HORDES of Vikings took over York city centre as the popular JORVIK Festival returned to the city for the first time in two years.

The Vikings were back in York for the first day of the five-day event, as the sun shone on crowds lining the streets and packing the Eye of York.

The festival, organised by JORVIK Viking Centre, is being staged from Saturday (May 28) until Wednesday (June 1), postponed from its usual home in February, but the warmer weather – and lighter nights – have brought some changes that the organisers have proclaimed a huge success.

“After a day when we’ve had thousands of people looking around the encampment and enjoying the shows on our Parliament Street Stage, the sunny evening was perfect for our new event, The JORVIK Games, at the Eye of York,” said event manager, Gareth Henry.

“The flag-waving 1300-strong crowd got behind our four team of warriors in battles of skill, strength and cunning, culminating in a fiery finale to end the evening as the sun dropped behind Clifford’s Tower – a wonderful end to the first day of the festival," he added.

The first day also saw a host of popular staples for the festival, including the March to Coppergate, with a column of around 150 Vikings processing through the city from York Minster, passing the living history encampment on Parliament Street and ending outside JORVIK Viking Centre itself. A mixture of natural and home-made beards graced the stage for the Best Beard Competition - and a twist led to an unusual winner in the trials of strength.

“I don’t think there has ever been a Strongest Viking Competition ever before where the competitors eliminated themselves and the compère was left as the last man standing,” added Mr Henry.

The festival continues until Wednesday, with visitors encouraged to visit the 10th Century Traders in St Sampson’s Square and Guildhall, meet craftspeople and warriors in the living history encampment in Parliament Street and enjoy regular shows on the Parliament Street Stage.

The annual Helen Thirza Addyman Lecture, this year is available in person and virtually on Tuesday (May 31) at 7.00pm. Steve Ashby will discuss recent and ongoing work that draws on a somewhat unlikely source to answer big questions about Viking-Age Europe. Through applying novel biomolecular techniques to the study of hair combs found in settlement and burial contexts across Britain and northern Europe, he will explain how we are now able to refine and redraw the chronology and geography of the Viking world.

The festival concludes on Wednesday evening with the sell-out Lothbrok’s Feast at the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall, when the mead will flow as diners enjoy a themed meal and hear the real story of Ragnar Lothbrok.