Tracking Vikings in Norway in a Week

Three Swords monument, Stavanger | © Christopher Dolan / Flickr
Three Swords monument, Stavanger | © Christopher Dolan / Flickr
Photo of Danai Christopoulou
8 October 2017

It’s not called the Land of the Vikings for nothing. Practically everywhere you go in Norway, you can see traces of the Old Norse warriors’ presence through the ages. So what are the must-sees if you want to immerse yourself in all things Viking, but also do some sightseeing in this beautiful country? It depends on how much time you have, really: for some, this would equate to a lifetime in Norway. But if you only have one week, this handy guide below will help you.

Day 1: Oslo, The Viking Ship Museum

You’ll start easy, since your flight to Norway will most probably land you in Oslo. Located on the Bygdøy peninsula, you’ll find Vikingskipshuset, a museum that features the best-preserved Viking ships in the whole world. Marvel at the findings from Viking tombs (discovered around the Oslo Fjord) that include textiles, household utensils, carts and sledges, and don’t forget to look up above you: the adventure film The Vikings Alive plays throughout the day on the museum’s ceiling and walls. Afterwards, don’t throw away your ticket. You can use it to get free entry to the Historical Museum as well.

Display at the Viking Ship Museum | Courtesy of Vikingskipshuset, UiO

Day 2: Horten and Larvik, Historical Borre and Viking City

Continue your journey to the west. Your first stop is the Historical Borre at Borrehaugene, Horten (you can take the R11 train from Oslo Central Station to Holmestrand, then the 02 bus to Horten, it’s about a 90-minute trip). Within the Borre National Park, you can stroll around the burial site of the Norwegian kings: the Viking burial tombs found here go as far back as the 7th century – and one of them contains an actual Viking ship! At the heart of the park is the Midgard Historical center, where you can see a unique reconstruction of a Viking meal hall and feel like you just stepped into an episode of Vikings.

Another short bus and R11 train ride away towards Skien (about 90-minute trip from Horten) lies Larvik, where the first Viking town was located in Norway. Kaupang was founded in 800 CE, and played a big part as a hub for trade. Archaeologists are still in the process of excavating, and there’s an exhibition called What Kaupang Earth Hid that will give you a thorough introduction. And, of course, there’s a house built according to Viking traditions, where you will feel like you’ve travelled back in time.

Day 3: Lillesand, Bronseplassen

Speaking of travelling back in time: entering a reconstructed settlement from the Viking Bronze Age in Lillesand is next on your list (it’s a 2.5-hour drive from Larvik, otherwise you’ll need to change for three buses). At Bronseplassen, you can shop at the Viking market, enter a fertility labyrinth and try your hand at archery. There’s also a classroom for young students who wish to learn the Viking ways. Plus, you’ll feast on a roast leg of lamb, which is what Vikings do, of course. Afterwards, you can spend the night in Kristiansand: it’s less than an hour away, has many exciting museums and is home to Norway’s largest zoo and amusement park, so it’s perfect for the little ones. Or your inner child.

Woman in traditional clothing | Courtesy of Bronseplassen, Høvåg

Day 4: Stavanger, Swords in Rock

From Kristiansand, it’s a three-hour bus ride to Stavanger (bus 729 from Oslo S) – or a 40-minute direct flight, if you feel like cutting to the chase. Once you reach Stavanger, head straight to Hafrsfjord, where the famous Swords in Rock (Sverd i fjell) awaits you and your Instagram followers. The thee enormous swords symbolise peace, unity and freedom: this is, after all, the place where Harald Fairhair gathered all of Norway in one kingdom in 872 CE. The monument itself is not ancient (it was unveiled to the public in 1983), but the area and the energy surrounding it will definitely give you chills.

Swords in rock, Stavanger | © Varlorg : Flickr

Day 5: Avaldsnes, St. Olav’s Church

From Stavanger, it’s time to go north and see some churches. Not just any old churches, though: in Avaldsnes (less than a two-hour bus ride), you’ll encounter St. Olav’s Church, built by King Håkon Håkonsson around 1250 and a symbol of the unification of the Norwegian kingdom. There’s also a Viking farm nearby, where will find a longhouse, a boat house for a Viking warship, a roundhouse and several smaller buildings. Just bear in mind that’s it’s only open for visitors in the summer season. In any case, you should head back to Stavanger afterwards and enjoy your dinner in one of the city’s many amazing restaurants.

St. Olav's Church, Avaldsnes | © AnneCN : Flickr

Day 6: Ornes, Urnes Stave Church

Another day, another church. From Stavanger, you’ll have to hop on a plane to Bodø (about a three-hour flight, although you may need to have a layover), then take a bus to Ørnes. There, you’ll understand why Norway’s stave churches are world-renowned: Urnes Stave Church is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the 12th century, the wooden church is a great example of how medieval Scandinavian Christians combined Norse and Christian mythology, by incorporating animal figures and delicate traditional Viking carvings within a Christian setting.

Day 7: Lofoten Islands, Lofotr Museum

Arguably, we’ve saved the best for last: from Bodø, take the ferry to the Lofoten Islands, and visit Lofotr Museum. Open all year round, this is more than a museum – it’s an experience. The excavation in the area uncovered the largest house in the Viking world, both in Norway and in Europe, but apart from marvelling at the archaeological findings, you can also visit the reconstructed areas, such as the smithy and the chieftain’s loghouse, taste Viking-age food, play with farm animals and even ride a reconstructed Viking boat. Is there a better way to finish off your Viking week?

Lofotr Viking Museum | Courtesy of Lofotr Viking Museum

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