A research back in 2010 showed that the diet of the Vikings seemed to have been both healthy and slimming. They apparently lived on fish, especially salmon and trout from the rivers and herring. They ate reindeer meat, wild-berries and grew cabbage. Now let's have a look at what the Icelandic Vikings ate.
Vikings in Iceland
This research does not fit the Vikings of Iceland. Here there were no reindeer until they were imported in the 20th century.
In the Sagas you will find tales about the farm-animals which the Vikings brought with them to Iceland back in the 9th century. The Vikings brought with them sheep, so there have been free-roaming sheep here since the Settlement - and now they greatly outnumber the population of Iceland.
And they brought goats with them as well and cattle and eating beef was very common back then.
The Vikings brought horses with them and horsemeat was eaten - and still is today. The Icelandic horses are direct descendants of the horses that the Vikings brought and have still not been mixed with other breeds. And they also brought with them wild boar, which we don't have here today.
For sure the Vikings ate salmon and trout, but living on an island at least the people living close to the coast also had cod, haddock and halibut plus many more species of fish from the ocean. Yes, and whale and seals.
Goose bones have been found in old Viking graves. And the Sagas tell about them eating all kinds of birds, apart from birds of prey and the raven (which is a passerine). The raven is a very common bird here in Iceland.
They Vikings ate wild-berries, which are in abundance here in Iceland, and they grew some kinds of vegetables and ate Iceland moss, angelica and dulse. And of course they had milk and dairy products from the cows and goats.
And there was grain-farming in the first centuries of the Settlement. The climate was milder back then so it was possible to get a decent harvest back then. There were experiments in growing grain here in the middle of the 20th century, but wasn't until 1980 that it was possible to grow grain here again. Now growing barley has turned out to be successful in Iceland.
The Viking Festival
Hafnarfjörður town, the neighbouring town to Reykjavík where I live, hosts the Annual International Viking Festival. The festival is held in the second weekend of June and lasts for 5 days. Crowds of "Vikings" from all over the world (mostly Scandinavia, England and Germany, plus Icelanders of course) gather at the Viking Village and the fun goes on for several days.
The Vikings sell hand-made stuff, fur, roast a lamb, fight, dance, tell stories and show us the ways of living of the old Vikings. They teach you how to throw spears, shoot with bows and arrows, there is a fortune teller, wood-carving etc.
Iceland is the Mekka of Vikings and this is a must if you are visiting Iceland at this time of the year. I never miss the Viking Festival at the Viking Village.
The Vikings put on quite a realistic battle through out the days during the Viking festival. Visitors are advised on not standing too close as it can get scary, especially for kids.
At the end of the battle a lot of Vikings lie "dead" in the field, probably on their way to Valhalla, where they can continue fighting. But be aware that they then get up and run screaming towards the crowd!
Hold on to your kids and don't let them go too close during the battle. It is all just for fun, but when I brought my nieces, which are 11, 9 and 4 year old, to watch the Viking battle, I held on to them when the Vikings ran screaming towards the crowd. If you look at my photo below I know you will understand why ;)
I have written several other blogs on Viking-related Activities in Iceland: