The first question probably is not what to do on a rainy day in Trondheim but where on earth is Trondheim. I asked exactly the same question when I learned that the headquarters of the company I applied for seven years ago is in Trondheim. My boss seemed to anticipate my question so he thoughtfully sent a guidebook to Trondheim along with the job offer. Trondheim is in the middle of Norway, around 3 degrees south of the Arctic circle and was actually the old capital of Norway in the Viking age. It is the third biggest city in Norway and a University town as the most well known Technical University in Norway is located in Trondheim.
Now back to the original question of what to do in Trondheim when the weather is bad. If you ask a local, you will probably be told that “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” (I was told that over and over every time I complain about the weather.) They take this seriously. Even in the barnehages (kindergarten), at exactly two o’clock regardless of the weather, all children play outside. I remember having to pick up my son (a two-year old then) with the snow, towering above him. I couldn’t even see him anymore, and still they play outdoors in these conditions. Classes aren’t suspended, flights aren’t cancelled. The only time I remember being stranded at the airport was when a volcano in Iceland erupted. In contrast to when we were in Beijing and it snowed a little, all flights were then delayed. In Trondheim, they don’t accept bad weather as an excuse. I have even written a complaint to my officemate who was also a local politician (yes, politicians here have day jobs) that the roads in Trondheim are dangerous to the public. That day, the road going to the office was too slippery and I was swearing non-stop as I am unable to take a step without slipping. He didn’t reply to my email but came up to me smiling ‘So, you forgot to wear your shoe spikes again!’ Yup, I was wearing bad clothes. Actually there is no point waiting for good weather in Trondheim where there are only two seasons – white winter and green winter. Last week, I congratulated a colleague sitting in Trondheim for finally wearing his sunglasses – he had an eye operation, you see. So, never mind the weather and go explore the city. Below are my suggestions on what to do or see in Trondheim.
Typical winter day in Trondheim
1. Visit Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost medieval Cathedral in the world and marvel at its intricate Romanesque-Gothic architecture. It is erected at the burial site of St. Olav. It was originally a Roman Catholic cathedral and after the Reformation, it came under the Lutheran bishops. Beside the Cathedral, one can also visit the Archbishop’s Palace and the Crown Regalia of the royal family.
2. Take poignant photos at Kristiansten Festning and learn the history of the fortress built to protect the city against an attack from the east. The fortress was built on top of a hill overlooking the city and effectively helped in keeping at bay the Swedish invaders during the Great Northern War.
Kristiansten fortress overlooking the city
Another view of the the city of Trondheim from the fortress
The main building in the Kristiansten fortress
3. Take a stroll in the Old Town Bridge and see the colorful old houses lined up along the Nidelva river. At the other side of the old town bridge is the picturesque cobbled street of Bakklandet seemed to have been frozen in time where cosy coffee and curio shops can be found.
Old Town Bridge
View of Old Town Bridge from Solsiden
4. Sail in the Trondheim Fjord, participate in a mini-regatta and dock at the island of Munkholmen after the race. Contact Trondhjems Seilforening for possibilities. This is a perfect activity in bad weather.
Sailing in Trondheim fjord
5. Take a ferry to Munkholmen or dock here if on board a sailboat and check out the old monastery which became a fortress and later on a prison. During summer, join the locals who frequent the island to bake in the sun. Enjoy coffee and waffles with strawberries and cream at the Munkholmen cafe.
Inside the prison
Tough locals sun-bathing while tourists are all covered up
6. Ski in Lian in the winter or take a walk or do horseback riding around the lake in the summer. Dine at the restaurant on top of Lian, one of the oldest restaurants in Trondheim. Lian can be reached by the only tram operating from the city center.
Frozen lake in Lian
Cross-country skiing in Lian
7. Ski some more in Ski Stua another popular place for skiing in Trondheim. During winter, buses from the city center going to Ski stua are packed with people carrying skis and snowboards. This is reminiscent of Sydney in summertime where buses are also packed with people only that they carry surfboards instead of skis. Enjoy post-ski coffee or hot chocolate at the cafeteria near the bus station in Ski Stua.
Skiing in Ski Stua
8. Feed the ducks and smell the flowers in the Botanical Garden and visit the Ringve museum beside it. Ringve is Norway’s national museum of music and musical instruments. You will be amazed at the huge collection of musical instruments the museum has amassed. Be entertained by the live demo of the different instruments in the museum given by the tour guide. There is also a coffee shop beside the museum or better yet bring a packed lunch with you and have a picnic at the Botanical garden.
Ducks in Botanical garden
Checking out the flowers in the Botanical Garden
9. Rent a Cabin in the outskirts of Trondheim and spend the day cycling and fishing. Enjoy the peace and tranquility. Most Norwegians either own or dream of owning a cabin in the woods. They have a strong affinity with nature. They embrace outdoor living and being in isolation. They call it ‘friluftsliv’ or ‘open air living’. Or do your own interpretation of peace and tranquility (this if often translated as karaoke in Filipino).
Typical Norwegian cabin in the woods
Cycling in Meråker
Fishing in the lake
10. To wrap up the list, take a day trip to Røros, a UNESCO world heritage site, two hours away from Trondheim. Røros is an old copper mining town with a large collection of well preserved wooden buildings still in use by the locals today. Meet the locals.
Røros, a UNESCO World Heritage site
Meet the locals
If during your stay, you are about to start complaining about the weather, try to think about the summers you have accumulated in your life (23 years of solid summer – 24 hours a day 7 days a week for me in the Philippines) and count the actual summers a local may have had (at one month per year and being 64 years old – that’s a total of just 5 years of summer for my boss). Then you will start feeling that the weather isn’t so bad after all.
However, an even more important question than what to do on a rainy day in Trondheim is are you ever gonna visit Trondheim? Who knows? I never imagined that I would come to Trondheim before or stay there for four years. I never thought I would learn how to stop waiting for the weather to be nice either and just go ahead with whatever I have planned to do for the day. Glad to have learned that during my stay in Trondheim.