Top 10 Events of the Viking Era

Vikings originated from Scandinavia and spread throughout the Western Europe from the 10th century onwards. They raided British Isles and the European mainland coasts, established settlements, launch large-scale invasions and became a permanent feature in these regions.

Following are 10 key events in Viking history.

The Lindisfarne Raid 793

Vikings attacked the holy island of the Lindisfarne in 793 AD. It was the most important and preeminent center of Christianity in the British Isles.

The Vikings assaulted and looted the booty from the church and slaughtered many priests while taking the survivors as slaves. The attack shocked all Christian community all over and was the beginning of Viking raids in Europe. It also shaped the European perception of the Vikings

Arrival of the Heathen Army in England 865

The Great Heathen Army, also known as the Danish army, comprised of Norse warriors from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. This army came to raid English kingdoms and capture new lands.

In 865 the army arrived in England and encamped in the Isle of Thanet. It was led by the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok, who was previously killed by the Northumbrian king.

They attacked the monasteries, collected booty and conquered large territories. The invasions against the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms lasted for 14 long years. In 871, Alfred the Great paid them in gold and silver to leave as a part of an agreement.

Capture of York 866

The Vikings attacked York on November 1, 866 AD. This date was chosen because it was All Saints’ Day and the notables of York were celebrating the important festival. They were busy in churches and were having a happy time.

They were surprised by the attack but the Vikings didn’t give them any time to resist and took York by force. The Vikings were led by Halfdan and Ivar the Boneless whereas the Northumbrian kings Aelle and Osbert were defeated. Aelle would later be executed by the Vikings.

Establishment of Danelaw 886

The areas established the Danelaw lies in eastern and northern England. It was colonized by invading Danish army in 9th century. Here the laws of Danes were held. In 876, with an increase in population and other issues in the Scandinavia, the Viking warriors seeking wealth, glory and gold raided many lands of England.

In 9th century, with an agreement of peace between the Vikings and King Alfred, this Danelaw was established for Vikings. In 866 this territory was formalized for peaceful relation between Vikings and the English. Many Vikings settled here with families and later on they converted to Christianity.

Siege of Paris 845

The siege of Paris was Viking invasion of France in 845 AD.The Viking army was led by Reginherus, or Ragnar who was a powerful warrior and leader. He attacked with a fleet of 120 Viking long ships carrying thousands of Viking warriors whereas the French king Charles the Bald had a small army against Vikings.

The Vikings easily defeated them and reached Paris during Easter. They plundered and occupied the city but soon left after having a ransom of 7,000 French livers of silver and gold from the king. The French king also made an agreement of peace with the Vikings.

Duchy of Normandy 911

In 911, the Duchy of Normandy came to be as a result of an agreement between King Charles III of West Francia and Rollo, leader of the Vikings. Rollo was a well-known and intelligent Viking leader.

The duchy was so named because it was inhabited by Normans. Vikings under Rollo and later under other leaders continued to reign in Normandy for a long time. Normandy became a stronghold of the Vikings and would continue to play a decisive role in the politics of France.

Discovery of North America 1000

Nearly 500 years before the birth of Columbus, Vikings aboard a ship set out to find new lands for their people. Their long ship passed through the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

When the Vikings saw a piece of land, they stopped there and went ashore to explore. It was the first time any Europeans had set foot on the North American continent. This group was headed by Leif Erikkson. He was the son of Erik the Red who had famously established Viking presence on Iceland and Greeland. The Viking discovery of North America took place in 1000 A.D.

Swein Forkbeard as English King 1013

Swein Forkbeard was the Viking king of Denmark from 986 to 1013 AD. His parents were King Cnut the Great and Queen Estrid Svendsdatter. He was the father of King Harald II.

After repeated invasions of England, Cnut the Great was proclaimed the King of England in 1013. This was a landmark moment in Viking history when a Viking ruled over England. However, Forkbeard ruled over England for only 5 weeks and died in February, 1014.

Battle of Clontarf 1014

This battle took place on 23rd April 1014 at Clontarf, Ireland. The Irish army was led by Brian Boru against the Norse Irish alliance of the Irish kingdom of Leinster, the Viking kingdom of Dublin, and other Vikings.

It was a bloody fight and thousands of people were killed but the Irish army was victorious although Brain Boru was killed in this battle. Vikings were defeated badly and many people died in this battle. Viking power in Ireland was badly broken.

Defeat of Harald Hardara 1066

Harald Hardara was attacked and killed by Harold Godwinson’s forces in the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066. With this defeat his army was almost wiped out. Harald Hardara was the king of Norway from 1046 to 1066.

He had spent fifteen years in exile before becoming a king. In 1033 he fought the Battle of Stiklestad with his half-brother Olaf Haraldsson. They were defeated by forces loyal to Cnut and Harald Hardara was forced into exile.

In the battle of Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire on 25th September 1066, Harold II of England defeated and killed him. In this battle his brother Tostig was also killed.


  • The Lindisfarne raid took place in 793 A.D. The Vikings attacked and looted the prestigious monastery at Lindisfarne. The attack shocked the Europeans.
  • The Great Heathen Army arrived in England in 865 A.D. It marked the end of hit-and-run raiding and the start of permanent Viking invasions and settlements in England.
  • The Great Heathen Army captured York in 866 A.D. Northumbrian rule was thus ended.9 In 886 A.D., Danelaw was established in England. It was agreed as a region where Vikings could reside and live by their rules.
  • In 845 A.D., the Vikings laid siege to Paris. Paris was plundered and looted. The Vikings left after being paid a handsome ransom by the French King.
  • In 911, the Duchy of Normandy was established and Viking leader Rollo confirmed as the Duke.
  • In 1000 A.D., a group of Vikings under Leif Erikkson reached North American continent.
  • Swein Forkbeard was crowned King of England in 1013.
  • Battle of Clontarf was fought in 1014. It ended Viking prospects in Ireland.
  • Battle of Stamford Bridge was fought in 1066. Vikings under Harald Hardara lost the battle.
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