Day Trip: Birka – The Viking City

Day Trip: Birka – The Viking City

Kristin Lund takes us on a day trip from Stockholm to Birka, the Viking City.

Photo credit: Claes Helander

One of my favorite day trips is taking the boat out to Birka, considered to be Sweden’s first city. Every time I go, I learn more about what archaeologists have discovered about Viking life. Vikings were long thought to be raiders who just burned and pillaged. Now it is understood they were often traders, craftsmen, and farmers.

Founded by Vikings, Birka is located on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. Archaeologists know that Birka was one of the most important trading centers for Vikings and the site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List – one of only 15 on the list in Sweden.

On the island you can walk around by yourself, join a guided tour of the archaeological work, and visit the Birka Museum. There is also a swimming beach and a reconstructed Viking village.

Viking History

Birka was founded in the mid-700’s. According to Birka’s website, it is thought that the Swedish King created the city in order to control trade in northern Scandinavia. Excavations show that Birka Vikings traded for goods from around the world. Archaeologists have found “Arabic silver, beads from Eastern Europe, beautiful glass goblet, ceramics and exclusive fabrics.” The Vikings, in turn, traded “iron, skins, horns and fur.” Birka attracted many of the finest craftsmen of the time.

Photo courtesy of Birka Vikingastaden

Birka has a perfect location because (then and now) it is centrally located but also well protected in the Baltic Sea. Birka had about 700-1,000 inhabitants at its peak. After 200 years, its inhabitants moved off the island. Some may have moved to nearby Sigtuna, another of Sweden’s early cities. There is speculation that rising land changed Birka’s accessibility and strategic position.

Family Friendly

Birka is a family-friendly spot. There are plenty of bathrooms and a nice café alongside places to splash in the water, boats to look at, panoramic sea views, and a small boutique and museum. If you are pushing a stroller, it might be hard to keep up with a tour as they often leave the wide paths and walk through grass and scattered rocks. But you can easily take your own tour and stick to the stroller-friendly paths.

How to Get There

You can take your own boat right into Birka’s guest harbor or choose any one of a number of public boats from around Stockholm county.

Learn more here – www.birkavikingastaden.se

Author: Kristin Lund

Kristin Lund grew up in the Boston area, lived for 20 years in San Francisco, and now finds herself an American in Stockholm. She’s written everything from Star Wars books to magazine articles to legal briefs. She enjoys exploring the Stockholm archipelago and counts dog sledding in Sälen and beach explorations on Öland as some of her top Swedish experiences.

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