Historically, the Viking era began with the attack on Lindisfarne monastery in AD 793, and ended with the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, when the English army successfully repelled the Viking invaders led by King Harald Hardråde.

The Vikings' seaworthiness and impulsiveness led to the development of new areas along the Norwegian coast, westward to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Scotland, Ireland and Greenland. The Norwegian Vikings also discovered Vinland, present-day America, long before Columbus.

Before the first millennium, iron tools were introduced into agriculture and there was a shortage of land to cultivate. During the same period, the King's power increased and he demanded large taxes from the population. Many emigrated to seek fortune and freedom, and pillaging became an alternative source of income.

Effective sailing ships and weapons made the Vikings a feared people amongst contemporary Christian Europeans. However, the image of the Vikings as bloodthirsty, savage plunderers do not tell us the whole story. The Vikings were also involved in a wealthy merchant trade, not only in Europe but also including the Byzantine Empire and the Baghdad Caliphate.

The Vikings had effective sailing ships.|© Arkikon / Steinart

The Viking community was a kindred way of living, where most issues were solved within and between the families. The Sagas are prose histories mostly describing events that took place. These stories are filled with accounts of blood revenge (an eye for an eye) and families defending their own kin.

According to the Icelandic recorder of Sagas, Snorre, Olav Tryggvason docked at Moster in AD 995, following his voyage across the North Sea from England, in order to become king of Norway. He celebrated mass here and founded a Church, and King Olav the Holy and his bishops held Christian Court Law which superseded the Norse Laws in the year 1024.

Norway's oldest royal residence

Avaldsnes just outside of Haugesund is Norway's oldest royal residence, and was selected as the millennium residency of the county Rogaland. King Harald Fairhair built his main house here around the year AD 870, and Avaldsnes was a royal residence until approximately 1450.

At Nordvegen History Centre you can learn more about the kings who ruled the “North way” from Avaldsnes. The information is drawn from the Sagas and other archaeological findings. The audio-visual guide shaped as King Harald Fairhair will guide you through 3000 years of Avaldsnes history. Avaldsnes Viking farm is within walking distance from the centre.

Sagastad and the Myklebust ship

The large Norwegian ship burials from the Viking Age are unique to Norway. The Myklebust ship from Nordfjordeid is the largest Viking ship whose remains have been found in Norway. It had an estimated length of 30 metres. Sagastad opened in May 2019, and is a combined knowledge and activity centre located beside the fjord in the centre of Nordfjordeid. A central part of the exhibition in Sagastad is the Myklebust ship, the largest Viking ship whose remains have been found in Norway. A full-scale replica of the ship has been built – 30 metres long and 6.5 metres wide. The ship is seaworthy and able to sail on the fjord, but is exhibited for large parts of the year at Sagastad, where it is one of the main attractions.

The Myklebust ship.|© Ruben Soltvedt

The burial mound, which is locally known as ‘Rundehåjen’ on the farm Myklebust in Nordfjordeid, was excavated in 1874, and the Myklebust ship was found several years before Gokstad (1880) and Oseberg (1904).

The Myklebust ship differs from the Oseberg and Gokstad ships in that it was burnt at the funeral. The custom of burning the ship at funerals was typical of Western Norway in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Myklebust ship is both the last and the largest ship to have been burnt at a funeral during the Viking Age.

We know the dimensions of the Myklebust ship because of the bed of ashes in the burial mound, the number of treenails (clinch nails) and the number of shield bosses that were found in the burial mound. The burial mound in itself is 30 metres in diameter and four metres high, with a wide trench around it (it was filled in in the 19th century). In autumn 2016, experienced boat builders from Bjørkedalen in Volda started to build the new Myklebust ship modelled on what we think it may have looked like.

There is reason to believe that King Audbjørn of the Fjords was cremated in the Myklebust ship. He is mentioned in Snorri’s saga about Harald Fairhair who fell in the battle of Solskjel in Nordmøre in the year 876. This fits well with the estimated age of the findings in the burial mound.

With the launch of the Myklebust ship, we are again able to sail on the Nordfjord in Norway’s most magnificent Viking ship for the first time since King Audbjørn and his men over 1,150 years ago.
Read more about Sagastad and the Myklebust ship, see the opening times and prices.

Meet the Vikings!

Njardarheimr - Njord's home

In Njardarheimr, a Viking village in Gudvangen by the Nærøyfjord, you can meet "real" Vikings. Njardarheimr means "the home devoted to Njord, the Norse god of trade". It consists of over 1500m2 of buildings, built based on previous experiences with reconstruction, using techniques from the Viking age. It is designed as a living cultural heritage site, and during the summer, "modern" Vikings live here.

Meet "real" Vikings in Njardarheimr in Gudvangen!|© Frode Tufte

Gudvangen has a long tradition of arranging an annual Viking market. This is an international festival with participants from many countries. During the five-day festival, people wear authentic Viking costumes and live a traditional life as in the 800s.

Avaldsnes Viking farm

For 3000 years the Vikings and chieftains controlled the Nordvegen strait – the shipping lane that gave Norway its name.

The Avaldsnes Viking farm is situated in beautiful natural surroundings on the island Bukkøy, a short ten minute stroll from Nordvegen History Centre. Here you can see and experience how the Vikings lived in every aspect of their day-to-day life. You can learn about how they lived from farming, fishing, hand-craft, commerce, art, culture and also how they celebrated.

Many buildings typical of Viking times are reconstructed using original techniques, and of particular interest is the granary and roundhouse from the pre-Christian era. The other buildings are replicas from around AD 900.

The Viking farm is open for visits during summer.

The annual Viking Festival is arranged at the Viking Farm at Avaldsnes during a weekend every June. During this weekend, the Viking Farm at Bukkøy is filled with Vikings, visitors and many events. Vikings from Norway and Europe turn back time to re-enact and relive the Viking Age.

There is a large market where the Vikings sell various crafts and local, traditional food. You will also be treated to traditional Viking music, and have the opportunity participate in various activities such as horseback riding, rowing, witnessing the iron-smith in his workshop, and much more.

The play "Giskespelet"

The story behind the play Giskespelet is from the time around the year 1030, just before and after the battle of Stiklestad.

The play is derived from Snorre Sturlason’s story about King Olav II, known as King Olav the Holy. In the play, we meet men and women from the powerful Giske family, and we learn how their bonds with the King affects the family's fate.

The play was performed for the first time in 1995, and started out as a school project at the local elementary and junior high school. Today, there are 200 people and sometimes professional actors involved in the production.