So you want to be a Viking

Exploring Viking Roots at Viking Museums Around Scandinavia

(Originally posted in 2015, updated June 2018)

Or where to go to learn about your fierce ancestors in Scandinavia. Not your ancestors you say? Could be! Read my last post for a wee bit of ancestral insight. So when in Rome – you know – you learn about Romans. And Italians and the Renaissance and such. (Can’t wait to show my kids!) When in Scandi-land, you learn about Vikings. And at every turn, there seems to be a Viking Museum. Ok, slight exaggeration. But we’ve been to three in the past 7 months. Not because we’re obsessed with the axe-wielding, long-haired, long-boat rowing, ancient warrior nation. I mean – I adore THOR. Especially Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor in the modern Marvel adaptation of the Avengers. We almost named our first born son Thor. Almost. Not really. But it is a good story. Ask me sometime. And there’s Oden (Thor’s dad) who gets his own day here – every week – on Onsdag. Or Wednesday in Danish. He inspires me to wander.


But the Vikings are inspiring. Why? Don’t think so? Only know their legacy as being a fierce warring society who negotiated through battle? Not your thing? Thor’s Hammer is pretty infamous. But as it turned out, even with their nomadic warring ways, there was enough social structure to allow for stratification of their society. As an Art Historian… oh yeah – did I tell you I studied Art History? And taught kids about master artists and cultures? I didn’t? Oh. Consider yourself learned. Anyway – as an Art Historian, I can place a higher value on a civilization able to create beautiful artwork in the midst of a seemingly nomadic and chaotic culture such as the Vikings. Not only the amazingly beautiful and seaworthy vessels in which they crossed great expanses of water (FRIGID at times) that exhibited greatly skilled woodworking. But numerous examples of metalsmithing and goldwork and weaving and tapestries worthy of lauding and study. Scintillating to me! Yawns from my kids. Yawns from you too? Look at the pictures, maybe I’ll sway you.

Ok – so you aren’t an Art Historian. And you have kids. Maybe your kids are like my kids and don’t LOVE museums. And you are just a tourist, short on time and just want to know WHICH Viking Museet to visit. Ok. I hear you. The following offers a wee review of the following three:

Vikingeskibs Museet i Roskilde – Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark
Vikingskipshuset på Bygdøy – Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway
Vikingemuseet Ladby – Viking Ship Burial, Ladby, Denmark

Now there are Viking exhibits at the National History Museum in Copenhagen and it will give you great insight into the Viking culture as well, if you are looking for something more along your Baltic cruise tour route or hadn’t planned on excursioning out of Copenhagen. But I haven’t been there yet, so won’t include its review.

If I could take the best of all three and put it into one museum – I would advise you to go there. Alas – here are the pro’s and cons of each of the aforementioned museums.

Vikingeskibs Museet i Roskilde | Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, Denmark

Vindeboder 12,  DK-4000 Roskilde

Open Daily | 10:00 – 16:00
Summer and holiday hours | 10:00 – 17:00
Closed 24, 25, 31 December

Admission | Varies between 80 DKK and 130 DKK depending on time of year. Children under 17 are free.

This was our first Viking Museum experience. It was a cold, but sunny day trip to Roskilde in late December. The Ship Museum sits on the water with great views of the Roskilde Fjord (this is no Norwegian Fjord with majestic cliffs, but on the water nonetheless.) Housed in the main room with large windows overlooking the Fjord are the partially restored remains of vessels reclaimed from the depths of the water outside. Impressive in their size, if not representation. I have found it harder for children to fill in the “missing” parts in their head and recreate the entire vessel themselves. There are several dioramas explaining the events that necessitated the sinking of the displayed vessels and it was our first foray into who’s Vikings were “better” or “worse.” Roskilde Museum and the ships therein are from an attack on Danish Vikings by those pesky Norwegian Vikings who would later be under Danish rule until the Swedes took over. Did you know modern Norway was not independent until 1905? I didn’t. But that’s another history. A full representation of the main ship sits outside on the lawn, but proximity to the main museum made it difficult to connect the parts inside for the children. In the warmer months, there is an outdoor shipbuilding section where visitors can watch restoration. And my son was able to row in one of the available vessels with classmates on his secondary school trip this spring. You can too if the weather is right. Check in advance. My tween daughter’s favorite part of this museum was the try on Viking clothes opportunity and spell your name in runes activity. I appreciated the hands-on possibilities here in Roskilde.


Vikingskipshuset på Bygdøy | Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway

Museum of Cultural History, Frederiks gate 2, 0164 Oslo Norway

Open Daily |
1 May – 30 September 09:00 – 18:00
1 October – 30 April 10:00 – 16:00

Admission | Adults: NOK 100; Students/Seniors: NOK 80; Children under 18: Free

When in Oslo – buy the Oslo Pass. (I’ll break it out for you why in a future post. Just trust me now.) With it you have access to the Viking Ship Museum on Bygdøy. If you don’t buy the Oslo Pass – I would advise passing on this Ship Museum with kids. (Or if its the only Viking Museum you’ve planned on your Scandinavian tour – then hit it.) I will admit that it is the best representation of a fully restored Viking vessel. The main ship and the restored woodwork is beautiful. There are many accompanying artifacts exhibiting the amazing skill and artisanry that was accomplished at this time. But that is the Art Historian in me talking. My kids were bored. Yes – the ship is BIG. And the woodwork is amazing. But there is little to integrate or interest or engage children here beyond the gift shop. Of the three ship museums we visited on the Bygdøy museum loop (not including the Maritime museum) this was lowest on their list.

