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Vikings past and present

Norway has a strong Viking history, and for interested travellers, there are plenty of fantastic attractions all over the country that you can visit to learn more about this interesting part of our history. In this article, we’ll tell you all about Norway’s viking past – and how you can explore its legacy in the present.
Wiking ship - Norway
Ruben Soltvedt

Who were the Vikings?

The Vikings were warriors and tradespeople from the Nordic countries who would raid, plunder, trade and bring foreign goods back to their homeland. The Viking era lasted from around 800 to 1050. The beginning of the Viking period came in the year 793 with the attack on the Lindisfarne monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the northeast coast of England. The murder of King Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 marks the end of the Viking heyday.
The Vikings traveled extensively and founded quite a few cities and colonies during their time. In fact, the Irish capital of Dublin and the French region of Normandy was founded by them, and they also colonized Iceland and Greenland. The Vikings were also the first Europeans to travel to the Americas. The well-known Viking explorer Leif Erikson led the first European expedition to reach continental North America, arriving about 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
Wiking Museum - Oslo, Norway
VisitOSLO/Didrick Stenersen

Who is the most famous Viking?

There are several famous Vikings from Norway. The fact that these people lived so many years ago but are still well-known today is a testament to the Vikings’ lasting impact and legacy both within Norway and internationally.
  • Harald Hårfagre (Harald Fairhair) is one of the most famous Vikings. Living from around 850-932, he’s considered Norway’s first monarch. Legend says he let his hair grow from the time he decided to become king, and refused to cut it until he had achieved this goal.
  • Eirik Blodøks (Eirik Bloodaxe) was one of Harald Hårfagre’s eldest sons, and lived from around 850-932. He ruled Norway from 933 to 935, and there is some discussion over where his name is derived from. Some reports suggest that he was given the name Bloodaxe due to his participation in early Viking raids, while others claim it was because he had murdered several of his relatives.
  • Håkon “den gode” Adalsteinsfostre (Haakon the Good) was Harald Hårfagre’s youngest son, and Eirik Blodøks’ half-brother. He served as king of Norway from the 930s-960 after ousting Eirik and uniting different parts of Norway.
  • Olav Tryggvason was Norway’s king from 995 to 1000. This possible descendant of Harald Hårfagre returned as a hero after acquiring both fame and wealth on Viking raids in Britain and beyond. As king, he’s known for converting much of the kingdom from Old Norse religion to Roman Catholicism.
PS: Did you know that there were also several Legendary Female Viking Warriors?
Wiking hunter - Norway
Gioele Fazzeri

What does the word ‘Viking’ mean?

In Old Norse, the word ‘Viking’ meant ‘freebooting voyage’ or ‘pirate raid’. A person would ‘go on a viking’ (‘fara í viking’). However, the word ‘víkingr’ was also commonly used to refer to someone who went on expeditions, usually internationally and by sea, as part of a larger group.
Over time, the word ‘Viking’ often came to signify any tradesperson, farmer or seafarer from the Nordic countries during the Viking Age.

How long did it take to build a Viking longship?

The Vikings are well-known for the particular style of ships they used on their expeditions. Viking Longships were vessels made and used by the Vikings for purposes of trade, commerce, exploration, and raids, and these ships were impressively advanced for their time.
Most people know the typical shape of the Viking longships – they all had the same long, narrow body shape. These fast-moving ships were made from oak planks, overlapped and nailed together. The ships were watertight due to spaces between planks being stuffed with a mixture of wool, moss, or hair and tar. It was an ingenious design that was adopted by other groups, and which continued to influence ship construction around the world long after the Viking Age ended.
The success of the Vikings as raiders is partly due to the clever and advanced design of their ships – the longships were light and designed with speed and easy navigation in mind. Since the ships were double-ended, they were able to change direction without needing to turn the ship around
It’s very difficult to say how long it took the Vikings to construct these ships, but a general estimation is that it would take at least six months. Building a longship involved a tremendous amount of work, and depending on the size of the ship, it could take years
Drink like a Viking - Norway
Gioele Fazzeri

