An atmospheric city with much of its nineteenth-century centre still intact, TRONDHEIM was known until the 1500s as Nidaros (“mouth of the river Nid”), its importance as a military and economic power base underpinned by the excellence of its harbour and its position at the head of a wide and fertile valley. The early Norse parliament, or Ting, met here, and the cathedral was a major pilgrimage centre at the end of a route stretching all the way up from Oslo. A fire destroyed almost all of medieval Trondheim in 1681 and, at the behest of the Danish governor, a military engineer from Luxembourg, a certain Caspar de Cicignon, proceeded to rebuild Trondheim on a gridiron plan, with broad avenues radiating from the centre to act as firebreaks. Cicignon’s layout has survived pretty much untouched, giving today’s city centre an airy, open feel, though the buildings themselves mostly date from the commercial boom of the late nineteenth century. Among them are scores of doughty stone structures that were built to impress and a handsome set of old timber warehouses that line up along the river. Together, they provide a suitably expansive setting for the cathedral, one of Scandinavia’s finest medieval structures.
Trondheim is also the capital of the Trøndelag province, whose sweeping valleys are – by Norwegian standards at least – very fertile and profitable: indeed the region’s landowners acted as a counterweight to the power of the south for hundreds of years and, when the country regained its independence in 1905, it seemed logical for the new dynasty to hold their coronations here in Trondheim.
With a population of around 175,000, Trondheim is Norway’s third city, but the pace of life here is slow and easy, and the main sights are best appreciated in leisurely fashion over a couple of days. Genial and eminently likeable, Trondheim is a pleasant place to wave goodbye to city life before heading for the wilds of the north.