From Lindisfarne in northeast England, where a dramatic Viking raid in 793 changed history, to a reconstructed longhouse in the far southwest, Britain has a wealth of historic sites and modern-day attractions to interest the curious visitor.
The most comprehensive, the JORVIK Viking Centre in York, has been in place for nearly 40 years and stages regular events and an annual festival.
JORVIK Viking Centre
If you're going to visit just one Viking-related attraction in Britain, this is it. Approaching its 40th year, the JORVIK Viking Centre recently welcomed its 20 millionth visitor through its doors.
Developed in tandem with its annual festival, JORVIK first opened in the historic heart of York in 1984. It resulted from the dramatic discoveries unearthed over five years along Coppergate, a grand total of 20,000 artifacts.
From these, specialists could determine the construction and layout of the buildings where townsfolk lived and worked, how they lived and traded, what they ate, and some idea of how they spent their free time.
Instead of displaying them under glass, the York Archaeological Trust created a visitor experience.
The JORVIK Viking Centre is an immersive adventure in which visitors travel in time cars, along streets that capture how Coppergate would have appeared one late October afternoon in 948. Below ground lie remains of a Viking hearth and parts of the ancient wall.
JORVIK Viking Centre, 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT.
The St Cuthbert Monument at the Lindisfarne Museum. Photo: Courtesy of Lindisfarne Museum
One of the key sites in Viking history, Lindisfarne Priory on Holy Island now has a new museum, with never-before-seen exhibits on display.
The place where the devastating Viking raid took place in the UK in 793, Lindisfarne is forever linked with the island monastery that was one of England's holiest shrines.
Access to the site in a windswept corner of northeast England is across a causeway at the mercy of sea tides. For this reason, strict visiting times are given. The island's relative inaccessibility would have been one of its main attractions to the monks who settled there.
Current highlights include a necklace made from salmon vertebrae, thought to be Britain's earliest known rosary beads, an Anglo-Saxon glass gaming counter in attractive colors, and 21 name stones inscribed in runic and Latin texts as grave markers.
With specific reference to the Norse invasion, another grave marker now on display, referred to as the Viking Domesday stone, depicts seven armed men brandishing swords and axes. Dating back to the ninth century, it has never been put on show before.
Lindisfarne Priory, Church Lane, Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 2RX. Access information here. Safe crossing times here. Accommodation available at the Coastguard's Cottage.
The British Museum
There are very many reasons to visit the British Museum, with 80,000 objects on display at any one time, around 1/100th of its whole collection, but Viking aficionados often head straight for Room 40.
There, standing tall in the Medieval Europe Gallery, are the beautifully carved likenesses of kings, queens, knights, and bishops: the Lewis Chessmen.
Fashioned from walrus ivory and whales' teeth, they date from the mid-1100s and are thought to have belonged to a merchant traveling from Norway to Scotland.
Their modern-day name relates to the Hebridean island location where they were found in 1831.
Of the 78 pieces, 11 are held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (see below), and the collection is occasionally loaned out to prestigious exhibitions around the world. Replicas are on sale in the museum shop.
Next door, at Room 41, you'll find the Sutton Hoo Helmet, belonging to an Anglo-Saxon warrior, possibly King Raedwald of East Anglia, dating back to the early 600s.
Also part of the permanent collection but not on display are Viking brooches acquired by the eminent Scots archaeologist Dr. James Curle, better known for his Roman finds near his hometown of Montrose, but who visited Gotland in 1888 and kept in touch with agents there.
The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG. Admission free but booking advised.
House of Manannan
Named after a mythological sea god once thought to oversee the waters surrounding the Isle of Man, the House of Manannan takes its lead from the JORVIK Viking Centre (see above), providing visitors with an immersive experience to understand local history.
Not only can you admire a reconstruction of a Viking longship, but you can also join the crew to see what it would have been like to have crossed the rough North Sea in search of plunder and adventure.
How was it to live in a Viking longhouse? Sights, sounds, and smells give you a good idea while explaining how Viking and Celtic cultures dovetailed when this island in the Irish Sea fell under Norse control for nearly half a millennium. Currently, you can follow Odin's Winter Quest until April 21.
House of Manannan, Mill Road, Peel IM5 1TA, Isle of Man
The National Museum of Scotland is located in Edinburgh. Photo: clivewa / Shutterstock
National Museum of Scotland
Home of the Galloway Hoard, the richest collection of Viking-age objects ever found in Britain or Ireland currently in storage, Scotland's National Museum has plenty of other fascinating artifacts to browse.
A double-edged sword discovered by the Strathspey heritage railway in the Highlands is on view in the Early People section on Level -1, which is where you'll find a gilt brooch found at a Viking grave on the island of Oronsay, a peg-board game of Hnefatafl from Orkney, and many rings and bracelets.
It is not yet certain when the Galloway Hoard of over 100 gold and silver items, found in Dumfries in 2014, will be back on display, having been on show in Aberdeen until October 2022.
