On most city breaks, it feels like even though we’ve tried to adjust our expectations, we are rushing to fit as much as possible into our ~3 days in the city. Trondheim was not one of those places. Although there were a couple of things that we didn’t get to, two days was pretty much exactly what we needed to see the city. And do it at an enjoyable pace with plenty of time for things we never would have done if we didn’t have a toddler.
None of this is meant to imply that you should just forget about Trondheim. Even in the dead of winter, it is charming. And it’s a jumping off point for some popular day trips like the Atlantic Ocean Road and Røros. (Okay, that last one isn’t that popular. Indeed, I’ve been told by other Americans in Oslo that it is “random.” But I still really want to go.) So if you find yourself in “northern” Norway (okay, it isn’t that far north…) you should spend a day or two here.
And definitely don’t skip it if you have a child, as this city is practically built for them.
A Brief Introduction to Trondheim
Located 310 miles north of Oslo, on the Atlantic Coast, Trondheim is Norway’s third largest city, behind Oslo and Bergen. (Or fourth if you consider Stavanger’s larger metropolitan area. But whatever.) Of course, with a population of only 180,000, it is still quite small, and easily toured on foot.
Before our trip, I didn’t know much about Trondheim, other than that there was a river running through it. And that there was a university there and some tech companies.
As I started to research, I learned that Trondheim is supposedly the foodie capital of Norway. I am actually quite skeptical of this designation. After all, they don’t make the world’s greatest butter in Trondheim and the “local” foods I used to splurge on at Mathallen weren’t from there either. For those things, you need to drive 2.5 hours to Røros. But at any rate, I was excited to try the food.
First things first: Filling Up on Mexican Food at Frida
It’s a funny thing about Oslo. As much as Norwegians LOVE Mexican food (Taco Friday, anyone?) there aren’t that many (good) options in Oslo. So it had been months since we’d had anything other than a Chipotle-style burrito. And the last time we’d eaten Mexican out? It was at the Oslo pop-up of a Mexican restaurant from Trondheim.
Craving Mexican food and knowing that we wouldn’t be in Mexico for another three months, eating the food was at the top of our list in Trondheim. The only problem was the time. Because of our flight, our reservation at Frida was at 7:30 (i.e., Luca’s bedtime) and by the time we got there he was hungry, tired, and not willing to sit still. He was also starting his phase of only eating quesadillas, which made him a less desirable dining companion. (Although luckily, being that this was a Mexican restaurant, they were able to accommodate his request.) As a result, Luca hardly ate and I had to eat quickly before running back to the hotel with Luca, leaving Fernando to finish his meal and pay the bill.
Day One: Sightseeing, the Science Center, and Plenty of Food
The next morning, we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel, and then hit the ground running. Knowing that most things would be closed on Sunday meant that we needed to cram as much as possible into one day. Luckily, that’s a pretty reasonable thing to do in this small but lovely city.
We started by walking down the street to the Old Town Bridge. It was chilly, so I wasn’t sure how Bella was going to do, but since the fresh snow hadn’t started falling yet, she seemed to be okay with it.
After snapping some pictures and enjoying the view, we headed over to the bike lift. It was closed for the winter but I seriously think we might come back for a weekend in the summer just for this. True, we don’t really ride bikes, but this is the only bike lift in the world and it’s FREE.
From there, we wandered through town for a bit until we came to a fun little playground on the river. There Luca was able to swing, rock, and his favorite thing of all—chase ducks. Then we headed to Baklandet Skydsstation for lunch. I’d wanted to try it out because a writer for National Geographic had named it among his favorite cafes in the world. It definitely didn’t live up to the expectations brought by that designation (or the prices) but the cafe (which is more Danish than Norwegian) is cute and the food decent. If you decide to go, consider ordering the breakfast buffet, which looked tasty and filling.
After lunch we walked over to Nidaros Cathedral. Unfortunately, it was closed for a baptism, but we enjoyed wandering around the outside and checked the timetable to find out if and when they were open to the public on Sunday.
It was a stroller nap day, and Luca was still sleeping when we finished our cathedral stroll, so we wandered around the city for a while waiting for him to wake up. We tried to find the old fish market, but when we saw that it (much like its counterpart in Bergen) was in an overly modern building, we decided not to go inside.
It’s okay though because it meant more time for our next stop, and the unexpected highlight of our trip: Vitensenteret i Trondheim***! At just barely over two years old, I thought Luca might be too young for this, but he had so much fun rolling marbles, poking models of cadavers, and failing miserably at the maze games.
