It’s a few years now since JORVIK Viking Centre’s £4m re-imagining, but the world-famous Viking attraction – one of the jewels in York’s crown (or Viking helmet) – is still looking good. We thought it was time to drop in and check it out again with our children, and we’re pleased to report that it remains a must-visit place for families in York.
We visited after school, which is generally a good time as the queues are usually shorter (although all rules go out of the window during the summer holidays). We were greeted by a cheery Viking and then made our way down the stairs to the main attraction. Our buggy days are behind us, but there is space to leave them, and there’s a lift and a loo too.
We started our visit in the stunning Discover Coppergate gallery where video, photography and memorabilia tell the story of the Coppergate Dig and the race against time to complete the excavations before work started to build the new shopping centre. Younger children may not read all the information (at least, ours didn’t), but they enjoyed having a go at a bit of digital archaeology with the interactive touch screens. The enormous glass floor shows off preserved Viking-age timbers brilliantly, and the real-life Vikings chatted to us and pointed out things that they knew would appeal to the children.
Having visited before, our girls were impatient to clamber into the pod and ride back in time through Viking-age York. We clambered into our mobile time capsule, selected our chosen language option and travelled back to Jorvik circa AD960. The children chose to listen to the specific children’s commentary, which they loved. Engaging and entertaining, it gave them an insight into the Viking cityscape from a child’s perspective, using words they understand and pointing out things that appealed to them (not least the constipated man!). It brought the whole experience to life, as well as dealing with occasional parts that some children might find difficult – like the ill woman having the last rites read to her – in a low key, matter-of-fact way. It’s worth mentioning that the experience as a whole is quite dark, which is worth knowing if your children aren’t comfortable with it. You can borrow a lantern to take on the ride, and we found that there were enough interesting things to distract our youngest from focusing on the lack of light. We loved the animatronics and the authentic sounds and smells of the Viking age, especially the hunter and his dog, the tattooed blacksmith and his son and the saga teller telling stories of Norse legends by the fire in his house. We also decided to count all of the animals on the way around – there’s a lot!
After the ride, we wandered around the gallery to look at the real Viking artefacts. The tiny spoons, musical instruments and intricate bone work are incredible, but of course, it’s the Viking poo that really appeals to kids!
Speak to an adult who visited the JORVIK Viking Centre as a child and they’ll drift into a reverie as they recall their first encounter with the sights and smells of Viking York, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a unique York experience, and a must if you’re visiting the city or just if you live here and want to do something fun after school!
Good to know
- – Pre-booking is recommended
- – Loos and buggy storage are available
- – There’s no cafe/refreshments, but there are lots of places to eat and drink nearby
- – Allow around 45 minutes for your visit
- – Prepare to queue during peak periods
- – Your ticket is valid for a year
- – You can buy a combined ticket for other JORVIK attractions