Here's How Vikings Killed Time

Vikings are known for their skillful navigations, ruthless attacks, slaughtering acts and illegal stealing of countless possessions. You are probably wondering what they did when they were not raiding places and instilling fear in people. If you’re interested to find out how they spent time when they were not out there making a crazy, chaotic mess then keep reading this article.

Viking Downtime

When Vikings were not working and ransacking, they enjoyed playing a variety of ball games. One of the most popular games according to Saga literatures was called “knattleikr”, which pretty much involved full body contact and can be quite similar to the cricket and baseball games of the present century. They also found pleasure in wrestling their hearts out and lifting stones, which is alike to some extent with the weightlifting competitions in this present day and age. However, they were savage people so it’s not surprising that they vented out their anger and frustrations in different brutal ways to the point of shamelessly killing their opponents. 

These physical games served as tests of strength and a powerful way to train Viking men in preparation for future battles. According to archaeological findings, it was not uncommon for games back in the day to occasionally turn bloody after a fuming Viking aggressively took down the person he was battling/competing with. 

Vikings got emotional and invested too in these; so playing/watching games was something that they did  for leisure. This form of entertainment was also a way to show off their strength, display their masculinity, and exhibit their clever and deceitful tricks. Unfortunately, the weaker ones were dying in tragic ways and those who were lucky to still be alive endured much painful injuries and bigger wounds in comparison to stronger, more dexterous Viking participants.  

Aside from physical games, other written accounts also indicated that they did play board games as well. Those who played board games were described as nobles in Vikings sagas and Old Norse poetry.

Having the ability to execute physical moves skillfully and smoothly was very important for them but it wasn’t enough. They also found time to hone their intellectual prowess by playing board games and doing well in this aspect is actually a prerequisite, especially for Vikings who were aiming for authority and higher positions. 

Playing board games helped them widen their thinking capacity and improve their cognitive function. They became better at finding solutions to problems not just during but after playing these strategic games as well. They could fiercely apply the skills that they learned from these mentally stimulating and challenging games in real life, on the battlefield, and wherever they went. These were just some of the reasons why they enjoyed and found playing these types of games helpful. 

When it comes to drinking games, the usual drinks they had were honey-based mead, beer and sometimes wine. This party game is the type of game where the female population usually could join in the fun even if some of them preferred to just watch and laugh as the event unfolded right in front of their eyes. 


Leszek Gardela, What the Vikings did for fun? Sports and pastimes in medieval northern Europe, World Archaeology, 2012 (abstract)

Snorrastofa Medieval and Cultural Centre in Iceland

Grettir's Saga, Icelandic Saga Database     

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