"Jorvik Viking Centre" Jorvik Viking Centre Tip by Sjalen
Jorvik Viking Centre, York: 30 reviews and 21 photos
Since its opening, Jorvik has been one of York's major attractions with queues as long as the road to London. Visitors have come to travel in electric cars around a Viking village based on archaeological diggings around the Coppergate centre in York. The experience they got was total and you could even smell the village and hear Scandinavian sounding voices. It has recently undergone a complete refurbishment and loads of changes have taken place so we recently went back to see what it was like and to let our Swedish-York daughter check out her heritage. These days you start off in a "time travel" zone where you watch a film taking you back in time. I thought that bit was pretty naff and it didn't do much for me - then we got to take a seat in the new "cars" which take more people than before and have nice built in audioguides by your headrest. There is a setting for children with easier storytelling, whilst the adult version come in several major languages apart from English so you just pick the one you prefer, and the car sets off into the depths of the museum. My only complaint here is that my hair sometimes got stuck in the earphone bit so you might want to consider a cap or at least a ponytail if you've got long hair.
York has a history of Viking life since Vikings came from Scandinavia and settled here and in the rest of the region. Just like the Romans, the Vikings probably liked the strategic setting along a major river. Jorvik was the name the Vikings gave their city and still today you find traces of their history in the way that streets are called "gates" and many other such linguistic peculiarities, making me as a Swede feel at home. Jorvik Viking Centre is in a modern shopping area called Coppergate and the reason for this is that lots of Viking remains were found on this spot when York was being modernised in the 1970s and they had to do archaeological excavations first. The centre has therefore been built on top of some of those archaeological digs and my husband was even lucky enough to see it all unfolding as he passed here on his way to school as a child. Some of the finds from these digs can be seen in the Yorkshire Museum (see tip).
As the car takes you around the centre, you still get to see the built up Jorvik of before but it has changed into something brighter and it is no longer as dark as I remember from my first visit. The cars swirl around now and again as you turn a corner and get to look into a yard or onto a market scene and there are sounds of roosters and people just like before, but the worst smells are gone, leaving only a bit of tar and other things to put you in the mood. Not as exciting as I remember it to have been before but still fun. As you come to the last part of your journey, you are shown a real part of the archaeological digs which have been saved so that you get an impression that this still is very much a real site. Then you leave the car and walk around the rest which is set up like a museum, and this is the bit I like the most these days. Here you find computer stations where you can see what people ate, what illnesses hit them due to for instance malnutricion, what women did in society, how they traded and with whom. There is also a general exhibition of various items as you walk around, and a station where you can listen to Scandinavian languages and compare words which I of course found fun.
You can strike your own Jorvik coin which the children will like, and speak to the staff which are all dressed up in Viking clothes and sometimes do different things in their smithy and such. My only disappointment here was that many of the staff were students from the south of England and whilst they studied Scandinavian languages so that I could even speak to them in my native Swedish, they had little knowledge of York today and how the words they had learned in their Scandinavian studies are still used naturally today as a legacy of all this. Therefore, I felt happy enough seeing it all as a tourist but less happy as someone with a York family and that's a bit sad. Still, this was a smaller detail and a visit to the centre is still something I recommend anyone even if it is a bit expensive. The queues are still long some days (not least during the Viking Festival which the centre is involved in) so my tip is to come just before opening time if you want to avoid those. Then you are also one of the first to later brows the nice souvenir shop.
Directions: Coppergate is signposted from lots of places but is between the castle area and the rest of the city centre.
Phone: +44 (1904) 543400
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