Lonely Planet Writer

It pongs a bit, but that's part of the attraction as England's popular Viking life centre reopens

After being closed for 16 months following severe flood damage, England’s Jorvik Viking Centre is reopening to the public following a £4m makeover. The popular York attraction gives an authentic insight into the lives of the Vikings, by recreating the sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking Age as visitors journey back 1000 years.

The Jorvik Viking Centre has reopened following a refurbishment. Image: Jorvik Viking Centre
The Jorvik Viking Centre has reopened following a refurbishment. Image: Jorvik Viking Centre

It was in December 2015 that the building flooded while it was open for business, following heavy rainfall that left 600 homes and many businesses in York submerged in water. It has now reopened with an updated ride experience and new state-of-the art galleries showcasing its collection of 1000-year-old artefacts that tell the story of the Viking legacy.

The centre is built on an archaeology site that revealed the real everyday lives of its Viking residents. Part of the experience involves telling the stories of the archaeologists who were involved in the revolutionary excavation in 1976 that helped to piece together the story of the Vikings of Jorvik. 

Prior to being forced to close, the centre attracted 400,000 visitors annually and had been open for 32 years. Staff rescued every single original artefact, including shoes, a single sock, a helmet, a dirham coin, knives, jewellery, carpenter’s tools, and the only Viking panpipes ever found. There is even a fossilised Viking poo! These precious artefacts are displayed in newly-designed galleries.

Visitors can travel around 10th Century York aboard “time capsules” in a ride that enables them to visit the houses, workshops and backyards and meet the many different people (played by actors) who once called the city home. This is where they will experience the sights, sounds – and even smells that tell the story of Viking life, including the odour of woodsmoke and stew pots, rotting fish and dung heaps. The story is a little darker this time around, with a  scene, a slaughter house and a slave trader being featured, complete with crowing cocks and crying babies.

For further information on Jorvik Viking Centre, please see here.

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