Drink like a Viking

The most famous drink the Vikings enjoyed is mead, which is called ‘mjød’ in Norwegian. This ancient alcoholic drink similar to beer and sweetened with honey is still drunk in Norway today, though its popularity has fallen since Viking times! Known as “the drink of the gods”, mead is believed to be the world's oldest alcoholic drink – so we recommend the adults in your group sample some of this fermented beverage.
Before having a sip, be sure to raise your glass and say cheers the traditional Norwegian way: ‘skål!’, which is pronounced similarly to ‘skull’. Some have claimed that the word ‘skål’ to mean cheers actually stems from Viking warriors who would drink out of the skulls of their enemies to celebrate victory. This is unlikely to be true, but the grisly story may ensure you never forget at least one Norwegian word!
Now that you know what the Vikings preferred to drink, check out what they ate!
Njardarheim Viking village in Gudvangen - NOrway
Njardarheim Vikinglandsby i Gudvangen

Where can you explore Norway’s Viking past today?

Though the Viking era ended in the 11th century, the legacy of the Vikings lives on in Norway and beyond. If you’d like to bring this interesting history to life for yourself or your kids, there are museums, tours, villages, and a range of other Viking-related experiences just waiting to be discovered! We would love for you to Go Viking with our tours that are perfect for connecting to your inner Viking. Why not try an action-filled fjord tour with a dinner fit for true Vikings at the popular Ægir Brewpub in the village of Flåm? 
Gokstad Viking ship on the Vikingship Museum - Oslo, Norway
VISITOSLO/Didrick Stenersen

Viking Experiences

If you’d rather explore on your own, here are some suggestions for great Viking attractions in different parts of Norway.
The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is a very informative museum where you can look at the world’s most well-preserved Viking vessels, including the famous Oseberg, Gokstad, and Tune ships.
Lofotr Viking Museum on the beautiful Lofoten Islands in the north of Norway is a fantastic spot for those interested in Viking history. Here, you can go inside the world's largest longhouse from the Viking age to see, smell, taste and feel how the Vikings lived all those years ago.

Several Viking-era settlements can still be visited today, including the popular Viking Farm at Avaldsnes on the island of Karmøy in Western Norway. This popular spot has plenty to teach us about the farming traditions of the Vikings with guided tours, a dedicated history center, and interesting activities.
You’ll find the well-known living museum Njardarheimr Viking Village in the charming village of Gudvangen on the Nærøyfjord. Presented as a lively Viking town among stunning Norwegian scenery, it’s a fantastic place to learn about Vikings, with many fun activities for kids. You can visit Gudvangen on our Norway in a nutshell® tour – a legendary trip that’ll show you all the best of what Norway has to offer!
Experience Flåmsbana on the famous Norway in a nutshell® tour by Fjord Tours
Gjertrud Coutinho

Get active like the Vikings

Vikings

Welcome to a captivating exploration of the legendary Vikings in Norway!
Wiking Museum - Oslo, Norway

The history of Norwegian Vikings

Though the Vikings lived long ago, their strong legacy lives on and there’s no shortage of interest in their history and traditions. There are plenty of ways for interested travellers to experience Viking life and traditions in modern Norway. For history buffs and families with kids, a trip to Norway is a fantastic way to explore Viking history – all over the country, you’ll find museums, tours, Viking villages and more just waiting to be discovered.

Lofotr Vikingmuseum, Lofoten - Norway

Viking villages in Norway

It’s no secret that there’s a strong Viking history in Norway. Even though the Viking era came to an end during the 11th century, the legacy of Vikings lives on. For those interested in learning more about Viking history, culture and tradition, there are several attractions ranging from museums and historical sites to Viking villages that bring history to life and give you a sense of stepping back in time to the Viking Age.

Viking  - Norway

Viking Travels

Many tourists who travel to Norway are eager to learn more about the history of the Vikings. And, we can’t blame them. The Vikings were fascinating, complex people. Although they are primarily known as fierce warriors, they also engaged in trade and transport across much of Europe and built incredibly advanced ships that fascinate historians to this day. Here is some of what we know about how and where the Vikings traveled during the late 8th to the 11th century.

Viking  - Norway

Medieval Viking feasts

A feast is a huge celebratory dinner with everything served in abundance. The Vikings were famed for their glutinous indulgence of food and habit of eagerly drinking beer or mead wine with every meal.