The Trondheimsfjord is one of Norway’s most beautiful fjords, bathed in a soft, golden light during long summer days and with a young and vibrant city at its centre.
At depths of 100 metres, even a four-kilo coal fish struggles to make its presence felt. With heavy tackle and the deceptive effect of the drifting boat and the rolling sea, recognising the extra weight is less straightforward than you’d expect. Thus my catch came as something of a surprise when we reeled in to move the boat, a large, glimmering thug of a fish giving a sharp pull only as the first part of the tackle came on board. Skill clearly had little to do with it.
We were bobbing up and down outside Leksvika, halfway into the Trondheimsfjord, our rain gear coming on and off as the strong sun vied for attention with a succession of heavy clouds and fresh showers. Our containers were steadily filling up, whilst dinghies, yachts and other boats joined the fray, sometimes coming over for a quick chat on tackle, wind and weather. Directly south, and just a bit too far to see clearly, lay Trondheim.
At 130km, the Trondheimsfjord is Norway’s third longest. Though mainly broad, the fjord has a fairly narrow inlet, shielded from the Atlantic by the Fosen peninsula, and so feels more like a succession of wide, open lakes, joined by narrow passages. The main feature of the fjord, however, is its characteristic light, bathing the pleasant landscape in a soft, golden light throughout the summer months, hinting at its proximity to the polar circle and giving it a very different feel to the enclosed, narrow fjords on the cruise circuit.
Trondheim, Norway’s third largest city, with 160,000 inhabitants, was once the country's capital and lies in the southern part of the first basin. Thirty thousand students strongly contribute to its young and lively feel, though it also has a strong history, dating back to 997, which makes it one of Norway’s oldest cities. For a sense of its history and to experience its family atmosphere, Bakklandet, the old town, is by far the best place to start.
Bakklandet inhabits the small strip of land on the northern bank of the river. Small but expensive houses climb up the hill towards Kristiansten fortress at the top, whilst cosy cafés, independent boutiques and arts and crafts shops line the winding street at the bottom. The low, wooden houses are terraced, though somewhat random, like an assortment of hard-boiled sweets glued together at slightly haphazard angles.
The townhouses in the centre are not exactly imperial, but they certainly have a more planned and ordered feel. Trondheim’s distinctive timber houses and listed wharves are complemented by modern developments, many of which are results of the frequent city fires. Whichever your preference, both new developments and listed buildings seem drawn to the water and seeking out one of the many quayside cafes is a must for every visitor.
Solsiden – ‘the sunny side’ – is a new shopping and restaurant area by the mouth of Nidelva, the picturesque river that curls around the Nidaros cathedral and parts the old town from the city centre. There are several outdoor cafes here where, over a beer or two, you can watch harbour activity, for instance the coming and going of Trondheim’s fjordrafting company. These boats explore the nooks and crannies of the fjord in adrenaline-fuelled fashion, always finishing with a good lunch at their various destinations.
If the smell of tar and leisurely boat rides are more your thing, go to Ravnkloa instead, a lively fish hall selling the wares of the nearby trawlers. You can take guided boat tours around Trondheim and Nidelva from their quay, or make the short trip out to Munkholmen, a small island popular both as a picnic and bathing spot and for its history as fortress, abbey, prison and execution ground. Ravnkloa also has an excellent summer cafe serving their own produce.
Boat life is an intrinsic part of life by the fjord and Munkholmen is only one of several islands ideal for picnic lovers. Steinvikholmen is one such island, also with a fortress and an annual opera, as is Ytterøy, the largest island in the fjord, famous for its annual deer hunt. Inderøy is perhaps the jewel in the crown, however.
is a peninsula at the inner end of the fjord, and has drawn artists and authors to be inspired by the special light and the beautiful cultural landscape for hundreds of years. The road around Inderøy is known as the Golden Route
, a reference to the light and the picturesque setting. There are a surprising number of galleries, craft shops and specialist food outlets along the route ( view map at www.dengyldneomvei.no/
). The small community centre in Straumen also has one of the country’s strongest tidal streams, giving it rich fishing grounds.
Skarnsundet runs guided fishing trips from Straumen, and whilst there is no such thing as a guaranteed catch, with the help of sonar and an experienced guide, you would be forgiven for thinking fishing is easy. The Trondheimsfjord has over 90 species of fish and, with several salmon rivers feeding the fjord from the eastern side, it is naturally an excellent place for fishing.
The road back to Trondheim passes Stiklestad, a culture centre that holds the key to the area’s identity. In 1030, this was the site of the death of King Olav II, whose shrine in Trondheim was the destination of one of Europe’s main pilgrim routes, which can still be walked. Stiklestad is the location of a museum, annual fairs and festivals and the nationally famous Spelet, an outdoor play that tells the story of St Olav in song and music.
The people of Trondheim like to think of their city as the historical and religious centre of Norway and watching Spelet explains why. Trondheim has also been rejuvenated in recent years, however, and has long since lost its image as yokelsville in favour of a young and trendy identity. Meanwhile, its setting in one of Norway’s most beautiful and yet undiscovered fjords makes it an ideal destination for travellers in search of culture, history and unspoilt nature.
Getting there and around
SAS, Norwegian and KLM all fly to Trondheim airport, which is around half an hour away from the city centre. Local trains with NSB (www.nsb.no
) will take you north and south along the eastern side of the fjord, visiting most places mentioned. Alternatively, rent a car for more freedom, particularly if you wish to visit Inderøy, which is some distance away from the nearest train station. Buses are also a good way to get around. Visit www.tronderbilene.no
for route information.
Where to stay
Clarion Collection Hotel Bakeriet: central, friendly and convenient. Double rooms from around 940NOK.
: the stylish Britannia has a distinguished history, and is centrally located. Double rooms from around 1,300NOK.
: this hotel in scenic Inderøy enjoys a beautiful setting by the sea and has an excellent restaurant, which does amazing things with locally sourced ingredients. Try their salmon and reindeer dishes in particular.
Where to eat
: a modern and stylish restaurant with a changing eight-course menu and only five tables, Fem Bord (literally ‘five tables’) is considered one of Tronheim’s best restaurants. www.fembord.com
: the place for Norwegian classics, served in one of the city’s most charming restaurants. www.skydsstation.no/
Øyna in Inderøy must surely have the area's best view, which is further complemented by putball, minigolf and freesbegolf courses to keep the kids (and the kids within) entertained. Try the sizeable Inderøy-platter for a taste of the excellent local produce. Sodd, a soup with lamb meatballs, is another local specialty. www.oynaparken.no/
What to see and do
Tel: 00 47 482 00 555
Boats to Munkholmen & boat sightseeing in Trondheim:
Tel: 00 47 950 82 144
Boat hire, guided fishing and fjord tours from Inderøy:
Tel: 00 47 97 07 61 01
Stiklestad - Information on culture centre, museum, events and tickets to the play:
Tel: 00 47 74 04 42 00
Steinvikholmen - Information and opera tickets:
Tel: 00 47 74 82 18 66