The Best Icelandic Movies and Its Cinematic History

People sitting in a cinema, eating popcorn.

Iceland, with its beautiful landscapes immortalised in productions like Game of Thrones, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, James Bond and more, isn’t just a scenic backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters. It also boasts a rich history of filmmaking dating back to the 1920s. With numerous acclaimed films that have captivated movie fans worldwide, Iceland´s movie industry has a lot to offer. 

The first Icelandic movie

Director Loftur Guðmundsson holds a significant place in Icelandic movie history. He was the man behind both the first-ever Icelandic fiction film, the 1923 short farce Ævintýri Jóns og Gvendar (The Adventures of Jón and Gvendur), and the first Icelandic feature film, Milli fjalls og fjöru (Between Mountain and Shore) released in 1949. 

Loftur’s contributions to Icelandic filmmaking paved the way for the many filmmakers who followed.

Lights, camera, Iceland!

In a landmark moment for Icelandic cinema, director Friðrik Þór Friðriksson received an Oscar nomination in 1991 for his film Börn náttúrunnar (Children of Nature). This remarkable achievement remains unmatched, though it’s worth noting Hildur Guðnadóttir’s win for Best Original Score in 2020 for her work on Joker.

Other notable Icelandic directors include Ragnar Bragason, Dagur Kári, Sólveig Halldórsdóttir and Baltasar Kormákur, who is undoubtedly one of the leading figures in Icelandic cinema today. 

 

The Top 5 Best Icelandic movies

Despite its modest population, Iceland has an active film industry and produces a remarkable number of movies per capita. Several Icelandic films have garnered international acclaim, earning their place among the best in global cinema.

According to IMDB these are the top 5 best Icelandic movies:

1. Rams (2015), directed by Grímur Hákonarson

This drama film won over 30 prizes both internationally and in Iceland, as well as acclaim from the newspaper Kjarninn, which voted it the second best Icelandic movie of all time. The movie tells a tale of two estranged brothers who, after 40 years of silence, unite to try and save their cherished sheep.

2. Everest (2015), directed by Baltasar Kormákur

This star-studded film achieved remarkable commercial success, serving as a gripping depiction of real-life events. In 1996, a group of hikers found themselves ensnared in a terrifying storm atop Mount Everest, forcing them into a desperate struggle against the relentless forces of nature.

3. Life in a Fishbowl (2014), directed by Baldur Zophaníasson

The film follows the journey of a preschool teacher and mother who resorts to selling herself to make ends meet, a former athlete navigating the corporate world  and an older man grappling with the demons of alcoholism. 

4. The Deep (2012), directed by Baltasar Kormákur

The film brings the extraordinary true story of fisherman Guðlaugur Friðþórsson to life. Guðlaugur´s astonishing survival in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic captivates the audience. The Deep was shortlisted for an Oscar nomination in 2013 as Best Foreign Language film but went on to win numerous awards in Iceland.

 5. 101 Reykjavík (2000) by Baltasar Kormákur

This movie is an adaptation of the eponymous novel that won the Discovery Film Award at the Toronto Film Festival. The movie tells the story of Hlynur, an almost 30 year old leading a leisurely life under his mother´s roof, sustained by social welfare. However things change when his mother´s friend Lola, a Spanish dance teacher, pays a visit and stays through the holidays. This quirky romantic comedy quickly solidified its status as an all time favourite in Icelandic cinema.

The Icelandic Population: A Historical and Demographic Overview

Population of Iceland

The Icelandic population stood just shy of 400,000 at the beginning of 2024, with approximately 80% of the populace being Icelandic and the remaining 20% having foreign backgrounds.

 

Historical Context

Official population statistics in Iceland trace back to 1703 when the population numbered 50,358. However, between 1870 and 1914, Iceland experienced a significant population decline, losing about 20% of its inhabitants, with an estimated 15,000 people emigrating to North America.

For much of its history, Iceland saw minimal immigration, with immigrants primarily arriving from Scandinavian countries. By the mid-1990s, a staggering 95% of the population had Icelandic parental origins. 

However, with Iceland’s accession to the European Economic Area (EEA) and entry into the Schengen Agreement, immigration to Iceland surged.

 

Immigration Trends in Iceland

Recent immigration trends have brought increased diversity to Iceland’s racial composition. Immigrants from various European countries, notably Poland and Lithuania, have contributed to the nation’s multicultural makeup. 

As of February 2024, approximately 20% of Iceland’s population consists of immigrants or individuals with foreign backgrounds, with Poles constituting the largest immigrant group at 6%.

 

Iceland’s population: male vs. female

As of early 2024, slightly over 50% of the population is male, with females making up 48%. Non-binary individuals or those identifying with other genders constitute 0.04% of the population. These statistics debunk the common belief of a surplus of women in Iceland, and contrary to popular belief, there is no governmental compensation provided when foreigners marry an Icelandic woman.

