Jorvik Viking Centre

Coordinates: 53°57′26.9″N 1°04′49.1″W / 53.957472°N 1.080306°W / 53.957472; -1.080306
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Jorvik Viking Centre
Established1984 (1984)
LocationYork, England
Coordinates53°57′26.9″N 1°04′49.1″W / 53.957472°N 1.080306°W / 53.957472; -1.080306
Fishermen work and talk as part of the Time Warp experience

The Jorvik Viking Centre is a museum and visitor attraction in York, England, containing lifelike mannequins and life-size dioramas depicting Viking life in the city. Visitors are taken through the dioramas in small carriages equipped with speakers. It was created by the York Archaeological Trust and opened in 1984. Its name is derived from Jórvík, the Old Norse name for York and the surrounding Viking Kingdom of Yorkshire.


Under a glass floor, the original archeological dig is reproduced with actual timbers

In the 1850s, confectioner Thomas Craven acquired a site in Coppergate. When he died in 1862 his widow Mary Ann Craven continued the business and a century later, in 1966, Cravens relocated to a new factory on the outskirts of the city.[1] Between 1976 and 1981, after the old factory was demolished, and prior to the building of the Coppergate Shopping Centre (an open-air pedestrian shopping centre which now occupies the enlarged site), the York Archaeological Trust, a charity founded in 1972 by Peter Addyman, conducted extensive excavations in the area. Well-preserved remains of some of the timber buildings of the Viking city of Jorvík were discovered, along with workshops, fences, animal pens, privies, pits and wells, together with durable materials and artefacts of the time, such as pottery, metalwork and bones. Unusually, wood, leather, textiles, and plant and animal remains from the period around 900 AD, were also discovered to be preserved in oxygen-deprived wet clay. In all, over 40,000 objects were recovered.

The trust recreated the excavated part of Jorvik on the site, peopled with figures, sounds and smells, as well as pigsties, fish market and latrines, with a view to bringing the Viking city fully to life using innovative interpretative methods. The Jorvik Viking Centre, which was designed by John Sunderland, opened in April 1984. Since its formation, the centre has had over 20 million visitors.[2]


"Wilkom in Jorvik" says the Viking at the start of the Time Warp Ride
Cooking pan in the museum

In 2001, the centre was refurbished and enlarged at a cost of £5 million, and a further investment of £1 million followed in February 2010.[3] These investments were used to "intensify the message" at Jorvik, and included such changes as extending the ride time to 12 minutes, as well as adding more high-tech elements, which included a hike in "the technology and animation elements," and increasing "the sensory stimuli to include smells, more sounds, heat, cold and damp."[4] Visitors were taken back to 5:30 pm 25 October 975 AD in a time-capsule, and then embarked on a tour of a reconstructed Viking settlement which includes voices speaking in Old Norse[clarification needed], as well as aromas and "life-like animated figures, made by laser technology from skeletons found on the site."[5] Beyond this is an extensive museum area, which combines an exhibition of some 800 finds from the site with interactive displays and the opportunity to learn about tenth-century life and to discuss it with "Viking" staff. Among the exhibits is a replica of the Coppergate Helmet, which was found near the site of the centre and is now in the Yorkshire Museum. The third incarnation of Jorvik was opened on 13 February 2010, coinciding with the start of the annual Viking Festival in York. The attraction was completely rebuilt following devastating flooding in December 2015, re-opening on 8 April 2017 with the Return of the Vikings. The timeline was moved, so visitors now experience a September day in 960AD, and the ride slowed down, extending the ride time to 16 minutes.

Demonstration of coin making

Jorvik Viking models[edit]

Graham Ibbeson created the lifelike mannequins used in the Jorvik experience. At first the faces of these mannequins were modelled from modern day people. However, through advances in facial reconstruction technology eight new mannequins have now been modelled on skulls found in a Viking age cemetery, although there is no guarantee that the skulls were Norse, and there is the possibility that they were Saxon.[6]

Viking Festival[edit]

The centre also organizes an annual Viking Festival that takes place in the second week of February.[7] The festival is set up in tradition of an ancient Viking festival known as "Jolablot".[8] The festival includes Combat re-enactment involving volunteers from all over the world.

"Time Warp" experience[edit]

Jorvik Viking Centre is not billed as a museum but as an "experience"; this type of educational representation of the past, known as a "Time Warp" experience, has become increasingly popular with the creation of Jorvik. It inspired other such sites as "The Canterbury Tales" where visitors could join Geoffrey Chaucer's pilgrimage.[9]

2015 flood damage[edit]

The centre was significantly affected by the flooding in Northern England in December 2015 with extensive water damage to the building and exhibits. The most valuable Viking artefacts were moved to prevent damage.[10] The museum reopened on 8 April 2017.[11] As part of the redisplay, a new figure of an 'Arab' was introduced to the experience.

Public response[edit]

The Jorvik Viking Centre has been called "one of Britain's most popular attractions."[12] The BBC spoke of the "Time Warp" experience as "a new art form".[9]

The Jorvik Centre has been criticized as a "pop-up book view of history"[9] and its presentation of the past has been labelled "Disney-like".[12] Anthony Gaynor, one of the creators of the centre, responded by stating: "We're making history accessible and enjoyable to the general public. You can't do that if you wrap it in a lot of academic foliage."[12]

See also[edit]


  • Evans, Antonia, ed. (2002). The York Book. York: Blue Bridge. ISBN 0-9542749-0-3.
  1. ^ Chrystal, Paul (2012). History of Chocolate in York. Pen & Sword Books. pp. 188–192. ISBN 978-1-84468-123-5.
  2. ^ "Jorvik welcomes its 20 MILLIONTH visitor". York Press. 18 October 2022. Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  3. ^ "About Jorvik". Jorvik Viking Centre. York Archaeological Trust. Archived from the original on 23 October 2004. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  4. ^ Koranteng, Juliana (25 June 2001). "Jorvik Viking Centre used as TiLE example". Amusement Business. 113 (25): 1. ProQuest 209428449.[dead link]
  5. ^ Wilson, Peter (16 July 2005). "High-tech wizardry beams Jorvik visitors into Viking past". Edmonton Journal. ProQuest 253242602.
  6. ^ Adams, Phoebe-Lou (March 1995). "From York to Yorvik". The Atlantic Monthly. 275 (3): 46–50.
  7. ^ "Viking Festival". Jorvik Viking Centre. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Jolablot comes to York!". Where I Live North Yorkshire. BBC. April 2004. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "These trips really take you back in time". Ottawa Citizen. 14 May 1988.
  10. ^ "UK floods: Storm Frank threatens more misery". BBC News. December 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  11. ^ "Jorvik |". Jorvik Viking Centre. Archived from the original on 29 August 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  12. ^ a b c "Purists rage, but alas, poor Yorvik's doing well". The Vancouver Sun. 4 February 1989. ProQuest 243586302.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]