Viking ship museum of Roskilde

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The most famous collection of ships from the Viking era in Denmark is found at a museum in the old town of Roskilde which can easily be reached on a day trip from Copenhagen.

The museum building

The museum is centered around no less than 5 old Viking ships which were found in the waters just outside Roskilde in 1962. When the ships were first found you actually thought there was 6 ships but it turned out that two of the ships were actually just two parts of the same very long ship.

A ship with much of the original wood still intact

During the late Viking era Roskilde was one of the most important settlements in Denmark and it was actually the main royal seat for a short period. Hence the city of Roskilde was a very important settlement. The reason for the importance of the city was the location. The city is located at the bottom of a fjord which gave it easy access to the sea while it was still protected against bad weather. The location at the bottom of the fjord also made it possible to have a warning system of bonfires on the top of hills along the fjord to warn the defenders of Roskilde if an enemy was approaching.

Three ships at the museum

The access to Roskilde was difficult since the water in the fjord is shallow most of the places so the ships could only sail in a couple of narrow spots through the fjord. To protect the approach to Roskilde they put in place some obstacles which could block one approach temporarily. The other approach was blocked permanently by sinking the 5 ships intentionally at one spot. So the ships sunk were pretty old and sacrificed to protect the city.

The museum is located a short walk from the station through a little park down to the fjord. The museum is overlooking the fjord so the location is actually very pretty in itself. The main attraction of the museums is the remains of the five ships which are all on display at the museum. There is also a movie theater giving a short introduction to the history of the ships. The show is in several languages so you might have to wait for a bit if you want it in English – though they do take request for language so you can sort of plan when you can see the movie.

The old ships

There are also a few exhibitions about the history of the era to give you a bit more insight in the Viking era. There is also temporary exhibition which will usually be related to seafaring issues.

Next to the main museum is a little island where they have kind of an ancient ship yard where they during the summer work on reconstruction of the ancient ships. They have actually reconstructed all the old ships on display at the museum and you will be able to see them in the local harbor – unless they are actually on a voyage to other part of the old Viking world. It is actually possible to book a trip on the boat if you are enough people but it is somewhat pricey.

Reconstructed ship sailing on the fjord

When they expanded the museum in 1997 they actually found no less than 9 more ships making it the biggest find of ships from the Viking era anywhere in the world. The find of these nine ships included a ship which was 37 meters long which is the longest Viking longship ever found anywhere. These nine ships are unfortunately not on display at the museum so you can only see the original 5 ships.

If you go to the museum you might consider if it is worth it to buy a Copenhagen card since the visit to the Viking ship museum can easily be combined with a visit to the main church of Roskilde which has the most graves of Royal heads of state anywhere in the world and is the other big historic attraction of Roskilde.


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