 

Religion in Iceland

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland has historically been the dominant religion in Iceland since its reformation in 1550. However, an increasing number of Icelanders identify as non-religious or adhere to alternative spiritual beliefs. While Lutheranism remains the state church, religious life in Iceland has become more diverse.

Since the late 20th century Iceland has seen a decline in the main forms of Christianity and the rise of unaffiliated people. The increase of people practicing Ásatrú (or Heathenry) is also notable as a homage to the old Germanic folk religion, based on the belief in hidden forces in the land and the desire that Icelanders can have their own faith. 

 

Are Icelanders Vikings?

Even though it is believed that Irish monks were the first settlers in Iceland. Even though Icelanders can be considered direct descendants from the Vikings, they also have Celtic DNA originating from Irish and Scottish people that were brought over to Iceland as slaves by the Vikings. 

 

Here you can find the answers to more common questions about Iceland.

 

The 10 Best Fine Dining Restaurants in Iceland

Dill restaurant in Reykjavík

Iceland offers a culinary scene as diverse and captivating as its famous landscapes. While the traditional Icelandic cuisine is rooted in the heritage of fishing, farming and preservation techniques the fine dining scene is ever evolving and embraces creativity and innovation. 

Exploring the fine dining of Reykjavík

In the capital city of Iceland you will find a vibrant dining scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. The city is home to numerous acclaimed restaurants offering an impeccable fine dining experience for the foodies of the world. 

 

1. Brút, Reykjavík

One of those restaurants is Brút. Helming the kitchen is Chef Ragnar Eiríksson, former head chef at Dill, who became the first Icelandic chef to earn a Michelin star. Alongside him is Sommelier Ólafur Örn Ólafsson, co-owner of Brút, whose expertise complements Ragnar´s culinary mastery perfectly. Together they have given us one of Reykjavík´s most extraordinary culinary destinations. 

 

2. The Fish Market, Reykjavík

For those craving some delicious fish-dishes, The Fish Market is a must-visit restaurant. Chef Hrefna Sætran´s New Style Seafood Cuisine uses fresh ingredients to prepare a modern menu from the freshest ingredients. 

 

3. Sümac, Reykjavík

At Sümac, an extraordinary culinary adventure awaits, guided by the talented chefs Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon and Jakob Zarioh Baldvinsson. Together, they skillfully blend pristine seasonal Icelandic ingredients with exotic spices, creating a harmonious fusion of flavours and cultural influences. Let yourself be transported on a sensory journey from Reykjavík to the vibrant coastlines of North Africa and Lebanon, promising an unforgettable dining experience.

Chef´s at work in a kitchen.
Photo: Golli. Chef´s at work.

 

Michelin star restaurants in Reykjavík, Iceland

4. Dill, Reykjavík

The first ever restaurant in Iceland to be awarded a Michelin star was Dill. Aiming to deliver a unique and memorable experience of Iceland, they respectfully but uniquely honour Icelandic ingredients. Dill certainly pushes culinary boundaries delivering dishes as unpredictable as the Icelandic weather. 

 

5. ÓX, Reykjavík

Hidden behind a cocktail bar in the city centre of Reykjavík you will find ÓX, a magical 17-seat restaurant. Chef Þráinn Freyr Vigfússon takes his guests on a unique multi course journey in this very intimate and exclusive setting. 

 

6. Moss, Reykjavík

The Michelin-starred restaurant Moss is located at the famous Blue Lagoon. They have a seasonal set menu, an amazing selection of wines and an exclusive Kitchen´s Table experience. 

Moss Restaurant Agnar Sverrisson
Photo: Moss Restaurant / Facebook. Executive Chef at Moss Restaurant Agnar Sverrisson

 

Beyond Reykjavik: Fine Dining Across Iceland

While Reykjavík may be the culinary centre of Iceland, fine dining can be found in every corner of the island. From the charming town of Stykkishólmur to the remote wilderness of the Westfjords, there is enough for adventurous foodies to discover. 

 

7. Sjávarpakkhúsið, Stykkishólmur

Venturing to the west you will find the charming town of Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. With a breathtaking view of the colourful old harbour you will find Sjávarpakkhúsið restaurant. Here, diners can indulge in a menu of small dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, perfect for a fresh and delicious sharing dinner. 

 

8. Eyja, Akureyri

Moving on to the north of Iceland you will find Eyja, an amazing little wine bar and bistro in the heart of Akureyri city. With a great selection of wines and amazing food this cosy restaurant is the perfect place for a memorable night out in the north. 

 

9. North, Akureyri

For the ultimate fine dining experience in the north you should consider booking a table at restaurant North. They aim to share an exceptional dining experience with local ingredients, sustainable ways all the while reflecting the compelling characteristics of their land. 

