How come the city of York is invaded every February half term by hordes of rampaging, hairy Vikings? The answer: The annual JORVIK Viking Festival – a celebration of all things Norse, without a horned helmet in sight. Discover more about this festival of feasting, fighting and family fun...
1 It is the largest Viking Festival in Europe
With 40,000+ visitors hitting the streets of York during the 9 days to take part in over 100 Norse-themed events, the festival certainly hold onto their crown.
2 The Festival is Based on an Ancient Viking Feast
Over 1000 years ago when York was under Viking rule great celebrations took place during February called ‘Jolablot.’ The festival heralded the coming of spring and the end of winter hardships.
These celebrations were long forgotten until the 1980s when York Archaeological Trust (YAT), who own JORVIK Viking Centre, revived this lost Norse tradition. Now returning for the 31st time, the JORVIK Viking Festival has become a firm fixture in the York calendar.
3 There is a Dedicated ‘Poo Day’
No, you didn’t read that wrong at all, a Poo Day. Back in the 1970s Archaeologists from YAT discovered a Viking-Age coprolite, or fossilised poo during an excavation under Lloyds Bank in York. This find has helped scientists get to the ‘bottom’ of the diet of York’s Viking residents and much more besides.
Visit Barley Hall on Tues 17th Feb to find out more here.
4 You Get to See Real Life Vikings Up-Close & Fighting!
It really wouldn’t be a Viking Festival without any Vikings, would it? With Norse Raiders and Traders from all over the world descending on York you won’t be able to turn a corner without bumping into a Viking!
You can join the Vikings at their camp on King’s Square, near the famous Shambles throughout the festival or watch them skirmish with the local Anglo-Saxon population on the Eye of York on Sat 14th and Sun 15th February.
One of the highlights of the week is the ‘March To Coppergate’ when the Viking armies march through the streets of York before their big afternoon battle. Taking place on Saturday 21st February this is a photo opportunity not to be missed.
5 The Pen is Just as Mighty as the Sword
It’s not all feasting and fighting, the festival has a varied programme of academic talks and lectures on subjects ranging from newly discovered Viking fortresses and the effects of combat, as well as literary events from well known authors including Jeremy Strong and Giles Kristian. Discover more here.
6 There is fun for all the ‘little Vikings’
With ‘Have-A-Go’ sword fighting workshops and the opportunity to craft and play the Viking way you shouldn’t find it hard to keep the kids entertained during half term. Find out more here.
7 There is Norse Folk Music
Top Folk artists Ray Cooper and Ruth Keggin are playing the intimate venue of York’s Barley Hall for two nights of Festival Folk. Find out more here.
8 They Crown a ‘Strongest Viking’ & ‘Best Beard’
Become a spectator at a Gladiatorial event, Viking style! Competitors from across the Norse world come together in a test of strength, endurance and cunning and the chance to be crowned JORVIK’s Strongest Viking!
Then, the focus turns to the faces and follicles for a battle-royale over the best facial hair in York. Don’t think that ladies or children are excluded though as pre-knitted beards are welcomed!
Both events take place on Saturday 21st February - more details here.
9 The Finale to the Festival is Out of the Nine Worlds!
Taking inspiration from the Norse myth of the creation, the historic city of York once again becomes a fiery battleground with a finale display incorporating a cast of warriors, gods and monsters in a thrilling live-action battle. With sound and light effects and terrific pyrotechnics, culminating in an out of this world spectacular!
Remember, the end is only a new beginning...
10 You Can Travel in Style to the Festival with TransPennine Express
Book your train ticket to York for JORVIK Viking Festival with First TransPennine Express and receive an exclusive 10% discount* on entry to these Norse-themed events:
- Legendary Combat Arena (Mon 16 to Fri 20 Feb)
- Have-A-Go Sword Fighting for Children (Mon 16 to Sun 22 Feb)
- Festival Walking Tours (Mon 16 to Fri 20 Feb)
Plus, you could also save over 50%* on your train ticket to the event if you book in advance. But hurry, as these cheaper tickets get snapped up quickly!
The 31st JORVIK Viking Festival runs 14 to 22 February 2015. For more information visit: www.jorvik-viking-festival.co.uk.