To mark this millennium a series of spectacular events will take place across the country this year, recreating a real taste for authentic Viking life and culture.
Highlights include the new major exhibition 'VIKING' from the Danish National Museum in Copenhagen which is transferring to the British Museum in London and will be the first major exhibition on Vikings at the British Museum for over 30 years. The BP exhibition Vikings: life and legend opens in the new Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum on 6 March 2014.
The centre piece of the exhibition is the remains of the world’s longest Viking ship wreck ever displayed. The 37 metre long warship would have carried 100 Viking warriors and was probably part of a royal fleet. The vastness of the ship proves that the Vikings were able to travel across continents to colonise Iceland and Greenland and later reach America, as well as bring home traded goods from the Middle East, the Byzantine Empire and China. Visitors will also see a number of unique and brand new finds, such as large hoards of gold and silver from Yorkshire, Russia and Norway and some of the world famous Viking warrior-shaped chess pieces from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
For those wanting to truly immerse themselves in a Viking themed tour of Denmark there are many historical landmarks beyond Copenhagen with reconstructed villages, battle re-enactments and even the opportunity to live like a Viking, sail on a Viking longboat and ride on true Viking ponies along the West Jutland beaches.
One of the best places to start a tour is in the picturesque town of Roskilde (the capital of Denmark during the Viking Age), about 30 minutes west of Copenhagen, with a visit to the Roskilde Cathedral where many Viking kings and queens are buried. At The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde see five restored Viking ships from the 11th century, which were found at the bottom of the Roskilde Fjord in 1960, then dress up and go aboard a merchant vessel in the Jetty or join a sailing trip from the Museum Harbour. For lunch tuck into an authentic Viking meal at Restaurant Snekken which specialises in New Nordic Viking Cuisine, before spending the afternoon at the Roskilde Museum.
More Viking treasures can be unearthed at the nearby Lejre Museum, 10km south west of Roskilde. Lejre was the centre of power at the beginning of the Viking age and today in two traditional thatched houses, set by the river Lejre, a fascinating collection of ancient finds from the Iron Age and the Viking Age can be found.
These ancient settlements have then been vividly brought to life at the open air museum of ‘Sagnlandet Lejre’ (The Land of Legends). Started as a place for experimental archaeology it has grown to become a recreation of an Iron Age village, a Stone Age settlement (c. 5000 BC), the Viking market town of ‘Ravnsborg’ (c. 900 AD) as well as a 19th century farmstead. Each offers an insight into the everyday lives of the people who would have lived and worked at these times with ordinary families each summer choosing to spend a week of their holidays dressing in period costume and recreating the life of the villagers.
Whilst in the area make time to visit the world of the Frederikssund Vikings (Viking Settlement) and take a look behind the scenes of the annual Frederikssund Viking play on a tour with a local, Viking expert.
At King Harald Bluetooth’s magnificent ring fortress of Trelleborg in beautiful south west Sealand visitors can hone their combat skills and taste the Viking beer ‘mjød’ before a relaxed afternoon at Åmosen nature park on the shores of Lake Tissø. It was here that the largest farm from the Viking age was found and visitors can follow in the footsteps of the Vikings with one of the self-guided tours of the park. In Gerlev Play Park Experience play traditional Viking games, or visit nearby Slagelse, one of the oldest towns in Demark and now full of lively cafes, pretty squares and shops.
Those wanting to extend their Viking adventure can take the Store Baelt Bridge across to the ‘garden isle’ of Funen where a series of pretty little villages and enticing beaches hide another Viking treasure - The Viking Museum at Ladby. Famed as the only Viking ship grave in Denmark, it marks the final resting place of a wealthy Viking chieftain, who was buried in his ship with all his worldly goods and today the imprint of the ship can still be seen in a burial mound near Kerteminde Fjord.
An easy drive from Funen past rolling forests and farmland, Denmark's clean, green East Jutland region offers a famously unspoilt landscape. Close to the town of Vejle is the UNESCO World Heritage town of Jelling. In the 10th century it served as the royal seat of Gorm the Old, a Viking warrior who conquered Jutland, Funen and Sealand and established a royal dynasty that continues to this day. The town is also marked with two ancient rune stones. These hold special significance for Danes as the one erected in AD 983 by the Viking King Harald Bluetooth is often known as ‘Denmark’s birth certificate’, as it is the first recorded mention of the word ‘Denmark’. It was during the reign of King Harald that two mighty royal barrows and a church were constructed. Now considered the most important such monuments from the Viking Age in Europe they were declared a World Heritage site in 1994.