 

10. Umi, Hvolsvöllur

Nestled in Hvolfsvöllur village in the scenic south of Iceland, restaurant Umi beckons as a culinary gem where traditional Nordic and Icelandic cuisine intertwine with the artistry of Japanese culinary techniques. Set amidst the untamed beauty of the southern landscape, diners are invited to savour exquisite flavours while being captivated by breathtaking views. 

 

From the bustling streets of Reykjavik to the remote corners of the countryside, Icelandic restaurants proudly use locally sourced ingredients, ensuring that every dish tells a story of the land and sea. Whether you’re indulging in innovative cuisine in the capital city or savouring traditional flavours in a cosy village setting, one thing is certain: dining in Iceland is an experience like no other.

Discover more of Iceland´s great restaurants here

 

The Silver Circle in Iceland: Driving Itinerary

Waterfall in Iceland.

While many travellers flock to Iceland’s famous Golden Circle, there is another circular route that is somewhat of a hidden gem: The Silver Circle. This picturesque journey is filled with natural wonders, showing you everything that Iceland has to offer.

Where is the Silver Circle?

Nestled in the scenic Borgarfjörður region in western Iceland, it is possible to visit the attractions of the Silver Circle in a single-day trip from Reykjavík city. 

The whole route is around 283 km [175,8 mi] and takes just over four hours to drive without any stops. Needless to say you will want to take your time to enjoy the beautiful scenery and rich history of the region. The trip can easily be extended to a two day trip with an overnight stay at the charming Húsafell farm estate or at Reykholt village. 

The must-see’s of the Silver Circle are:

  1. Deildartunguhver: The most powerful hot spring in Europe.
  2. Hraunfossar and Barnafoss: two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the region with glacial water falling from the lava cliffs. 
  3. Reykholt: a historic village and research centre filled with mediaeval history. 
  4. Húsafell: a small farm and church estate and cultural centre.
  5. Víðgelmir: a 1600 m [0,9 mi] long lava cave with multi coloured rocks.

 

First stop – Deildartunguhver hot spring

The first stop of the Silver Circle is Deildartunguhver hot spring. The drive from Reykjavík is about 105 km [65 mi] and takes approximately 1,5 hours.

Deildartunguhver is the most powerful hot spring in Europe, providing 180 litres [47,5 gallons] of boiling hot water per second. The landscape around the hot spring is characterised by the unique geothermal features of the area. The rising steam combined with the red rocks surrounded by vividly green moss makes for a beautiful scenery. 

The area is easily accessible with viewing platforms surrounding the hot spring. Nonetheless, it is extremely important to be careful and adhere to all safety guidelines and stay within the designated areas.

Hot springs in Iceland.
Steam at Deildartunguhver hot springs.

 

Second stop – Reykholt village

Reykholt village is only a ten minute drive from Deildartunguhver hot spring. This tiny village is one of the most historic places in Iceland.

The village was the hometown of Snorri Sturluson (1179 – 1241), who was a very important writer, politician and historian in the Middle Ages.
His written works
Edda and Heimskringla are priceless contributions to preserving the history of the vikings and the Old Norse language and mythology. 

In Reykholt you will also find Snorrastofa, a cultural centre for research and mediaeval studies. There you can visit an exhibition of Snorri´s life, his work and discover more about the rich history of the Borgarfjörður region.

Being such a historic place it comes as no surprise that Reykholt village is an extremely fruitful archeological site. Remains of a mediaeval farm have been excavated, that might even have belonged to Snorri himself. It´s also home to the oldest geothermal pool in Iceland, Snorralaug, the first ever archeological site listed in Iceland. 


Third stop – Hraunfossar waterfalls

After taking in the mediaeval history in Reykholt village, the third stop, Hraunfossar waterfalls, will only be a 15-20 minute drive from there.

Hraunfossar literally means Lava Waterfalls and takes its name from the 900 metre [2950 ft] long lava cliff it falls off. The Hraunfossar waterfalls are considered an extremely beautiful phenomenon with glacial water emerging from the lava, creating many small waterfalls pouring down into the river below. The water originates from Langjökull glacier and emerges with Hvítá river, which is the source of the famous Gullfoss waterfall. 

 

Barnafoss waterfall

Barnafoss or Children´s waterfall, is only a few minutes walk from Hraunfossar waterfalls. 

The waterfall draws its name from a tragic accident that is said to have happened centuries ago. When crossing a stone arch over the river, two children are believed to have fallen into the waterfall. According to folklore the mother of the children had the arch destroyed to prevent further tragedies. 

Today it is possible to cross the river on a sturdy bridge and admire both Hraunfossar and Barnafoss waterfalls from different angles. Even though the name comes from a horrifying tale, the bright blue Barnafoss waterfall and the powerful glacial river make for a beautiful scenery.

Icy river in Iceland with a bridge crossing.
Photo: Signe. Barnafoss waterfall in the wintertime.


