Viking ships & Royal cathedrals: A day in Roskilde, Denmark

Roskilde is a gem of a city in Denmark, and developed as the hub of the Viking land and sea trade routes over a thousand years ago. It’s one of Denmark’s oldest cities and being only 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen, it makes for the perfect day trip from the capital. I was really taken with Roskilde’s beauty, and everything it had to offer.


We started the day in The Viking Ship Museum, arriving for opening at 10am.

Approaching the museum

As the heart of the Viking Empire in Denmark, Roskilde was home to many Viking settlements and ships. It also meant it was a prime location for attacks, and to try to deter them, the Roskilde Vikings placed old ships along the sea routes in to their settlement to act as barricades. Hundreds of years later, in the 1960s, some of these ships were found at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Roskilde.

Exploring the ships

Incredibly, parts from 5 different Viking ships were found, known as the Skuldelev Ships (named after the area in which they were discovered), dating back to the 1000s. The ships were used for different purposes – two being cargo vessels, two being warships of different sizes and one being a fishing boat. Interestingly, only 2 originate from Denmark itself, with another 2 from Western Norway and one from Dublin, Ireland.

All 5 ships have been painstakingly reconstructed and are now displayed in the museum at Roskilde. Also at the museum are a number of exhibits including alongside each boat explaining what it was used for and its stats. There is also an exhibition on the excavations themselves and how the boats were brought up from the sea-bed and restored.

There is then also a really interesting exhibit on the Viking period as a whole, including the areas they reached (as far away as Turkey and Canada!), their gods, the extent of their raids, their customs and traditions and their eventual decline. My favourite part though was The Lewis Chessmen. The rest of the set can be found in The British Museum (post coming soon) so it was great to find some more originals.

The museum lies right on the water front, and in addition to the museum there is an area where traditional Viking crafts are undertaken, and visitors can take part in them too. Also during the summer months, a reconstructed Viking ship (made from methodology and materials of the time, not a modern tourist trap) sails daily, enabling you to take to the water on a traditional vessel.

We spent the whole morning at The Viking Ship Museum, and it was so interesting to learn more about a period of history I knew little about before my visit to Denmark.

Incredibly recreated, with original wood from the 1000s being preserved


Aftre lunch, we walked from The Viking ship Museum in to Roskilde town, which is about 15 minutes up hill. We explored the lovely town and were taken by its bright yellow buildings and colours. We particularly liked Roskilde Palace, Roskilde Museum and the town’s Market Square.

Roskilde Palace


After a stroll and some lunch, we then headed to the famous Roskilde Cathedral and WOW am I glad to have been inside. Having known nothing about it before my visit I was completely taken aback by its incredible interior. A UNESCO world heritage site, this is the most important Cathedral in Denmark, being home to the burial sites of all previous Kings and Queens of the country. It’s spectacular, and easy to spend at least an hour inside.

All of Denmark’s Kings have been called either Christian or Frederik, and you can pay tribute to them all – dating from to Christian I in the 1400s to Frederik IX in 1972. The current Queen’s plot is already identified and designed (she is 72 this year and celebrates her 50th year as Queen), and there is an exhibition on Royal Burials. The beautiful burial chambers and frescos around the church are really stunning, and there is also a small museum on the first floor of the Cathedral to learn a bit more about its history.

After all that exploring, we headed back to Copenhagen. Just please don’t make the mistake we did – we managed to miss our train meaning we had to get a taxi back. Prices are extortionate in Denmark so it ended up costing us £90 to get back!!!!!!!!!! Whilst the cost of the journey stung more than a little bit, and left a bitter taste on the day, the experience of visiting Roskilde was one that will stay with me and is really worthwhile doing. Just be sure to get the train and don’t even consider getting taxis anywhere in Denmark!


What do you think of this amazing place? Would you want to visit? Thanks so much for reading, stay safe and happy travelling!

36 Comments

  1. The museum in Roskilde, Denmark looks like a delightful destination to explore the Viking ships! That’s so cool that you were allowed to step onto one of the ships, too. And, the Cathedral…wow! Awesome history and architecture. Thanks for sharing, my friend Hannah 🙂

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    1. Ah that’s amazing, did you get the chance to visit her? You and your family are total globetrotters 🙂 Thank you so much for reading, have a great day and hope the sun is still shining for you in France – it’s beautiful across the channel!

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    1. Their history is so interesting isn’t it – it always fascinates me how far they got; like you say all the way from Canada to Africa – crazy in those boats made with no modern technology! It also always surprises me how short a time period they were actually around for in the grand scheme of history compared to others like the Anglo Saxons etc. What a mark they left on the world! 🙂

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  2. I’d most certainly want to visit this museum and site after seeing your outstanding photos and reading the review. As referenced in Maggie’s comment, Vikings were the first Europeans on the North American continent. Not sure though that I’d like looking at my burial spot a lot as the Queen may have to do.

