When I moved to York in September, I arrived having not really researched York’s past; I was completely ignorant of the city’s rich history. I didn’t know anything about York’s Viking heritage or how the Jorvik Viking Centre showcases York’s long-lost ancestral secrets. Until now that is.
Built on the area of the 1977 Coppergate excavation site, the Jorvik Viking Centre is the place to go if you are interested in York’s past. The first room is mainly a showcase of items from the excavation, which brings an amazing feeling of local pride to the centre, which many larger museums lack. This room reflects on the archaeological dig by allowing visitors to see a replica version of the dig site through a glass floor, bordered by an original 10th-century wall.
I found this to be an extremely unique and immersive way to display an important part of the museum, which is not really seen in other museums across the country! I found that the staff in this area were extremely informative. They showed us replica dig items, let us touch pieces of thread, beads and pottery, and were on hand to answer any questions. If you are the kind of person who is curious about Vikings in this area of the country, you can be confident your questions will be answered at Jorvik!
After the excavation room, we moved on to what is arguably the largest attraction at Jorvik- a 16-minute long dark ride.
This narrated experience is a fantastic experience, with reconstructed sights, smells and sounds being used to bring old Coppergate to life. Animatronics line the tracks, showing you what Viking life in the bustling centre of Coppergate may have been like. Blacksmiths, merchants, and even children are shown in jaw-dropping detail, right down to the old Norse speech and clothing.
The environment complements this to a T, with all of the sights and smells you would have imagined to find in the Viking era. It is easy to see why this is the main attraction for any visitor. Moreover, the ride is available in 15 languages with 4 options for English speakers (standard English, kids, closed caption and audio descriptive), meaning it is accessible and immersive for people of all ages and nationalities.
Jorvik engages its thousands of visitors through the use of method actors. These are our ‘Vikings’, and they are successful in transporting us back to Viking Coppergate. They hold so much information regarding the excavation and contents of the Centre. The Vikings seem to specialise too; my musically-inclined partner loved it when someone started playing the lyre!
There are also Vikings on the penny press, running presentations and giving information on the Coppergate excavation. They put a lot of effort into their work, and it certainly pays off! This is one of the best historical experiences I have visited, with the actors playing a large part in this.
Finally, the exhibits themselves make up the rest of the museum experience. By just walking through, you can tell that Jorvik’s collection is a must-see for any fan of the period.
Exhibit displays include standard living tools and weapons, among many other rarities. These include the only Viking-age sock in England. It was all the rage with the staff, and is part of ‘The History of the North in 100 Objects’. Other items such as coin-branding die use are on loan from the British Museum. I have been told that Jorvik currently holds 2 of the 7 die in the country! The Vikings can even print a coin for you using a custom die, which is a great souvenir.
All in all, for such a small centre, Jorvik is packed with plenty of information and immersive experiences. The attention to detail in creating a historical experience that is not only interesting, but also fun, means that my visit to Jorvik will stick with me for years. It made me realise just how interesting York is.
Many thanks to the Jorvik Viking Centre for allowing me access to review the attraction- I hope to be back soon!