Fourth stop – Húsafell farming estate

The fourth stop on the Silver Circle is the Húsafell farming estate. The drive from Hraunfossar waterfalls takes about ten minutes. 

Húsafell is a small farm and church estate that now serves as a hub for travellers visiting and residing in the surrounding area. It is a destination frequented by locals, many of which have holiday houses in the area. Nearby you will also find a campsite, a hotel and other short term lodgings.

This would be the perfect place to camp for the night if you wish to extend your Silver Circle journey into a two day trip.

What to do in Húsafell farm?

There are many beautiful hiking trails in the area which is one of the few wooded areas left in Iceland. 

Húsafell farm also has numerous other activities to keep you busy. You can go swimming at the local pool, play a round of golf, go horseback riding, book a cave-trip to one of the nearby ice- or lava caves, have a relaxing soak at the Húsafell geothermal Canyon Baths and wine and dine at the local restaurant. 

Here you can find tours and guided activities to do while in Húsafell. 

Photo: Erik. Húsafell Canyon Baths.

The Húsafell Stone

The Húsafell stone is a legendary lifting stone weighing 186 kg [410 lb]. Originally the stone, which actually has the name Kvíahellan or Pen slab, was used as the gate to a sheep pen built in the 18th century. 

The stone has been used for centuries to test physical strength by lifting and carrying it around. It is measures as follows:

  • Amlóði (lazybones): Able to lift the stone up to your knees.
  • Hálfsterkur (half-strong): Able to lift the stone up to the waist level. 
  • Fullsterkur (full-strong): Able to lift the stone up to the chest and walk with it for 34 metres [112 ft] 

Anyone willing can put their strength to test but seeing the stone has no handles it can be very difficult to grip, let alone lift. 

 

Fifth stop – Víðgelmir lava cave

The last but certainly not the least stop on the Silver Circle route is Víðgelmir lava cave. The drive from Húsafell farm is approximately 11 km [6.8 mi] and takes about 17 minutes. 

This stunning lava cave is 1600 metres [0,9 mi] long and takes you deep inside a lava flow, filled with stunning stalagmites, ice and lava formations and multi-coloured rocks. You can only go inside the cave with an experienced and knowledgeable guide who will guide you safely into this remarkable geological phenomenon. It is advisable to book a tour in advance of your trip.

 

Additional Silver Circle adventures:

Into The Glacier

Enhance your Silver Circle experience with these exciting activities and attractions:

  1. Krauma spa is a modern geothermal spa with six baths: five hot ones, with water coming straight from the nearby Deildartunguhver hot springs, and one cold one with water from Langjökull glacier. Enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape while soaking in the naturally warm water. Krauma spa welcomes visitors all year-round between 11 AM and 21 PM local time. 
  2. Have you ever wanted to go horseback riding on an Icelandic horse? This is possible at different locations throughout the Silver Circle route. 
  3. Into the glacier is an ice cave experience at Langjökull, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Enjoy this extraordinary experience of exploring the glacier from the inside. 
  4. Hike through the wilderness, past Langifoss waterfall all the way up to the Húsafell Canyon Baths during your stay at Húsafell farm estate. Enjoy a relaxing soak in these geothermal hot spring baths surrounded by mountains, canyons and glaciers.
  5. Þingvellir National Park is officially a part of the Golden Circle tour but on your way back to Reykjavík city you could make a small detour to the historic Þingvellir park. 

 

Can I drive the Silver Circle on my own?

Yes, the Silver Circle route is easily accessible with your own car. Bear in mind that driving conditions vary depending on the time of year and the weather.

However, if you would rather sit back, relax and enjoy having an experienced guide and driver, there are many different Silver Circle tours available. Some of which even combine the main stops with other attractions such as Glanni waterfall, Paradísarlaut hollow and Grábrók crater.

Whether you choose to explore the Silver Circle on your own or with a guided tour, one thing is certain: the Silver Circle will be an unforgettable journey through Iceland’s untamed beauty.

Bar Guide: The 10 Best Happy Hours in Reykjavík

nightlife in Reykjavík

While most tourists in Iceland prioritise experiencing the country’s breathtaking nature and geothermal wonders, why not enhance your visit with a proper night out in Reykjavík city? 

Reykjavík’s diverse bar scene offers plenty of options, ranging from luxurious cocktail bars to charming microbreweries and everything in between.
Plan your route with this happy hour guide or have a local show you around town with the Reykjavík Beer and booze tour

The best happy hours in downtown Reykjavík

Starting your night out on the town at one of the many happy hours in Reykjavík can be a great way to drink cheaper, meeting some locals or getting to know other tourists. 

Most happy hours start around 4 PM and last until 6 or 7 PM but many bars offer the chance to start earlier in the day. 

