From the hundreds of millions of kroner being spent on renovating the new Viking Ship Museum in Oslo to the magnificence of Nidaros Cathedral to the beauty of Gudvangen's Viking Valley, there is no better way to see Norway than to use the Vikings as your guide.
Tønsberg: Norway’s Viking Capital
The first stop on any Viking travel guide to Norway must be Tønsberg. Situated about 100 kilometers south of the capital, Oslo, this small town lays claim to being Norway's oldest city. According to the Norse sagas, the town was founded in the late 9th century CE after the great Battle of Hafrsfjord by legendary Norwegian King Harald Fairhair. Though the historical records are somewhat sketchy, Tønsberg proudly celebrated its 1,000th year anniversary in 1871, with a further celebration taking place in 1971 for the town's 1100th birthday.
Tønsberg was one of the first capitals of Norway, with the king and his court residing at what is now Jarslberg Manor, in Haugar, near the city. This was also the location of what has been called Norway's first parliament, the Haugting, which was an important center for the proclamation of kings. The location for this proto-parliament was selected as two sons of Harald Fairhair were said to have been slain here during a fierce battle.
It was in the 13th century CE that King Håkon Håkonson oversaw the construction of a small tower on a hill (Slotsfjellet) overlooking the natural harbor. This small tower was added to it, and it soon became an impregnable and impressive fortress. Not only is this the symbol of the town, a major tourist attraction, but there is also a music festival located here annually!
Perhaps the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century in Norway was discovered on a hill near Tønsberg. The Oseberg Mound was a Viking-era burial mound that, in 1904, was dug up, and a complete Viking longboat from approximately 834 CE was uncovered.
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo - good things come to those who wait
Though the nation's current capital does not, at first glance, have major links to its Viking past like other Norwegian cities, Oslo offers visitors the most comprehensive museums dedicated to the Vikings in the nation.
First and foremost is the Viking Ship Museum. Having opened on the Bygdøy peninsula in the 1920s, it houses the famous longboat from the Oseberg Mount. The largest and most delicate example of Viking craftsmanship, this longboat was moved to the nation's capital in a specially built museum.
The museum is now temporarily closed, until 2026, as it undergoes a vast renovation to turn it into "The Museum of the Viking Age." It will boast the world's foremost collection of objects from the Viking Age in a space three times as big as the old Viking Ship Museum. Pride of place, of course, will be the Oseberg Ship in a climate-regulated room. With construction starting this year, this is just another example of the cultural boom in museums that the nation's capital has undergone in recent years.
Located right in the center of the city is a museum that takes the Viking Age digital. The Viking Planet, proudly proclaims that it is the first digital Viking museum in the world. Here visitors can use virtual reality headsets to explore unique experiences from the Viking Age. It presents the Viking Age legacy with the aid of the most modern technology. All exhibits are digital, and there is even the Nordic's first 360 cinema (completed with 4D chairs), a hologram theatre, and many interactive screens showing exactly how life was during the Viking Age.
The final stop on Oslo's Viking tour must be at the Historical Museum. The museum's premier exhibition Vikingr is dedicated entirely to the Viking Age. Here visitors can view unearthed artifacts from different aspects of Viking societies, ranging from elaborate treasures, Viking swords, and the only known helmet from the Viking Age!
Interested in Viking culture and history? Viking museums are a great place to see items and relics from the Viking Age. Source: Museum of Cultural History / University of Oslo
Njardarheimr, Gudvangen Valley: A real-life Viking village
Located in one of Norway's most tranquil and beautiful valleys is a village called Njardarheimr. About 20 kilometers from Flåm, this real-life Viking village transports visitors back over a millennium.
The village was constructed and opened in 2017 after a "Viking market" had taken place in the valley for more than two decades. Njardarheimr – old Norse for home of the northern god, Njord – is a thematically built working village from the Viking Age. Rather than relying on exhibits behind glass, here, visitors can experience what life really was like in a typical village from the Viking Age. All the design and construction for the buildings were based upon designs from the era, with local timber, and all ironwork was made, on site, by a blacksmith – exactly how the Vikings did it!
There is a guided tour of the village, which takes place every 45 minutes during the summer peak tourist season. There are also a plethora of activities for the family, from ax throwing to archery to a Viking cooking class! There are also occasional warrior battles to get as close as possible to combat…without the blood!
Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim: Worth the pilgrimage to visit a Viking King's tomb
Trondheim, Norway's fourth-largest city, has a proud Viking past. The Viking King Olav Tryggvason founded it as a market town in 997 CE. It became an important military town and was the nation's capital until 1217 CE. Its importance grew towards the end of the Viking Era with the construction of the beautiful Nidaros Cathedral.
Situated in the center of the modern town, its Gothic beauty is unparalleled in Northern Europe. The northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, it was constructed over the alleged burial site of King Olav II – who was later made the patron saint of Norway and later given the honorific title Rex Perpetuus Norvegae (Eteneral King of Norway). With construction starting in 1070 CE, it took over two centuries to build, with major works finished by 1300 CE. However, renovations and refurbishments have continued down the ages, with the most recent finished in 2001.
Following King Olav II's death in the Battle of Stiklestad, the early Christian church decided to construct a cathedral worthy of the nation's first king and unifier. King Olav II's canonization as a saint a year after his death, by the Bishop of Nidaros, was seen as a major reason for Norway's adoption of Christianity and the Vikings' turn away from their pagan beliefs and practices.
Nidaros Cathedral is also the endpoint of many old pilgrim routes, often from Sweden and Germany, with the most famous being "Saint Olav's Way" – a 500-kilometer route from Oslo to the cathedral.
Norway got its first bishopric at Nidaros in 1152 CE. Illustration: Datingjungle / Unsplash
Loftor Viking Museum, Lofoten: The world's most beautifully located Viking museum?
Far above the Arctic Circle lies the breathtaking beautiful peninsula of Lofoten. Aside from the pristine beaches, small fishing villages, and majestic mountains, a major reason to visit is the Loftor Viking Museum.
In 1983, a series of archaeologists uncovered a large building believed to have been originally constructed sometime in the 6th century CE but then abandoned by the mid-10th century CE. This longhouse was built for a local Chieftain, and excavations have uncovered what is, to date, the largest building ever found from the Viking period in Norway.
The longhouse has now been reconstructed, and in 1995, the Loftor Viking Museum opened. The museum offers a full reconstruction of the 85-meter-long Chieftain's house as well as a blacksmith's forge, two longboats, and re-enactments to immerse visitors in the Viking era. Visitors can even help row a longboat or visit a real Viking kitchen to sample some of the Viking era delicacies on offer.
The museum will be the center of the Loftor Viking Festival, which usually takes place in August and is a major tourist draw for the Lofoten region.
These are just the highlights of Norway's proud Viking culture and heritage. There isn't a city, town, or village in Norway that the Vikings haven't left an impression on, so the only thing to do is visit Norway, the Land of the Vikings!
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