A historic city with a young soul
Immerse yourself in Trondheim’s bustling student scene—from pubs and bars to soccer and board games—and truly experience the youth and vibrancy of the medieval city
As the ancient capital of Norway, Trondheim may seem a city of the past. It is home to the country’s oldest cathedral, Nidarosdomen—where you can actually still find late runic inscriptions if you really look. Many streets are cobbled and lined with quaint wooden houses all in a row of yellow, red, and white. The small island of Munkholmen, just a stone’s throw from the city, has seen the executions of medieval kings and a Benedictine abbey crumble to ruins.
But now Trondheim is full to bursting with students—modern young scamps with cool clothes, shiny hair, and remarkably hardy livers. According to NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, one out of every five people in Trondheim is a student, which is not hard to believe as you walk down Kongens gate bracing yourself against a solid stream of devastatingly hip twentysomethings. This percentage of the population has caused the relatively quiet city to also be home to a thriving nightlife and student scene from late August to June.
Though in theory these students spend a lot of their time at the libraries of Gløshaugen or Dragvoll, occasionally they have been known to emerge from their caves. Here are some of my favorite places they can be seen, whether you’re a student yourself or you’re just looking to have some fun.
Would you consider going to a bar that contains the word work not once, but twice? You may ask yourself if they’re referring to a 9-5 slog or a sweaty dance floor showdown à la Rihanna. Either way you’d be wrong! The idea behind Work Work was to create a space that was conducive to both studying and fun. Personally though, I have not once managed to be productive here. They have lots of long tables and benches, and they serve sandwiches and coffee in addition to drinks—but most importantly, they have an excellent selection of board games, video games, and pinball machines, as well as shuffleboard. It is also a relatively easy place to meet new people; asking your neighbor table to join you in a card game is a low-pressure way of striking up a conversation. If there was ever a place to crack the icy exterior of a Norwegian and reveal the sweet buttery goodness inside, this is it.
Ilaparken and Bymarka
The park in Ila, adjacent to the downtown area of Trondheim, has a small fountain and plenty of space to lie out in the single ray of sunshine that occasionally blesses the city. It is conveniently located near several grocery stores, perfect for picking up impromptu picnic supplies (or, you know, beer), as well as a tram stop that will take you straight to Bymarka, a nature reserve that overlooks the city. Bymarka has hiking and skiing trails, as well as a lake that is a popular spot for swimming, provided that you are brave enough to face the cold water. The views of Trondheim from Bymarka are some of my favorite—I’ve also heard that it is a great place to catch the Northern Lights if you can manage it!
When you’ve found yourself in a strange country, speaking a different language, surrounded by strangers, you might wish for a bite of the sweet, sweet taste of home. If you find yourself in this situation in Trondheim, I recommend Bror for a delectable and reasonably priced ’Merican style burger. They have some unusual flavor combinations to choose from if you so please and are just greasy enough to remind you of home.
Truly blighting Trondheim’s otherwise elegant cityscape is the atrocious red silo-shaped building housing Studentersamfundet. However, no university experience would be complete without visiting this student mecca at least once. Whether you’re looking for a dance club, trivia night, a film showing, or a poetry slam, Studentersamfundet has got you covered. Generations of students have all come here to bask in their youth and/or make poor decisions.
This pub has a collection of microbrews to please even the snobbiest of hipsters, but don’t let that put you off—it draws a varied crowd and has something to offer everybody. Though there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Dahls, Trondheim’s ubiquitous pilsner, nothing can beat the selection and flavor of their handcrafted brews. Their beer is a bit pricier than most, but it is well worth it. If you find something you like, make sure that you stop by again soon because their selection changes often. I still have dreams about the porter that got away—don’t live your life in regret.
Descend into this pit of sweat and dishonorable intentions to find the cheapest beer at a bar in Trondheim—only 39 kroner! This is understandably one of the most crowded bars in town. It can be a little claustrophobic inside this basement bar, but every time I go out I invariably find myself ending up here once or twice and rethinking my life choices.
Norwegians in general are not good at cheering enthusiastically for their soccer teams. There is nothing sadder than hearing the single, half-hearted “hoorah” they meekly express whenever Rosenborg scores. Take one for the team and help cheer on Trondheim’s long-suffering soccer heroes for them!
Though Trondheim is a historic city, its soul is very young. There is no better way to experience the youth and vibrancy that its students bring than to spend a night among them. Go forth, my friends, and have fun!
Sofia was an exchange student at NTNU in Trondheim for a year, where she spent most of her time obsessing over the TV show Skam (William + Noora forever). She is about to graduate from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s in Norwegian language and molecular biology.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 10, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.