Vikings tend to conjure up images of swashbuckling Norse pirates sporting horned helmets brandishing swords and shields. Often associated with the hearty and rugged Scandinavian countries such as Denmark and Norway, you wouldn’t really think there’s much history in England. However, there’s one city in particular that draws a huge link to the Viking past — the beautiful city of York.

A little history

Known for its ancient fortified walls lining the banks of the River Ouse and the imposing towers of York Minster, York has been conquered and settled many times over the past millennia. During the Roman empire, York was a military stronghold. When the Northumbrians took over, the city was in decline and disrepair. They transformed York into a prosperous trading city, which drew attention from the Vikings across the North Sea.

In 866, Danish Vikings invaded the quiet East Anglian coastline (not far from RAF Lakenheath). They plundered and pillaged their way north, eventually clobbering their way to victory in York led by Ivar the Boneless. When the dust settled, the city was renamed Jorvik — from which the name “York” is derived. Those who chose to stay were farmers, merchants and tradesmen who brought more prosperity to the region. At one point, it was the second-most populous region behind London, and the capital of the Viking territory in Great Britain. Unfortunately, the peace wouldn’t last. In 954, the Anglo-Saxons mounted an offensive and drove the Vikings from York. There were attempts in the 11th century for the Vikings to once again ascend to the throne; however, they were futile at best.

Jorvik Viking Centre

Located right in the city center is the Jorvik Viking Centre. Filled with life-sized dioramas, exhibits feature what a day in the life of the average Viking settler in the region was like. Visitors are whisked through the various rooms and get a literal feel of how things were—smells, temperatures and visuals. Once the ride is done, you can wander through the museum which boasts hundreds of artifacts on display and plenty of interactive displays to discover. During opening hours, the museum tends to get a little busy and there may be a wait. You can avoid the line and purchase tickets ahead of time online.

Jorvik Viking Festival

Once a Viking, always a Viking! Every year during the second week of February, York pulls out all the stops and celebrates its Viking heritage with gusto! The Jorvik Viking Festival has seen more than 20 million visitors in its 35-year history. Complete with living history encampments, combat demonstrations, sword making, mythology lessons and even a candlelit feast for the voyagers, the festival truly has something for everyone of all ages. Although most events are free of charge, there are a few special ones which charge a nominal fee.

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