Viking History in Stockholm
Wailana Kalama gives us some suggestions on how to trace Viking history in Stockholm.
Whether gifted poets or ferocious raiders, Vikings have always had a remarkable reputation to maintain.
Yet despite their notoriety, Viking presence in Stockholm seems a bit cursory and touristy, namely due to the fact that there were never any Vikings in Stockholm… They sailed past the archipelago to the main trading town of Birka to the west. For authentic archaeological finds, you’re better off checking out that town or Uppsala thirty minutes north of Stockholm.
But don’t despair because, here and there, Vikings still haunt Stockholm like trendy ghosts, appearing as metal ships in the windows of souvenir shops, on brand T-shirts and comic books named after Valhalla. Plus there is a Stockholm Viking Festival held on Fjäderholmarna island during the summer.
So if you know where to look, you might just find the Viking Trail.
The Swedish History Museum
For your crash course in Viking Studies 101, your best bet is the Historiska Museet (Narvavägen 13–17) and its fantastic Viking exhibition. For one, it’s free and its interactive reenactment is fun for all ages. You can learn loads through artifacts, runestones, and the impressive golden room with a huge collection of Viking gold, including bracelets, arm rings, and pendants.
As part of your Viking-themed treasure hunt, look out for the handful of runestones hiding in plain sight throughout the city. They are located all over and around Stockholm: In Södertalje, at Akalla Park, in Terminal 5 at Arlanda Airport.
Most accessible is Uppland Runic Inscription 53, on the corner of Prästgatan and Kåkbrinken. This stone depicts a snake interlacing itself, bordered by runes reading: “Torsten and Frögunn they… stone in memory of… their son.”
Take the time to marvel at the Uppland Runic Inscription 871, a boldly painted runestone located at Skansen, originally cut in memory of one Ulfr in the 12th century.
You can enjoy a full-blown Viking-inspired meal at Aifur Krog & Bar. This lively themed restaurant is located in the heart of the busy Västerlånggatan shopping street in Gamla Stan. Though I tend to take themed locations with a hefty grain of salt, Aifur is fun, cozy, and unpretentious.
Lovers of all things Viking will be comfortable here with its dim lighting, long wooden tables, sheepskin-covered benches, and colorful wall decorations in the manner of tapestries, shields and weapons.
The cuisine is based on traditional dishes: garlic-marinated rack of lamb, crayfish soup, venison and lingonberries, roasted dwarf chicken, and an impressive flap steak dish called “Indulgence of the Raven Lord.” How’s that for Viking-ness?
As an additional cherry on top, the hostess dramatically announces each patron as they enter the great hall, and provides them with helmets and axes if they so desire.
Vulgar Viking Venture
OURWAY Tours offers a “Vulgar Viking Venture” which despite its name is not solely about Vikings, but also generally covers Stockholm’s Gamla Stan. The tour starts out, fittingly enough, with the distribution of Viking hats you can wear during the hour and a half, lifted out from a blue IKEA bag–and ends with a glimpse of a rare runestone.
And then there are the myriad of gift shops capitalizing on Viking history with beautiful crafts and recreated knickknacks. Halldor (Skomakargatan 24) on the corner of Stortorget sells everything from faux gold coins to drawstring purses and knife sheaths. For the classier shopper, there is Handfaste (Västerlånggatan 73), where you’ll find hand-crafted leather bracelets, brooches, belts and buckles.