The Vikings were a seafaring warrior people from Scandinavia who, from the 8th to 11th centuries, dominated and ruled swathes of northern Europe.
Characterised by their longships and brutal raids, the Vikings plundered, traded, raided and colonised lands across Europe. Their seafaring proficiency and impeccably crafted vessels carried them as far as North America and Arabia.
But the Vikings’ Scandinavian heartland bears the most relics of their existence. In sites across Denmark, the remarkable history of the Vikings has been preserved.
From ruined fortresses to immersive museums, here are 8 of the most important Viking sites in Denmark.
The Viking fortress at Trelleborg is one of the best preserved of four circular fortresses in Denmark. The collection of circular fortresses in Denmark is believed to date back to the tenth century and would have been heavily defended by an army of warriors led by Harald I, who was the son of Gorm the Old.
In addition to the fortress, visitors can see a large Viking cemetery, a Viking village and a museum housing numerous excavated objects, a museum shop and café. Trelleborg is very child-friendly, with demonstrations, costumed-guides and activities.
The Viking Museum at Ladby houses the Ladby Burial Ship, a Viking ship grave found there in 1935. Dating back to around 925 AD, it is believed that the ship is the burial site of a prince or other leader, such as a chieftain.
Displaying the Ladby Burial Ship amidst a series of other excavation finds, the museum offers an insight into the history of the Vikings and their lives in the area.
Jelling is an impressive and significant Viking archaeological site containing a series of important tenth century finds. Originally the royal home of the Gorm the Old, Jelling remains a vital part of Denmark’s history, particularly as this Viking king was the first of the royal line which still rules the country today.
Gorm and his son, Harald I Bluetooth, erected several monuments at Jelling, including a pair of enormous grave mounds, which are the largest in Denmark. These are still incredibly well-preserved and can be viewed at the site. Gorm was buried in the larger one, although the second one is not thought to have been used. Runic stones also stand before Jelling Church, which dates back to around 1100. The site has a visitor centre with a series of exhibits telling the story of the monuments.
The Viking Ship Museum displays five Viking vessels and offers an incredible insight into the world of the Viking people and their era of between 800 AD and 1100 AD.
The ships are known as the “Skuldelev Ships” due to the fact that they were found sunk in Skuldelev, a deliberate act by the Vikings to form a barrier – the Peberrende blockade – to enemy vessels. The ships range from a 30 metre long warship known as “wreck 2” to an 11.2 metre fishing boat. Each one has been carefully reconstructed. The museum also has an exhibit telling the story of a Norwegian attack and there are even summer boat trips available for an authentic Viking experience.
Fyrkat is an archaeological site made up of nine reconstructed Viking houses and a ringfort as well as a Viking cemetery. It is thought that the fort at Fyrkat was established during the reign of Harald I Bluetooth in around 980 AD. There are also exhibitions about the history of the Vikings.
Lindholm Hoje is a large archaeological site housing Denmark’s most impressive Viking and Germanic Iron Age graveyard. With over 700 graves of various shapes and sizes found in 1952, Lindholm Hoje offers a fascinating insight into burial customs of the time. Guided tours can be arranged in advance. Lindholm Hoje also has a museum displaying archaeological finds and telling the story of the Viking and Iron ages.
The Moesgard Museum near Arhus in Denmark is a museum of archaeology, with a diverse set of displays.
For those interested in Viking history, the Moesgard Museum houses a set of reconstructed Viking buildings. It is also worth wandering around the prehistoric path which surrounds the museum, which contains a series of reconstructed houses from different periods in Denmark’s history.
A further display at the Moesgard Museum is its impressive collection of runes. These are stones bearing the runic alphabet, Scandinavia’s earliest form of written language. The runes at the Moesgard Museum date back to around 200 AD.