Vikings: Life and Legend

Things to do

British Museum

Until Sun Jun 22

  • The Lewis Chessmen

    © The Trustees of the British Museum

    The Lewis Chessmen
  • The Vale of York Hoard

    © The Trustees of the British Museum

    The Vale of York Hoard
  • The Longship

    © National Museum of Denmark

    The Longship
  • Penrith Brooch

    © The Trustees of the British Museum

    Penrith Brooch
  • Silver-inlaid Axehead

    © The National Museum of Denmark

    Silver-inlaid Axehead
  • Sword

    © The National Museum of Denmark


The Lewis Chessmen

© The Trustees of the British Museum

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Curated London

A thousand years after the ‘Viking Age’ ended, we’re still just as awe-struck by the legend surrounding this fearsome group. In the three decades since the last Viking exhibition at the British Museum, vast amounts of new evidence and material have been uncovered across Scandinavia. As a result, our understanding of the Vikings has evolved dramatically.

The first room of the exhibition takes the viewer on a journey of Viking life, culture, custom and belief. The voyage of discovery is beautifully illustrated with archaeological finds, including swords and shields, jewellery, coins and religious ephemera, many of which are publicly exhibited for the first time.

The second room contains what’s left of a 30-metre-long Viking longboat. Roskilde 6, as she’s known, was excavated from the Danish coast in 1997. Only around 20 per cent of the original timbers remain and, despite painstaking reconstruction, they add very little to the experience. The timbers sit in a full-size steel frame mock-up of the original vessel, which does at least give a useful sense of scale. The thoughtful and varied interpretation that accompanies Roskilde 6really does bring it to life though. The over all effect is really impressive.

The British Museum’s blockbuster exhibitions get bigger and bigger every time. They’ve become so big they had to build a new exhibition space just to house them. The fabulous new Sainsbury Gallery, in which Vikings is set, is a real treat to visit. Its completion has also created more space in the main building and made the whole place more enjoyable. Even with all this extra space, though, the exhibitions have become a victim of their own success - the crowds are horrendous. It’s worth waiting until the mid-point of the show, coming on a weekday and getting in early to have a chance of seeing anything up close. 

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Agnes B

Been waiting for this exhibition for months. And as expected it was amazing. Spent over 2 hours for walking trough. Really busy, massive queues. But that is the only negative side. The exhibition is just mesmerizing. A real must see. I've been expecting a bit more about the mythology but even like this I think this was one of the best excibition what i visited since long months.