JORVIK Celebrates 30 years of its Viking Centre

 Issued 24 March 2014

It is nearly 30 years since the Vikings returned to Coppergate in York, and JORVIK Viking Centre is preparing to mark three decades of ground-breaking archaeological presentation with a year of events and activities to celebrate the landmark and look forward to the next 30 years!

JORVIK Viking Centre was created on the site of the Coppergate Dig, an archaeological investigation that discovered the remains of Viking houses and streets superbly preserved by the waterlogged soil conditions found beneath the current street.  The ambition of its creators from York Archaeological Trust was to present the finds in a new and accessible way, and the first incarnation of the JORVIK Viking Centre opened on 14 April 1984.  30 years and over 17 million visitors later, the JORVIK Viking Centre continues to inspire a new generation to explore York’s Norse heritage.

“JORVIK truly broke the mould of museum interpretation, taking artefacts out of a museum-setting filled with glass cases, and actually giving visitors an immersive experience to really ‘see’ what Viking York would have looked like,” comments director of attractions, Sarah Maltby.  “We have had two major refurbishments since we opened, including a complete redesign of the Viking streets to bring the presentations into line with what further archaeological research has taught us, but the core concept remains the same: we show our visitors what the Viking city of Jorvik would have looked, sounded and smelled like, with a ride through the streets and, indeed, through recreations of Viking houses.”

The approach that JORVIK adopted 30 years ago – employing ‘time cars’ to take visitors through a recreation of 10th century Coppergate –  changed the way that history was interpreted in museums and attractions around the world, with a new wave of immersive experiences emerging to follow the success of the attraction.  However, few if any have replicated the success of JORVIK, which continues to draw around half a million visitors per year.

“JORVIK has an authenticity that is impossible to replicate – the way the Coppergate development was built enabled the attraction to sit in the exact spot where these Viking remains were found, so we can genuinely assert that if you were able to travel back in time 1000 years to this very spot, this is what it would have looked like,” adds Sarah.  “Not only that, but it is the archaeological material that we have found on this spot that has guided what you see, having been interpreted and analysed by some of the world’s top Viking experts.”

Indeed, JORVIK Viking Centre has continued to keep pace with the latest techniques in archaeological investigation and analysis throughout the last 30 years to keep visitors at the forefront of technology.  For example, the faces of original models which were artistically sculpted were gradually replaced by faces generated by forensic software which can recreate how the Viking inhabitants of York would have looked.  “We’re fast approaching a stage where these faces are not simply recreated on a computer screen, but can actually be ‘printed’ in three dimensions – technology that we could not have dreamed of having in the early 1980s when JORVIK Viking Centre was being designed.”

As part of the 30th anniversary celebrations, JORVIK will be hosting an exhibition of Jorvik-themed memorabilia from the last three decades, from the early leaflets and posters which drew in millions of visitors in the first few years, to souvenir coins struck for young visitors who now return with their children.  The exhibition will run over the summer months.

For more information on JORVIK Viking Centre’s 30th anniversary celebrations, and to share memories of past visits to JORVIK, please visit

Twitter users are invited to share their memories using the hashtag #JORVIK30


For further media information, please contact:

Jay Commins or Samantha Orange

Pyper York Limited

Tel: 01904 500698