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Nidaros Cathedral

Destination Norway Day 11 the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim Norway the City of Kings

This is journal entry 11, our 12th day of adventure in Trondheim, Norway in which we explore the Nidaros Cathedral in the City of Kings.

My six-year-old son and I have embarked upon a 14-day Eurail trip from Oslo, Norway to Bodo in the Arctic Circle. We started in Oslo for 2 days then to Stavanger where we had a city break and explored Vikings, then explored Haugesund, the homeland of the Viking Kings, Bergen and Flam! 


Trondheim Norway
a beautiful scape of the old wooden buildings along the water.


A Little About Trondheim, Norway the City of Kings

Trondheim, Norway is truly a city of Viking sagas. Wrapped in hills and holding a seat to the vast Trondeimsfjord (and all its troll folklore), it’s a place many call home. It stretches its royal lineage from the Viking Age into present day, and until the 17th century, was the capital of Norway. Home to traditional Norwegian wooden architecture and boasting one of the most spectacular cathedrals in Norway, it’s seen its share of culture and kings. In fact, since the time when Viking King Harald Fairhair (Harald Hårfarge) unified Norway into one realm at the end of the 9th century, it has been known as ‘the city of Kings’.

Now I’m not here to bore you to death on a history lesson, but if you really want to appreciate this cultured city for all its saga tendencies then check out these facts:

  • In 997 the city was founded by King Olaf I Tryggvason (then as the Village of Kaupangr)
  • The location drew in a lot of attention as legend had it, the body of King Olaf II Haraldsson (St. Olaf and descendant of Viking King Harald Fairhair) had been preserved there, and buried beneath what is now Nidaros Cathedral in 1075
  • King Olaf II Haraldsson was a Viking Chieftain turned King then Saint. He was killed in battle on July 29th 1030 near Trondheim

You must understand, both these men have significance in Norse Sagas and existed during a time when pagan beliefs of Norse Gods were being banished and converted into mythology. Thus, the birth of ‘Norse Mythology’ begins in this time and leads directly to St. Olaf, as he is widely recognized as the father of the Christian dawn of Norway….and so many kings would follow.

Snorre Sturlasson, Icelandic poet and historian (1179-1241) once said,

No King in Norway could rule in peace if he failed to have the people of Trøndelag on his side,”

Trondheim was so important that kings were brought from all over Norway to be buried there. This significance is resembled today in places like the Nidaros Cathedral, the Royal Residence and displayed by two important statues; the statue of St. Olaf and the statue of Leiv Eiriksson.

Nidaros Cathedral
Such a spectacular work of architecture


The Nidaros Cathedral


I never cease to be impressed by cathedrals. Yes, I know they’re scattered all over Europe, but us Americans just don’t get to see them as often making them jaw dropping 100% of the time.

When we first arrived to the towering Nidaros Cathedral I was floored. It was so grand, so magnificent, it just mesmerized me. Even more exciting, we were off for a private tour of the church’s interior, roof and crypt!


Nidaros Cathedral
The Nidaros Cathedral
Nidaros Cathedral Tower
Tower angle


Outside of its obvious breathtaking architecture both outside and in, the Nidaros Cathedral is of special significance as both a national shrine and a place of legend. Kings and queens have been coroneted and blessed within its walls. But perhaps the most important legend coming from this site is that of St. Olaf’s final resting place.


Inside of Nidaros Cathedral
When you step inside you see two grand halls.
Inside of Nidaros Cathedral
This is the other grand hall.
Inside of Nidaros Cathedral
Intricate laying of bricks in the children’s area.
Inside of Nidaros Cathedral
In the halls around the sacred altar you can see the stone which has turned to black from the oils of people’s skin. Many have come to touch these walls after a pilgrimage to experience the holiness of St Olaf.
Markings in Nidaros Cathedral
Markings on the walls surrounding the holy altar turned black from people touching them.
Inside of Nidaros Cathedral
These also have turned in color from people touching.


Passed on since the end of the Viking Age, legend tells of the body of King Olaf (St. Olaf) buried in the church’s crypt (which we totally explored). Inside the cathedral, there’s an altar which is said to be directly above his remains. Naturally, this led us to one place, the church’s crypt. So we grabbed a few flashlights and made our way down.


Nidaros Cathedral Crypt
Inside the Crypt of Headstones, filled with medieval remains of burial sites.


