Trondelag, or Trondheim, has been the city of kings ever since Viking king Olav Tryggvason sailed up the Trondheim Fjord in his longboat more than 1,000 years ago and founded Nidaros, after the River Nid. In 999, Olav invited Leif Eiriksson to stay there as his guest, after which the famous seaman sailed off to Greenland and on to America. Olav himself was canonized as Norway's patron saint with a cathedral built at his gravesite. By the Middle Ages, this central Norwegian city had become an important religious pilgrimage center and trading hub.
After a devastating fire destroyed much of Trondheim in the late 17th century, the city was rebuilt using a gridiron plan with broad avenues intended as firebreaks. This layout has survived, lending an elegant air to Norway's third-largest city. Trondheim also enjoys a youthful energy; one of every six residents is a student. Nidaros Cathedral remains Norway's religious center, attracting thousands each July for St. Olav's festival. Locals like to say, "Without Trondheim, all that would be left of the history book of Norway is the cover."
Hurtigruten's docking area doesn't have a terminal building. However, when you leave the immediate vicinity, you'll be in town, where you'll have only a short walk to access restaurants, shopping, restrooms and Wi-Fi.
Historic Trondheim sits on a triangular island bordered by the River Nid and a long arm of the fjord. The city's heart is its main square, Torvet, with a towering statue of Olav Tryggvason, Norway's patron saint. The tourist office there rents bicycles and sells tickets for guided city tours. On the square's south end, there's a popular outdoor market with flowers, souvenirs, and fruits and vegetables for sale.
Nidaros Cathedral and Archbishop's Palace Museum: This impressive, Gothic-style cathedral was completed in the early 14th century over the burial place of King Olav Tryggvason. Legend has it that his grave was opened one year and five days after his burial and smelled like roses. Allegedly, his cheeks were rosy, and his wounds were fresh, so he was canonized and is now the patron saint of Norway. Over the ensuing centuries, a series of fires badly damaged the church. Highlights of the extensive restoration begun in the late 19th century include stained glass windows, two German organs and sculptures on the west front. Next door, the Archbishop's Palace Museum houses Norway's national regalia, as well as original cathedral art and sculptures, including the St. Olav altar front painted more than 700 years ago. It's possible to time a visit there with an organ recital, given Monday to Saturday at 1p.m.; a summer service, with music held Monday to Friday from 5:40 to 6 p.m.; or year-round services, held Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Admission fees apply for the cathedral and museum.
Ringve Museum: This 18th-century summer manor house, formerly the childhood home of Norwegian naval hero Peter Wessel Tordenskiold, is now Norway's national music museum. The former barn has been turned into gallery space for the museum's impressive collection, covering four centuries of musical instruments from around the world. In the elegant manor house, with period rooms named for famous composers, tour guides play Chopin and Beethoven on antique clavichords, organs and square pianos. Ringve's setting is also charming, offering great views of Trondheim Fjord and a 32-acre botanical garden. (Lade Alle 60, two miles east of the city center; guided tours offered mid-May to mid-June, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily; mid-June to August 5, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; and August 6 to September 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily)
Trondelag Folk Museum: This Norwegian Williamsburg is an open-air museum, located around the ruins of King Sverre's medieval castle. Some 60 structures have been reassembled, including 200-year-old barns with sod roofs, farmhouses, cottages and a stave church. "Images of Life" and "The Tronder Bride" exhibitions depict life in the region over the last 150 years. Also on the grounds is Sverresborg Ski Museum, tracing four centuries of Norwegian skiing. (Sverresborg Alle, three miles west of the city center; open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, June 1 to August 31; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 1 to May 31)
Stiftsgarden Palace: With more than 140 rooms, there's no shortage of space when Norway's royal family comes to town. In fact, this yellow structure is Scandinavia's second-largest wood building. Built in the late 18th century as a private home, the palace features furnishings in a variety of styles, like Biedermeier, Chippendale and Hepplewhite. Princess Martha Louise had a reception there in 2002 after her wedding at Nidaros Cathedral. (Munkegate 23; open June 1 to August 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; guided tours offered hourly for a small fee)
National Museum of Decorative Arts: Also known as the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, this museum's permanent collection includes gorgeous glass, silver, costumes, textiles and furniture from the 16th century to today. Art nouveau-lovers shouldn't miss Belgium architect Henri van de Velde's 1907 interior designed for the museum. The entire second floor is devoted to the work of three pioneering female artists; you'll find tapestries by Hannah Ryggen and Synnove Anker Aurdal, and glass designs by Benny Motzfeldt. (Munkegata 5, 60; open June 1 to August 20, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday; August 21 to May 31, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, closed Mondays; small entry fee applies)
Monk's Island: This popular summer beach destination has a dramatic history -- from an ancient execution ground and 11th-century monastery to 17th-century fortress and prison. Unfortunately, its cannons could not ward off the Swedes, who conquered Trondheim in 1658 and 1718. The prison's most famous inmate, Danish Count Peder Griffenfeld, spent 18 years there in the late 17th century. The tiny island is 1.25 miles offshore, a quick 15-minute ferry ride on the hour from Ravnkloa. (small fee applies)
On Foot: Trondheim is pedestrian friendly, with many attractions located in the city center. For visits northeast to Ringve Museum and southwest to the Trondelag Folk Museum, it's best to use public transportation.