Vikingemuseet Ladby | Viking Ship Burial, Ladby, Denmark

Vikingevej 123, 5300 Kerteminde Denmark

Opening Hours |
September – May: Tues – Sun 10:00 – 16:00
June – August: Every day 10:00 – 17:00

Admission | Adults: 70DKK, Students or Groups 60DKK, Children under 18 free.

Ladby Ship Burial Museum
Ladby Ship Burial Museum

This was our most recent escapade during a weekend outing on Fyn – the beautiful island between Sjælland (where Copenhagen sits) and Jutland (the part of Denmark attached to continental Europe.) Ladby is but a spot on a map outside the darling town of Kerteminde where we stayed. At this museum, the child is king. Integrated activities lead the interested child around the entire property which is known for the 900 AD burial mound of an ancient Viking ruler. Interesting exhibits show the full-scale scene when the King would have been buried. See this first before visiting the underground lair where the original vessel has never been moved. (NOTE: to small children the life-size horses shown bloodily slain and piled in the vessel with the dead king and his dead servant (all to help him with the journey to Valhalla you know) may be disconcerting. If you know this of your child, maybe skip the downstairs section of this museum.) The rest can be enjoyed without it. Super fun for all my kids – even the snarky teenagery one – were the little Viking ship wagon carts to tow them the 400 meters out to the burial mound. Kids who are interested can answer questions marked around the site and using Thor’s “Mjølner” hammer to nail through the correct rune and return to the front desk for a prize at the end. On certain days in the summer – look on the website – but Thursday (THOR’S DAY) was one of them for sure – there are even more orchestrated activities for children. We were sad to miss the archery tent on the lawn below the mound. Take a picnic and let the kids roll down the hill, play on the little rocking horses or climb on the dragon. PS – its FREE for kids under 18. And only 70 DKK for adults. A bargain by Danish standards.

All in all – learning about Vikings should be fun, engaging and educational. Right? When Ladby’s reconstruction of the buried ship is completed in the shipyard – it will be a perfectly well-rounded Viking experience. Maybe only some bearded guys with shields and axes could be better. Have you been to these? Did you family enjoy? Been to a better one that I might be able to convince my kids to check out? Please share below. If you have any other questions, I’m happy to try to help. Below are more glimpses of kids enjoying Ladby. Cheers from Denmark! – Erin

Linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey’s #MondayEscapes #8 this week. Check them out and the linkup for more inspiring places to put on your list!

My Travel Monkey
the Pigeon Pair and Me


59 thoughts on “So you want to be a Viking

  1. How cool that you studies Art History 😀
    I have been only once to a Viking Museum… in Stockholm, the famous Vaasa Museum. I loved it 😀 and I normally don’t like museums!
    And isnt such a bad name 😀 hahahaha

    Great post!

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes 🙂

  2. I am a bit fascinated by Vikings – I’ve seen a couple of exhibitions with my daughter (both while she was under three though, so I don’t think she really appreciated it) but would love to visit Scandinavia and try something a bit more hands on one day. Shall hang on to this for that day! #culturedkids

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes! Fun to learn about the Vikings from the source! And I love knowing that they aren’t just axe-wielding bearded guys in fur boots. They had serious skills! Cheers from Denmark, Erin

  3. That’s a good tip about the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. We’re visiting the city in February, so I’ll make sure we consider the other options on offer too. Thor’s a great name, by the way. I’d definitely call a child of mine Thor! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Haha Nell! Thor has such a funny legacy in our house! And now our son plays lacrosse in Denmark with some Thors! It’s a little surreal. We loved Oslo – buy the pass – and check out the Kontiki museum and Fram museum – awesome little places that you wouldn’t visit otherwise! Cheers, Erin

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It has been a huge part of our experience here – my daughter went to Viking camp with her class last year for the week!

  4. Pingback: Faraway Files #25 - oregon girl around the world

  5. Loving this information – so helpful! I love a bit of Viking action. There’s a great museum in York in the north of England that explores the lives of the Norse “invaders” I think they call them! It’s fully interactive including smells! They are not nice!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      BAHAHAHA! My daughter spent a week at Viking camp with her class last year and I will admit the smells she returned with weren’t so savory either. 😉

  6. Man Vs Globe

    Great post! I’ll be in Oslo in a couple of weeks so i’m hoping to get my viking history fix there. It’s a shame the kids didn;t like the Viking Ship Museum too much but i think it’ll be right up my street!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes – there wasn’t anything to touch, do, try on or interact with at that one – but it is a really amazing collection of super cool Viking relics. AND that ship though. It’s gorgeous! Have a great time. And if you buy the museum pass – check out the Kon Tiki museum and Fram museum too – we liked those better! Thor Heyerdahl rocked.

