The Viking Fortress Trelleborg - History and Facts | History Hit

The Viking Fortress Trelleborg

Traelleborg Garde, Region Zealand, Denmark

Trelleborg in Denmark is a Viking fortress dating back to the 10th century.

Peta Stamper

17 May 2021
Image Credit: Thue C. Leibrandt / CC

About The Viking Fortress Trelleborg

Trelleborg is one of the best-preserved of 4 circular Viking fortresses in Denmark, and is located near Slagelse in Northwest Zealand. Established by Harald I, a famous Viking king also known as Harald Bluetooth, the collection of circular fortresses is believed to date back to the 10th 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 a great place for people of all ages; with demonstrations, costumed-guides and activities and features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Denmark.

The Viking Fortress at Trelleborg history

During the Viking period, Trelleborg would have been situated on a peninsula jutting out into swampland between rivers. The swamp was connected to the Great Belt by a lake, navigated by Viking ships. When Harald Bluetooth built the fortress in 980 AD, he likely knew that this strategic position would command the belt and its sea traffic between Zealand and Funen.

Trelleborg was designed in a perfect circle with 2 roads crossing at the centre, leading to 4 gates. The outer walls were made of oak, the holes filled with stones and clad with wood. Within the quarters stood Viking longhouses, although Trelleborg was unique among the circular forts excavated in also featuring a sort of bailey. Around 1,300 people would have lived within the fortress community.

The Viking fortress was excavated between 1934 and 1942, and most of the findings reflected daily life at Trelleborg: pottery, locks, knives, combs, scissors and needles. Several workshops of silver, gold and bronze were also found.

Weapons including axes, arrows and shield parts suggest a battle and defence of the fortress occurred, supported by 3 mass graves found containing soldiers with deep wounds. Several of the dead are also believed to have come from Norway and Poland, suggesting that Harald had strong alliances with the Slavs through his marriage to Tove, daughter of a Polish prince.

The Viking Fortress at Trelleborg today

Today, the landscape surrounding Trelleborg has changed significantly since the Viking age as the swamp shrunk and the rivers became narrow streams. The open-air museum features a longhouse reconstructed in 1948 and visitors can take part in activities reminiscent of Viking life, such as baking flat breads, firing a longbow, or carving your name in Viking runes.

The museum at Trelleborg also includes models, archaeological finds and reconstructions to provide you with a vivid picture of what Trelleborg would have been like for its early inhabitants and how the fortress would have functioned. While all buildings will be locked, you can also visit the fortress at night.

Getting to The Viking Fortress at Trelleborg

Trelleborg is located just off Norway’s E20 road that traces through the northwestern islands. From Copenhagen, the drive takes around an hour and 10 minutes. There is lots of public parking. If using public transport from Copenhagen, catch the IC train to Korsør Street and from there get the 901 then 498 buses to Møllesøvej, from which you can walk for 20 minutes to Trelleborg.

Featured In

Viking Sites in Denmark

Explore the rich and bloody history of the Vikings at these 8 important sites, ruins and museums across Denmark.

Denmark Historic Sites

Explore the Viking past at Jelling or visit the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet at Kronborg Castle. Denmark's historic sites are wide-ranging and beguiling.