Arts & Culture

What are Iceland’s Must-See Museums?

On your Iceland Vacation, you’ll want to try the natural hot springs, stay in an unusual lodging, and see the Northern Lights. But Iceland also has extraordinary museums—put at least one on your list. They are numerous in Reykjavik, but they’re also interspersed throughout the country. Listed are a few museums that range from covering the world of the Vikings to a 3-D, cutting edge, outdoor experience.

Viking World Museum

This incredible museum is built around a Viking ship named, “The Icelander.” Built in 1996 by Gunnar Marel Eggertsson, the ship was modeled after a 9th century sailing vessel, using similar building materials and methods. As a result, the structure is as close to authentic as it could possibly be. (In 2000, the ship sailed to New York and was quite sea-worthy!)

The ship is amazing, but it’s not the only star of the Viking World Museum. The museum includes five exhibits of all things Viking, a stunning view of the ocean, and it features a playground with outdoor teaching space. The Viking World Museum is fairly close to Keflavik Airport, so it’s a perfect stop just before or after a flight.

Arbaer Open Air Museum

This phenomenal space is more than a museum—it’s a three-dimensional, outdoor experience. The Arbaer Open Air is an exhibit of more than twenty well-preserved buildings that were once used, and inhabited, by historic Icelanders.

The buildings of the open air museum have been relocated from various places around Iceland to a community just outside Reykjavik. They comprise, what looks like, a small village, complete with a farm and town square. As a visitor, you’ll explore the inside of each house, experience what life was like for Icelanders who lived off the land, and you’ll also take a look at traditional Icelandic clothing. Enjoy fresh country air, and step back in time.

Reykjavík Maritime Museum

The Reykjavík Maritime Museum, formerly known as The Vikin, is located in the city’s vibrant harbor area. This popular museum is an insider’s look at the nation’s maritime legacy throughout history. Fishing and maritime exploration have always been important to the country’s culture and economy, and the Reykjavík Museum has plenty of source material.

Take a look at vessels that have carried Iceland’s sailors—they were exceptional navigators. You’ll discover Reykjavik’s harbor throughout time and have the chance to explore an Icelandic Coast Guard ship. This ship fought in the Cod Wards against the UK. Before you leave, dip into the unique gift shop.

The Saga Museum

The Saga Museum is one of the most popular in Reykjavik. Here, you’ll tour Iceland’s place in history with the help of life-size recreations of the people’s past. The museum is named after the Sagas, a renowned series of prose narratives based on Icelandic history and family legacies.

The National Museum of Iceland

This is an ideal place to learn more about the history, and stories, of Iceland. You’ll discover what influenced Iceland’s culture as it is today. This museum lets you explore the country’s culture from the medieval period to the present. Thousands of artifacts from different parts of the country are on display. Craftsmanship is also on view, including a door covered with medieval carvings—it’s stunning, as is the architecture of the building itself.

The Icelandic Punk Museum

Iceland is known for its exceptional music venues, and it also has a presence in the world of punk. One of the lesser-known Reykjavik museums, the Icelandic Punk Museum, sits in a tiny underground space downtown.

The museum takes a look at the rise of punk music from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. The space is covered in posters, photos, guitars, and other hip-looking relics from the era. There’s historic concert footage from international artists who toured Iceland and local talent that became well-known. Listen to punk albums or try on rock-star jackets. Have a blast!

There are literally hundreds of museums and cultural experiences to discover in Iceland. They range from the magnificent to the kitschy. (Stop in at the Herring Museum…) There are also handcraft shops, a museum of Icelandic Sorcery, Rock museums, and a Library of Water.

If you have a particular area of interest or expertise, just let your Destination Expert know!