  7. Viking history is fascinating! My husband took a bunch of courses in Viking sagas, so he’s very knowledgeable but I’ve enjoyed learning about the history, and seeing the preserved ships in Oslo was definitely a highlight! #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      As Americans, our knowledge of Vikings was mostly from movies and comics unfortunately. It has been so interesting learning more about the culture while living here!

  8. I have only been to the Viking museum in York in the UK. It would feel much more authentic to visit one in Denmark or Norway. Denmark is on our wish list, so I will have to remember these when we visit. #FarawayFiles

  9. Hmmm, not sure I was to be a Viking, but I might like to learn more about them! There was a viking museum in York, which apparently is quite famous, however it was closed for renovation during our visit… #farawayfiles

  10. My oldest definitely wants to be a Viking! He doesn’t remember visiting Roskilde, or the National Museum in CPH, while we lived in Denmark. The Ladby museum seems fantastic though – and free for children under 18! Until we get him over there though, we’ll check out Dublinia, about Ireland’s Viking heritage 😉 x

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Oooh – would love to read about that! I find it fascinating how far the Viking reach spread!

  11. Mom Of Two Little Girls

    Great post. I used to read far too many historical romance novels before I was a mum. I’d love to learn more about the real vikings.

  12. Clare Thomson

    We want to be Vikings! Actually, I’m convinced I’m descended from them – you know, that love of the sea and the fact that my father’s got dupuytrens, the ‘Viking’ disease! All these museums sound good to me. My kids and I LOVED the Viking exhibition they had at the British Museum a couple of years ago. #FarawayFiles

  13. Wherejogoes

    Loving the viking vibe. The reason we never made it to Malmo when we were in Copenhagen was because we went to Roskilde instead! It really was truly amazing to see the actual Viking ship and the story of it’s preservation in the ice is so interesting. We did dress up as vikings, even though we had no kids with us (don’t tell anyone). Really enjoyed reading this would love to visit the other Viking places too. #FarawayFiles

  14. Vikings actually show up a lot in Scottish History so it is very likely indeed that I have some viking in my bloodline! We learned about the vikings on and off at school so I’ve always had a slight fascination with them. Chris Hemsworth is great also 😉 #farawayfiles

  15. Whenever I think of Vikings I always think of How to Train Your Dragon. My husband would love to visit a Viking Museum. Although I’m not really interested in Vikings, it would be pretty interesting to visit. #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Amazing how far their influence spread! I’ve heard wonderful things about Newfoundland!

  16. tracystravels10

    we were just talking about visiting York as the Viking museum is opening soon. Definitely going to have to visit. I am sure my friend mentioned a viking museum outside Aarhus but we just didn’t have the time to go (another great excuse to return to Denmark!!) Enjoy Skagen – such a gorgeous place to spend Easter!

  17. Have to admire vikings! I mean, they survived and thrived in very inhospitable (at least during winter) areas. I think I have told you we have a Danish town here in California and there is quite some history about Vikings at the local museum. And, who knows how many people have Viking blood? Most of the people I know do their DNA ancestry testing and they end up surprised because they are something they never expected. #FarawayFiles

  18. Yes I want to be a Viking…because I don’t know anything about them except that they have long red hair! Err, generalisation? Yeah, perhaps (*sheepish smile*) I know quite a bit about Roman, Greek and Islamic civilisation but nothing much about Viking. I have seen pics of the Viking Museum in Oslo, would love to see it personally, adding it to my bucket list 🙂 #farawayfiles

  19. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    We enjoyed the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo but, you’re right, we did have an Oslo Pass! I thought it was a great museum to go ‘wow’ and then, after a quick canter round, leave to visit the next one, We preferred the Kon-Tiki museum, finding out all about that other famous Thor!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Yes! The Kon-Tiki museum was a definite surprise and delight – it was well-executed, small and contained and really interesting!

  20. I’ve been to the Viking Museum in the Lofoten Islands and it was so interesting! I’m also going to visit the old burial grounds in Aalborg next week and I’m totally excited for that 🙂 The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is still on my list and I guess I should head to Roskilde one day as well!!

  21. I LOVE that you always find a way to get your kiddos interested in history and museums. I don’t like museums and I’m an adult… maybe I should start trying out the kid activities. 😉 #farawayfiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Optimal word here is – I always TRY to get my kids interested. It doesn’t always work!

  22. I love the Viking art, especially the metal-work, which I find astounding when you consider the tools & light the artisans were working with at that time. I’m sure my boys would have loved the museums you talk about – even the downstairs section! #FarawayFiles

  23. I thought I read this before.. Maybe I read but didn’t comment the last time.. Anyway #FarawayFiles brought me back here again. Vikingemuseet Ladby is on my Denmark itinerary already. Which reminds me, I haven’t booked a rental car!

  24. This is the post for me, I’m convinced I have Viking blood. One side of my family is Yorkshire and the other Norfolk. I’m tall and have enormous feet. Did I mention my collection of horned helmets (not really) #farawayfiles

  25. Pingback: 10 Darling Danish Towns you Don't Want to Miss in Denmark - oregon girl around the world

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.