Trondheim occupies a special place in Norwegian history and is the best place to discover medieval Norway. The name Trondheim derives from the old Norse Þróndheimr, meaning home of the strong and fertile ones. Previously called Kaupangen, Nidaros, and Trondhjem, Trondheim was Norway’s first capital, founded in 997 by the Viking King Olav Tryggvason. But even before the Pilgrims and the Viking Age, people were drawn to the region by the seafood rich fjords, vast mountain ranges with an abundance of wildlife and some of the most fertile soil in the country. Trondheim’s famed Nidaros Cathedral with its remarkable Gothic façade is the world’s northernmost Gothic cathedral, a national sanctuary of Norway, built over the grave of St. Olav. Saint Olav’s holy shrine in the Nidaros Cathedral has been an important pilgrimage site ever since the former Viking king Olaf II Haraldsson was canonized here in 1031, and it is still a treasured destination for pilgrims from all over the world. The site that started as a simple wooden chapel over the saint’s grave evolved over time into a magnificent cathedral, where three queens and seven kings have been crowned.
After a catastrophic fire in 1681 destroyed most of the houses in the city, Major Jean Caspar de Cicignon was brought to Trondheim from Luxembourg to design a new city plan in the Baroque style. The streets were made wide to prevent fires from spreading. Nevertheless, some of the narrow alleys and narrow streets, many originating in the Middle Ages, still exist, contrasting with Cicignon's wide boulevards from the 1600s. Even today Trondheim is spoken of as one of the typical wooden cities of Europe, and the city center has many medieval wooden buildings. While proud of its impressive Nidaros Cathedral and the colorful wooden houses lining the Nidelva River, with its university, Trondheim definitely has a funky, youthful vibe, where the fusion of history, arts, technology and green initiatives ignite a culture of innovation and rich tradition, while still embodying its small town heart. The ancient city has a modern soul, and modern architecture and design are another highlight. Trondheim is also a worthwhile pilgrimage for foodies, the ultimate culinary experience with a wide selection of local coffee shops, charming cafes, delectable eateries, and microbreweries. There is a strong culture for mixing locally sourced ingredients with bright new ideas at several Michelin Star restaurants or places specializing in farm to table fusions. Small and big game, lamb, shellfish, salmon and other seafood, and berries are all specialties from the region.