VIKINGS have begun their annual invasion of York as part of a celebration of the city’s rich Norse heritage.

This year’s Jorvik Viking Festival, which got underway yesterday and runs until Sunday, marks the arrival of the Norse invaders in 866AD, when the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Eoforic was reborn as the Viking city of Jorvik.

Landmarks around York are being turned into Viking strongholds to welcome visitors.

The top five free events to see at this year’s Jorvik Viking Festival include:

- The Parliament Street Viking Encampment, which runs every day until Saturday. This is a chance to see how Vikings on the move would have lived, with an encampment and opportunities to talk to re-enactors and craftsmen, and see weaponry and armour up close.

- Stories and saga-telling in Coppergate every day until Saturday.

A special stage will be set up in the square outside Jorvik Viking Centre with regular tales of invasion, battle and heroic deeds. Sessions will take place daily from 10am to 4pm.

- The annual Strongest Viking Competition takes place from 10am on Saturday in Coppergate Square.

Watch as the competitors use bragging and occasionally underhand techniques to put off their opponents in a bid to take home the coveted Strongest Viking trophy.

- The March to Coppergate takes place from Saturday, starting at Dean’s Park at 1pm.

Hundreds of Viking warriors muster in the shadow of York Minster before processing through the city streets to Coppergate. The route passes through Petergate, Stonegate, Davygate and Coney Street before crossing Coppergate into the Coppergate Centre.

- The Best Beard Competition is back again and takes place on Saturday from 3pm in Coppergate. Genuine facial hair will compete against novelty hand-crafted beards.

Other activities include Viking peg doll making, Viking dress-up and a special curators talk on Jorvik life at the Yorkshire Museum, in Museum Gardens, this week. The full JORVIK Viking Festival line-up is available online at