Reykjavik has a number of great museums. I think no visit to Reykjavik is complete without visiting at least one or two of these. So here is a list the top 10 museums in Reykjavik, in my opinion. I hope these come in handy when planning your visit.
The National Museum of Iceland
The National Museum is probably my favourite museum in Reykjavik. It’s run by the University of Iceland, and it’s the most comprehensive overview of Icelandic history you can find. They have lots of archeological artefacts and other cool stuff, and it’s a lot of fun to visit. Also, I’ve heard that the gift shop at the National Museum is one of the best places to shop for souvenirs, because apparently the stuff they have there is more authentic, Icelandic stuff, not the same mass produced things you’ll find in all the tourist shops.
It’s a great museum and I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you are at all interested in learning about the history of the vikings.
The Settlement Exhibition
Speaking of vikings – The Settlement Exhibition is a great insight into how the earliest settlers in Iceland lived. It was built around the remains of a viking longhouse that dates back to the settlement era, and is one of the oldest man made structures that have been found in Iceland. The exhibition is based on scholars theories on what the heritage sites in central Reykjavík can tell us about the life and work of the first settlers. Also on display are objects from the Viking age found in central Reykjavík and the island of Videy.
Árbær Open Air Museum
Moving a little further along in history, the Árbær Open Air Museum is a wonderful collection of old buildings from various points in time, collected in one place. Most of these have been transported from Reykjavik, and they form a sort of village that you can walk around and explore. Inside the buildings are various interesting bits of history to learn, and in the summer there is even livestock roaming around the museum.
There are many exhibitions and events held at the Museum which highlight specific periods in Reykjavik’s history. These include craft days, vintage car displays, Christmas exhibitions and much more. There is something for everyone at Árbær Open Air Museum.
The Punk Museum
So, now we go even further into modern times, with a very different kind of museum. As the name suggests, the Punk Museum celebrates the punk culture and punk music, in Iceland and abroad.
Fittingly enough, it’s located in a former public lavatory, and it’s a tiny homage to an era that was very pivotal in modern music history, as well as modern culture. It’s a unique and different museum and I highly recommend it, whether you’re into punk music or not. It captures a unique attitude, and you won’t find anything like it.
The Aurora Exhibition
Take a walk through history and learn how people and cultures around the world saw the Northern Lights via legends and myths connected to this amazing phenomenon. There are interactive displays as well as a specially equipped ‘photo booth’ where you can learn how to adjust your camera’s settings should you want to try your hand at capturing the auroras yourself.
The high point of your visit to the center will certainly be our theatre where a continuously running HD film is playing throughout the day. Projected onto a 7 metre wide screen, you can sit back and enjoy this 20 minute film that features some of the most magnificent auroral displays seen over Iceland. The film is accompanied by soft music in surround-sound, making this a therapeutic and restful experience. You’ll feel like you have just come back from a blissful holiday!
You can also combine a visit to the museum and a Northern Lights cruise, right here!
Whales of Iceland
The Whales of Iceland exhibition is the largest Whale exhibition in the world. They have 23 life-size whale models, guided tours as well as audio guided tours, a VR experience and a whole lot more. A visit to the Whale exhibition is a wonderful experience, and can dramatically enhance your appreciation for whale watching, so if you plan on taking a trip out to sea to meet up with the gentle giants, it can be a great idea to combine the two activities.
The Saga Museum
The history of Iceland is recreated here in painstaking detail, through great set pieces and mannequins. You get a unique insight into the life of the Icelandic people throughout the centuries. You are guided through the exhibition with an audio guide, available in several languages, or in booklet form. The museum also boasts one of the highest rated restaurants in Reykjavik, Matur og drykkur.
The Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum is located in an old fish freezing plant by the Old Harbour, one of my favourite areas in Reykjavik. It is a very interesting exhibition on the growth of the Icelandic economy through fishing, our main industry.
Icelanders have from the time of settlement depended on fishing. Settlement at Faxaflói Bay was founded on fishing and fish processing. Since the 19th century, the growth of the cities Reykjavík and nearby Hafnarfjörður was largely based on the fisheries, as well as improved living conditions in the 20th century. The fishing industry has been the foundation of prosperity in Iceland. The main purpose of the museum is to collect items and accounts that tell this story and make exhibitions that are based on those findings.
The Culture House
The Culture House is a part of the National Museum, and has rotating exhibitions as well as permanent ones. The ticket for the National Museum is valid here as well, so if you visit that, you should definitely make a stop at the Culture House too. There are a lot of interesting exhibitions in here on cultural history, art, natural history and all kinds of things.
The building was originally constructed between 1906 and 1908 as the national archives, and has housed many museums throughout the years. It’s a stunning building, and a great museum.
The Penis Museum
The Icelandic Phallological Museum is probably the only museum in the world to contain a collection of phallic specimens belonging to all the various types of mammal found in a single country. It was founded by my old history teacher, actually, in 1997, and has been a weird but treasured spot in Iceland ever since.
Now I must point out that it is not a dirty or smutty museum or anything like that. I’ve taken my kids there, and I haven’t noticed any long lasting damage.
The Penis Museum is a funny, interesting place for anybody. Honest. And their gift shop is possibly the best one on earth.
So what museums are you most excited about? Leave your comments below.