Fyrkat ring fort, Lindholm Høje and Bork Vikingehavn in North Jutland
Travelling north from Jelling towards Aarhus and on to Aalborg further relics of Jutland’s Viking past can be seen in the magnificent circular ramparts of the historic ring fort at Fyrkat. Built in the reign of Harald Bluetooth it consisted of 16 bow-sided long houses. Today they are indicated by slabs of white stone and one of the houses has been reconstructed in oak outside of the ramparts. Alongside the fort is a reconstructed Viking farmstead where throughout the summer visitors can see numerous Viking activities from cloth making and wool work to bread making, forging and archery taking place.
Just north of there at the gateway to Northern Jutland, the strategic location of Lindholm Høje, on the northern shore of the Limfjord, has played an important role in traffic and trade from the Iron Age. Covered by centuries of drifting sands archaeologists have uncovered Scandinavia's largest Viking burial ground comprising more than 700 graves with beautifully preserved stone markings. Next to the burial site is the Lindholm Høje Museum illustrating how the people at Lindholm used to live as well as their trades and raids in other countries. From here try sailing a Viking ship on the Limfjord and visit a Viking house.
On the North Sea coast of west Jutland coast near Ringkøbing visitors can immerse themselves in the Viking Age at Bork Viking Harbour and go aboard the 17 metre long Viking ship the “Havørnen” (meaning The Sea eagle). During the summer months it’s possible to stay the night in the Viking Long House, buy goods on the Viking ship, and on the first weekend of August barter for goods at the traditional Viking fair.
Ribe and South West Jutland
Following the coast road south to the ancient town of Ribe visitors will be richly rewarded with an array of Viking attractions. Famed as the oldest town in Denmark the Ribe Viking Museum displays archaeological finds discovered along its riverbank. Beyond the town’s medieval cobbled streets is the Viking Centre just outside the city. Be transported back 1000 years to the sounds, smells and taste of the Viking era inside the magnificently recreated Long House. Then explore the lively and vibrant atmosphere of a recreated Viking market, farmyard and bustling craftsmen’s workshops.
Rounding off this authentic Viking adventure what could be better than the freedom of riding a true Viking horse along the vast expanse of the North Sea beaches from Ribe to the tiny Wadden Sea Island of Mandoe, past huge banks of sand still rich in wildlife and possibly little changed since the fabled time of the Vikings.
A seven-day self-drive holiday with Best Served Scandinavia costs from £760 per person including flights, 6 nights BB accommodation, and 5 days car hire.
To book call 020 7590 0618
Alternatively Taber Holidays offer a series of short breaks, escorted tours and self-drive holidays to Denmark. Their newest Denmark tour “March of The Vikings” costs £1120 per person including flights, car hire and accommodation. To book call 01274 875 199
Viking Invest offer daytrips from £130 per person including a visit to Roskilde Cathedral and the Land of Legends in Lejre. Includes lunch. To book click here
DFDS Seaways offer a regular year round ferry service from Harwich to Esbjerg, West Jutland with prices from £139 one way per car.
Small Danish Hotels offer accommodation all over Denmark, and within close proximity to all the Viking attractions, in a choice of inns, hotels, castles and manor houses from £79 for a single room and £92 for a double room.
Dan Hostel offer for family friendly hostel accommodation from £ 11,5 per person.
Ribe Byferie is one of the most popular holiday centres in Denmark. Visit Ribe and The Viking Town by The Wadden Sea on a mini holiday, with prices starting at £228 for 3 people for 4 nights.
Swein Forkbeard was the King of Denmark and King of England for a short period of time. Swein was also the father of Canute who also became King of England. In 988 Swein overthrew this father Harold Blue-Tooth Gormsson the King of Denmark. Swein led a large number of raids along the east and south coasts of England.
England was a rich country and the Danes were able to attack villages and religious communities without too much resistance. Much of the time the English paid the Danes money to leave. This money is known as Danegeld.
In 994, with a huge fleet of 94 ships, Swein sailed into the Thames estuary along with the Norwegian Olaf Trygvasson by his side to plunder England. London put up a good defence and drove the Vikings back so Fork-Beard moved his forces south to attack the south-east coast and to plunder whatever he could find.
Swein's attacks on England continued for ten years until 1013 when he invaded England with his son Canute and took control of the country. The English King, Aethelred, along with his wife and sons were forced to flee to Normandy for their own safety.
Swein was King of England for only a few months before he died in February of 1014. After Swein's death Canute left England and Aethelred returned from Normandy to reclaim the English throne.