelheis is worth a look.
From the Sykkelheis, retrace your steps downhill and turn left onto Øvre Bakklandet. Within a few steps, behind the vine-covered brown-plank facade of one of the first buildings on your right, you'll find an appropriate place to:
Take a Break -- Den Gode Nabo (The Good Neighbor), Øvre Bakklandet 66 (tel. 73-87-42-40), is our favorite pub in the city, where you can dine on delectable fish soup.
Now retrace your steps back across the Old Town Bridge. When you reach the other side, turn left onto Kjøpmannsgata and walk for about a minute. When you reach a clearing in the bank of trees on your left (the side toward the river), look in the far distance to a point across the river on the crest of a stony ridge, for a view of Trondheim's once-strategic 18th-century military stronghold, Kristiansen Festnung. During clement weather, a Norwegian flag proudly flies from its summit. When Kjøpmannsgata intersects with Bispegate, turn right and look on the Bispegate's right side for a view of Trondheim's most elaborate baroque building, the:
10. Thomas Angell's Hus
Originally built in 1770 and extensively restored according to its original design in 1903, this was conceived as a retirement home for indigent widows. Later its venue was expanded to allow widows to cohabit with well-recommended widowers outside the bounds of traditional marriages -- a liberal 19th-century trend of which many Trondheimers seem appropriately proud. There's a pleasant garden in the building's interior courtyard, but hours of visitation are erratic, and the doors are very likely to be locked at the time of your visit.
Continue walking west along the Bispegate, detouring into the intensely evocative:
11. Cathedral Cemetery
Cemetery walks aren't for everyone, but this one is spiritually evocative and appropriately eerie. For centuries, grave sites here were reserved only for the town's more prominent citizens, and consequently, many of the grave markers are carefully planned sculptures in their own right. Note the location of this cemetery on your visit in the daylight hours; you may want to make a return visit, perhaps late at night and -- preferably -- when it's raining and the wind is howling. Its majestic trees and undulating walkways lead to the cemetery's centerpiece, the:
12. Nidaros Domkirke (Cathedral of Trondheim)
We think this is the single most amazing, stunning, and majestic building in Norway. Spend some quality time here and plan on a return sometime before you leave Trondheim for a second view of the cathedral's amazing rear (we define it as the most spectacular bas-relief in Europe). Plan your second visit after dark, when much of the cathedral's exterior is illuminated nightly until around midnight. Through a medieval gatehouse that's accessible from the cathedral's back side, wander into the vast and interesting courtyard that was created by the juxtaposition of two rambling buildings:
13. The Erkebispegården (Archbishop's Palace) and the Rustkammeret (Hjemmefrontmuseet)
The architecture on this square takes you back to the dim, often unrecorded past of Norway in the Middle Ages. Erkebispegården is the oldest secular building in Scandinavia; work started on the structure in the second half of the 12th century. Rustkammeret, or the army museum, is one of the oldest structures in Norway.
From here, return to the cathedral's front side, and walk briskly north along the Munkgate. The first building you'll see on the Munkegate's right side (on the eastern corner of the Bispegate), is Trondheim's:
14. Rådhus (New Town Hall)
This is not to be confused with the Gamle Rådhus, visited earlier on this tour. This modern, fortresslike brick building is where most of the day-to-day administrative functions of city government are carried out, and it's not open to the public for casual visits.
Continue walking north along the Munkegate. At the corner of the Erling Skakkes Gate, on the street's eastern flank, you'll see Trondheim's homage to the contemporary decorative arts of Norway, the:
15. Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum (National Museum of Decorative Arts)
Here exhibits celebrate Norway's contribution to the tenets of modern decor and designs in glass, wood, textiles, and metal.
Continue your northward progression along the Munkegate, admiring the occasional piece of public sculpture along its path. Our favorite is the life-size representation, in bronze, of a group of grazing deer. About a block farther along the same street, at Munkegate 20, behind a bas-relief sculpture from the 1940s, is the:
16. Trondheim Tinghus (Trondheim Courthouse)
The courthouse facade bears a post-World War II frieze with symbols and personalities important to the history of Trondheim. Its interior is not open for casual visits.
From here, a bit to the north, is the Torvet, site of the:
17. Trondheim Torg
You're now back at the point where you started this walking tour.