I will be traveling to Sweden in June/July of 2023 and visiting mainly from Stockholm down to Öland and into Småland. I would like to include at least one stop in that area to see and learn about Viking history. What are some of the top sites and / or museums?
In my opinion, the three most important places to visit in that area are, in order of importance:
- Gamla Uppsala
- The History museum in Stockholm
Hi Kristina! I agree with Badger, but wanted to add some details, since I love Viking history!
- I would start at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, https://historiska.se/, you literally walk through the centuries on see-through flooring that tells you the history of Scandinavia. Huh, they've added some 'try on stations for all the senses", sounds like fun. Have you looked into rune stones? Commemoration stones, sometimes following a death or an adventure, the renovated stones are usually painted red & or black and are fascinating. They're all over Sweden & Denmark, frequently taken & put into the sides of churches, though they also pre-date Christianity.
- Gamla (old) Uppsala lies about 5K outside Uppsala, you can reach it by bus but much more fun is to rent a bike downtown and ride out through the forest to the Viking graves & museum. (see link below with more details.) There's a nice restaurant with good food & outdoor seating, Odinsborg, just next to the King's (and one queen's) graves, which are basically hilly mounds. Lots of signage in the area in English.
- If you're going to Uppsala to see the king's graves, you should stop over at the gorgeous cathedral & there are some rune stones in the park behind Gustavianum, which is across from the Cathedral. Here’s a link to a discussion about things to see in Uppsala - https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/sweden/uppsala-few-days-before-rs-scandinavia-tour-ideas.
- Personally, I found Birka Island disappointing, though a nice ferry ride if you're there in summer & want to get out into the archipelago anyway. I wouldn't go out of my way for it. The guide was great, the weather was beautiful, but there's not much left to see on the island except some vague outlines of the settlement & a very small museum.
- Sounds like you may be there for the summer solstice, June 21, and it's a national holiday so would be fun to find some festivities.
Thank you! This is great information. I have never been to Uppsala so I think now I will make it a priority. Yes, we are going to visit my distant cousins for Midsummer, my first time. I know I will be posting more questions.
Regarding rune stones, I won't agree that they are all over Sweden and Denmark. They are more common in certain areas, and especially Uppland. In particular the Uppsala-Sigtuna area. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runestone#Distribution And yes, there is a lot more to see and do in Uppsala, Wikivoyage has a good article: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Uppsala
For Birka you will need a guide to tell you more about what it was like during the Viking age. It was an important location during the viking age, but I can understand that it might feel a bit disappointing. And it is not in the archipelago, but on the island Björkö in lake Mälaren. But still a nice boat trip!
Hi Kristina! Wondered how many days you have in Stockholm & what other eras of history interest you?
- I like living history, things that I can see, maybe even re-live, like the outdoor museum Skansen on Djurgården, a small island in Stockholm. Here's a list of Swedish traditions, I especially enjoyed the music in the old houses. https://www.skansen.se/en/kalendarium?date=2022-11-03&c=4188
- Here's my trip report on the Djurgården Island. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/sweden/4-days-in-stockholm-a-day-trip-worth-it
- This Stockholm mansion in the central part of town was built in 1893-1898 & has been turned into a fascinating museum, be sure to rent an audio guide. https://hallwylskamuseet.se/en/history-of-the-house/
Thank you again! I love the tip about the Stockholm mansion. I'll definitely make sure to find out when the folk music is playing at Skansen. We will probably spend a few days in Stockholm (I have been 4 times) but I now will plan to spend at least one day up in Uppsala..
Is it possible to do the Viking sites in Uppsala and Sigtuna in one day using public transportation? If so, how? It would be in mid August.
Is it possible to do the Viking sites in Uppsala and Sigtuna in one
day using public transportation?
In short, yes. But what viking sites in Sigtuna are you considering? It is not a town with a lot of viking sites, apart from a number of rune stones. But there are quite a lot of them in Uppsala as well, so for that reason I can't see any reason for visiting Sigtuna. Although Sigtuna is a nice town with a lot of church ruins, but both the current town centre and the ruins are a lot younger.
If so, how?
By train and bus.
HI Kristina! Agreed, though Sigtuna is a pretty small town on Lake Mälaren, it would take half a day to get there & back plus some time to wander. Uppsala is more diverse, has more rune stones & more historical sites worth visiting. I found an interesting link in English about Viking history in Uppsala. I will try to check out the enhanced virtual reality offerings at the Old Uppsala museum & let you know what it’s like, sounds fun!
Comparing Sigtuna and Uppsala is apples to oranges. Sigtuna is all about wandering around in a charming little village, and I bet it is touristy during the summer. Uppsala is a vibrant, thriving college town. Both places have runes and architecturally interesting houses of worship with totally different vibes.