The history of Birka the Viking City

One of Unesco´s world heritage sites

In Sweden, there are 15 sites, which is considered so precious that they must be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Birka Hovgarden is one of them. There are a lot of ancient monuments – and still much to discover.

By then Birka was born

In the mid-700’s, a city was born on Björkö in Lake Mälaren named Birka, a location, which is commonly called Sweden’s first town. It is believed that it was the Swedish King who took the initiative to form the city as part of a desire to control the trade in northern Scandinavia, both politically and economically.

The Swedish King himself was living a few kilometers away, at a place called Hovgården on Adelsö. At that time it was the King’s duty to keep order in the city and protect it from being looted.

Birka – the perfect trading area

Merchants and tradesmen came to Birka with goods from all over Europe and other parts of the world. We know this through archaeological excavations, were they found Arabic silver, beads from Eastern Europe, beautiful glass goblet, ceramics and exclusive fabrics. These goods were traded for exclusive goods that we have here, for example, iron, skins, horns and fur. In the city worked many different kinds of craftsmen like comb makers, blacksmiths, weavers and others. They lived in simple houses that were arranged in rows down towards the docks.

A flourishing Birka for 200 years

During two hundred years Birka was a thriving city and Sweden’s most important place for trade throughout northern Europe. The city had a perfect location because it was centrally located, but also well protected in the Baltic Sea. Birka had about 700-1000 inhabitants, which today can be compared to the Swedish island Visingsö in Lake Vättern.

Birka was abandoned – an era to the grave

The residents of Birka started to abandon the city to move elsewhere after two hundred years. Some may have moved to Sigtuna, Sweden’s next thriving city after Birka. No one knows exactly why Birka was abandoned, but accepted theories is based on political decisions, but also that Birka lost his strategic and easily accessible location through the land rise.

Birka the Viking City – managing a World Heritage

The Birka archaeological site is located on the island Björkö in Lake Mälaren and was occupied in the 9th and 10th centuries. Hovgården is situated on the neighbouring island of Adelsö. Together, they make up an archaeological complex which illustrates the elaborate trading networks of Viking-Age Europe and their influence on the subsequent history of Scandinavia.

World Heritage Site is a natural or cultural site that is listed by UNESCO as being of special cultural or physical significance. The National Heritage Board and the Environmental Protection Agency are responsible for managing Sweden’s World Heritages on behalf of the government.

You will hear more about this and other things when our skilled archaeologists and guides take you back to the Viking era here at Birka. 



In Strommas ticket booths you can get tourist information and buy tickets for our tours. The nearest is at our departure location at Klara Mälarstrand.


Stromma boats have sailed to Birka since the late 1970s. In 2008 Stromma took over the responsibility for public activities on behalf of the National Heritage Board.

Stromma offers experiences and sightseeing with boat and bus. Today you can find Stromma represented in over 30 locations in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Gothenbug, Malmö, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, GeirangerÅlesund and Berlin.