In Search of Vikings

From cunning seafarers to merciless warriors, the myths and legends of Vikings have captured the imagination for generations. It is documented that they reached faraway shores from Newfoundland to Constantinople, yet nowhere else in the world can you truly get a sense for their fascinating way of life than in Norway.

Norseman’s Capital

Today’s Oslo buzzes with energy from modern neighborhoods, cutting-edge food and the most technologically advanced way to board a Viking ship. The Viking Planet is Norway’s first all-digital museum that combines 4D and virtual reality to transport you back thousands of years to the Viking Age.

Through innovative and fascinating exhibits, you can learn about shipbuilding and navigation, weapons and wars, religion and mythology, and much more. You can even interact with holograms of Viking warriors to boot.

For a more analog experience, you may be inclined to visit Oslo’s popular Viking Ship Museum, home to three burial ships that were found as part of archaeological finds. It was the practice of Vikings to bury individuals of status within a ship and surrounded by ornate gifts, like swords and helmets, as well as oxen or horses for them to use in the afterlife. However, at the time of this writing, the facility was undergoing extensive renovations. The Norwegians plan to reopen this attraction in 2026 with an expanded space nearly three times the size of the current museum.

Further Afield

If you plan to visit before the reopening of Viking Ship Museum, an hour south of Oslo you can see a replica of the intricately carved bow of one of the excavated ships at The Slottsfjell Museum. Additionally, the museum’s Viking Hall displays Norway’s fourth Viking ship — The Klåstad ship – the only preserved ship outside of Oslo. It is well worth the trek, as this is the area where the burial mounds were first discovered. Plus, you can see an actual replica of the Klåstad in the harbor of Tønsberg, which was built using tools and construction methods authentic to the Viking Age.

Nearby, an archaeological team has also uncovered five Viking longhouses at the site of Gjellestad, where a Viking ship was once discovered. These were the typical homes of the Iron Age, and its size was reflective of the social status of its owner. They were constructed out of basic materials and their roofs slightly resemble the bow of a ship. Among these longhouses found at Gjellstad is one of the largest ever to be recorded in all of Scandinavia.

Venture Beyond

Inspired by the Vikings’ passion for travel, you may find yourself continuing your exploration of Norway in Stavanger. There, you can really get a sense for the way Vikings lived. Long before its official founding as a city, the sheltered area surrounding Stavanger was an active agricultural and maritime community. A drive out to the reconstructed farmhouses in Ullandhaug provides a fascinating introduction to life at the height of the Iron Age, centuries before the Viking king Harald I defeated the last of some 29 regional princes to create the Kingdom of Norway in 872.

Near Trondheim fjord, you can journey to the small islet of Munkholmen. Not only is it a wonderful spot for a respite, but it also has a fascinating connection to the Viking Era. This remote land served as a prison during the Viking Age and later a monastery. A bit more inland, you can also witness the sacred site of Stiklestad. This was the location of the most famous battle in Norway where Viking king Olav Haraldsson was killed.  

In the northern coast of Norway, you’ll be amazed by the Lofoten Islands and the far reaches of Viking culture. There is a captivating museum called Lofotr Viking that offers insight into the role of a chieftain. It showcases the archaeological finds of a 272-foot longhouse – now the second largest of its kind after the recent discoveries at Gjellestad.

The Legacy of the Viking Age

During the height of the Viking Age, the Vikings were a force to be reckoned with in European history. Viking culture was unique because it was not tied to a country, there was no central government and they did not attempt to build a cohesive empire. What they had in common was that they hailed from the Scandinavian region in what is now Norway Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

However, as European lands became controlled by centralized leaders and defended by trained, standing armies, they were able to defend against Viking raids. Two hundred and fifty years of history came to a halt in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge where a final attempt to reclaim a portion of land from England was met with a resounding defeat of the Norwegian Viking king. Yet, the era has become almost legendary and left a lasting legacy on the world.

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