From the Shetlands to New Zealand, here are ten Viking festivals and events from around the world to add to your calendar. 

The Viking festival Up Helly Aa, held on the last Tuesday of January in Lerwick, Shetland, is a grand celebration featuring a torch-lit procession and the burning of a Viking longship. Photo: Andrew J Shearer / Shutterstock

Up Helly Aa, Scotland, January to March 

Up Helly Aa is not your typical Viking festival. Founded in the 1870s, it is a three-month series of events and festivals to mark the end of the Yule season in the Shetland Isles, Scotland. While Up Helly Aa pays tribute to the history of the Shetland Isles as a whole, it is also strongly influenced by the region’s significant Viking past: at the main celebration in the town of Lerwick, an elected Jarl oversees proceedings, and events include ship-burning and torchlit processions. There is also a distinct local air: while anyone can attend, participation in the processions is limited to people who have lived in the Shetlands for a minimum of five years. 

The Norsewood Viking Festival in New Zealand, celebrated in February, features combat shows, crafts, and Viking-themed activities, drawing enthusiasts to its remote, culturally rich festivities. Photo: Norsewood Viking Festival

Norsewood Viking Festival, New Zealand, February 

If we are speaking about distance from Scandinavia – the home of the Norse – the Norsewood Festival is surely the most remote of Viking celebrations. Located in the small town of Norsewood, New Zealand, the festival attracts a host of local families, history enthusiasts, and reenactors to celebrate all things Viking. Held on February 3-4, this year’s festival will feature combat and horse-riding shows, Viking crafts, axe throwing, a Viking village, and archery, not to mention everyone’s favorite Viking-themed band, the Ragnarockers. 

Celebrating Norse heritage, the Michigan Nordic Fire Festival attracts thousands each February for fire displays, reenactments, and a mid-winter feast. Photo: Michigan Nordic Fire Festival

Michigan Nordic Fire Festival, United States, February 

In Charlotte, Michigan, the Vikings of North-West America celebrate the coming spring with a riotous, mead-filled festival of fire, families, and fun. Visitors can look forward to a Viking encampment, ceremonial boat burning, live music, spectacular fire spinning, and presentations and demonstrations from a wide range of Viking experts. The theme for this year’s event, held on February 23-25, centers around Sleipnir, Odin’s eight-legged horse.

For more information about the Michigan Nordic Fire Festival, please see our article about the event

With an open invitation to reenactors, the Jorvik Viking Festival serves as a seasonal highlight for Viking groups, offering events such as the Viking Games, complete with strength and combat challenges. Photo: Jorvik Viking Festival

Jorvik Viking Festival, England, February 

One of the most significant events in the modern Viking calendar, the Jorvik Viking Festival will see some 45,000 visitors crowd the streets of York, England, to celebrate the city’s significant Viking history on February 12-18. This year’s highlights include the Viking Games and the spectacular Festival Finale, which will take visitors on a journey through the realms of Yggdrasil, the famous world tree of Norse mythology. 

To learn more about this festival, please check out our article covering the event

The Sheringham Viking Festival in England celebrates East Anglia's Norse heritage with a beach boat-burning, battles, and educational activities in the scenic town of Sheringham. Photo: Photobynow / Shutterstock

Sheringham Viking Festival, England, April 

The Sheringham Viking Festival celebrates the Viking history of East Anglia, England, where the Norse raided, invaded, and settled in large numbers. Held in the small seaside town of Sheringham, Norfolk, this festival makes full use of the spectacular coastal landscape. The event culminates in a highly photogenic boat-burning ceremony on the beach, while visitors can also enjoy Viking battles and creative and educational activities. 

The Return of the Sun festival in Knox City, Missouri, marks spring with Viking-themed encampments, crafts, and feasting at Ravensborg Longfort. Photo: loganrickert / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Return of the Sun, United States, April 

Knox City in Missouri, USA, plays host to two Viking events, the Return of the Sun and the Return of the Dead, both of which are held at the Ravensborg Viking Longfort. As the name suggests, the Return of the Sun festival, which is held in April, celebrates the start of spring with a full-immersion encampment, crafts, fighting, and plenty of feasting. In previous years, the event has been attended by a number of Viking reenactment groups, including Vikings North America, the Skjaldborg, and Vikings UK. 

From May 9-12, the Archeon Viking Festival in the Netherlands showcases battles, crafts, and goods, inspired by the medieval emporium of Dorestad. Photo: Elena Dijour / Shutterstock

Archeon Viking Festival, Netherlands, May 

Another spring festival can be found at Archeon, an open-air and living museum in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn, the Netherlands. From May 9-12, you can enjoy not only the usual encampments and battle reenactments, but also a wide range of stalls selling everything from jewelry to clothes, soap, honey wine, weaponry, and toys. Dorestad, the inspiration for the event, is not exactly a success story for Nordic-Dutch relations, however. This early medieval emporium flourished under Frankish rule and even hosted Norse traders, but met its demise thanks in part to the vicious raids of Viking invaders. 

The Boyne Valley Viking Experience at Slane Castle, Ireland, offers combat, Viking longships, a market, and authentic encampments in a stunning May event. Photo: Boyne Valley Viking Experience

Boyne Valley Viking Experience, Ireland, May 

In May, the stunning surroundings of Slane Castle play host to the Boyne Valley Viking Experience, where more than 200 armored warriors will take to the battlefield to indulge in full-contact combat in an effort to be crowned Irish Champion. The event also sees Viking longships arrive by river. The sailors at this year’s event previously worked on the Vikings TV series and will be on hand to tell visitors of their experiences. There is also an authentic Viking market and an encampment below the castle with Viking families in period costumes. 

To learn more about the Boyne Valley Viking Experience, please see our article about last year's event.

The International Viking Market in Ribe, Denmark, offers a lively recreation of a Viking Age market with authentic goods, archery, and battle shows. Photo: Art Wittingen / Unsplash

International Viking Market, Denmark, May 

While most Scandinavian Viking festivals take place in the summer months – quite understandably – you can check out the International Viking Market in Ribe, Denmark, in the last days of spring. Hosted by Ribe Viking Center, a reconstructed Viking settlement, this event brings to life the vibrant market atmosphere of the Viking Age. Here, the focus is less on combat and more on the everyday life of Norse people of the era, with a myriad of stalls selling a range of authentic Viking wares. Combat fans can, however, still enjoy archery practice and battle shows in full Viking dress. 

The Manassas Viking Festival in Virginia features a 40-foot Viking ship, combat training for kids, Nordic animals, live music, dance, and Viking-themed vendors in May. Photo: Anna Kepa / Shutterstock

Manassas Viking Festival, United States, May 

Another American event comes in the form of the Manassas Viking Festival, held in the town of Manassas, Virginia. This festival features a majestic 40-foot Viking ship made by the Leif Erikson Company, while kids can learn about everything from combat training to falcons, ravens, and Nordic dogs. The festival also hosts live Celtic and Scandinavian folk music acts, dance performances, and a wide selection of Viking-themed vendors. 

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