You don’t have to visit Sweden, Norway or Denmark to learn about Vikings. Ireland has rich Viking history. In fact, its first city, Waterford, was founded by Vikings more than 1,100 years ago, and even Dublin was once a Viking settlement.
Whether your family is interested in Vikings specifically or history in general, a visit to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without exploring these four sites.
Named for the roughly 1,000-year-old wall surrounding the city of Waterford (a three-hour drive south of Dublin), the Viking Triangle consists of several major attractions, including the famous Waterford Crystal factory. The wall itself still stands in large sections and includes six towers, the most famous of which is Reginald’s Tower.
Inside Reginald’s Tower, you’ll find Viking weapons and personal items, such as combs and jewelry, while next to the tower, a replica Viking boat points toward the river where actual Vikings sailed. Nearby, the Medieval Museum contains more artifacts from the era, including vestments made from gold cloth.
Waterford and the Viking Triangle are also home to “King of the Vikings”, a virtual reality experience that tells the history of the Vikings in Ireland. The half-hour experience begins with a costumed actor escorting up to 10 people into his home. There, seated on benches covered with furs, you’re fitted with virtual reality goggles and headphones, and the show begins.
It can be quite intense at times with battle scenes, fires and even death. Children under 10 are not permitted, but older kids, especially teens, will likely consider this the highlight of a visit to Waterford. And, at €7 per person, it’s a great bargain.
This Dublin attraction replicates the city’s early days and is divided into Viking Dublin and Medieval Dublin. In Viking Dublin, kids can try on Viking clothes, visit a Viking house, learn the Viking alphabet and more. After visiting Medieval Dublin, climb 96 steps to the top of St. Michael’s Tower and look out over modern Dublin.
Combined tickets let you visit Christ Church Cathedral next door at a discounted rate. There, you can tour the 1,000-year-old church’s beautiful interior and descend into the medieval crypt, where its collection of priceless silver and Ireland’s first copy of the Magna Carta are kept.
There’s no charge to visit any of the four National Museum of Ireland locations, including the one in Dublin, which specializes in archaeology. Its Viking exhibit displays weapons, farming implements, objects found in Viking graves and items related to trades such as carpentry and leather work.
The museum also has an exhibit dedicated to the Battle of Clontarf when the Christian king of Ireland, Brian Boru, defeated the Vikings in 1014. Here, you’ll see Viking and Irish weapons as well as a Viking boat.
Before you leave, don’t miss the opportunity to see the museum’s collection of bog bodies, located on the ground level in the “Kingship and Sacrifice” exhibit.