The Viking Trail through Vestfold

Vestfold is the county in Norway boasting the most traces of our proud Viking heritage. The region between Mølen in the south and Borre in the north has many places worth visiting. Over a distance of about 60 kilometres (40 miles) you will discover large, significant burial mounds, remains of Norway’s first town and where the most important finds from the Viking Age were made. Vestfold even has its own Viking ships, both original and replicas.

Viking Trail map

The Viking Trail in Larvik


Photo: Gunnar Berven

Mølen – a magical place

Mølen is a listed nature reserve and was also declared Norway’s first UNESCO European Geopark in 2008. Instructive signboards provide information about history, geology, biology and fauna. Our ancestors also believed that Mølen was a magical place. During the Iron and Viking Ages at least 230 small and large burial rock mounds were laid, the biggest of them has a diameter of 35 metres. Many people believe that Mølen was the burial place for a branch of the powerful Ynglinge family, minor kings who ruled parts of Norway in the early Viking era.


Photo: Vikingbyen Kaupang

Kaupang – Norway’s first town

The finds tell us of a permanent, vital society that was in contact with much of Northern Europe. The town was established in the first decade of the 800s and extended in a 500 m wide belt along the west side of the Kaupang inlet. There were probably around 500 inhabitants in the town, which was deserted some time in the 900s. There are several burial mounds from Viking times; at North and South Kaupang. During summer Kaupang is open for visitors. 

 

Istrehågan – a ship of stone

A stone vessel with a small dinghy is our first impression as we approach the idyllic clearing called Istrehågan in the wood outside Jåberg in Tjølling on the border between Larvik and Sandefjord. The vessel is 24 metres long, nine metres broad. The stones marking the ship’s sides are about a metre tall, while the stems are marked by two tall stones of about 4.5 metres. The ship setting resembles later ship settings made during the Viking Age, which is why it has been included here. This grave site is from about 400-500 AD, the time called the migration era.

 

The Viking Trail in Sandefjord


Photo: Gokstadhaugen

Gokstad – a Viking ship and a burial mound

With the Gokstad mound excavation in 1880 we finally learned what a Viking ship really looked like. The Gokstad mound was built for a Viking chieftain around 910. He was buried with a large ship measuring 23.5 m in length and 5.2 m in width. The Gokstad ship and the objects found are exhibited at the Viking Ships museum at Bygdøy, in Oslo. You need not travel to Oslo to see a Viking ship. At Framnes you can study a replica of the ship during summer. The Gokstad mound area is equipped with information notice boards.

 

The Viking Trail in Tønsberg

In Tønsberg and its immediate surroundings we can find four grave mounds; the Farmann mound, Haugar and The Oseberg mound. They are similar to look at, but their contents have differed. 

Saga Oseberg på Tønsberg brygge
Saga Oseberg på Tønsberg brygge
Photo: Einar Chr Erlingsen

You can experience an exact replica of the famous Oseberg ship at Tonsberg harbor. 

 

The Oseberg mound in the Slagen Valley outside Tønsberg contained the most spectacular of all Viking Age finds. In addition to the celebrated Viking ship the grave contained numerous grave goods and artefacts from daily life and religious ceremonies, many of them decorated in the Oseberg style. The ship and its contents are exhibited at the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy, outside Oslo. Visitors in Tønsberg can see an exact replica of the Oseberg ship at the haroubour in the town centre. When excavations began in 1904, archaeologists believed the mound had been erected for a chief, like at Gokstad. No one thought it could have been raised for two women. The Oseberg mound has been restored and provided with information boards.

 

The castle on the mount

The ruins of the Slottsfjellet castle date mainly from the mid-13th century, a couple of hundred years after the Viking era. However, there had been fortifications on the mount before the 1200s, perhaps even in Viking times. The remains of Tønsberghus are interesting to people following the Viking trail and a visit here is recommended. You’ll get one of the best views in Vestfold from here, to the city and the fjord with the undulating rural landscape around.

 

The Viking Trail in Horten


Photo: Midgard Historiske Senter

Borre – a site for kings

The Borre Mound National Park is unique. No other site can boast more grand barrows from the time before and during the Viking Age. There were originally at least nine huge mounds in the area, as well as three cairns and at least 25 smaller cairns.


Whether your excursion along the Viking Trail begins or finishes in Borre, a visit to the Midgard Historical Centre is compulsory, helpful and enjoyable. The museum has permanent exhibitions showing Viking finds from Borre and daily life in Viking times. Special exhibitions, seminars and lectures are organised regularly. A selection of books and souvenirs are available for sale in addition to a friendly café with excellent views of the park. Outside an archaeological playground fires the kids’ imagination and they can play Viking games, shoot with a bow and arrow and take part in “archaeological digs”.

 

For more information, read the guide The Viking Trail here (pdf) from 2010.

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