You might not believe it but there is far more to Denmark’s Viking heritage than looting, rampaging and bloodshed. The Vikings were also globalists and great tradesmen, sailing their long ships and riverboats as far as Russia, Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), Greenland and Canada.
Viking heritage centres in Denmark bring age-old crafts and traditions back to life. At the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum you can see 1000-year-old Viking boats and visit the museum boatyard where exact copies of the original vessels are made. And you can even hit the waves as a Viking oarsman on daily excursions. At the nearby Land of Legends and at the Ribe Viking Centre you find reconstructed Viking settlements where heritage crafts are demonstrated – and where children can try their hand at being real Vikings.
The UNESCO-listed Viking rune stones of Jelling and the ancient Viking fortresses of Fyrkat, Aggersborg and Trelleborg are all monuments to Denmark’s Viking Age. The annual Viking Festival at the Moesgaard Beach in Aarhus takes you back in time to Viking markets with mead and Viking fare. The reconstructed Viking dwellings, Viking ship and leafy parkland are also the backdrop to a Viking Moot complete with roaring combat shows. And after all, where better to meet real Vikings than in Denmark.
All across Denmark you can walk in the footsteps of Vikings. See a list of the Viking highlights below and prepare to watch warriors on action!
Each year the sandy beach and shady woodlands of Moesgaard Beach near Aarhus are transformed into a festive Viking market. There are battle shows and horse shows – and no entry fee. But if you have a little extra holiday money to spend, then try the Viking food!
Prehistoric settlements and Viking heritage at the Land of Legends brings history back to life with recreated Stone Age, Iron Age and Viking Age settlements surrounded by prehistoric pastures. The open-air museum features markets, living workshops with costumed craftspeople and this year you can enjoy a unique chance to taste real Viking food! An engaging place for children to learn about life in the age of the Flintstones!
Scandinavia’s oldest town, Ribe, has more to offer than its cathedral and historic townhouses; it also has a Viking heritage centre where you can experience living crafts, costumed interpretive staff and fun and educational activities. The centre also hosts a Viking festival with battling Vikings, authentic crafts and markets.
Five authentic Viking ships are exhibited at the museum in Roskilde, which also features a museum boatyard where clinker-built ships are reconstructed using original crafts. There are hands-on activities and living workshops, and you can try your skills as a Viking oarsman on daily sailing trips on board reconstructed Vikings ships. This year the museum celebrates the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the five Viking ships with special exhibitions. A festival will also be held (28–29 July 2012) in honour of the Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a reconstructed Viking longship – the world’s largest – that successfully crossed the sea to Ireland in 2007. The longship will sail to a number of local destinations this year (8–28 July 2012). The schedule will be announced on the museum website. Also featured at the museum is the Water, Wind and Viking Food festival 20–21 August 2012.
Viking ring fortresses featured mighty stockades, wooden longhouses and moats, although today only the outlines of these 1,000-year-old fortresses remain. There are three ring fortresses in Denmark open to the public – Fyrkat and Aggersborg in Northern Jutland and Trelleborg on Zealand. The Trelleborg Viking Ring Fort features a reconstructed Viking longhouse, a visitor’s centre and an annual Viking market with authentic crafts and fun family activities.
1,000 years ago, a Viking chieftain was buried in a barrow with his ship, horses, dogs and all his worldly possessions. You can visit the site, the small museum and the barrow itself. An open museum boatyard by the museum is currently reconstructing the original 22-metre battle hardy Viking ship that will take 32 oarsmen to sail. Constructions started in summer 2011.
1,000 years ago the Viking kings Harald Bluetooth and Gorm the Old erected two rune stones in the town of Jelling to mark the birth of the nation. These rune stones, two royal barrows and Jelling Church, Denmark’s oldest, now enjoy UNESCO World Heritage patronage. In recent years, archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a giant stockade and scores of Viking longhouses in the area – a fortified town! Visitors enjoy free admission to the Royal Jelling Visitors’ Centre.
Find a comprehensive list of Viking events in Denmark here
Discover Denmark's living heritage museums here
Land of Legends
Open: all year
Location: Lejre, 13 km from Roskilde Viking Ship Museum, Sealand
Ribe Viking Centre
Open: 30 April – 19 October
Location: Ribe, South-Jutland
The Viking Ship Museum
Open: all year
Location: Roskilde, Sealand
Trelleborg Viking Ring Fort
Open: 1 April – 31 October 2012
Location: Slagelse, Sealand
Viking Museum at Ladby
Open: all year
Location: Ladby, east Funen.