Viking Ship Museum

If you have time for a day trip that’s a short distance out of Copenhagen, the 30-minute train ride to Roskilde and its award-winning Viking Ship Museum is well worth it. It’s very different than Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum, which is more about displaying incredible Viking finds. This one is more about demonstrating, teaching, and learning.

The museum displays five 1000-year-old Viking ships that were found in the local Roskilde fjord in the 1960s – hundreds of thousands of pieces that have been carefully treated and reconstructed. The Vikings who lived here intentionally sunk these no-longer-seaworthy ships in the fjord to create a blockade against intruders and protect the important trading town of Roskilde from attack.

In addition to displaying what was found and reconstructed of the actual ships, the museum has built full-size replicas of all five boats using replicas of Viking-age tools and methods – you can actually see demonstrations by boat builders; rope makers (making ropes from hair from horse tails; linden trees; and wool – different ropes for different needs); blacksmiths; tar burners; textile craftsmen making sails – many of the skills that were required to create these amazing vessels.

They offer a 14-minute explanatory film; 45-minute guided tours at 12:00 and 3:00; a 30-minute tour of the boat building area at 1:00; and hour-long boat rides out into the fjord, where you’ll have the chance to help row a replica of a Viking ship, and help raise the sails. Plus a café with excellent smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches.) Be warned, the café doesn’t start serving lunch until 11:30, which means you get your smørrebrød at 11:45, which will be a big rush for a 12:00 tour.

Here’s an idea of how to spend your day (I looked at a lot of options, and this seems to be the most relaxing, while still fitting in the many things the place offers)

  • Arrive at 10:00, when they open, to ensure a seat on their sailing trip (book it when you buy your ticket. It’s first come first served.)
  • Watch the 14-minute film in the museum that houses the 5 ships.
  • Enjoy the museum and its 5 ships, and the surrounding area. Bring a snack with you, because you won’t have lunch until 1:30 (or later, if you go with option 2. Or, grab a small snack from the café before your 12:00 tour).
  • 12:00, take the excellent guided tour (meets inside the ship museum)
  • 1:00, take the tour of the boat yard
  • 1:30, have lunch at Café Knarr – but know it will be rushed, since you’re going on the 2:00 boat ride
  • 2:00, boat ride.
  • (OR – two other options)
  • Find out if they have a 3:00 boat ride, and if so, take it. That way you have a relaxing lunch at 1:30, and can enjoy the area more before your boat ride
  • OR Have lunch at 3:00 after your 2:00 boat ride, instead of having lunch at 1:30 (But check to see how late the café is open). That way you can really relax and enjoy the amazing smørrebrød and beer that they offer, after a very full and rewarding day of getting to know the Vikings.

A little more about the ships

Because all five ships are different from each other, you get real insights into how Vikings carried on their lives, and the fact that they built specific boats for specific purposes.

  • A 52-foot ocean going trader (6-8 men)
  • A 100-foot ocean going warship (also called long ship) (carrying 60 men)
  • A 45-foot coastal trader (5-6 men)
  • A 56-foot small long ship (30 men)
  • A 36-foot fishing/whaling/sealing vessel (12-14 men)

A little more about Scandinavian Design

While we were in Copenhagen, Jeff and I commented frequently on how gorgeous Scandinavian design is, and the museum is no exception – it does a marvelous job of taking in views of the fjord, and natural light to showcase its five ships.

How to get there

Roskilde is an easy 30-minute train ride from Copenhagen, with multiple trains per hour. Buy your train ticket at a kiosk or go to the helpful DSB office where staff will help you buy your ticket and tell you exactly which platform to use.

When you arrive in Roskilde, you can walk the 20 minutes down the hill to the museum; catch a #203 bus (only 2 per hour, 1 on Sundays), or take a taxi.

Cost and hours

115 Kr. ($18), daily mid-June – August 10:00 – 17:00; Sept – June 10:00 – 16:00.