Roskilde is a gem of a city in Denmark, and developed as the hub of the Viking land and sea trade routes over a thousand years ago. It’s one of Denmark’s oldest cities and being only 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen, it makes for the perfect day trip from the capital. I was really taken with Roskilde’s beauty, and everything it had to offer.
As the heart of the Viking Empire in Denmark, Roskilde was home to many Viking settlements and ships. It also meant it was a prime location for attacks, and to try to deter them, the Roskilde Vikings placed old ships along the sea routes in to their settlement to act as barricades. Hundreds of years later, in the 1960s, some of these ships were found at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Roskilde.
Incredibly, parts from 5 different Viking ships were found, known as the Skuldelev Ships (named after the area in which they were discovered), dating back to the 1000s. The ships were used for different purposes – two being cargo vessels, two being warships of different sizes and one being a fishing boat. Interestingly, only 2 originate from Denmark itself, with another 2 from Western Norway and one from Dublin, Ireland.
All 5 ships have been painstakingly reconstructed and are now displayed in the museum at Roskilde. Also at the museum are a number of exhibits including alongside each boat explaining what it was used for and its stats. There is also an exhibition on the excavations themselves and how the boats were brought up from the sea-bed and restored.
There is then also a really interesting exhibit on the Viking period as a whole, including the areas they reached (as far away as Turkey and Canada!), their gods, the extent of their raids, their customs and traditions and their eventual decline. My favourite part though was The Lewis Chessmen. The rest of the set can be found in The British Museum (post coming soon) so it was great to find some more originals.
The museum lies right on the water front, and in addition to the museum there is an area where traditional Viking crafts are undertaken, and visitors can take part in them too. Also during the summer months, a reconstructed Viking ship (made from methodology and materials of the time, not a modern tourist trap) sails daily, enabling you to take to the water on a traditional vessel.
We spent the whole morning at The Viking Ship Museum, and it was so interesting to learn more about a period of history I knew little about before my visit to Denmark.
Aftre lunch, we walked from The Viking ship Museum in to Roskilde town, which is about 15 minutes up hill. We explored the lovely town and were taken by its bright yellow buildings and colours. We particularly liked Roskilde Palace, Roskilde Museum and the town’s Market Square.
After a stroll and some lunch, we then headed to the famous Roskilde Cathedral and WOW am I glad to have been inside. Having known nothing about it before my visit I was completely taken aback by its incredible interior. A UNESCO world heritage site, this is the most important Cathedral in Denmark, being home to the burial sites of all previous Kings and Queens of the country. It’s spectacular, and easy to spend at least an hour inside.
All of Denmark’s Kings have been called either Christian or Frederik, and you can pay tribute to them all – dating from to Christian I in the 1400s to Frederik IX in 1972. The current Queen’s plot is already identified and designed (she is 72 this year and celebrates her 50th year as Queen), and there is an exhibition on Royal Burials. The beautiful burial chambers and frescos around the church are really stunning, and there is also a small museum on the first floor of the Cathedral to learn a bit more about its history.