In the church’s Headstone Crypt we found a display of medieval headstones lined the walls. These were found during the renovations of the church and are on permanent display here. But something special lies beyond the halls of this crypt. A private crypt which I was not allowed to film or speak of, but I can tell you, there are many very large caskets there which belong to a living family today.


Nidaros Cathedral Crypt
Past the guided crypt area and into the off limits portion beneath the church (we were guided but unable to photograph the other caskets).


Among the interesting things we found in the darkness of this crypt was the encased human remains of what is theorized by archeologists to be the bones of St. Olaf himself. this of course was a very intriguing and special moment for us. Were we kneeling beside one of the most famed Viking Kings of Norway? Leaving with more questions than we entered with, it was time to explore the towers.


Nidaros Cathedral Crypt
Top – standing over the encased remains beneath the church. Center -The Little at the gate to the private crypt area (home to some of the most intricate and beautiful caskets I’ve ever seen, some hundreds of years old).
Nidaros Cathedral Crypt
Remains found beneath the cathedral. Are they St. Olaf’s?


From the roof of the cathedral, the city is charming, speckled with tiny, colorful wooden houses. Here you can get the best view of the city from the towers which is open by ticket purchase over the summer.


Nidaros Cathedral Tower
A magnificent view from the church’s tower.
Nidaros Cathedral Tower
Another amazing view here. The tower is open during the summer months.


TRAVEL TIP: I highly recommend a guided tour of the cathedral. You will get the best information and learn things you probably didn’t know before you went. You can learn more about guided tours here. Here’s an exceptional article on Nidaros Cathedral. 


Important Statues in the City Centre


St Olaf Statue Trondheim
The statue of Olaf Tryggvason – the founder of the city towers high over the city center. Between his feet lies the head of a murderer.


The Statue of St. Olaf

In the city centre, you will see a tall pedestal raising the statue of St. Olaf. The story behind this man is one for the movies. Encyclopedia Britannica writes a good summary of it here. Between the feet of St. Olaf lies the head of a murderer.

The Statue of Leiv Eiriksson

Read the inscription, I can’t really explain it better than this.

Leiv Eiriksson Statue Trondheim
The statue of Leiv Eiriksson.


Traveling from Flam to Trondheim, Norway


Eurail to Trondheim


It took us the better part of sixteen hours to get from Flam to Trondheim, but don’t be fooled. Though this journey is a long one, it’s an absolutely magnificent one.

We began this haul on one of Norway’s most scenic and picturesque rails, the Flam Rail. From here we connected in Myrdal to rejoin our Eurail journey to Oslo, then back north to Trondheim on the night train.

Confused yet? Don’t be, just be sure you get a night cabin. It’s well worth the extra couple bucks.


Flam Norway
Take an awesome trip on the Flam Railway the most scenic in all of Norway.




TRAVEL TIP: Traveling by train this long with a child is a challenge. Be sure to pick up a toy if you can. My recommendation is a small LEGO set from Outlanders in Oslo if you’ll passing through there before this. Also, pack small coloring books and be sure to charge everything fully. Back up chargers are also recommended. Wear comfy clothes and bring some snacks if you can. Most importantly, get a night bunk!


Where to Stay – Thon Hotel Britannia


Pulling up to a castle-like hotel after a long night on a train is beyond heavenly. It’s like that commercial for (no endorsement here just a freebie ha) when the family rolls up to their digs and everyone just freaks out. Yeah it was that.

We couldn’t wait to get inside the Thon Hotel Britannia. And let me assure you, once inside I went from gross peasant train girl to Cinderella as if my own fairy Godmother just waved a magic wand. Everything about this place oozed fairy tale. It was just what we needed. Still, there wasn’t much time to indulge, we had a city to explore!

Thon Hotel Britannia 2
Even after sleeping on the train, this kid was wiped. But hey, our room was swank!

TRAVEL TIP: If you’re staying with Britannia I highly recommend a visit to their spa. I’m not one to indulge in spas but let me tell you, they have everything you could possibly want to relax your traveling soul. Totally worth it. Their breakfast is also AMAZING! Quite possibly the best breakfast buffet I have ever had.


Trondheim 3
The AMAZING breakfast buffet at Thon Hotel Britannia


Thon Hotel Britannia Trondheim 1
A very lovely place to wake up to at Thon Hotel Britannia.


