June 18, 2019

Day Trip to Birka

Are you interested in history? Or perhaps you are a Viking buff? Looking for a nice day trip with a boat in Stockholm? Well, then a trip to Birka is probably a good choice for you. The company Strömma offers a fully packaged excursion which includes boat trip each way, entrance to museum on the island as well as a guided tour on the site (English or Swedish). The boat trip out is also guided and they point out many interesting Viking Age and earlier sites, both factual and mythological.
Part of the town mock-up
Birka is one of three UNESCO World Heritage sites in greater Stockholm. Birka was an important trading center during the Viking Age and is considered the first town in what is Sweden today. It was active from around 750 AD until it was mysteriously abandoned around 975 AD, around the same time nearby Sigtuna rose to prominence. Many interesting artifacts (from as far away as Egypt, Ireland and Bagdad) have been found in the graves at Birka, showing how extensive the Viking trade network was.
Leaving Stockholm on the boat...
My parents are visiting right now so I took them to Birka yesterday. The boat trip itself quite nice itself. The trip takes 2 hours and the boat travels inland, through Lake Mälaren, first through the suburbs before getting more into the countryside. The boat is large and you can sit inside, outside or move around. There is also a café onboard, so you can have a fika, drink or lunch. As I mentioned, the boat trip is guided so learn a bit about the area and Stockholm history.
Cruising through the lake and suburbs
Once at the island (Björkö, where Birka was located), you have 3½ hours until the boat departs back to Stockholm. There are two set guided tours of the site at different times, one in English and the other in Swedish. These tours take you through the burial mounds (there are thousands of them here) and up to where the hilltop fortress was located. From this vantage point, you have a view over where Birka was once located and you can also see remnants of the city wall. The guides, usually archaeologists or archaeology students, are very knowledgeable and fun. Watch where you walk! Much of the area is a functioning farm and the sheep graze around the mounds.
Guided tour of the burial mounds
Besides the tour, you also have a great museum which explains about life in Birka and show, through wonderful dioramas, how the town looked during its heyday. There is also a life-size mock-up of what a town block would have looked like, which you can wander around in. Finally, there is a restaurant called Särimner which serves Viking inspired dishes and is great for lunch. The 3½ hours you have on the island are just about perfect for the tour, lunch and visits to the museum and town. I should point out that Birka is very child-friendly! Vikings, sheep and boats... enough to keep any child entertained.
Entrance to the museum
You can book your package through Strömma's website or, if you are staying at the Hotel Rival, stop by and talk to me for more information and help with making reservations. The boats depart from Klara Mälarstrand, near the Stockholm City Hall. If you want to see many of the artifacts and treasurers found at Birka, visit the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm (free admission). Want more Vikings? Click here!
The trip starts and ends next to the City Hall

Indoor seating on the boat with big windows

One of the dioramas at the museum
Cute houses and...

Sheep!


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