A cultural heritage attraction in operation since 2000, the Midgard Viking Center was initially sited due to its location alongside the Borre burial mounds, an important Norse landmark on Norway's southeastern tip.

Initially called the Midgard Historical Center, it soon drew visitors from across Norway, but it has long been looking to raise its global profile. 

This year also sees the tenth-anniversary celebrations for the Viking Hall unveiled here in 2013.

Viking focus

"Our aim is to make us the leading center to experience the Viking world in northern Europe," says Christina Leverkus, spokesperson for Vestfold Museums, the regional authority that oversees Midgard. 

"That was why we made our focus more on Viking history and changed our name in 2019."

The move was not without foundation. As you sit in the center's café, as many locals do as part of a relaxing day out amid the scenic landscape, you have a perfect view across to the grave mounds. 

Within the huge Borre National Park, out of some 50 graves, ten are considered monumental, though only seven exist today. 

The Midgard Viking Festival features battle re-enactments, archery, and crafts. Photo: Torstein Gamst / Midgard Viking Center

The first investigations took place back in the early 1850s, after workers accidentally discovered a grave filled with weapons and riding equipment. 

Some of the originals are now on display at the Historical Museum in Oslo, but you can see faithful replicas at the Midgard Viking Center. 

The items not only show a particular local style of ornamentation, especially for harnesses, they point to the economic status of this area from the Merovingian era, between the middle of the fifth century and the Viking Age. 

The earliest mounds at Borre date to 600, underlining this long span of time.

Feast halls and burial ships

"In 2007, they discovered traces of what was probably once a feast hall," says Christina. 

"After that, we decided to create this reconstruction." Much of it crafted by hand using time-appropriate tools, the Viking Hall displays beautiful wood carvings typical of the area. 

The hall centerpieces the guided tours offered in English and Norwegian that also take in the main permanent exhibition, as well as the grounds.

"Everything we publish, including videos, we do in both languages," says Christina. "And with a significant increase in visitors from Germany, we may have to include German, as well."

A visit to Midgard has always been a hands-on experience. While activities laid on for local schools are carried out in Norwegian, all children and adults can try out the bow-and-arrow and log games in the playground. 

You can also buy authentic replicas on-site. Photo: Torstein Gamst / Midgard Viking Center

During the school holidays, archery and spear-throwing take place outside the Viking Hall. Large-scale events include the Midgard Viking Festival, this year's taking place June 30-July 2, with battle re-enactments, archery, and crafts. 

The 2019 discovery by archaeologists of what was probably a Viking-era ship of the type constructed as a tomb for a high-ranking member of society should generate more buzz around Borre, while emphasizing the area's historical importance as a harbor. 

"As well as expanding the exhibition area," says Christina, "we aim to open up the center more to groups, who can take advantage of the appropriate and picturesque setting to get together here and pitch up their tents."

Midgard Viking Center, Birkelyveien 9, Horten, Norway. Admission NOK 100 / EUR 8.75, NOK 70 / EUR 6 seniors, students & 7-17s. Under-6s free.

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