Jórvík Centre – Stepping Back into the Viking Age

What is the Jórvík Centre?

The Jórvík Viking Centre is a visitor attraction and museum dedicated to telling the story of Viking York. Visitors will learn more about the Coppergate excavated remains on which the attraction is built. It is then on to take a ride in moving pods through Viking Coppergate to visit the Viking locals with all the sounds, sights and smells of a real Viking settlement. Finally, there is an amazing little museum to visit with lots of interesting finds including an incredibly old sock!

Jórvík is the Old Norse name for York and the surrounding Kingdom of Yorkshire during the Viking Age. It is said that when the Vikings settled in York, they might have had trouble pronouncing ‘Eoforwic’ the Saxon name for the city, so decided to call it Jórvík instead.

On a recent visit to York, I was lucky enough to visit the Jórvík Centre. I had visited years before, but this was the first time since the renovations following a damaging flood in 2015 which closed the site for nearly two years. It was a charmingly kitsch experience, one where you are guaranteed to learn something new. I will be returning and next time I hope to combine the visit with DIG too!

Where is the Jórvík Centre?

The Jórvík Centre is located in the Coppergate Shopping Centre in York, northeast England in the UK. The word Coppergate comes from the Viking Koppari-Gata. Koppari means cupmaker and Gata means street. Coppergate literally translates as ‘street of the cupmakers.’

What can I see and do?

The visit begins down at street level in Viking Age York. Here you walk above a glass floor over recreated excavations and learn more about the archaeology. It is a great start to the experience as it makes you feel like you are stepping back into history.

A return to the 1976-81 excavations
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heritage Hiker

Coppergate Excavations

The former Craven’s sweet factory that once stood on the site at Coppergate was demolished in 1974 to make way for the new Coppergate Shopping Centre. In 1976 the newly formed York Archaeological Trust began a series of archaeological excavations that lasted 5 years until 1981.

These excavations uncovered a total of 40,000 Viking-Age finds including building material, animal bone, pottery and even poo! The decision was made to put these remains on display on the site of the Coppergate dig. The result was Jórvík Viking Centre which opened to the public on 14th April 1984.

Moving on from the history of the excavations you enter the ‘Time Warp’ experience where visitors are taken back to the 10th century. Here you experience a ride in a time-capsule (pod) as an audio-visual guide accompanies you through a life size recreation of Viking Age York based on the archaeology found in the original excavations. As you weave your way through the narrow streets you meet model characters such as Hakim the Trader, Asgerda the Weaver and Lodan the Priest. Jórvík had a population of around 15,000 and was known to be an ethnically diverse city so as well as old Norse, visitors hear the animatronics speak Old English, Ancient Arabic, Old Irish and Middle Welsh.

Listening to Middle Welsh
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heritage Hiker

You exit the ride and move into a small museum and an amazing collection of Viking material linked with the everyday. From silver hoards, to pottery, bear claws, a sock and even fossilised human poo!! What’s not to love…

You are what you eat?
PHOTOGRAPH BY Heritage Hiker

Fascinating Fact

The fossilised human poo (coprolite) found during excavations measures 20cm long and 5cm wide and may be the largest example of its type ever found. Analysis indicates it contains cereal bran and hundreds of parasitic worm eggs.

Visiting Information

Opening Hours

Jórvík Centre is open daily throughout the year (closed over Christmas). Visiting times do vary slightly so do check the website for the most up to date visiting information. https://www.jorvikvikingcentre.co.uk/visit/plan-your-visit/

Admission charges apply - Entry ticket entitles free return visits for the following 12 months. There is the option to buy a ‘passport’ ticket which combines visits to other attractions at a combined reduced cost.

There is a small shop on site selling a good range of Viking themed gifts.

No café on-site. There are plenty of other great options nearby.

There are accessible lifts and an accessible toilet.

Booking ahead advised especially during the rainy season or you might be waiting outside in hope that a space may become available. The front of house were wonderful with umbrellas at the ready on the day I visited.

*    *    *

Helen Harman

Helen is Cardiff born and Wales based museum and heritage professional with a BA(Hons) in Archaeology and MA in Museum Studies and a lifelong museum fanatic. Helen is the creator of ‘The Heritage Hiker’s Guide to…’ Blog which brings together archaeology, history, heritage, walking with exploration of the outdoors.

For interesting and quirky facts and places to visit head over to Heritage Hiker socials –

Facebook @heritagehiker https://www.facebook.com/heritagehiker/ Twitter @heritagehiker https://twitter.com/heritagehiker Instagram @heritagehiker https://www.instagram.com/heritagehiker/?hl=en Or visit the website https://heritagehiker.co.uk/