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    1. Oh I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and yes – the Vikings travelled so far, I still can’t believe they did so in those boats!!! You make such a good point about the Queen – she’s actually chosen her place and it’s already excavated and ready for her – very macabre!!! Thanks for reading 🙂

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  3. I’ve not heard of Roskilde before, but looks to be a convenient day trip from the Danish capital! I’ve only ever stopped in another Danish city– Aarhus– during my brief time in Denmark, but Roskilde looks lovely to visit (although the £90 taxi ride back doesn’t sound nearly as lovely)!

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    1. Yes it was a perfect day trip from Copenhagen, and really cool to see the Biking ships…..the taxi disaster will forever be a scar, not sure I’ll ever get over it!!! I’ve always wanted to visit Aarhus, I’ll have to go on my next visit 🙂

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  4. It looks wonderful Hannah. I’ve visited ship museums in Sweden but not made it to Denmark yet apart from transiting through Copenhagen with SAS. I’d now like to add Roskilde to my Copenhagen itinerary but will allow plenty of time to catch a train to avoid exorbitant taxi fares. Was it the last train of the day that you missed or a big gap between services? Still, never mind these things happen to us all.

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    1. I’m so glad you like it Marion, it was a really worthwhile day trip from the capital – I definitely think you could easily spend 5 days in Copenhagen as there is so much to do, and a couple of really great day trips too. And yes – definitely get the train (we missed the last one of the day as we were too busy drinking wine!!). They do, it just left a bitter taste! Thanks as always for reading and have a lovely weekend 🙂

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  5. I also spent a day in Roskilde Hannah, many moons ago. In fact, I have a shot of myself standing virtually right where you stood in front of those amazing boat skeletons. The cathedral really is something else eh? Love your shots of the burial chambers. Roskilde was super sleepy back when I visited, but apparently the place explodes into life when the music festival is on.

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    1. Oh wow that’s amazing you got to visit – it’s a really cool place, and the cathedral is insane! It was sleepy when we visited too, I think we were about the only ones there in the early Feb freezing cold…..I heard the same about the festival, but I’ve never heard of anyone who’s been to it. Thanks for reading 🙂

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  6. How amazing that they found these vessels after so many years … and then to recreate it, it’s just mind blowing! The inside of that Cathedral is indeed beautiful. And I think one should always have your walking shoes on (or close by) in case you miss the train … 😉.

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  7. I’ve always wanted to visit Denmark. When we finally make it here, I’ll make sure to carve out a day for Roskilde. The cathedral looks beautiful and the Viking Ship Museum sounds interesting. That’s too bad that you missed your train, but besides that, it sounds like you had a fun day.

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  8. That museum sounds really interesting. Not 90 pounds worth of interesting, but interesting just the same. What is it with monarchs constantly using the same name (it’s bad in British history but seems worse in Denmark)? It’s so confusing to future generations of history buffs!

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    1. HA! You’re so right there, definitely not worth £90 of entrance fee!!! I know, it’s so confusing, I don’t know why they all use the same names. One should go crazy and call themselves Myrtle or something – then they’d be remembered 🙂

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  9. This looks like such an interesting place! The ships museum seems amazing and it reminded me of a museum that I saw in Sweden, which also had the “skeleton” of a ship. The chessmen also look incredibly detailed, wow!!
    The cathedral seems fantastic as well and I can imagine how annoyed you must have been at the taxi price, that is so expensive! It stings now but in a few years you will probably laugh at it though 😊 Thank for sharing your experience of this not-so-famous Danish town!

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    1. Aw I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it Juliette, thank you for your lovely words. The taxi price still stings when I think of it 3 months later!! But yes it was a really great day trip and a lovely place to visit 🙂

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  10. Fascinating read on the Viking Ship Museum! Hard to really grasp that kind of history. I love the cheesmen and can’t wait till your next post about the rest at the British Museum. And the cathedral interior is just stunning. Really loved reading about this part of Denmark 🙂

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  11. I would absolutely visit! I’ve never been to Denmark at all and other than Copenhagen I know very little about it. I learned a lot from this post and now I’d definitely like to visit the country and learn more.

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    1. I know, it would have been awful conditions – imagine 20+ men living, eating and sleeping on a boat for months!! The town was really beautiful with some unique architecture. Thanks for reading Ruth 🙂

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  12. I got geekily excited reading this post as I’ve just fallen into the world of Vikings and Vikings Valhalla on Netflix, which has triggered off many a ‘would you fancy a trip to…’ conversation. I love that this is a glimpse into history rather than tourist draw, if that makes sense.

    The Cathedral is beautiful, far more ornate on the inside than the exterior would suggest. For a totally none religious woman, I do find myself drawn to these places!

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    1. Aw Helen, I’m so glad you enjoyed it and are in to the Viking world 🙂 It definitely didn’t feel like a tourist draw, it was 100% a piece of real history and I loved it. Like you I also love cathedrals, I find them super peaceful, even though I am not religious either. Thanks for reading 🙂

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