Though Scandinavian capitals like Stockholm or Oslo draw most of the region’s visitors, I stumbled upon waterfront charm, Viking history, and a true Norwegian welcome in the much smaller city of Trondheim. Located further north than Oslo, Trondheim sits on the edge of a fjord by the same name, meaning you’ll be waking up to fog rolling over the water in a classic Nordic landscape. While you may want to avoid winter’s heavy snowfall, the other seasons come with their own host of surprises; the summertime, for example, may bring a chilly morning, rainy afternoon and idyllic golden sunset all in one day. Trondheim tends to be popular with travelers looking to delve deeper into Norway’s smaller communities, so you can expect plenty of services, attractions and lodging available to foreigners. If you love spending time outdoors and prefer a mix of city life and wilderness, the region’s boat tours, hiking opportunities and winter sports will keep you busy.
I chose to stay at the centrally located Britannia Hotel, a five star mainstay with on-site dining, drinking, and a spa. Comfortable suites and over 200 elegant rooms give this hotel its well-received reputation; options range from the Tower penthouse suite to family, deluxe and superior rooms. Britannia’s on-site restaurants draw passionate diners from all over Europe, and I started each day of my stay with breakfast at Palmehaven. The restaurant, housed in a restored early 20th century hall, serves a five star morning meal featuring a buffet and a la carte menu; both the buffet and fresh a la carte selection are included in the price of your room. Palmehaven also serves lunch and afternoon tea accompanied by light bites and baked goods.
Named a 2022 European Region of Gastronomy, Trondheim is one of Norway’s leading culinary destinations, a title upheld by both the city’s hole- in- the wall eateries and acclaimed dining halls. For dinner, the Britannia’s Michelin-starred restaurant Speilsalen seats diners at a round table, caviar bar or the Chef’s table while surrounded by mirrors. World Champion Chef Christopher Davidsen’s menu is full of specialties using Norwegian produce and ingredients, complimented by an extensive caviar collection. Ten course meals at Speisalen can be reserved in advance, and packages that include dinner for two as well as accommodations are also available. Other options include Brasserie Britannia, a classic bistro-style eatery, and Jonthan Grill, the country’s first restaurant with signature Japanese table grills where guests can prepare their own meat, seafood and vegetables smoke- free.
As the sun sets over the fjord, head to either one of the Britannia’s two bars. Vinbaren is an exclusive wine bar where you can choose from rare and fine bottles collected by the hotel. For creative cocktails, try the Britannia Bar, where you’ll find the familiar and the unexpected side by side. Bartender Oyvind Lindgherdet’s fine-tuned recipes are based on Norwegian lore, telling a story with every sip.
The Britannia’s spa and fitness center made spending time at the hotel just as much a part of my getaway as exploring town. The spa’s menu boasts a variety of wellness treatments, and I enjoyed a remarkable hot stone massage that left me rejuvenated. Six treatment rooms join a heated lap pool, sauna, steam room, ice bath, infrared cabin and more to bring you a luxury resort spa experience based on your needs.
Venturing out of the hotel on foot is easy and accessible, as the small town is largely walkable. Head a few blocks south and you’ll come across the towering Nidarosdomen Cathedral, one of Trondheim’s best known landmarks. The cathedral was built between the 11th and 13th centuries to mark the tomb of St. Olav, the Viking ruler said to have introduced Christianity to Norway. The cathedral’s sweeping gothic arches are mesmerizing, as is the view of the city from the top of the structure. In the summer, visitors can climb 172 steps up a narrow staircase to reach the viewing platform.
After visiting Nidarosdomen, cross the Nidelva River for lunch at Baklandet Skydsstation, which prides itself on home-cooked meals and an overwhelmingly positive reputation among travelers. The lunch and dinner menus include regional classics, comfort food and simple snacks, and you can get everything from coffee to cider along with your meal.
The historic Bakklandet district is known for its cobblestone paths and small businesses, which include boutique shops, galleries and quaint cafes. The neighborhood is a cyclist favorite, and is home to the world’s first bike lift, used to transport you and your bicycle up one of the area’s steepest hills.
Ringve Musikk Museum is another must-stop, which you can easily reach from Trondheim’s city center via car or public transportation. Established in 1952 by founder Victoria Bachke, this music museum is housed in a manor on the estate Bachke called home. Each gallery is decorated with period pieces to match the history of the instruments being displayed. In total, the institution’s collection currently counts about 2,000 pieces, a number that is constantly growing. A guided tour is the best way to tour the museum, and guides are known for not only telling the museum’s many stories, but also demonstrating the use of each instrument. The museum’s new exhibition, titled “Soundtracks,” opened this month and includes daily concerts performed in the exhibition hall.
If you’re looking for a way to spend a sunny morning or afternoon outside, visit the Sverresborg Open Air Museum, located just west of town. Built around the ruins of a 12th century castle, the museum features homes and other structures representing various eras of Norway’s history. Rural farmhouses join fishing huts, churches and a schoolhouse to help visitors imagine life throughout the centuries. The old town section of the museum focuses on Trondheim itself, and guests can walk through colorful buildings that would have once lined Downtown Trondheim. Reincarnated through preservation efforts, Sverresborg’s oldest structure dates back to 1170 AD, meaning it withstood centuries of medieval Norway’s tumult. The grounds of the museum have been serving Norwegian history for over a century, guarding the spaces and artifacts that contributed to the country’s cultural identity as we know it.
If you’re ready to venture past city limits, explore Trondheim from the river Nid with local tour company Trondheim By Boat. Fishing tours, guided sightseeing and sunset excursions depart daily from the center of town. Packages like the company’s Rockheim, Troll Voyage and Skansen experiences allow you and your friends or family to have the tour to yourselves as you explore both on and off land and enjoy lunch or dinner at a local restaurant.
A visit to Trondheim can easily become the blend of luxury and Scandinavian hospitality you’ve been looking for, without the expectations of a major city. Expect fresh food with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, knowledgeable local insight, and the chance to discover stories less told. Maritime history, Viking legends and natural beauty make this walkable city a welcome respite from the over-stimulation of most urban destinations.