On the trail of Vikings
September 12, 2013 10:22 AM   Subscribe

We're planning a three-week trip to Scandinavia next summer, with the Vikings legends as our guide. But, um, where do we find Vikings?

"We" consists of three Americans: me, my husband, and our daughter, who will turn eleven on the trip.

Our daughter's fourth-grade class is studying the Viking legends, and our goal is to connect what she's learning in school with this magnificent part of the world. We're a little unsure how to do this, however.

We'd like to spend time doing outdoor activities (kayaking, bareboat charter sailing, hiking) and some in the cities (Oslo's opera, biking in Stockholm). We are all experienced travelers and kayakers, swimmers, and sailors. We aren't high maintenance, but we're not Green Tortoise travelers anymore, either. The preliminary plan is to fly to Bergen, spend a week kayaking in the fjords, take a train to Oslo, then go to Stockholm, and then over to Finland. We'll likely fly home from St. Petersburg. This is the barebones itinerary, and your experience will help flesh that out. We are especially interested in how to tie in the Viking legends explicitly.

Any and all recommendations would be most appreciated, including travel tips, specific ways to experience the Viking legends today, favorite places to stay or visit, best museums, what to avoid, and how to not use up our entire year's salary on this trip.
posted by Capri to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The train from Oslo to Bergen was the highlight of my Norway trip last year. The viking ship museum in Oslo was fun, so definitly hit that up.

Scandinavia is gorgeous, but be prepared for the price shock- I self catered for a week, and blew out my food budget by the second grocery trip in Norway
posted by larthegreat at 10:36 AM on September 12, 2013

There are burial mounds in Uppsala, which is a nice place anyway. I've been to the site in Vasteras, Anundshog, and it was a nice day out. (This is close to Goteborg, my favorite place in the world, which you may or may not be stopping in. You should, it's lovely in the summer.)

I don't know how you hit all four countries without spending a year's salary. It'd be substantially cheaper to do Norway-Sweden OR Sweden-Finland OR Finland-StPetersburg, and maybe an add-on of Denmark on the first two itineraries. Unless you're planning to fly, the travel times between each are day-eaters. I've done Stockholm-Helsinki by ferry, it was dreadful. Then I bussed from Helsinki to Leningrad, and that was also dreadful (though these days I suppose there are places to stop along the way).

And yes, cost of basic survival is significant. My understanding from Norwegian friends is that anybody who lives within striking distance of Sweden buys their groceries there, where "cheap" is only relative; I'm not sure where Finland falls on the spectrum.

And beware August. Some areas basically switch to holiday schedules for public transportation, open hours at museums and attractions, etc, as everyone's in Spain for the month.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2013

Best answer: The Viking Ship museum in Oslo is a must visit and is super, super cool. There is also one in Roskilde, Denmark, which I haven't been to.

Other boat-y museums in Oslo include the Kon-Tiki Museum, which is near the Viking Ship Museum. This one deals with Thor Heyerdahl's voyage across the Atlantic on a reed boat to see how prehistoric humans would have made their way across. This isn't Viking-related, but it IS very cool.

The City Hall is Oslo is very very cool and has some visual representations of Norwegian history/legends on it. Can't remember whether anything is specifically viking related, but there's probably a good chance. This was my favourite thing I saw in Oslo.

Things do cost $1M (I exaggerate, but I also paid the equivalent of $5 for a glass of tap water in Copenhagen, so yeah), but if you buy the city cards in the cities, that will cover your public transit and your museum entry fee if you visit as much as you can. The Oslo bike share is also awesome and you can sign out cards to use it from the tourism office.

I can't remember anything specific that I saw related to vikings in Stockholm, Helsinki or St Petersburg, but if I do remember something I'll pipe in later.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:47 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You may find my previous AskMe helpful. The book I ended up getting the most out of was the Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings.

Your itinerary sounds good. Bergen is an awesome tourist destination. Be prepared for everything in Norway to seem terribly expensive. The Viking Ship museum in Oslo is definitely a must-visit for you. It's not Vikings, but the nearby Fram Museum is worth a visit too for the history of polar exploration.
posted by Nelson at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2013

Best answer: You should go to Birka; more info here. It's about a 2-hour boat ride from Stockholm, and during the summer, there are historical re-enactors there, and also walking tours with archaeologists. Quite fun, and great for kids.
posted by mogget at 11:34 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I remember being very impressed with the Vasa Ship museum in Stockholm. It's 17th century so it might be a bit outside the Viking timeframe, but it's still really cool.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2013

I came to suggest Birka, also.
posted by anastasiav at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2013

Best answer: I think I've recommended Gotland here before. Lots of cool stuff and an absolutely gorgeous place. The medieval churches and walled city are something to see.
posted by Cuke at 11:51 AM on September 12, 2013

Best answer: The Destination Viking website might have some ideas.

Maybe psych yourselves up for the trip by watching this documentary about a guy in Minnesota who built a replica Viking ship that sailed all the way to Norway?
posted by bbq_ribs at 12:09 PM on September 12, 2013

Response by poster: Superb answers, all! Many, many thanks!
posted by Capri at 10:07 PM on September 12, 2013

The Midgard Historical Center in Borre is situated right next to Borre mound cemetery which has the biggest collection of burial mounds in Scandinavia. They have different reenactments and activities throughout the year. Coincidentally it's where I'm from...
posted by Harald74 at 5:59 AM on September 13, 2013

Best answer: Thirding the recommendation for Birka! I was there this summer and really enjoyed it. Stockholms Historiska museet complements a visit to Birka well; lots of interesting Viking-age items to be found here.

Warmly suggested by our Birka tourguide (I haven't had a chance yet to check it out myself, sadly): Aifur, the only Viking-themed restaurant in all of Sweden. And while you're in Gamla Stan (the old town) anyway, keep a look out for this prominently hidden 11th century runestone!
posted by Caconym at 6:55 AM on September 13, 2013

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