Family Travel Guide: The Best Viking Attractions and Museums in Denmark
Denmark, like the rest of Scandinavia, has a history richly intertwined with that of the Vikings. This family travel guide describes the best Viking museums and attractions in Denmark by region. Among the exciting possibilities: take your family to row a Faeroese boat (a descendant of a Viking ship), watch an actual excavation of a Viking settlement, learn to shoot a longbow or wear suits of armor.
Zealand is the largest island of Denmark, the one on which Copenhagen is located. The town of Roskilde on Zealand is home to the Viking Ship Museum, Strandenngen, Roskilde, Tel. 45 46 300 200. This family-friendly museum displays a variety of Viking related ships, including the famous Skuldelev ships, 5 Viking vessels dating to about 1000 A.D. The museum archaeologists are attempting a reconstruction of a longship using Viking Age methodology, and museum visitors may watch their progress. Children will be ecstatic with the wealth of activities here. But the activities aren’t exclusively for children; the whole family can enjoy them. All Viking Ship Museum visitors are invited to dress in Viking costumes, hear Viking stories, play Viking games, and learn Viking skills such as rope making, wrestling, archery, coin-making, writing in runes and wicker-working. Best of all, your family can cross the Roskilde Fjord on a descendant of a Viking ship called a Faeroese boat and try team rowing. This boat trip on the fjord carries an additional charge beyond the museum admission price.
A family can break the time barrier at Lejre Experimental Centre, Slangealleen 2, Lejre, Tel. 45 46 48 08 78, where those who fancy themselves time travelers can span millennia in an afternoon. As Visitors at the Lejre Experimental Centre, your family will step into Stone Age and Iron Age Denmark. They investigate living settlements devoted to historic and scientific study and participate in prehistoric Danish pursuits: helping settlers hollow out a tree trunk to fashion a dugout canoe and then paddling one; chopping firewood and starting a fire with ancient tools; or grinding flour on a stone and baking bread, even churning their own butter. The sacrificial bog demonstrates period polytheistic religious practices. It’s a challenge to find the way through the stone dance labyrinth patterned on Bronze Age discoveries. This museum is also a place to talk to Vikings, or watch weavers, potters and smithies ply their trade.
Falster is an island connected to Zealand by a land bridge. A trip to Falster Island’s Medieval Centre, Ved Hamborgskoven 2, Nykøbing, Tel. 45 54 86 19 34, will deposit your family in late 14th century Denmark. Kids will have to restrain themselves when they see the catapult in operation: positively no flinging of siblings allowed! Visitors watch knights joust and learn how to use a longbow. Make sure and check the activity calendar for special events such as dance and instrumental performances, woodworking and pewter pouring. If the need to partake of some victuals arises, the Golden Swan tavern, with costumed servants and medieval utensils, will accommodate the needy traveler. A family card offers savings to families with 2 or more children.
Jutland is the peninsular portion of Denmark. There, in the town of Jelling, mystifying runic stones await. Adjacent to Jelling Kirke (Church), these stones are memorial monuments found at the burial mounds of tenth-century rulers King Gorm, his wife Thyre, and their son King Harald (Bluetooth). The ancient rune writing was once common in Denmark and was used by Vikings. It remained in use until the Roman language, with its greater expressive capabilities, became prevalent.
The Ladby Boat, Vikingvej 123, Kerterminde, is a Viking warship uncovered in the fjords. After it was brought to the surface, it was determined to be the burial ship of a Viking Chieftain. The items buried with the Viking chieftain can be viewed in a small museum alongside the ship.
Ribe is the oldest city in Denmark and retains its medieval cobbled streets and timbered buildings. A major Viking trading center, Ribe was for much of its history an important port.
One of the town’s major Viking attractions offers volunteers with useful skills the opportunity to spend a week living and working in a Viking settlement at the Ribe Vikinge Center, Lustrupholm, Lustruprej 4, Ribe, Tel. 45 75 41 1611. For details, see www.ribevc.dynamicweb.dk; click on “About the Center,” then “Volunteer Vikings.” Advance application is required. For families whose imagination, talents, or time constraints can’t quite adapt to Viking living, cheer on others who were up to the challenge. The volunteers and regular staff at this living museum create a Viking market, farm and town. Here your family may watch the falconer at work, check out the smelting bog, admire the lathe operator’s skill, or whinny at the Icelandic horses. “Vikings” will teach you to use a long bow. What else is there for your family to do? Slurp up some Viking soup. Make a dowel souvenir. When the day’s done, it’s hard not to appreciate the complexity of medieval existence.
At Ribes Vikinger, Odins Plads, RIBE, Tel. 45 76 88 1122, your family might examine Viking artifacts from actual excavations. Or dress in medieval garb, including the finest suits of armor. Under the watchful gaze of Wodan’s Eye, these modern-day Vikings gain insight into the Viking Age with computer, light and sound exhibits. The Middle Ages Exhibit spotlights the role of Ribe as a major trading center.
Wherever you are in Denmark, the evidence of a Viking past is not far away. The excellent museums and attractions described in this family travel guide offer your family the opportunity to learn about Vikings with fun, hands-on activities, no matter where in Denmark you find yourselves.