The first recorded Viking raid was against the Monastery of Lindisfarne in England.This was an isolated but very wealthy monastery on an remote island off the coast near the borders of Scotland and England. In 793 AD, the Vikings raided, killing most of the monks and stripping the monastery of its silver and gold sacred vessels.

A monk, Symeon of Durham, described it this way:

In the 793, the heathens came from the north with a fleet of ships. Like hungry wolves ... they came to the church of Lindisfarne, destroying everything, trampling on the holy places and seized all the treasures of the holy church
The Vikings from Denmark and Norway spread out across Europe, sailing to England, France, Greenland, Iceland and North America. They settled in Ireland, and it was a Danish kingdom for centuries.

Initially raids were in small ships, conducted between sowing and harvesting crops, before winter came. Later raids were in larger ships, going further inland, using the rivers to travel in their shallow bottomed boats. They stayed away over winter and eventually began to settle in the areas they had raided and conquered.

In Sweden, the Vikings also struggled to find enough fertile land, and began to venture overseas for trade, and plunder. They headed for Russia where they established trading centres and later settlements. The original inhabitants were easily conquered. They travelled as far south as the Black Sea down the River Dnieper, to what was thenĀ Constantinople. The wealth of the Byzantine city of Constantinople, which we now know as Istanbul, attracted the Vikings. They failed to conquer it, but eventually established a treaty with its ruler.