Following in the Vikings’ footsteps: York, England’s ties to Norway

Photo: Heidi Håvan Grosch
Saint Olave’s Church.

Heidi Håvan Grosch
Sparbu, Norway

York’s ties to Norway
When you are planning your next trip to Norway, you may not consider a side trip to York, England. However, the Vikings (as well as many other groups of people throughout history) left their mark here.

The current Norwegian government also supports the Norwegian Study Center, associated with York University, so that students of English at Norwegian universities can have the opportunity to bathe themselves in the English language. Those training to be teachers also get the opportunity to visit local English schools, enriching their understanding of what a classroom (and non-Norwegian students) might look like. Norwegian ties to York continue to be strong.

The York Walls (
The center of York is surrounded by medieval city walls that represent the history of the city itself. The walls are mostly from the 13th century and are the longest town walls in England. They were built by the Romans, the Vikings, and in turn the Normans to protect and defend the city. Visitors can freely walk all 3.4 km (2 miles) during daylight hours.

Saint Olave’s Church
There are over a dozen churches in England dedicated to Olaf, patron saint of Norway. The Saint Olave Church in York is believed to be the first (1056), a claim supported by records about the death of Earl Siward of Northumbria. In information provided by the church, it states: “He lieth at Galmanho, in the minster (church) that he had built and hallowed in God’s name and Olaf’s.” Galmanho is a name from the area where the church now stands, just outside the Museum Gardens connected to the Yorkshire Museum.

The Jorvik Viking Centre (

Between the years 1976-1981, archaeologists discovered the remains of buildings from the Viking Period 1000 years ago. The Jorvik Viking Centre was built on that site and recreates that time in history. Jorvik suffered damage during the Christmas flood in York of 2015 and is due to reopen in April 2017. This is a must see for anyone with Norwegian (or Viking) ancestry.

A few more tips if you choose to visit York
Ghost walks taken in the dark of night, a tour of the Minster (as well as Evening Song there at 5:15 p.m. daily), and the many museums (including the Castle Museum and the Yorkshire Museum and gardens) are a must-see. You can walk along the River Ouse or the River Foss, explore the Shambles (think Hogsmeade in Harry Potter), drink tea served in a silver teapot at a variety of tea houses (Betty’s is the most famous), or sip a pint in a pub. It is easiest to fly into Manchester and take a train to York. Bed & Breakfasts (called Guest Houses) are typical and provide a more homey touch than hotels.

So visit York, and discover Norway (

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 27, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.