Iceland’s capital city is vibrant, cosmopolitan, and filled with culture. Reykjavik museums have a surprisingly wide variety of items and exhibits. Whether you’re interested in Vikings and their culture or the underground punk music scene, Iceland museums have something for everyone. Although Iceland is typically known for its gorgeous scenery, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised and impressed with our history and culture. Make sure you check out some of the best museums that we’ll outline below.
Remember to pick up a Reykjavik City card, which gives you free admission or discounts to all or most of these museums. You can purchase one at the city hall. In addition to special museum pricing, you also get discounts at restaurants and free use of the city buses and Reykjavik swimming pools.
Iceland Museums: Viking History and Culture
If you know anything about Icelandic history, then you know that we descended from the Vikings. Our Norse ancestors settled the island a little over a thousand years ago after coming over from Denmark and Norway. We have several museums dedicated to their culture and way of life.
Viking World Viking Museum Iceland
Unsurprisingly, there are several Viking museums in Iceland. The first that we’ll talk about is Viking world, which features artifacts, films, and a Viking ship. The Íslendingur (the Icelander) Viking ship is the star attraction at this interesting gem of a museum. the sea vessel was built in 1996 and is an exact replica of the Gokstad Viking ship excavated in Norway in 1882.
The Smithsonian Institution also created a Viking millennial exhibition for visitors entitled Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. The exhibition examines Norse settlement of the islands and the exploration of and what was then uncharted territory. The two projects show the key role of the Norse Vikings. They were the first known Europeans to set foot on North America 1,000 years ago.
For those interested in Viking history, it’s a great way to immerse yourself and spend a few hours. This museum is not located immediately in downtown Reykjavik but rather in the nearby town of Reykjanes near Faxafloi bay.
It’s a little out of the way, but some people say they prefer it to the Viking Saga Museum, which is located in Reykjavik. This one is located in a modern building and is much more realistic. It may be small, but it definitely warrants a visit If you’re in the area. You might even see it from the main road as you drive from to Reykjavik from Keflavik International Airport.
Well there is no specific Viking maritime museum, Viking World is probably the closest thing because it houses a ship. If you only visit one Viking museum in Iceland, I recommend this one. It’s open daily from throughout the year except during Christmas when it closes down for about 2 weeks. If you want to know anything about Icelandic culture at this Viking Museum in Iceland just ask their helpful, friendly staff.
The Saga Museum
If you are a history fan and would like to catch a glimpse into the past, then the Saga Museum is for you. The exhibitions here feature scenes and characters from the very beginnings of our history and culture based on the Icelandic Sagas. This set of epic stories tells the tale of what things were like when the Icelandic nation was still taking shape. The museum offers You the chance to get up close and personal with scenery and wax figures that reflect the stories told in our beloved Sagas.
A really fun feature of the Saga Museum is that they provide costumes for you. Who wouldn’t love to dress up and play Viking for the day?
Viking Museum Reykjavik: The Settlement Exhibition
The Settlement Exhibition in downtown Reykjavik is an open excavation featuring remnants of the past. Its ruins catalogue the earliest evidence of human settlement here, starting around 871 AD. As part of the larger Reykjavik City Museum, the archaeological excavations feature both interactive digital displays and artifacts which have been found and dug up.
This is a great Viking museum in Reykjavik that you definitely want to stop by.
Reykjavik Maritime Museum
Seafaring has always been a part of Icelandic culture. From our Nordic ancestors to the importance of the fishing industry today, we are a country whose identity is deeply connected to the sea. The Reykjavik Maritime Museum pays homage to the sea as well as the merchants and traders who earn their living there.
Unsurprisingly, the museum is housed in a former fish factory. There are historic ships on display as well as exhibits dedicated to local fisherman and their trade. The objects in the museum bring our dramatic relationship with the ocean to life. From the Cod Wars to the 900-ton Óðinn Coast Guard ship, this harbor museum has many stories to share. There’s also the newly-created permanent exhibition at the Maritime Museum: Fish & Folk – 150 years of Fisheries.
The National Museum of Iceland
The National Museum of Iceland has a mix of archaeological treasures, religious artifacts, and even furniture. They have a permanent exhibition called the making of a Nation, which has unique items like statues of Thor and drinking horns. There’s also a Viking ship which will give you a full picture of how modern-day Iceland developed. Go visit the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik as it’s a must do.
Reykjavik museums: The Culture House
If that’s still not enough culture for you, why not head over for a visit to the Culture House? This is a cultural space in Reykjavik and is home to the exhibition Points of View. The special exhibit has pieces from multiple National museums and other institutions. They attempt to delve deep into Iceland’s cultural history while keeping an eye on the past, present, and future.
Get Off The Beaten Path of Reykjavik Museums
Maybe you’re tired of art museums and guided tours and you’re looking for something a little different. This is where our final two recommendations come in. The first is the Reykjavik Punk Museum. Anyone who is at least a little bit familiar the music scene in Iceland knows that there’s a thriving underground punk community. In fact, internationally known Icelandic singer Björk actually got her start in a punk band.
Right on brand, you can find the punk museum and a former public toilet. Yes, you read that right. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols helped reopen the museum in 2016
An Iceland Museum You Weren’t Expecting
Much like the museum for medieval torture instruments in Prague, Iceland has a specialty museum that surprises and delights many. The Phallological Museum, also known as the Penis Museum, is definitely one of a kind. This infamous Iceland museum features phalluses of every shape and size from a multitude of species all around the world. And before you ask, yes, that includes humans as well.
Visit an Iceland Museum in Reykjavik
As you can see, if you’re looking to visit an Iceland museum in Reykjavik, there are plenty to choose from. There are even Iceland museums that focus on marine life like our whales. Regardless of if you opt for a Viking museum in Reykjavik or one of the other numerous Iceland museums, you’re sure to enjoy it. After all, Icelandic history and culture are quite rich and interesting. Which of these museums would you most like to visit?