The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark, is offering special English-language tours of its unique waterside site throughout December. Guides start taking visitors around from 11 am.

Danish-language tours take place at 1 pm, moving to 2 pm for Christmas storytelling after December 22. The tours are part of a complete holiday entertainment program that includes a marine archaeologists' workshop and decoration- and card-making for children. 

The Viking Ship Museum plans to start construction on the new facility in 2025, with the current museum remaining open throughout its development. Photo: RPBaiao / Shutterstock

What is there to see at Roskilde? 

It's the tours, however, that take center stage. 

As soon as you enter Museum Island, you are met with the smell of mulled wine and apples. This aroma blends into the warming cider also on offer before you take in the five original Viking ships, standing tall in all their glory in the Viking Ship Hall. 

The Viking Ship Museum is built around the five Viking ships uncovered at the nearby Roskilde Fjord in 1962. 

The Skuldelev ships were deliberately sunk just north of Roskilde in 1070 to block the passage of the Peberrenden waterway and defend against potential invasions. 

Each is different in character and purpose, and the vessels have yielded a wealth of information from several points of view. 

Originally, it was thought that six boats had been found, but it was later proven to be five – hence the unusual numbering as the ships were analyzed. 

A stamp issued in Denmark around 2004, depicting the Skuldelev 1 ship on Roskilde Fjord and featuring a map highlighting the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. Photo: Boris15 / Shutterstock

Sunk 1,000 years ago 

All five Skuldelev ships are on display in the Viking Ship Hall at the museum, having been excavated, raised, documented, conserved, and pieced together.

Skuldelev 1 was a large cargo vessel built in Western Norway around 1030. About 60% of the original boat was retrieved – it is represented by the replica Ottar at the Museum Harbor. 

Skuldelev 2, a fast longship used in combat, was built in Dublin around 1042. A replica named the Sea Stallion sailed from Roskilde to Dublin in 2007 and was put on display there until its return the following year.

The best-preserved of the Roskilde ships is Skuldelev 3, locally constructed in Denmark around 1040, with 75% of the original vessel preserved. The replica Roar Ege showcases its robust oak-built cargo-carrying capabilities, and a new replica was launched in May 2022.

Alongside the original Skuldelev 5, a small warship built around 1030 for shallow Danish waters, its replica Helge Ask is displayed, and a new reconstruction of this vessel is currently underway at the boatyard.

Skuldelev 6, dating back to the same period and primarily made from pine in Western Norway, is represented by the replica Skjoldungen at the museum. 

Roskilde Cathedral, a stunning 13th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands on the site of an original church founded by Harald Bluetooth, reflecting the rich history of Roskilde, once the capital of Denmark. Photo: CucombreLibre / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why visit Roskilde? 

Capital of Denmark from the 11th century until 1443, Roskilde was a vital trading center during the Viking era for routes over land and sea. 

Founded by Harald Bluetooth in the 980s, it was established as a bishopric by King Cnut nearly four decades later.

Built on the site of Bluetooth's original church, the 13th-century cathedral at Roskilde, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers tourists an additional reason to visit. 

However, the key draw is the Viking Ship Museum.

This initiative provides family-friendly entertainment at the boatyard, with the team working out in the open. Over time, it will also reveal deeper insights into how these vessels were built. 

Soon, the decision will be made on which architect or studio has won the tender to design the new Viking Ship Museum.

Three proposals have made the shortlist, with the judging committee comprising representatives from the board of the Viking Ship Museum, Roskilde city council, and professionals from the fields of architecture and engineering.

An overall winner will be announced in January. 

Each autumn, the Viking ships are carefully pulled ashore by teams of volunteers. Photo: Werner Karrasch / The Viking Ship Museum

Christmas activities 

Christmas guided tours in English: Daily at 11:00 am, focusing on the Vikings' impressive ships.
Christmas guided tours in Danish: Daily at 1:00 pm until December 21; from December 22 to January 1, the tour starts at 2:00 pm.
Write Christmas greeting cards with runes: Weekends in December and every day from December 22 to 31, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in the Viking Ship Hall.
Storytelling about the Vikings' Jól - Yuletide: December 22 to 31, from 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm in the Viking Ship Hall. 

Location: Viking Ship Museum, Vindeboder 12, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
Opening Hours: Open every day, including December 24, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Admission: Adults: 125 DKK. Family ticket (2 adults and children under the age of 18): 230 DKK. Children under the age of 18 have free admittance. 

 

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