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Discover York's Viking past
Jorvik Viking Centre (York)
Member Name: micksheff
Jorvik Viking Centre (York)
Advantages: Informative, will appeal to all ages
Disadvantages: Admission charges, long queues
Since opening its doors to the public in 1984 the Jorvik Viking Centre in York has attracted over 15 million visitors and won numerous tourist awards, establishing itself as one of the UK's major tourist attractions. Despite regular visits to York I only visited the Jorvik Centre recently having been previously discouraged by the huge queues.
When I visited I arrived early and the queues weren't too bad but it often extends for well over a hundred metres and with no shelter it's not the best way to start your visit if the weather is bad. After paying your entry fee you walk into a holding area where you have to wait your turn for the tour. There are some toilets in this area but to be honest this holding area looked a little bit shabby despite the dimmed lighting and I couldn't help but notice some green mould on the corrugated roofing above.
Each tour consists of about 30 people and tours take place about every 10 minutes throughout the day. After a wait of only a few minutes we were greeted by a chap dressed as a Viking who invited us to follow him on a journey into the past to the year 975AD and more intriguingly to a specific date within that year. We all followed like sheep and were seated inside a small room, this room was referred to as "the time machine" and this is from where our journey began. I won't describe what happened in detail for fear of spoiling it for others but it was an interesting start to the tour.
Having travelled back in time over a thousand years we were then greeted by another authentically dressed character who loaded us all into carriages which would take us on our tour of York as it would have looked all those years ago. Each of the carriages are like small cable cars connected to an overhead track, they hold either 4 or 6 people and travel along at a very slow pace, twisting and turning to ensure that you don't miss anything along the way. Before you begin you journey however you select your preferred language for the tour by pressing a pad in front of you and lean back into your seat. There is a microphone inside each headrest and this provides an audio tour. I was sat right at the front of the very first carriage that I would suggest is probably the best place to sit.
The tour moves along through the streets of York as it would have looked at and there are smells to accompany each scene. Numerous life size and very realistic looking models create each of the scenes, which accompanied with the smells and the audio sounds gives a real sense of being a part of the action. It should be noted that some of the smells are not very pleasant. The tour lasts about 20 minutes and at the end of it you walk through an area where there are replicas of some of the items seen. Here you can try on a Viking helmet or hold a shield. This is the only part of the centre where photographs can be taken.
The final part of the journey is a museum where you are free to wander around the exhibits that have been unearthed during archaeological digs in the city. These are displayed inside glass cabinets and include tools, utensils, clothing and weapons and there is even a full size human skeleton.
Not surprisingly at the very end of the tour, just before the exit there is a large gift shop that you have to walk through on your way out. I resisted temptation and walked straight through having just enjoyed a very memorable experience.
The Yorvik Centre is open daily from 10am to 5pm during the summer and from 10am till 4pm during the winter. Admission prices are £8.50 per adult, £7 concessions and £6 for children. Whilst family and group tickets are available it can be quite an expensive day out. However the admission charge of £8.50 per adult was never really an issue for me since this is the sort of place that I would generally be happy to pay that sort of fee as a one off experience.
Summary: One of the UK's leading tourist attractions
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