TRAVEL TIP: If you’re staying is limited to just one day/night splurge a little on an exquisite hotel like Britannia. The hospitality experience will just add to your take on any city you have little time with.


Sights of the City in Photos

We were so fortunate to have such a lovely guide. We just enjoyed walking around the city and snapping photos. There are so many picturesque spots, it’s impossible not to. Apart from our trip to the Nidaros Cathedral, there wasn’t too much to explore as everything was closed for the Easter Holiday.

PHOTO TIP: You’ll want to shoot your pics in the afternoon when twilight hits. You’ll get the best light and some really pretty reflections in the water.

Trondheim Norway
Colorful wooden crafted buildings on cobblestone streets! Love!
Trondheim Norway
Trondheim is so charming. This little corner just over the walking bridge has some great dining options.
fountain in Trondheim
I noticed this fountain and its mythological connections. Can you see them?


A Hometown Easter Experience

If you’ve been following along then you know we spent our Easter in Flam the day before. Now in Trondheim we were treated by our amazing guide Ms. Lisbeth to a visit to her cabin on the local fjord. Can I just say, this was the moment I fell in absolute LOVE with life in Norway. Every little thing about this cabin was special. From the Easter decorations in the windows to the giant egg Ms. Lisbeth gave to The Little filled with chocolate (might I say he finally just finished the last of this), this would be one of our most memorable Easter experiences ever.


Trondheim Norway
It was so nice to see Easter in full Norwegian fashion.


We spent the afternoon collecting beautiful rocks from the Fjord coast with chocolates, cookies, home made waffles and current in tow. We were gifted with a taste of life in this corner of the world and it warmed our hearts to the core. We were so far from home but felt so close to home at the same time. Once again I was left with an incredible experience and appreciation for Norway, its incredible stories and warmth -even among the coldest of winds.


Trondheim Norway
We spent time on the fjord enjoying the peace and quiet and Mrs. Lisbeth’s waffles!
Trondheim Norway
Found a few things along the shore… the rocks are so pretty there!
Trondheim Norway
Picking the prettiest (and lightest) rocks to take home.


Keep Following Our Mom and Son Adventure!

Follow our next day in Norway when we explore the Arctic Circle in Saltfjellet including a visit with reindeer! 

For more information on visiting, check out their tourism site. For trip planning to Norway!

Special thanks to Visit Norway USA. While they and the local tourism offices are funding all air, hotels and meals, this in no way shapes my opinion of my journey through Norway. An additional thank you to Visit My Trondheim for managing our itinerary.

trondheim logo  VisitNorwayUSA-logoeurail_logo.236171931_std


The Little at Nidaros Cathedral
Having some fun outside of the church.

Are you heading to Norway? Have you already been? We would LOVE to hear your comments on this beautiful corner of the world below.


You're never too young

Christa Thompson

Christa Thompson is the Founder and Chief Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. She started traveling the world in 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

5 thoughts on “Destination Norway Day 11 the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim Norway the City of Kings

  1. Hello 🙂 Firstly, this is really amazing blog! I visited Trondheim in summer 2016, but I wasn’t allowed to take any picture inside the cathedral. I even tried to open my camera but the guide reminded me not to do it, so I just obeyed their rules. I saw you have many amazing pictures from inside Nidarosdomen here. Is taking picture only allowed for private guided tour? I had a guided tour as well but it wasn’t private and they didn’t take me to the crypt. I found a way there by myself and there was only the big room with those medieval headstones. If I have missed something, please tell me, I will definitely come back someday to visit every corner of this beautiful building! 🙂 Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you for the kind words. You know I’m not sure about that. I was able to take photos as media and for the purpose of the post, but as for others I’m not quite sure. I know in the crypts you can’t. Most cathedrals let you though…

  2. Hi!
    I am thrilled you enjoyed my hometown so much – even though this is a few years back.

    I’d just like to point out that the statue you say is of St. Olaf isn’t of him. It can be a bit confusing probably seeing as there has been many Norwegian by the name Olaf, but this statue depicts a different Olaf, namely Olaf Tryggvason – the founder of the city.
    He was also a King of Norway (995-1000 AD) and likewise important in the building of a new, christian Norwegian society with a strong centralized state under one King.
    The head beneath him is that of a slave called Tormod Kark, who lost his head because he betrayed and killed his former master, King Haakon Sigurdsson.

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