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The Best Museums in Iceland

    Updated: 29th January 2024

    Perlan museum, Iceland
    Credit: Christian Barrette

    Overview of Iceland’s Museum Culture

    In Iceland, your cultural adventure isn’t confined to the stunning natural landscapes – museums across the country offer a wealth of experiences. These cultural institutions range from national treasures housing historical artefacts to quirky, small-scale operations focusing on more niche aspects of Icelandic life.

    For example, at the Skogar Museum, you’ll uncover fascinating exhibits right next to the majestic Skogafoss waterfall. From ancient tools to traditional clothing, you’ll gain a snapshot of life in Iceland through the ages. An experience that merges natural beauty with cultural history.

    Venture to the National Museum of Iceland, located in the capital, Reykjavik. Here, the country’s narrative unfolds before your eyes through innovative displays. You’ll find a comprehensive timeline starting from the settlement era to modern-day Iceland.

    If authentic, hands-on experiences appeal to you, the Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn lets you dive into the world of traditional shark fishing. Not only do you learn about the Greenland shark, but you can also taste Hákarl, a traditional Icelandic delicacy made from fermented shark.

    Lastly, to get the full spectrum of Icelandic culture, platforms like TripAdvisor offer up-to-date lists on the best museums in Iceland. They can help you plan a visit that perfectly matches your interests.

    Take a moment to explore the diverse and educational museum culture in Iceland. Each museum is a window into the nation’s identity, promising a rich and memorable experience.

    Famous Icelandic Museums

    In your Icelandic adventure, make sure to visit these well-known museums to immerse yourself in the nation’s rich culture and history.

    National Museum of Iceland

    At the National Museum of Iceland, you’ll uncover the story of Iceland’s birth and growth, tracing the nation’s journey right from its settlement up to modern times. The museum flaunts a vast array of artefacts and exhibits that give you a comprehensive view of Icelandic cultural history.

    Reykjavik Art Museum

    Iceland’s largest visual art institution, the Reykjavik Art Museum, offers a feast for your eyes with collections from modern and contemporary artists. You’ll find cutting-edge art that pushes boundaries and sparks your imagination, spread across three unique locations.

    Icelandic Phallological Museum

    The Icelandic Phallological Museum presents a one-of-a-kind experience that is both intriguing and amusing. With an extensive collection dedicated to the phallology of various animals, it includes a rare exhibit of penile specimens and associated artefacts.

    Specialised Museums in Iceland

    Iceland offers a treasure trove of specialised museums that cater to diverse interests, from its rich maritime history to the intriguing sagas that weave through its cultural fabric.

    Maritime Museum

    The Maritime Museum is a key fixture in understanding Iceland’s seafaring past. You’ll get an authentic glimpse into the fisherman’s life and the maritime history that has shaped the nation’s identity.

    Saga Museum

    At the Saga Museum, immerse yourself in the world of Icelandic lore. This museum vividly recreates pivotal moments from the famous sagas through life-size figures and crafted scenes that bring the tales of old to life.

    Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Centre

    At Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Centre, experience the magic of the aurora borealis indoors. Gain valuable insights on how these celestial lights dance in the sky and learn the science behind the phenomenon in a captivating setting.

    Regional Museums worth Visiting

    Exploring Iceland’s vast landscapes offers more than just natural beauty; it’s also a chance to deepen your understanding of its rich cultural heritage. Here are some delightful regional museums you shouldn’t miss.

    Akureyri Art Museum

    Location: Listagil, Art’s Alley, Akureyri
    Highlights: Contemporary art, rotating exhibitions

    At the Akureyri Art Museum, you’re in for a treat with modern art and thought-provoking exhibitions. Housed in a renovated building that itself is a piece of history, you’ll find cutting-edge works by both established and emerging Icelandic artists.

    The Herring Era Museum

    Location: Siglufjörður
    Highlights: Marine and town history, herring industry

    Your visit to The Herring Era Museum will take you back to a time when herring fishing significantly impacted Iceland’s economy. This award-winning maritime museum combines indoor exhibits with actual dockside vessels for an immersive experience.

    East Iceland Heritage Museum

    Location: Minjasafn Austurlands, Egilsstaðir
    Highlights: Folk artefacts, regional traditions

    Don’t miss out on the East Iceland Heritage Museum, where a vast array of folk artefacts and local lore await. Discover the unique traditions of East Iceland through meticulously preserved items and educational displays.

    Museum Visiting Tips for Travellers

    When you’re planning to visit museums in Iceland, a bit of preparation can enhance your experience. Here are some friendly tips to make the most of your museum visits:

    Check Opening Times: Museums may have varying opening hours, especially during public holidays or off-peak seasons. It’s a good idea to confirm the timings before you set off.

    Dress Appropriately: Icelandic weather can be unpredictable. Wear layers that you can add or remove, and carry a waterproof jacket to stay comfortable.

    • Book Tickets in Advance: Some museums might offer the option to book your tickets online, which could save you time waiting in queues, especially during tourist season.
    • Research Exhibits: Discover which exhibits are currently available to tailor your visit to your interests.
    Essentials to CarryWhy
    Camera or SmartphoneTo capture your memories.
    Notebook & PenFor jotting down interesting facts.
    Water BottleStay hydrated during your explorations.
    Small BackpackFor your belongings and museum purchases.

    Budget Accordingly: While some museums in Iceland might offer free admission, others may charge an entry fee. Keep some cash in case card machines are down.

    Be Respectful: Remember to follow the museum rules such as not touching exhibits and keeping your phone on silent.

    Enjoy your visit, and allow yourself to be immersed in Iceland’s rich culture and history.

    Future Exhibitions and Events

    If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, be sure to check out some of the exciting future exhibitions and events at the country’s top museums.

    First up, you might want to visit the Perlan in Reykjavik, where a stunning 8K Northern Lights planetarium show called Áróra takes you on a virtual journey across Iceland and the Arctic. It perfectly combines art with science, giving you an immersive experience like no other.

    • Áróra – The Northern Lights Experience
      • Where: Perlan, Reykjavik
      • When: Ongoing multimedia exhibit

    In addition to Áróra, keep an eye out for special themed tours and seasonal events that highlight the richness of Icelandic culture. Whether it’s an exhibition of Viking artefacts or contemporary Icelandic art, these events are often featured on museum websites and local tourism guides.

    • Seasonal and Cultural Events
      • Where: Various Museums
      • When: Check individual museum websites for details

    To stay informed about the latest happenings, it’s a good idea to sign up for newsletters from sites such as Tripadvisor and Guide to Iceland, which regularly update their listings with the best museums and current exhibits.

    Finally, if you’re into unique and quirky experiences, don’t miss out on the chance to visit Reykjavik’s Phallological Museum. While the exhibits here are quite unusual, it’s a fascinating glimpse into a very niche aspect of natural history.

    • Special Exhibits at the Phallological Museum
      • Where: Phallological Museum, Reykjavik
      • When: Visit their website for the latest exhibition dates

    Remember, museums in Iceland offer a blend of historical and cultural insights with innovative and engaging exhibitions. Enjoy your visit and the wealth of knowledge and entertainment at your fingertips!

    Want to find out more about the history of Iceland? Check out our town guides!