Nestled within the annals of time, the Viking era stands as an enigmatic and captivating chapter in the history of Scandinavia. In a period characterized by both daring seafaring expeditions and profound cultural transformation, the Vikings left an indelible mark on the lands they traversed and the realms they conquered. From the fierce warriors who pillaged and plundered to the intrepid explorers who discovered uncharted territories, the Vikings’ legacy reverberates through the tapestry of Scandinavian history.
This article delves into one of the heartland areas of the Vikings, the Stockholm region, and guides you to the different Viking sights and destinations that you can visit in Stockholm over a weekend or a longer trip. The early Swedish kingdom (Svea rike) formed out of what is now the Stockholm and Mälardalen region with the settlements of Birka, Sigtuna, and Uppsala being centers of these developments.
Tours for Viking History Enthusiasts
The majority of Viking sights around Stockholm are either complicated or impossible to reach with public transportation. Thankfully, there are a few tour companies that operate tours with hotel pick up and drop off from the Stockholm city center. The oldest operational company is called STOEX and they operated the first Viking history tour that took guests out into the Swedish countryside more than 10 years ago. There tour takes you to runestones, gravesites, a Viking assembly, archaeological farm remnants, the town of Sigtuna, and the royal burial mounds of Uppsala.
Viking Sights in the Stockholm region
Sigtuna – Where Sweden begins.
Sigtuna, situated by Lake Mälaren just north of Stockholm, boasts a history spanning over a thousand years as Sweden’s oldest remaining town. Founded in the Viking Age by King Erik the Victorious, it quickly flourished into a hub of trade and culture, linking Scandinavia to the wider world. This ancient town is filled with preserved wooden buildings, and St. Mary’s medieval church offers a window into Sweden’s medieval and Viking past. As a trading center, Sigtuna attracted people from diverse cultures, leaving an enduring imprint on its customs and architecture. Archaeological excavations, much like those in Birka (another Viking settlement in east Sweden), have unveiled Sigtuna’s history.
The Sigtuna Museum houses a collection of artifacts shedding light on daily life, trade networks, and regional connections stretching down to modern-day Istanbul. While Sigtuna’s prominence waned over time, its heritage and importance for Swedish history make it a place well worth a day trip from Stockholm. Today, it effortlessly blends its rich history with contemporary life, welcoming visitors to explore boutiques, dine in diverse restaurants, and engage in cultural events. Sigtuna’s legacy endures through preservation, ongoing research, and cultural activities, making it a cherished destination for history enthusiasts and travelers alike. As you wander its ancient streets and historical sites, you connect with the generations that once called this vibrant townhome.
Jarlabanke’s Bridge – A power demonstration north of Stockholm
In the northern suburbs of Stockholm lies Jarlabanki’s well-preserved Viking Age causeway bridge, a testament to the power and religious beliefs of this Viking lord. Jarlabanki, a member of a Christian Viking (yes, some Vikings did not believe in the old Pagan gods) aristocratic family in Täby, built the bridge in the 11th century to connect lands around Lake Vallentuna.
This bridge, measuring 150 meters, served both practical and symbolic purposes, helping communities unite and securing Jarlabanki’s authority. Jarlabanki’s desire for remembrance and eternal salvation as a Christian is evident in the runestones he commissioned, stating that the bridge was built for his soul. Such bridges were common in Viking times and often tied to spiritual well-being, reflecting the importance of community and faith. Despite being renowned for their longships, Viking bridge-building was also significant in its historical context. Jarlabanki’s project represented a consolidation of societal changes, demonstrating his power and influence.
The question of Jarlabanki’s personality arises, as he raised runestones in his memory during his lifetime, a rarity(or at least unusual) in Viking culture. While most runestones commemorate deceased relatives, it’s possible that Jarlabanki, who gained power in his early twenties, sought to establish himself as a worthy local earl. The dating of Jarlabanki’s runestones suggests he was relatively young when he raised them, highlighting his early achievements. The accuracy of the dating system used is subject to debate, but it places the bridge rune stones in the late Viking Age (1020-1050 AD), while another nearby runestone suggests Jarlabanki’s death around 1060-1100 AD.
Granby – An insight into Viking farm life
Granby is an archaeological Viking site located just a 40-minute car ride north of Stockholm (you can take the train from Stockholm Östra to Lindholmen and walk for 20 minutes as well). There are many known farm sites where the Vikings have lived, but few of them are as well preserved as Granby. Here you find a set of house foundations lined up on a hill, giving you a strong visualization of how the site could have looked like a thousand years ago.
