On our recent trip to North Yorkshire, we planned to go to the city of York and do some exploring. One place we were aware of and wanted to see was the Jorvik Viking Centre in the heart of the city.
What is Jorvik Viking Centre?
The Jorvik Viking Centre is in the heart of York City’s Coppergate Shopping Centre. It was built on the site of the famous 1976 Coppergate Dig, a five year archaeological dig that led to the insight of the Viking age in Jorvik. In total, more than 40,000 archaeological finds were discovered that included 5 tons of animal bones, ancient timber used to build houses, handmade leather shoes, woven garments and even a coprolite – fossilised human poo – found under what was and still is, Lloyds Bank. A huge selection of these items are on display at Jorvik Viking Centre – including the poop!
Entry to Jorvik Viking Centre
After a little research online, we discovered that the Jorvik Viking Centre is part of the Jorvik Group that also consists of Jorvik DIG, Barley Hall and the City Walls Experience. As we were in the area for a week, we decided that the best option for us was to get the Pastport entry to all of the Jorvik Group attractions and museums so we could save money, book and explore as we wanted to.
Online reservations are essential at the Jorvik Viking Centre and when we bought our tickets, we chose a timeslot too. The attraction can get very busy so this is done to keep numbers manageable but not too crowded.
When we arrived at the centre, we were met by a colourful cast member, dressed head to toe in authentic looking Viking garb, complete with handmade leather shoes. We were shown inside where more friendly staff members checked our booking before explaining a bit about the experience.
The Jorvik Viking Centre experience
As we descended below modern street level, we found ourselves in an atmospheric room with a glass floor. Underneath, we could see where archaeologists had painstakingly reconstructed the dig from the late 1970’s. We could see oyster shells, a cheap and popular food during the Viking age, utensils, pottery, coins, shoes and so much more.
These are all recreations of how items were found during the dig, and with the glass floor, visitors can see the conditions in which the items were found. There are also a few interactive displays dotted around the area that let users dig an item up and see the stages of retrieval and preservation needed. These range from keeping the item at the right humidity, temperature and even exposure to light. The children loved these and would gone through all 40,000 items if we’d let them!
Jorvik Viking Centre Time Warp Ride
Once we had our fill of reading the displays, looking under the floor and playing with the computers, the next stage of the experience was the Time Warp ride. We sat in carriages large enough to accommodate a family of four comfortably or six at more of a squeeze.
There are a number of screens in each car, and as the ride was starting, we got to choose which tour to take. There was a normal English one along with a Kids English one too. The Kids version was narrated by enthusiastic characters that really bought it to life, but the adult version was just as entertaining!
The time warp took us back to the early days of a Viking settlement in what was known as Jorvik and we followed its evolution through the years. The journey includes authentic recreations of dwellings, an ironmongers, a butcher’s shop and every aspect of Viking day to day life.
This all included ambient sounds, smells and even changes in temperature! A lot of the animatronic models are based on scans of recovered human remains from the area, even down to facial reconstruction of what the Vikings of the past might have looked like. This really bought the experience to life, especially the smells!
After the time warp, we found ourselves in an exhibition of the recovered Viking artefacts. For the age that they are, many of the items are incredibly well preserved. You can see the intricate detailing on ancient leather items, as if the item was made yesterday.
The glass jewellery has been restored to its former glory and the amount of ancient weaponry and clothing is remarkable. Oh, and the fossilised poop I mentioned earlier? That’s on display too! The kids really got a kick out of this. Along with a demonstration of Viking coin minting, you can spend hours just looking at the exhibits, reading the displays and soaking it all up.
Our trip to the Jorvik Viking Centre was a lot shorter than we expected and we were there less than two hours. This was mainly down to the children’s attention spans as you can spend as long as you like in Jorvik, reading all the item descriptions and spending time using the interactive aspects.
We enjoyed our visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre and with the Pastport tickets giving 12 month access we will be looking to go back if we find ourselves up North later in the year. You can find out more about Jorvik and check the Jorvik Viking Centre opening hours over on their website. For reference, the address is: 19 Coppergate, York YO1 9WT