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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Traveling from Flam to Trondheim, Norway
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.
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 booking.com (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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 VisitNorway.com!
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.
Are you heading to Norway? Have you already been? We would LOVE to hear your comments on this beautiful corner of the world below.