My second day in York started with a brisk walk to Jorvik Viking Center at Coppergate Plaza.
After a short wait in the outdoor queue (Jorvik is quite popular with all ages, and worth booking ahead for expedited entry), I was escorted to one of two tills. Though you can purchase entrance for Jorvik only, I chose to get the “Pastport” which allows access (for an entire year, if you happen to be coming back) to five attractions: Jorvik, Jorvik Dig, Richard III Experience, Henry VII Experience (both in the walls of York), and Barley Hall. More about those in another post….on to old Jorvik (York)…
As you walk down the stairs at Jorvik to get to the anteroom for the moving experience (don’t worry, there’s a small lift if you are mobility-impaired), you get a glimpse of the different layers of history on the brick walls. The first room (in reality a bit of a waiting room for the slow dark ride portion of the museum) is floored in clear glass/plexiglass to exhibit the actual excavation site.
In fact, many people were walking gingerly across the glass (which is stronger than the wooden floor surrounding it). An engaging film plays on a loop showing clips chronicling the 1970s archaeological excavations, started as York was undergoing modernization.
After thoroughly exploring this room, I entered the short, fast-moving queue for the ride. Each ride vehicle seats 6, in two rows of 3, and allows visitors to choose their language (alas, no Welsh available, though you can listen in 14 languages including English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Japanese and more). The 16-minute ride is quite interesting and depicts old York (Jorvik) around 960 CE just after Erik Bloodaxe was banished. There are sights, sounds, and scents – be forewarned that medieval towns were….fragrant. We meet various town inhabitants from a slave in trouble with his master to a grandfather playing a board game with his grandchildren The commentary is quite clear and easy-to-hear, as well as informative and engaging. You can get a taste of it on our YouTube channel.
We met the butcher, the baker, the potter, the woodworker, the fishermen, the priest (yes, Christianity eventually made it to York – the old and new religions melded well together), as well as others on our journey. Toward the end of the journey through time, we see a shaman/storyteller …. Stories are always important in any culture.
After disembarking, you can wander at will through the museum displays available, which show some marvelous examples of Viking engineering, clothing, the arts (musical instruments, combs, etc.), and implements of daily life, plus evidence of death and religion. Note the cross shows the syncretism in action of the old Norse religion with Christianity.
The museum has quite a few costumed cast members engaging with guests of all ages throughout the center, from the queue outside through the museum with exhibits, and quite a few hands-on activities for the more active among your party. And finally, a climb of stairs brings you back to the present day with a gift shop displaying items attractive to all ages from kids toys to gorgeous reproductions of Norse game pieces, glassware, and locally produced wines, as well as a good collection of books, fact and fiction, based around Vikings.
The Skinny: The Jorvik Viking Centre a great stop on your visit to York! It’s open April – October 10am-5pm, and November – March 10am-4pm. Prices are: Adult, £11; Senior, £9; Child, £8, Family of 4, £32; Family of 5, £36; Under 5s, free. There’s a “Pastport” for all 5 attractions, which is: Adult, £20; Senior, £16; Child, £13, Family of 4, £55; Family of 5, £60; Under 5s, free. Tickets are good for repeat visits for one year. Note: if you are really into Vikings, every February half-term, Jorvik Viking Festival occurs. It’s a city-wide celebration of all things Norse, with over 50,000 guests!
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