The longest happy hours in the city


Skúli Craft Bar
is a bar frequented by locals. This charming little craft bar offers a wide selection of high quality Icelandic beers and is the perfect place to sit, talk and play some games.
Happy hour: 12 PM to 7 PM
Location: Aðalstræti 9

Ölstofan is definitely the bar to visit to meet some locals. This traditional bar has a long history as one of the coolest bars in Reykjavík, as it has been frequented by local actors and musicians for as long as the bar has been open.
Happy hour: 3 PM to 8 PM
Location: Vegamótastigur 4

Prikið is one of Reykjavík´s oldest bars going strong since 1951. They’re a live music location with some of Iceland’s greatest DJs and musicians playing there. Bring a friend or make some new ones at Prikið´s legendary bar.
Happy hour: 4 PM to 8 PM
Location: Bankastræti 12

Happy hour and food – a little taste of Reykjavík


Public House Gastropub
is a great place to start your night out at. Grab a bite to eat at this Japanese fusion gastropub and pair it with their prize winning cocktails. More of an early bird? Make sure to check out their Bottomless Brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Happy hour: 3 PM to 6 PM
Location: Laugavegur 24

Bastard Brew & Food brews their own beer and has a very ambitious cocktail menu. You can also be sure to make your tastebuds very happy with one of their delicious tacos or flatbreads.
Happy hour: 3 PM to 6 PM
Location: Vegamótastígur 4

 

Íslenski barinn the Icelandic Bar
Photo: Jelena Ciric. The Icelandic Bar

The Icelandic bar is a great choice if you want to have a little taste of Iceland. The Icelandic bar offers more than a 100 types of locally brewed beers as well as spirits and liquor produced in Iceland. They also serve local cuisine, both very traditionally and with a twist.
Happy hour: 4 PM to 6 PM
Location: Ingólfsstræti 1a

Lebowski bar is a fun, mainstream bar that also serves food until 10 PM every day. This Big Lebowski inspired bar is known for its White Russian menu, serving 24 variations of the creamy cocktail. They also host a pub quiz that takes place every Thursday night at 9 PM.
Happy hour: 4 PM to 7 PM
Location: Laugavegur 20a

Local favourites


Vínstúkan
is Reykjavík’s beloved wine bar with a carefully curated selection of (natural) wines. Pair your wine with their delicious tapas-like dishes, perfect for intimate dates or cosy gatherings. During their unique happy hour, sharing a bottle of wine earns you two complimentary dishes. Experience the perfect blend of fine wine, culinary delights, and cherished moments at Vínstúkan
Happy hour: 5 PM to 7 PM
Location: Laugavegur 27

Kaffibarinn has stood as a cornerstone of Icelandic nightlife since its opening in 1993. Despite its modest size, the bar has a unique charm that draws crowds, especially during weekends. However, a visit during the daytime offers a nice ambiance, ideal for enjoying a coffee or beer.
Happy hour: 5 PM to 7 PM
Location: Bergstaðastræti 1

Röntgen welcomes you with a warm, candlelit ambiance and lovely background music. As the weekend approaches, the atmosphere seamlessly shifts from cosy to lively, with the dance floor opening up around midnight. Whether you’re seeking a serene evening sipping drinks by candlelight or craving the energy of a vibrant dance party, Röntgen offers the perfect setting for both experiences.
Happy hour: 4 PM to 7 PM
Location: Hverfisgata 12

Must know´s before enjoying Reykjavík´s nightlife

Before diving into the vibrant nightlife of Reykjavík, there are some essential points to keep in mind. Firstly, the legal drinking age in Iceland is 20 years old and it’s standard practice for bars to have doormen checking IDs, especially on weekends. Additionally, if you’re planning a night out during the winter months, it’s crucial to check the weather forecast and dress accordingly, ensuring you have sturdy footwear for navigating the icy streets.

While tipping isn’t customary in Iceland, and drinks can be on the pricey side, it’s ultimately about enjoying yourself responsibly. So, embrace the unique experience, stay safe, and have a fantastic night out in Reykjavík.

People partying in Reykjavík Iceland
Photo: Golli. Reykjavík nightlife

Does Reykjavík have a good nightlife?

When thinking of Iceland, partying might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but the world’s most peaceful nation boasts a vibrant nightlife scene waiting to be explored.

Locals in Reykjavík typically kick off their evenings at home before venturing out quite late, usually around 1 or 2 AM. They continue to revel into the early morning hours, with many bars remaining open until 5 AM. Especially during the summertime, witnessing the transition from the dimly lit interiors of bars to the bright summer night can be an enchanting experience, adding to the allure of Reykjavík’s nightlife

What are bars like in Iceland?

Icelandic bars aren’t typically large venues, but they often offer a range of additional services such as food, happy hours, talented DJs to keep the dance floor buzzing and even open up for brunch the next day. 