By Bus: Bus drivers sell a single ticket or unlimited 24-hour tickets. You can also purchase tickets at ticket machines ahead of time, which will save you some money. Buses are available from the cruise dock area to the city center; #46 leaves about every 10 minutes.
By Bicycle: Another option is renting a bicycle from the city's 125-bike fleet at the Trondheim Tourist Office. For a small fee, plus a modest deposit, you have use of a bike for up to 24 hours. The only catch is you must return the bike to one of 10 stations around the city after three hours and take another bike (Munkegate 19).
By Taxi: Taxi stands are located at Torvet, Trondheim's central rail station, Sondre Gate, Nedre Elvehavn, Nordre Gate and the Radisson SAS Royal Garden Hotel (TronderTaxi phone #07373 and Norgestaxi phone #08000).By Rental Car: Car rental offices include Avis (Kjopmannsgt 34), Hertz (Innherredsveien 103), National (Ladeveien 24), and Budget (Kjopmannsgt 41).
By Ferry: Ferries leave frequently from Ravnkloa jetty for Monk Island (late May to September).
Norwegian fare incorporates a ton of fish; you'll find it in just about every form, from fritters and cakes to soup and sandwiches -- or just by itself. Other types of seafood are popular, too, given the country's proximity to the ocean. You'll also find some interesting staples like reindeer and whale, and if you're in the mood for a sweet treat, cakes and pastries are easy to find.
Bakklandet Skydsstation: Set in an old coaching inn, this place serves reasonably priced Norwegian standards for lunch and dinner. Try bacalao, dried salted cod in tomato sauce, and kjottkakaker, meat cakes. If you're in the mood for a snack instead of a full meal, opt for waffles with berries and cream, geitost cheese and hot chocolate. You'll also love the cozy atmosphere, featuring colorful tables, chairs and benches with whimsical pillows. (Ovre Bakklandet 33; open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 1 a.m.)
Agot Lian: This is the place to go for hand-fried fish dishes in a trendy atmosphere. Fish cakes are the specialty at Agot, and they include options like classic fish cakes; haddock with chili, leek and garlic; and haddock puree with sundried tomatoes. All cakes are made with milk and potato flour and contain nothing artificial. (Kongens gate 14 B; open Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
Tavern pa Sverresborg (Vertshusset Tavern): Bring a hearty appetite for Norwegian peasant food like meatballs in brown gravy with pea stew, sour cream porridge, fish cakes and fish soup. On Tuesdays, the cozy 18th-century tavern serves all-you-can-eat potato dumplings for a reasonable price. (Sverresborg alle 11, Sverresborg Folkemuseum; open 4 p.m. to midnight Monday to Friday, 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday, 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday)
Grenaderen: Located in a 200-year-old former blacksmith's forge near the Archbishop's Palace, rustic Grenaderen features Norwegian fare like lutefisk, beefsteaks, pork ribs and smoked salmon. The daily lunch buffet and special Sunday buffet are good values. (Kongsgardsgata 1; open noon to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to midnight Sunday)
Egon Tarnet: Located atop the Tyholt radio tower, this establishment revolves one complete turn every hour, offering spectacular views. On Sundays and Mondays, there's a pizza buffet for $20, a bargain in Norway. (Otto Nielsens vei 4, Tyholt; open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
A German coastal defense battery guards the approach to Trondheim Fjord -- Norway's third-longest fjord -- an eerie reminder of the city's five-year occupation during World War II. The Hurtigruten fleet (the only one that routinely calls on Trondheim) docks at the harbor north of the city center, a 15-minute walk to the train and bus terminal. From there, it's a short walk across the bridge to central Trondheim.
Hurtigruten ships are very punctual, so be aware of the time when sightseeing independently.
The currency in Norway is the Norwegian kroner (NOK). Check www.xe.com for current currency conversions. Unlike Denmark and Sweden, Norway is not a member of the EU, so the euro is not legal tender. ATMs are located throughout Trondheim's city center. Banks, the main post office (Dronningens gate 10) and the Tourist Information Office all offer currency exchange services.
Norway has two official languages: Bokmal or "book language," derived from Danish, and Nynorsk, derived from many rural Norwegian dialects. Bokmal is the more common of the two languages, with Nyorsk spoken in the fjord country along the west coast and in the central valleys. Norway's oldest language, Sami, is spoken by the country's indigenous people. Most Norwegians also speak English. "Fjord" is a Norwegian word that's become part of the international lexicon.
Wool sweaters and troll dolls are the most obvious choices, but Norway is also famous for fine contemporary tableware, silver and ceramics.
Austmann Bryggeri brews local beer right in Trondheim. Several varieties are available, but we highly recommend Miss Saison, made with lemongrass and ginger.
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Northern Europe
The Independent Traveler.com: Europe Travel Guide
--By Susan Jaques, Cruise Critic contributor; updated by Ashley Kosciolek, Editor
--Photos of bridge, cathedral and river bank appear courtesy of Johan Berge/Innovasjon Norge