While I don’t think it appears on many must-see lists, the Trondheim Science Center is definitely on ours. While I think it is probably best suited for older elementary and middle school kids, it really can appeal to all ages. We even saw multiple college-aged couples on dates while we were there. 😊
After the Science Center closed, it was time for dinner. I’d spent quite a bit of time pouring over restaurant recommendations in Trondheim and one place stood out above the rest: NordØst. I’ve always been a fan of Asian-Latin American fusion, and so this Norwegian-Asian fusion restaurant sounded like something I couldn’t miss. Definitely one of the tastiest non-Michelin starred meals we’ve had in Norway. I highly recommend it. And be sure to get the Steam Buns from the appetizer menu—as is too often the case, our choice for Luca ended up being our favorite dish of the evening.
Day Two: Coffee, Swimming, and Another Trip to Nidaros Cathedral
When I told a friend in Oslo that we were going to Trondheim for the weekend, the first thing she said was “You’re going to the pool, right?”
I remembered from planning a trip to Iceland that swimming pools were really popular in this part of the world. But while I’d been to my fair share of hot springs, going to the public pool wasn’t high on (or anywhere on…) my vacation wish list.
Sensing my skepticism, she quickly added: “It has a wonderful view of the fjord.”
“Okay,” I thought, my ears perking up a bit. Luca does like to swim and if we can count it as “sightseeing” maybe it would be a good way to work some physical activity into our itinerary.
I’d like to blame my skepticism on my American citizenship. When someone says “pool,” I tend to think exactly that. A small body of water that you can swim laps in, perhaps with a hot tub and a wading pool to the side. But when people talk about going to the “pool” in Norway, they’re generally talking about a waterpark to rival Great Wolf Lodge. (Okay, most of them aren’t as big as I imagine the Lodge to be from the photos, but they’re pretty big.)
But Pirbadet isn’t just slides, although it does have those. There’s a little kids area filled with toys, a climbing structure floating in one of the pools, and—my favorite part—a climbing wall extending above the wave pool. Of course, Luca’s not quite big enough for the climbing wall, but we still had fun playing with float toys in the shallow end of the wave pool while we watched bigger kids climb towards the ceiling with only the water below to break a fall.
And, of course, there were the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the fjord. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite as impressive in real life as it had been in my imagination, but what did I expect given how foggy it was that day?
After swimming it was time to “look for lunch,” by which I really meant try to trick Fernando into going and getting a cup of coffee. Looking over the list of recommended coffee bars in Trondheim, none of them stood out as the best for sandwiches, so instead we headed to Jacobsen & Svart, designated as “the best coffee bar in Trondheim” by a Scandi food blogger I follow.
By that point Luca had fallen asleep, so we left him outside in his stroller while we sat inside and enjoyed a cappuccino and some pastries. But leaving him outside alone still freaks me out even though I know it’s normal here, so we didn’t dawdle and quickly got back on the road.
With just over an hour before we had to catch the bus to the airport, we headed back to Nidaros Cathedral to see the inside. Since Luca was napping, Fernando and I took turns going inside. I worried that our short timeframe would make this impossible, but as it turns out the inside of the Cathedral (in stark contrast to the outside) is quite Scandinavian—the space is fairly empty and unadorned. As a result, I spent most of my time inside gawking at the impossibly high ceilings. Beyond that, the primary attraction was the simple Sami altar off to the side.
After we finished our quick tours of the cathedral, we ran back to our hotel. And am I ever glad we ran. Our bus to the airport was already sitting outside and the last passengers were putting their luggage underneath before it drove off. Nevermind that we still had twenty minutes according to the bus schedule.
Practical Information for your Trip to Trondheim
Trondheim is very small and easy to explore on foot. Pirbadet and Nidaros Cathedral were each about a twenty-minute walk (in opposite directions) from the Radisson Blu hotel where we were staying. Like the rest of Norway, all stores and some museums are closed on Sunday, so consider doing your walking tour on that day. Or go to Pirbadet.
If you fly, you can take a train, bus, or taxi from the airport to the city center. Unfortunately, we missed the train by a couple of minutes, so we opted to take a taxi. Since the taxi takes the same amount of time as a bus but costs a lot more, I would opt for the latter. The bus is particularly nice during the day because the views are stunning.
***We all agree that the Science Center was our favorite thing in Trondheim. At least, we assume Luca would agree based on how much fun he had.
Have you been to Trondheim?