Expect a delightful mix of aesthetically pleasing interiors and welcoming atmospheres. Whether you prefer a fancy cocktail bar, a cosy wine bar or a traditional brown café, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

 

Is there a dress code for nightlife in Iceland?

While many bars in Iceland don’t enforce a strict dress code, some of the more upscale venues may expect their guests to dress nicely, opting for attire like blazers, suits, or elegant dresses. 

It’s common for Icelanders to dress up when heading out for the night, showcasing their knack for stylish outfits that also keep them warm during winter bar-hopping adventures. So, while there’s no formal requirement, blending style with practicality is key to fitting in with the locals during Reykjavík´s nightlife scene.

12 Things to do With Kids in Reykjavík City

Children playing in Ægissíða, Reykjavík

Travelling with kids is certainly a little different than travelling with only adults. It requires consideration for little feet but that’s no reason to worry. Iceland is a remarkably kid-friendly country, where locals embrace the idea of children being a part of their daily life rather than needing constant entertainment with specific activities. That being said, Reykjavík city has enough fun, child-friendly activities to offer.

 

Family friendly museums

Exploring Reykjavík´s family-friendly museums offers a mix of learning and fun for young and old alike, making them an essential stop for any family visiting Iceland.Here are four must-visit museums in Reykjavík that are fun for everyone:

1. Þjóðminjasafnið museum

The National Museum of Iceland has an informative exhibition of the making of Iceland’s nation and its culture. While the adults delve into the rich heritage, the kids can embark on their own little adventure with a museum bingo card. This definitely adds an element of excitement to their exploration through the museum. From ancient artefacts to skeletons and opportunities to dress up in traditional Icelandic attire, there is something to engage every young mind. 

Open Air Museum in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Árbæjarsafn Open Air Museum

 

2. Árbæjarsafnið Open-Air museum

Located in the outskirts of Reykjavík, Árbæjarsafnið Open-Air museum offers a unique glimpse into Reykjavík´s past. Wander through a collection of historic houses, many of which were wholly relocated from the city centre, and imagine daily life in Reykjavík in the 19th and 20th century. During the summer months, museum staff walks around, dressed in period attire, adding an interactive dimension to the experience. 

 

3. Perlan museum

Situated on a wooded hill in the heart of Reykjavík is Perlan, also known as the Pearl. Renowned for its distinctive architecture, Perlan features a glass dome placed on four repurposed water tanks, making it one of Reykjavík´s most iconic landmarks. Inside you can explore a world of wonders, including a glacial ice cave, a planetarium show and an interactive display of Icelandic nature and culture. Don´t forget to take a stroll along the glass dome´s balcony and treat yourself to an ice cream while you enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of Reykjavík.

 

4. Whales of Iceland

For an amazing experience dedicated to the majestic creatures of the sea, head to Whales of Iceland. This interactive museum is the largest one in Europe that is fully dedicated to whales. In the museum you can find 23 life-sized whale sculptures that are based on actual whales found in Icelandic waters. Complete your experience with a drink at their café and let the kids play at the designated play area. The museum is in walking distance from the city centre and you can enjoy the colourful boats in the harbour along the way.

 

Get free access to a number of museums, pools and more with the Reykjavík City Card. 

 

Activities for the whole family

As you plan your family adventure in Reykjavík city, discover a selection of activities favoured by locals. From cherished pastimes to lesser-known gems, these experiences will make it even more fun to explore the Icelandic capital.

Swimming pool in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Swimming pool in Iceland

 

5. The swimming pools of Reykjavík

Icelanders love their swimming pools and the culture around them is quite the phenomenon. With almost 20 pools in the greater capital region, there is a good chance you can find one conveniently located near you. Each pool has a designated children’s pool and hot tubs, where you can easily relax while the kids splash around. Most pools will provide floaties for the children’s safety as well as some water toys to play with. Complete the Icelandic experience with a late afternoon dip, followed by a traditional hot dog for dinner. It’s safe to say your little ones will sleep soundly afterwards.

 

6. Húsdýra- og fjölskyldugarðurinn petting zoo

While Iceland may not have a traditional zoo, visitors can enjoy the charm of a petting zoo located near Reykjavík city centre. Here you will meet some friendly Icelandic farm animals, seals, reindeer and more. The park is divided into two sections: the petting zoo and a family park where you will find a large playground and some carnival rides. Feel free to bring packed lunches as picnic tables and outdoor grill areas are available for a full day of family fun. 

 

7. Noztra creative workshop

For families with a knack for creativity, Noztra Workshop is just the place to unleash your talents. Their ´paint your own pottery´ café provides a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for a creative session. Located near the old harbour at the Grandi area, this cosy studio invites you to enjoy a creative cup of coffee while crafting memories together. Note that children under 8 years old are welcome until 4 PM daily.