On Level 1, Kingdom of the Scots, don't miss the Lewis Chessmen, 11 of the 93 gaming pieces spotted on a beach in the Outer Hebrides in 1831.
The remaining figures can be admired at The British Museum in London (see above).
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF. Admission free.
Ancient Technology Centre
Near the site where the first Englishman slain by a Norse warrior is said to have fallen, Beaduheard in 789, the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset allows you to experience life as a Viking.
Groups stay at a 26-meter-long reconstructed longhouse, whose composition was based on first-hand research in Denmark, made with traditional materials.
While here, visitors wear Viking tunics, dresses, and accessories, carry out essential tasks and play games that Norse families enjoyed.
Also on-site are ancient Neolithic houses, reconstructed by following the remain of seven actual dwellings from that period, found at Durrington Walls near Stonehenge.
The center holds open days several times a year – the next ones are on March 25 and 26 – as well as courses, including Viking cookery, and day visits.
Ancient Technology Centre, Damerham Road, Cranbourne, Wimbourne BH21 5RP, Dorset
The entrance to the church in Repton, Derbyshire, UK. Photo: Simon Annable / Shutterstock
St Wystan's Church
The crypt below St Wystan's Church in Repton, Derbyshire, would have been a trove of glittering treasure and a burial site for the kings of Mercia when the Vikings attacked it in the 870s.
Wintering at what was then Repton Abbey in 873-74, the Norse invaders buried two of their warriors alongside, a father and son with their weapons and jewelry.
They were discovered in the 1970s as part of a lengthy dig that not only extended into the 1980s but also took in a nearby mound where the bones of 300 people had been interred, later found to be of Scandinavian origin and date to the same time as the battles that took place here.
Although both sites have since been landscaped over, you can still stand where it is thought Vikings were brought here to be communally buried. Coins and weapons were also found around them, again dating to the 870s.
You can also visit the crypt of St Wystan's, with its original Anglo-Saxon pillars and stonework built in the early 700s.
The alcoves would have been too small for actual bodies to lie there, only bones, which is why Repton became a place of pilgrimage after St Wystan died around 840.
Three decades later, monks would have carried these remains away with them when escaping from the Vikings. Sometime in the 1030s, Christian King Cnut had them moved to Evesham Abbey, along with those of other saints.
St Wystan's Church, 7 Willington Road, Repton DE65 6FH.
In a little-visited part of England dotted with Norse place names, the Dock Museum looking over the Irish Sea from southern Cumbria holds much of the Furness hoard discovered locally by a metal detectorist in 2011.
Consisting of 92 silver coins, including two Arabic dirhams, ingots, and arm rings, it provided conclusive archaeological evidence of the Viking occupation here rather than just linguistic links.
Until then, there had been remnants of a Viking sword found by the sexton of Rampside while digging a grave in 1909, a lead weight unearthed at Dalton, and a tympanum with carved runic letters and a spindle whorl from Pennington. Younger visitors can try on a replica Viking cloak and helmet.
Under the same roof are a Roman bracelet, a fragment of human bone from 10,000 years ago, and items relating to the ship-building past of this former industrial hub.
Dock Museum, Barrow-in-Furness LA14 2PW
In the same city as JORVIK Viking Centre (see above), this is more of a museum in the traditional sense but very much worth a visit if you're in town. The Yorkshire Museum holds some of the artifacts found in the Vale of York Viking Hoard.
Discovered near Harrogate in 2007 by father-and-son metal detectorists David and Andrew Whelan, it consisted of 617 silver coins and 65 other precious items, themselves contained within a gilt silver ecclesiastical vessel lined with gold possibly plundered from France.
The coins date from the late 800s and early 900s and feature Islamic, Christian, and Norse pagan symbols. They probably belonged to a Viking leader who buried his treasure during a period of conflict with Northumbrian forces in the 920s and 930s.
Valued at GBP 1 million, it was partly bought by the York Museums Trust, and occasionally loaned out as part of traveling exhibitions.
The Yorkshire Museum also owns the Gilling Sword, found by a local schoolboy in a river in 1976 and thought to have belonged to an Anglo-Saxon soldier from the same period as the coins in the Vale of York Viking Hoard.
Unearthed during the extensive dig here that inspired the JORVIK Viking Centre, the Coppergate Helmet is the best-preserved of the six such Anglo-Saxon items known to have survived to the present day, and another highlight of the permanent collection here.
Inscribed with Christian texts in Latin, it was completely restored so that its complete form with neck, nose, and cheek guards appear as they would have done in the 700s.
Yorkshire Museum, Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York YO1 7FR
This deep-dive article was written thanks to the support of subscribers to The Viking Herald's Facebook page. Do you enjoy our work? You can SUBSCRIBE here or via our Facebook page. You'll get access to exclusive content and behind-the-scenes access.
Feel free to reach out to discuss potential stories that may be in the public interest. You can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the understanding that the information you provide might be used in our reporting and stories.