10 ways to explore the world like a true Viking (but with more amenities)

No rowing required

By Lois Alter Mark,
 

With Season 5 of Vikings airing on the History Channel, there’s more interest than ever in the medieval seafarers. 

If you’re fascinated by these larger-than-life legends – or just want to visit their home countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden – the best place to get in touch with your inner Viking is probably on a Viking cruise. Like its namesake, the Norwegian-born ships are all about travel, exploration and new experiences.

Onboard, they pay homage to their heritage with nods to the Viking tradition in both design and craftsmanship – although the Vikings themselves would have killed for the luxury afforded passengers on these ships.  

With a host of itineraries like Viking Homelands, Into the Midnight Sun and In the Wake of the Vikings, you can trace the explorers’ trade routes or travel around the lands of their ancestry. You can even go on shore excursions that take you "On the Trail of Vikings" or to the "Viking Village of Gudvangen," and that let you experience "A Day in the Life of a Viking."

But, whether you opt for an ocean cruise or a river cruise on a Viking longboat, the only thing you’ll likely be raiding is the mini fridge in your well-appointed stateroom – where you can also watch Vikings via your on-demand entertainment system.

While listening to the show’s theme song, you’ll relate to the "More, give me more" lyrics and understand why the vast majority of Viking passengers come back again and again.  

Explore Viking history through the Bayeux Tapestry

The centerpiece of a Viking ocean ship is a replica of the famous Bayeux Tapestry — Photo courtesy of Viking

As you walk up and down the main stairs of any Viking ocean ship, take in the gory details of the Bayeux Tapestry replica, which extends eight decks high and is filled with gripping images that draw you in and ignite your curiosity. 

The original Bayeux Tapestry, one of the most famous works of medieval art, is more than 900 years old and commemorates the Norman Conquest – from the side of the Normans (who were originally Vikings) – in intricately embroidered scenes. Its depiction of the Battle of Hastings is considered the fullest pictorial of a medieval battle in existence, and its representation of the ultimate Viking victory is empowering for everyone on board. 

Immerse yourself in Norse mythology and afternoon tea

You'd be wise to have tea in the Wintergarden on Viking Ocean Cruises — Photo courtesy of Viking

Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, is central to Norse mythology. The gods traveled daily to this immense ash tree where they would hold court.

Its branches extended far into the heavens, while its trunk was supported by three roots that reached to important, faraway wells: the heavenly Uroarbrunnr; the natural mineral spring, Hvergelmir; and the well, Mimisbrunnr, the source of wisdom. According to legend, Odin, Father of the Gods, once hanged himself from this tree for nine nights to gain the knowledge of runes.

The holy Yggdrasil is represented in Viking’s Wintergarden, where guests gather daily for high tea at 4:00 pm. While nibbling on scones and finger sandwiches, take a look at the open-work partitions depicting the story of Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn.

These birds flew around the world, gathering information for Odin. Said to represent "thought" and "memory," respectively, they are shown flying across the very destinations to which your ship sails.

Bathe Like a Viking in the LivNordic Spa

Viking has the only snow grotto on the sea — Photo courtesy of Viking

It’s fake news that the Vikings had poor hygiene habits. In fact, they took baths way more frequently than their fellow Europeans, and excavations of Viking sites have uncovered all kinds of primitive grooming tools made from animal bones and antlers. 

In keeping with a centuries-old Nordic tradition, Viking has reinvented the at-sea spa experience to feature an invigorating hot and cold wellness experience, including a sauna, cold dip and the only snow grotto on a cruise ship.

Alternating between these extreme temperatures detoxes the body, relaxes muscles sore from sightseeing, and boosts circulation. The Vikings actually loved skiing and would have been all over the snow grotto.

Learn about the Vikings in the Viking Heritage Museum

The Viking Heritage Museum is a great place to spend a day at sea — Photo courtesy of Viking

You’ll have lots of opportunities to visit museums on your shore excursions but, while onboard your ocean ship, you can also spend time at the Viking Heritage Museum.