 

8. Indoor playgrounds

In Reykjavík you can find two indoor playgrounds, providing entertainment for children up to 9 years old:

  • Fjölskylduland (Familyland) is a holistic indoor playground and family centre in the outskirts of Reykjavík. It offers a safe and stimulating environment for children up to six years old. Fjölskylduland creates a supportive environment for families by hosting events and offering parents workshops and classes.
  • Ævintýraland (Adventureland) is an indoor playground situated in Kringlan shopping-mall. Children from age 4 to 9 are welcome for some supervised fun while the parents indulge in a little bit of shopping. 

 

Free family friendly activities in Reykjavík

Children playing in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Children playing at Ægissíða in Reykjavík city.

Exploring Reykjavík doesn’t have to break the bank. From playgrounds and parks to a seaside treasure hunt, Reykjavík offers enough activities that won’t cost you a thing!

9. Grasagarðurinn

This park is a beautiful destination, especially during the summer months. Located in Laugardalur, it is next to Húsdýragarðurinn petting zoo and the famous Laugardalshöll swimming pool. Grasagarðurinn park showcases Iceland´s flora and nestled in its midst is an adorable greenhouse-like café. If you venture further into the park, towards the swimming pool, you will find a playground next to a historic site where Reykjavík´s housewives used to do their laundry. 

They would travel along Laugavegur, the main street of the city centre, and end up at the washing pool in the park. In Icelandic ´laug´ means ´pool,´ which explains why places and streets in the area are all called Laugar– something. 

 

10. Harpa Concert Hall

Whether or not you plan to attend a concert, a visit to Harpa is a must. This beautiful building, home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, has a very unique glass architecture and offers stunning views of Faxaflói bay and mount Esja from within the building. Families are warmly welcomed at Harpa, where children can enjoy the fun, musical-themed play area and even learn a thing or two about music.  For those seeking a cultural experience for their Reykjavík itinerary, check Harpa’s calendar for interactive concerts tailored for children.

11. Playgrounds

Every child loves a trip to the local playground, better known as ‘róló’ by the locals. These fun play areas are scattered throughout Reykjavík, offering countless opportunities for young adventurers to let their imaginations soar. In downtown Reykjavík, Hljómskálagarðurinn park boasts a charming playground where children can climb, run, and play to their heart’s content. Surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking Tjörnin pond, it’s the perfect spot for families to unwind and enjoy some outdoor fun.

After closing hours, typically around 5 PM, children are also welcome to use the outdoor areas of Reykjavík’s kindergartens. This provides additional opportunities for some playtime and maybe even some social interactions with locals.

12. Fjöruferð – a treasure hunt at Reykjavík´s black beaches

children on the beach in Iceland
Photo: Golli. Children playing in the Icelandic “fjara”.

A favourite activity among Icelandic children is going on a treasure hunt at the black beaches during low tide. As the tide recedes, you will find plenty of interesting little things like shells, crabs, polished stones and more. In Icelandic, there’s a distinct difference between ‘strönd,’ which refers to a typical beach, and ‘fjara,’ which refers to the black beach during low tide. Gather your family for a nice stroll along the shore of Ægissíða and enjoy the refreshing sea breeze while you hunt for your own Icelandic souvenirs. Just remember to always be careful as stones can be slippery and winds can be hard.

 

To make the most of your family trip, consider staying in Reykjavík and renting a car. This allows for flexibility in your plans, ensuring you can balance day trips into nature with more relaxed days exploring the city. Happy travelling!

Motorcycle Accident in Garðabær Claims Young Man’s Life

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

A man in his twenties died after losing control of his motorcycle in Garðabær yesterday, Mbl.is reports. An investigation has been launched into the circumstances of the accident.

Investigation launched into the incident

A man in his twenties died in a road accident in Garðabær yesterday afternoon, Mbl.is reports. The man was riding a motorcycle west on the Heiðmerkurvegur road when he appeared to have lost control of the bike, which veered off the road.

The accident was reported at just past 6 PM yesterday, and the man was immediately transported to the National University Hospital. He was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The name of the deceased will not be disclosed at this time.

An investigation has been launched into the circumstances of the accident.

Home Economics School Opens Doors to Younger Generation

Housekeeping School of Reykjavík.

For the first time this spring, the School of Home Economics in Reykjavík expanded its offerings to include courses for younger students, ages 10 to 16. These courses cover practical skills such as crocheting, cooking, baking, laundry, and cleaning, marking a significant evolution in the school’s traditional curriculum.

A curious resurgence

The School of Home Economics has enjoyed something of a resurgence over the past few years, owing, perhaps, in part, to a popular TV series (Húsó), which is set in the school and premiered on the National Broadcaster earlier this year.

In the past, courses within the school were only available to individuals aged sixteen and older. Recently, however, the school’s administrators announced plans to offer children and teenager courses for the first time this spring. Courses have now begun for students in two different age groups (10-13 years and 13-16 years). In these courses, students learn various skills, such as the basic principles of crocheting, cooking, baking, laundry, and cleaning.

