From Stockholm to Skåne, from the Baltic Sea to the Kattegat, Sweden has a wealth of Viking attractions that any visitor to the Scandinavian country must see. We've picked out some of the best.
Birka Island - the birthplace of Viking Sweden
On the island of Björko, nestled amongst the birches surrounding Lake Mälaren, lies the ruins of a trading center that stretches back to the very dawn of the Viking Age. Birka, founded in 750 CE and then abandoned two centuries later, lays claim to not only being Sweden's oldest town but, in its heyday, was an important trading hub that connected Viking era Sweden to the Baltic region, Russian steppes, and even parts of Asia. At its height, Birka was estimated to have a population of between 500 and 1000 people.
A Christian town, Sigutna, would be founded in the late 10th century nearby, leading to the collapse of Birka as a trading post and significant town. It soon became abandoned, and its whereabouts unknown until excavations in the 19th century. What was uncovered then was a complex and sophisticated trading town featuring a fortress, a shipyard, longhouses, and the graves of more than 3,000 people.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Listed location is now a working archaeological site (the shipyard was only discovered less than a month ago!)
There is also a museum, a reconstructed Viking village, and guided tours of the surrounding areas to help immerse yourself in one of the Viking's most important trading towns. A vast wealth of buried treasure that has been found can be seen at the museum, including jewelry, weapons, and even dirham coins from Uzbekistan! Perhaps the best way to visit Birka is by taking a sightseeing boat from downtown Stockholm.
More information about Birka can be found here.
The Viking Museum, Stockholm - a fully immersive Viking experience / Aifur, food and drink fit for a Viking
The island of Djurgården lies just east of the Gamla Stan (Old City) part of Sweden's thriving capital, Stockholm. This island is an oasis of culture with a plethora of museums to choose from. Perhaps one of the best, however, is the Viking Museum.
This museum focuses entirely on the Swedish experience during "The Viking Age." What separates this from other museums is that this is an interactive museum - nestled amongst the exhibits are real Vikings who tell tales and share their culture and history with visitors. Aside from chatting with Vikings, there are also daily tours through the vast museum and gardens (in English and Swedish) as well as a restaurant (offering modern Nordic cuisine) and a gift shop.
The Viking Museum also offers a range of activities throughout the warmer months. These include weekly seers that tell fortunes, Viking-inspired leatherwork, arts and crafts, Norse poetry and saga readings, as well as Viking-era board games and activities.
Having visited the museum, a short walk to Gamla Stan (itself mostly constructed just after the end of the Viking Age in the early 13th century) is necessary to take in the beauty of Stockholm. In Gamla Stan, there is a real-life Viking bar - Aifur - that serves medieval food and drinks, much like the Vikings would have consumed. The Viking-era-inspired restaurant offers delicacies like mead, honey beer, and oven-baked deer. Skål!
More information on The Viking Museum can be found here.
The Viking-inspired menu of Aifur can be found here.
The impressive building of the History Museum. Photo: Swedish History Museum
Historiska Museet, Stockholm: One of the largest Viking exhibits in the world
Situated right near the Viking Museum is Sweden's vast and impressive Historika Museet (History Museum). This is the perfect place for those who want a slightly more highbrow look into Sweden's Viking past than the Viking Museum. The pride of place in the Museet is the vast Viking era collection covering Swedish history from the Mesolithic era to the present.
The Viking collection (called The Viking World) comprises over 2,500 objects and archaeological finds from the years 800 – 1050 CE laid out in over a thousand square meters of the Museet. The exhibition tells the story of Sweden's Viking Age from 10 different perspectives, including religion, family, and cross-cultural interactions.
Some of the impressive objects include some of the 700 silver hoards found on Gotland, a range of Viking weapons, iron helmets found in a ship burial, rune and picture stones, as well as baptismal fonts from the early Christianization of Viking Sweden.
More information on The Viking World can be found here.
The island of Gotland: Viking villages and buried treasure
On Friday, July 16, 1999, a Swedish TV4 film crew had just finished shooting a documentary about a small horde of 150 silver and bronze coins and objects found on a farm in Spillings, Gotland island. An archaeologist and professor continued to use a metal detector after the filming finished, and they uncovered the Spillings hoard: the world's largest Viking treasure!
This hoard consisted of over 14,295 coins and other Viking-era treasures and weighed in at just over 67 kilograms. Since then, the island of Gotland, situated off the Swedish east coast in the Baltic Sea, has become the source of renewed Viking era interest.
The island itself was an important trading center during the Viking Era, connecting the Swedish Viking homelands and Viking societies in what is now the Baltic countries and European Russia. Throughout the island itself, there are multiple reminders of its once-proud past with reconstructed Viking-era farms on Burgsvik, Sjonhem, and Gothem. Viking-era rune stones are dotted throughout the island, untouched for more than a millennium. Others have been removed for preservation at the Gotland Museum, which houses more than 400,000 objects from the early Bronze Age until the late Middle Ages, with a focus on the Viking Era.
There is also an impressive reconstruction of a Viking-era village, Stavgard. Amongst the reconstructed buildings are the real-life ruins of a great hall, purported to be the home of the legendary hero, Beowulf. There is also a medieval festival that takes place on the island every year.
More information on the Stavgard Viking village can be found here.
Gotland is the largest island in Sweden. It is located in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Michael Odelberth / Unsplash
Runriket: Snaking your way through a walking trail full of runes
The highest density of runestones in the world can be found in the area surrounding Stockholm. A collaboration between the Stockholm County Museum and the municipalities of Täby and Vallentua has produced Runriket (The Rune Kingdom).
A series of runestones from the Viking Era snakes its way around the shores of Lake Vallentua and provides the perfect way to delve into the region's Viking history. Following each runestone, the route is 35km in length, and all monuments are clearly marked with explanations in various languages. Along with the runes, there are a number of museums, picnic areas, and medieval churches to explore and enjoy. Most impressive of all, though, is the Arkis Tingstad - a stone formation believed to have been a Viking Era assembly place, a sort of proto-Viking parliament. The Runriket can be explored alone or with the help of a guided tour.
More information on Runriket can be found here.
Foteviken Museum, Skåne: Viking history brought to life
In Skåne, that part of southern Sweden that has yo-yoed between Denmark and Sweden for centuries, lies the peninsula of Höllviken. What began as a search for a medieval ship sunk during the Battle of Fotevik has now turned into a fully immersive Viking museum and village.
"The Viking Reserve" and museum occupy 70,000 square meters of the beautiful peninsula of Höllviken. Traditional Viking era methods have been used to reconstruct a whole Viking village during Christianity's early inroads into Sweden towards the end of the Viking era. A number of volunteers actually live in the village and are not permitted any modern equipment or clothes. The village is also the location for an international Viking Ting (assembly) and market with authentic handmade arts and crafts.
The museum at Foteviken also tells the story of the transition between the Viking Age in Sweden and the formation of the Kingdom of Sweden, with a heavy emphasis on the role that Christianity played.
Surely this is one of the most unique historical insights into the daily lives of many in Viking societies, in Sweden, during the end of the Viking era.
More information on staying in the Viking Reserve can be found here.
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