Imagine the wooden longhouse walls and ceilings rising above you as you walk into the stone foundations. Feel the presence of Finnvid and other Vikings as you walk through the building and take a look at the runestone outside of it to learn about the family.
Arkils tingstad – A place for law and order
Want to see a place where Vikings met to rule? One of the best-preserved ting sites in the world is only about half an hour north of Stockholm in the community of Vallentuna. This old assembly is located by the lakeside of Vallentunasjön and offers pretty tranquil views of Swedish nature. The Vikings who lived in the local area could take their boats to the ting meetings. The “ting” was a legal local institution in the Viking society where all free men had the right to raise concerns and take part in the political process.
The scholars continue to debate the details and how to regard the social structure of the Viking society, but the ting system contained at least elements comparable to Athenian democracy and some people would go even further and say that the roots of modern Swedish democracy lie in our Viking past.
Immersive Viking Activities
Viking-Themed Dining at Aifur Krog och Bar
Aifur Krog och Bar is a Viking-themed restaurant located in Stockholm’s Old Town, Gamla Stan. It offers an immersive dining experience with a Viking longhouse atmosphere, complete with traditional decor, meads, and Viking-inspired cuisine. Guests can enjoy dishes like smoked reindeer and elk meat while embracing the Viking spirit by eating with their hands and drinking from horns. Live Viking entertainment adds to the unique atmosphere, making it a popular destination for those interested in Nordic history and culture.
The Viking Museum – prepare for a historic ride
The Viking Museum in Stockholm is an engaging interactive attraction dedicated to sharing the Viking story. With a lot of pedagogical displays, the museum gives you a more profound understanding of the Vikings and their impact on World History. You can also go on an amusement park-like ride, but at a slower tempo, and experience the story of a Viking man who went over to Turkey to trade, raid, and serve in the army of the Byzantine emperor. Additionally, Vikingaliv offers a restaurant with food and drinks inspired by the Viking Age, as well as a shop with Viking-related products and souvenirs.
The museum is designed to appeal to both adults and children and has become popular among locals and tourists interested in the Viking Age and its cultural heritage. To get the latest information on opening hours and events, it is always recommended to visit the official Vikingaliv website.
Dive into thousands of Viking items at the Swedish History Museum
The Swedish History Museum’s Viking exhibition is a renowned showcase of artifacts from the Birka archaeological site, situated on Björkö Island in Lake Mälaren, a significant Viking trading center. The collection provides valuable insights into Viking society, trade networks, and daily life. Featuring a diverse array of Viking artifacts, including weapons, tools, jewelry, and everyday items, the exhibition offers visitors a comprehensive understanding of the craftsmanship and technological advancements of the Viking Age. Additionally, the display may include models or reconstructions of Viking ships, emphasizing the importance of maritime activities, exploration, and trade. Interactive displays, such as virtual reconstructions and touchscreens, contribute to a more immersive experience.
The exhibition explores themes of seafaring exploration and extensive trade networks characterizing the Viking Age, detailing the Vikings’ journeys to distant lands and their interactions with other cultures. Beyond the stereotypical warrior image, the exhibition delves into the social structure, religious beliefs, and cultural practices of Viking society.
See living “Vikings” at Gunnes gård
Want to see how archaeologists think the Vikings lived their everyday lives? Then you should take the train from Stockholm to Upplands Väsby and visit Gunnes farm. This is a recreated settlement that is almost completely based on the excavations close to Bålsta on the E18 highway a bit northwest of Stockholm. The reconstructed Viking houses were built in a well-chosen location in the neighborhood of Smedby (in the northern suburb of Upplands Väsby). This was the location of an actual Viking farm a thousand years ago and burial fields surround the reconstructed buildings.
Not getting enough excitement from seeing only buildings? Fear not, professional reenactors are working daily on the farm to take care of real animals (old Swedish breeds similar to the ones that existed in the Viking age). In this sense, Gunnes farm is a living Viking farm that is run by archeologists and historians to create the as historically correct experience possible for you and other guests. You can arrange a guided tour with them if you are coming as a group, or just walk in individually during their opening hours (open from April to September).
A tour like this while you are in Sweden is a great part to add to your travel itinerary. It’s a way to expand your knowledge and explore parts of this region you otherwise might have not even thought about.
This article originally appeared on The World Overload. Featured Photo Credit: Unsplash