The world’s oldest Viking ship is on display at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, along with many other artifacts from the era. It's well worth a visit.
PLEASE NOTE: The museum has closed its doors for a multi-year renovation and extension project. It will reopen in 2025 as the Museum of the Viking Age. We're leaving this story here just for information.
The Norwegian capital is well-known for its museums. The viking ship museum tops the wish lists of many visitors. I took a trip down to find out why it's one of Oslo's top museums.
Ships defined the Viking Age
Norsemen raided many parts of Europe between the late 700s and 1066, from England to Turkey. The period is commonly known as the Viking age or era.
The Vikings pillaged many countries in Europe in search of colonisation and conquest. They used the rivers and the seas as gateways to new lands, often travelling thousands of miles in their own wooden ships.
Read more: Famous Vikings from History
The Vikings were admired for their advanced ship building techniques and their general seafaring abilities. Both can be explored by visiting the Viking Ship Museum in Bygdøy, a peninsula on the western side of Oslo.
A few hours wandering around the the museum is a great way to learn more about the Viking era and the great ships they built. Let's take a look at what's inside:
There are three main ships on display: the Oseberg, the Gokstad and the Tune. Each vessel has its own characteristics and its own story to tell.
The Oseberg Viking ship was uncovered in 1903 and is the most decorative of the three ships. It is made almost entirely of oak, and its prow and stern feature intricate animal detailing and decorations.
This type of fine detail has caused some scholars to assert that such a beautiful vessel would almost certainly have been reserved for important individuals such as the aristocracy. On the deck there was room for some 30 oarsmen who would power it the through the waves.
The Gokstad Viking ship was discovered in Sandefjord in 1879 under a pile of earth known as ‘the king’s mound’. Following its excavation, it was dismantled and then reassembled piece by piece using steam to return to its original shape.
However, some sections of the ship were in such bad condition that they had to be replaced by new timber.
The Tune ship was unearthed on a small island near Fredrikstad in 1867, before being moved to Olso on a floating barge. It is smaller than the Oseberg and Gokstad ships, and as a result, it is presumed that it was faster. It was likely used to ferry people about across short distances.
Each ship is located in its own room, each containing smaller collections from the same excavations.
In the room that houses the Oseberg, the remains of the two women can be viewed. Both were laid to rest alongside the ship in the same mound. Excavations of the women’s belongings, such as clothes, combs and kitchen utensils provide a fascinating insight into their lives.
In another room, a short screening offers an eye into the world of the Vikings, their ships, voyages and numerous raids.
The museum offers free audio guides which can be picked up at the entrance. In addition, a brochure, available in 14 different languages, can be downloaded.
You can pick up your Viking salt and souvenirs from the gift shop located by the exit/entrance. And outside there is a small cafe where Norwegian waffles come highly recommended.
The new museum and extension
Because of the popularity of the museum, plans are afoot for an extension. The expanded museum will be open to the public in 2025.
A new building will be built, making a total area of 13,000 m2, and an exhibition area of approximately 5,000m2. The new plans also include a modern restaurant, a dedicated theatre screening area, laboratories and a larger gift shop.
How to get there and opening times
The museum is located at Frederiks gate 2, Bygdøy. It's only a short bus or boat ride away from Olso city centre.
Travelling by boat to Bygdøy from the centre is definitely more fun and scenic. The landing stage is located in front of City Hall, and tickets cost just 50kr one way.
The museum is located a short walk up the hill from the boat terminal in Bygdøy and is open seven days a week: 1 May to September: 09:00 to 18:00 and 1 October to 30 April: 10:00 to 16:00. But is closed on 1 January, 6 February and 13 February.
NOTE: The museum closes on 1 October, 2021 for the multi-year renovation and extension project.