On November 1st 866AD the city of York was invaded by Vikings. Upon conquering Northern England, the renamed Jorvik became the capital of a new Viking kingdom. The city remained under Viking rule for 100 years, during which it was rebuilt and prosperous. The Viking influence is evident still, through street names and landscapes, and celebrated in particular at the famous Jorvik Viking Centre. On the 15th to 23rd February, the city holds their annual Viking Festival as a further remembrance of its rich Norse heritage.
Now in its 36th year, this citywide celebration is the largest of its kind in Europe, and this time incorporates a great variety of goings on. There are re-enactments, workshops, talks, tours, markets and more; whether you’re already an enthusiast or stepping into the unknown, there’s sure to be something to be educated and entertained by. Similarly, the events attract all ages, with fun for children during these half-term dates, and interest for adults too. Here’s our rundown of how to make the most of it…
Starting with the obvious, a trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre is a must for any visitor or local to York. Throughout the year, this place welcomes thousands of families, schools, tourists and everyone else, making it one of York’s most popular attractions. The journey back in time is both informative and exciting, filled with special stories and ancient artefacts that bring the past to life. During the festival fortnight a range of extra exhibitions at Jorvik ramp it up further.
Elsewhere, enticing pop-up events are happening at various venues to immerse into the experience. These include the chance to eat and drink like a Viking, at the Nine Realms Bar, which raises a glass throughout the fortnight, and at Merchants Adventurers Hall, where the Banquet of the Voyagers serves up a veritable Viking feast. Involved in the festival feeding is unique York café bar Valhalla, a place which allows people to do this stuff all year round. With a name meaning ‘the hall of the slain’ in old Norse, Valhalla is a Viking themed space of rustic décor, long wooden tables, meat and cheese boards, lashings of ale and mead, and an atmosphere that can be as relaxed or raucous as you like.
Having put yourself in the world of the Vikings for the day, weekend, week or fortnight, you’ll surely want some memorabilia to remember it by, or perhaps to explore it further. York has a few shops that are a wonder to visit, and a temptation to leave fully stocked. The York Vikings, on the city’s most famous street Shambles, sells curios and souvenirs such as Viking t-shirt, drinking goblets and Norse statues. Alongside these are medieval collectables, handmade pewter jewellery and other items that may interest the Viking fantasist, such as Game of Thrones pieces.
Another place mixing modern interests with Viking history, York Armoury covers a whole range of arms and armour. These include tv and film, gaming, anime and manga, as well as historical clothing, weapons and collectables from various eras. Unsurprisingly, Vikings feature heavily within this, with a collection of helmets, swords, shields, accessories and more. An impressive look.
Joining these, Asgard was opened last year by a Viking enthusiast and here his passion is evident. Asgard recreate wonderfully studied replicas of Viking archaeology, and hand make more modern items that represent the period, such as knotwork t-shirts, tattoo designs, pewter jewellery, fun merchandise, and bespoke requests. Complete with throne and raven, Asgard are a welcome addition to the abundance of Viking offerings in York. The Jorvik Viking Festival is the perfect excuse to discover them all.