In an interview with RÚV, María Marta Arnarsdóttir – who took over as principal in 2022 – was quoted as saying that the enrollment in the courses had exceeded all expectations, with two courses expanding to four. RÚV asked one young student why he had decided to enrol in courses at the school: “To learn how to bake, to take care of my home, and to help my mother vacuum, among other things.”

Significant improvement in women’s education

The School of Home Economics in Reykjavik (Hússtjórnarskólinn) was founded in 1942. During the time, home economics schools marked a significant improvement in schooling for women and girls, who’d formerly had no access to higher education after learning the basics of reading and writing.

In an interview with Iceland Review a few years ago, former principal Margrét Dóróthea Sigfúsdóttir briefly outlined the school’s history: “The first women’s schools around the country had two-year programmes where women would learn not only everything to do with the home but also subjects similar to what you would find in secondary schools: English, Danish, maths, and so on. These schools greatly increased women’s possibilities of getting an education.”

A feature article on the TV series Húsó will appear in the upcoming issue of Iceland Review.

February Marks Highest Ever Traffic Levels in Capital Area

Renting a car can be a great way to get around Reykjavík

February experienced the highest traffic volume on record in the capital region, with a 6.7% increase from the previous year. Predictions by the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration indicate a potential 4% rise in traffic for the current year.

Slow Sundays, busy Thursdays

February saw an unprecedented volume of traffic in the capital region, marking the highest levels ever recorded for this month. Traffic increased by 6.7% compared to February of the previous year, based on three key measurement points of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration in the capital area.

The most significant rise in traffic occurred on the Vesturlandsvegur road above Ártúnsbrekka in East Reykjavík, while the most minor increase was noted on Reykjanesbraut near Dalvegur in Kópavogur. According to the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration’s website, cumulative traffic (the total amount of vehicle movement or traffic flow recorded over a specific period) has grown by 5.2% so far this year.

Traffic peaked on Thursdays in February but was lowest on Sundays, although the most significant year-on-year increase was seen on Sundays. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration’s calculations suggest that traffic in the capital area could rise 4% this year compared to the last.

“With only two months into the year, the traffic division’s forecasting model of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration suggests that there could be an increase of just over 4% in traffic in the capital area, based on the mentioned measurement points, compared to last year.”

New Wage Agreement Aims to Stabilise Iceland’s Economy

Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir

A collective bargaining agreement, effective from 2024 to 2028, aims to lower inflation, reduce interest rates, and ensure stability. The agreement includes significant wage increases, a premium for shift workers, and a government-supported ISK 50 billion ($368 million / €336 million) financial package to aid its implementation.

The “Stability Agreement”

A long-term collective bargaining agreement valid for four years was signed yesterday between a broad coalition of trade unions in the general labour market, the Federation of General and Special Workers (SGS), Efling and Samiðn and the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASÍ). The agreement covers tens of thousands in the labour market and is effective from February 1, 2024, to January 31, 2028, RÚV reports.

The main objective of the agreement, referred to by the unions and the Confederation of Iceland Enterprise (SA) as the Stability Agreement (Stöðuleikasamningurinn), is to create conditions for lower inflation, reduced interest rates, and stability.

Minimum wage increases

As noted by RÚV, the agreement aims for wage increases in several stages, raising wages by a minimum of ISK 23,750 ($175 / €160). The increase is retroactive from February 1 of this year by 3.25%. At the start of next year, wages will increase by 3.5% and then again by 3.5% on January 1, 2026, and 2027. The agreement also includes clause regarding a December wage supplement and a holiday bonus, which will increase annually.

Employees in cleaning jobs will receive special wage increases. Due to the special working conditions of cleaning staff, a cleaning supplement of ISK 19,000 ($140 / €128) is paid monthly on the wage scale for a full-time position.

A shift premium will also be paid to shift workers for all work outside of regular working hours until the end of their shift.

Furthermore, changes will be made to the structure of bonus payments for manual labourers in the tourism sector, and it will be possible to agree on different shift premium payments than those stipulated in the collective agreement at the workplace.

Government to support agreement with spending package

As noted by Vísir, the government introduced an ISK 50 billion ($368 million / €336 million) spending package to support the agreement after it was reached. Municipalities will also contribute to the agreement through increased land allocation and free school meals.

In an interview with Vísir yesterday, Heiða Björg Hilmisdóttir, the chairperson of the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, stated that free school meals were a point of contention for municipalities but that an agreement was reached wherein free school meals would be implemented in collaboration with the government. Despite the agreements including an additional ISK 10 billion ($74 million / €67 million) for municipalities, local authorities do not stand to benefit more than others, Heiða maintained.

Additional measures include increased housing support for parents in rental housing and increased contributions to child benefits, maternity/paternity leave, and housing benefits.