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1000 years of pilgrimage to the Nidaros Cathedral

Walk in Saint Olav’s footprints
For almost 1000 years pilgrims have walked the path to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, through stunning nature and past historical sites.
Nidaros Cathedral - Norway's national sanctuary
Photo: CH -

When someone talks about Trondheim, the majestic Nidaros Cathedral comes naturally to mind. The cathedral, which was built over St. Olav’s grave in 1070, is Trondheim’s most famous edifice and a known target for pilgrimage. But what is it that makes thousands of people, almost a thousand years later, to still walk along the pilgrim paths to Nidaros? 

Find your inner peace with pilgrimage

More and more people are seeking mindfulness, yoga and meditation, and many have now rediscovered the calmness you find in nature and by simplicity. St. Olav’s Way is a great nature experience, crossing mountains and waterfalls, passing villages and towns, and you get to meet people who can tell you about history, culture and local traditions along the historic trails.

Pilegrimsleden St. Olavs Way
St. Olavs Way.
Photo: David Tett /

Why is the Nidaros Cathedral Northern Europe’s most important pilgrimage site? 

Saint Olav, born Olav II Haraldsson, and with the nickname Olav the Stout, was a Viking king of Norway from 1015 to 1028. As the nickname says he was a heavily built man. He was a warrior and an adventurer who fought in both England, France, Sweden and Denmark in his youth. In the year 1015 he travelled back to Norway, was chosen as king and introduced Christianity to Norway. But in 1028 the Danish King bought an alliance with the aim to rule Norway, and King Olav fled to Russia. He didn’t give up that easily though, and two years later he came back to Norway to complete his vision: to unite Norway into one Christian kingdom. 

Olav didn’t get further than Stiklestad, and in 1030 he died in the famous Battle of Stiklestad. His corpse was taken to Nidaros, now Trondheim, and was buried there. One year later the grave was moved, and the legend tells that Olav’s hair and nails had continued to grow after his death and that the blind had recovered their sight after contact with the dead king’s body. Olav II Haraldsson was canonised by Bishop Grimkell and became Saint Olav. The Nidaros Cathedral was later built over his burial place and has been Northern Europe’s most important pilgrimage site for almost thousand years.

St. Olavs way

Length: 564 km

Start: Selånder outside of Sundsvall, Sverige

Target: Nidaros Cathedral

Paths: Inner path/Outer path

Inner path: Through woods in silent nature

Outer path: Historical route by the fjord of Trondheim 

Why pilgrimage? 

Historically, pilgrimage has been a journey towards a holy place in order to pray, give thanks and do penance. Today it can be done by everyone, and both religion and motivation varies. The pilgrimage gives time for reflection and is a spiritual experience in the calm of the nature. Regardless of motive, the pilgrims experience is a meaningful and personal voyage, where you get to be close to nature, culture and history.   

The Pilgrims Path
The Pilgrims Path.
Photo: Mattian Jansson /

Where to go?

The Pilgrim Path to Trondheim is a network of roads and trails with over a distance of more than 5000 kilometres in the Nordic Countries. All of the paths leads to the Nidaros Cathedral. 

If you want to walk in Saint Olav’s footprints, choose St. Olav’s Way, which is 564 kilometres long. The path begins in Sweden and leads from coast to coast. If you choose the pilgrimage through Gudbrandsdalen you will walk through a varied terrain with great amounts of untouched nature. The lucky ones might even meet a musk ox!

Where to stay? 

Along the Pilgrim Path there are many unique places to spend the night. These places have great hosts and long experience with accommodating pilgrims. 

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