Browse the intimate display space to view a timeline of the Viking era, and get a glimpse into the lives of these warriors through replicas of their clothing, jewelry, coins and weaponry. There’s even a scale model of a Viking longship, which will make you appreciate just how far the industry has come.

Feast like a Viking

Chairman's Choice salmon is served daily in The Restaurant on Viking Ocean Cruises — Photo courtesy of Viking

Thanks to a healthy diet of fresh food, the Vikings were strong and hearty warriors. Salmon was a Viking staple, and it’s served daily in The Restaurant on Viking Cruises. 

A personal favorite of Viking Chairman, Torstein Hagen, the Chairman’s Choice features Norwegian poached salmon, pickled cucumber and chive sauce. You can also dine on traditional pickled herring in Mamsen’s, the Norwegian-style deli in the Explorer’s Lounge. Named after Hagen’s mother, it serves sweet and savory Scandinavian dishes following her personal recipes. 

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See an original Viking ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

The highlight of The Viking Museum in Oslo is an original Viking ship — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

Seeing the original Oseberg ship, which was built in the year 820, still standing proudly all these centuries later, simply takes your breath away and proves just how skilled the Vikings actually were. 

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is filled with treasures that will transport you back to the Viking Age. You'll be amazed to see the way the Vikings traveled, and will be very happy to then head back to your much more luxurious Viking ship. 

Participate in "A Day in the Life of a Viking" shore excursion

Visit a Viking longhouse in Aalborg, Denmark — Photo courtesy of Connie Downing

The Vikings founded Aalborg, Denmark in the late 900s, and when you dock here, you can head out of the city to experience "A Day in the Life of a Viking."

You’ll visit the Fyrkat reconstructed farm on the outskirts of the hometown of Viking King Harald Bluetooth and learn about the local traditions, chores and cultural practices dating back to the Viking era.

You’ll then get to see Lindholm Hoje, an ancient burial site featuring more than 700 graves and 150 stone ships, and watch history come alive at the museum exhibit. On the way back to the ship, you’ll get to sample the Vikings’ simple fare along with a glass of mead.

Sail through the fjords like a Viking

Sail through the fjords like the Vikings did — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

The Vikings were excellent navigators, using the sea for both trading and raiding. They knew how to maneuver their way through the narrow fjords, which acted as protection from rough waters and strong winds. 

Sailing through the archipelago on a Viking shore excursion in Stavanger, Norway is a must. The stunning scenery is highlighted by an up-close-and-personal view of Pulpit Rock, a breathtaking rock formation jutting out 2000 feet above the fjord. You’ll pass underneath towering waterfalls and, nourishing both body and soul, you’ll make a stop for waffles on the beach at Helleren.

Learn how to farm like a Viking

The Vikings were farmers, and you can experience life on a Norwegian farm on a Viking shore excursion — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

Although it’s not what they’re best known for, the Vikings were excellent farmers. They worked hard to raise the crops necessary to sustain all the humans and animals who lived with them. 

You can take a shore excursion to see what life is like on a traditional Norwegian farm. You’ll get a tour of Øvre Eide, an idyllic working farm nestled on the beautiful Jordal Lake, from the owner and get to meet the horses and sheep who share the property. He’ll give you an insider’s perspective on history and heritage, and treat you to a sweet snack of freshly-made almond pralines, pastries with berries and cream, and natural fruit juice, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

Create your own legend in Bergen

Bergen, home to Viking sagas, is a gorgeous stop on Viking cruises — Photo courtesy of iStock/scanrail

Surrounded by majestic mountains, fjords and glaciers, the beautiful city of Bergen, Norway was home to Viking sagas and will likely become home to many great stories of your own. 

Viking ocean ships berth next to Bryggen Wharf, a UNESCO site, so you can easily stroll along the historic waterfront. Take photos of the picturesque 18th-century wooden houses and visit the Hanseatic Museum, both part of your included tour. You’ll wonder why the Vikings ever wanted to leave.