Kaupang – The Forgotten Viking Capital of Norway

Kaupang Viking Capital

It may look serene and peaceful today, but this sea contains a dark secret. Grab your shield and sword, it’s time to explore Kaupang – the forgotten viking capital of Norway.

The cold, salty sea surrounding the archipelago outside of Larvik may be one of the calmest, most beautiful areas in the South-East of Norway. Here you will find perfectly blue waves gently caressing the shore, and there are yellow and green fields as far as the human eye can see. If you listen carefully, you might here a sheep or two. Maybe even a tractor, if you’re lucky. It’s quiet around here. Peaceful, even. And hardly any tourists.

What if I told you that this used to be one of the busiest trade ports in Northern Europe? I’m being serious here. You see, once upon a time this used to be the beating heart of the viking empire.

Kaupang is the forgotten viking capital of Norway.

Kaupang Viking Capital

The name Kaupang, which is derived from the Old Norse word ’kaupangr’, simply means market or a trading place. The first big markets in Scandinavia (Birka in Sweden, Hedeby in Denmark and Kaupang in Norway) were all established at the same time as the brutal vikings started their infamous raids on the British Isles. Recent archeological excavations can confirm that the town was established at around 780-800 AD. For a long period of time, this area was the viking capital of Norway. Kaupang was a beating heart in an ever expanding empire, the home of kings, the birthplace of legends and a market place for international trade.

For reasons unknown to us, it was abandoned by the year 930.

Kaupang Viking Capital

 

Kaupang Viking Capital

Visit the exhibiton of the local Kaupang Viking Museum to explore how the vikings really lived during the golden age.

Kaupang was once the centre of a broad, international trading network. With all its beautiful houses, its many workshops and burial sites, the city of Kaupang covered an area of  50 decares. While it might be hard to grasp today, you could once get your mittens on Arabic silver coins, beads from the Caspian Sea, and beautiful ceramics from the Rhine area near this very shore. Almost unbelivable, don’t you think?

Viking Heritage in Southern Norway

An overwhelming majority of the tourists visiting Norway each year, head straight to the West. This saddens me deeply. In their desperate quest for the oh so Instagram-worthy fjords, most of the tourists miss out on basically everything else that Norway could possibly offer. Many tourists miss out on the beautiful scenery of Northern Norway and Lofoten, and most tourists miss out on the South altogether.

Do you honestly think that walking in a queue up to Preikestolen is what Norway is all about?

Even today, you will find that the viking heritage is still very much present in Norway. And especially in the South. The shores along the Oslofjord used to be buzzing with vibrant city life, international trade markets, and feuds between local viking chiefs. VisitVestfold even recommends their very own Viking Way – here you can walk in the footsteps of the vikings all the way from Mølen to Borre. Along the way, you will find museums and information about the wild life of the vikings that once used to inhabit these areas.

Admittingly, Kaupang is mostly inhabited by sheep, farms and summer houses these days, and it can be hard to imagine all the history that was once made along these wild shores of ours. A visit to the local Kaupang Viking Museum (Vikingbyen Kaupang for my Scandi readers) is definitely recommended for those of you who would like a wee taste of what life was really like during the Viking Age.

And who knows, if you decide to walk around the burial sites at night you might catch a glimpse of the viking witch that is said to be dancing around in the woods…

Kaupang Viking Capital

Only a short walk from the local viking museum, you will find the old burial site. Rumour has it that restless viking souls are still walking around here at night… Do you dare to visit?

How to get there:

Kaupang is situated only a 10 minutes drive from Larvik, one of the biggest cities in the district of Vestfold, South-Eastern Norway. Only a 2,5 hrs drive from Oslo, Kaupang can be reached by taking the E-18 motorway from Oslo-Larvik.

Kaupang Viking Capital

 

Christina
Writer
Christina Sunneklep (b.1992) is a rather snap-happy Norwegian travel blogger. For the past few years, she's been winging it in Rome - now she's doing her best to conquer Glasgow, Scotland.

Need to get in touch? CHRISTINA@CAVAFORLUNCH.COM

12 Comments

  1. Alice July 15, 2017

    Amazing, I didn’t know this place but now I want to visit!!! I’m not the bravest, but I would love to see the souls walking at night ;)

    Reply
    • Christina July 16, 2017

      I definitely recommend a visit! Haha, I actually live close by to it, and I NEVER walk near it at night…

      Reply
  2. Kathi July 15, 2017

    I love everything viking! I’d love to visit Norway and learn more about its history, particularly because I focused on Old Nordic Studies in my undergrad studies! It’s always the same with most countries – everybody goes to the same places in search of exactly the same photo ops, but they miss out on most of the interesting stuff! Loved hearing about this little gem!

    Reply
    • Christina July 16, 2017

      Then the South of Norway would definitely be perfect for you! There’s lots of viking stuff here, and most of it comes without the long tourist lines so you get to enjoy it all on your own!

      Reply
  3. Lisa July 16, 2017

    Wow what an amazing history and place to explore.

    Reply
    • Christina July 16, 2017

      I definitely recommend a visit if you’re ever in Norway :)

      Reply
  4. Theresa - Drive By Towns July 16, 2017

    Beautifully written! You really capture the place and its history. Digging into what happened to make a place what it is today is fascinating, and one of my favorite aspects of travel. Thanks for sharing your home with us!

    Reply
    • Christina July 17, 2017

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Theresa! I hope you get to see it one day :)

      Reply
  5. orangewayfarer July 16, 2017

    Thank you for this. We are planning a visit to Iceland next year. Have heard so much about Vikings. Are you a resident of Norway? Can you suggest a book to read on the legacy? loved the clicks BTW!

    Reply
    • Christina July 17, 2017

      Hello!
      Yes, I’m Norwegian although I’ve been living in Italy and Scotland for the past five years. There are lots of books on the subject, but I would recommend going to Norway (and to some extent Iceland) and visit the museums and history for yourselves. Have a great trip to Iceland!

      Reply
  6. Rosalie July 16, 2017

    What an interesting place! I’ve visited Sweden & Finland but didn’t manage to make it to Norway. When I do, this will definitely be a stop!

    Rosalie // rosaliegoes.co

    Reply
    • Christina July 17, 2017

      I hope you get to visit soon, Rosalie! Norway has a lot to offer :)

      Reply

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