5 x Music Festivals in Reykjavík Worth Attenting

While Iceland´s breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders often are the reason people visit, the capital city of Reykjavík is a dynamic hub with vibrant cultural and artsy energy. Iceland´s music industry is one of the main cultural scenes, with numerous artists having achieved international acclaim, like Björk, Laufey, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós and more.

With the music scene in Iceland undeniably flourishing, Reykjavík city hosts over a dozen music festivals annually with even more festivals taking place around the country. These festivals are a great place for both established and emerging artists, whether local or international, to showcase their art to enthusiastic audiences.

Here are 5 music festivals in Reykjavík city worth attending. 

 

1. Iceland Airwaves

This festival is without a doubt one of the most iconic festivals in Reykjavík. Iceland Airwaves was established in 1999 as a one-time event in an aeroplane hangar. Since then it has evolved into one of Iceland’s biggest and most established festivals. Held in November each year, Iceland Airwaves transforms the whole city into a musical haven with its immersive, multi-genre music festival. The performances spread across various venues, from intimate bars and stores to grand concert halls and showcases a range of unheard-of-up-and-comers to local rising stars and established (international) talent. 

 

2. Innipúkinn

In Iceland, the first Monday of August is celebrated as a national holiday known as the ´tradesman’s holiday´. The weekend before is the Verslunarmannahelgi weekend, which has become the biggest festival and travel weekend in Iceland, marked by numerous festivities across the country and leaving Reykjavík almost empty for an entire weekend. 

To inject some energy into the city during this bustling travel period, Innipúkinn festival was established in 2001. Translating to ´someone who prefers being inside´, Innipúkinn is an alternative celebration for those who opt to stay within the city confines rather than venture to outdoor concerts and camping sites.

This three-day music festival features performances by various musicians at venues scattered throughout the city. Single-night tickets are available, and attendees may even have the chance to snag a ticket at the door.

 

3. Secret Solstice festival

Embracing the spirit of the iconic lyrics of Led Zeppelin, “From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow….,” the Secret Solstice festival is perfect for those seeking a more distinctive experience. Held during the summer solstice, the Secret Solstice festival makes use of Iceland’s long and bright summer nights with performances under the beautiful glow of the midnight sun. 

The festival was established to create unique music experiences and to push boundaries. Whether they ́re hosting a rave in a glacier or orchestrating performances in 5000 year old lava tunnels, the organisers are dedicated to offer memorable and unconventional experiences to their attendees. Their main goal is to combine music with outdoor adventure as well as having stage events in the city. 

It’s truly an immersive experience that celebrates both the music and natural wonders of Iceland.

 

4. Reykjavík Jazz festival

Established in 1990, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival stands as one of Iceland’s oldest and most enduring music festivals. Held annually at the end of August, this event has garnered increasing prestige within the international jazz community.

For jazz-fans, the festival presents an unmissable opportunity to dive into a world of musical diversity, featuring performances from both Icelandic and international artists. From contemporary and avant-garde expressions to the rhythm of Latin jazz and the grandeur of big bands, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival offers a rich tapestry of genres to explore.

5. Músíktilraunir – The Icelandic Music Experiments

Músíktilraunir or The Icelandic Music Experiments, is an established musical event that was first held in 1982. It stands out as a unique event within Iceland´s music industry as it provides an invaluable opportunity for young, aspiring musicians. While its not a traditional music festival, music-lovers are sure to discover upcoming talents and enjoy great music. 

The festival takes place in Reykjavík city, usually at the beginning of the year. Over the course of five days, close to 50 musical acts compete to take one of the ten available places in the finals. Músíktilraunir serves as a crucial stepping stone, offering a platform for 13-25 year old musicians to showcase their skills and gain both national and international recognition. 

Notable past winners include Of Monsters and Men, Samaris, Mínus and Mammút, all of whom have since cemented their place within the music industry, both in Iceland and abroad. 

So if you are a music lover seeking fresh sounds and travelling to Iceland, Músíktilraunir might just be the festival for you. 

 

“You Don’t Have to Be a Genius to Be in a Band”

Ateria band winner of Músíktilraunir 2018

Composer Béla Bartók once famously said, “Competitions are for horses, not artists.” The Iceland Music Experiments (IME) have proven him wrong many times over. A yearly competition for up-and-coming Icelandic musicians, IME have since 1982 been a stepping stone to success for bands such as Mammút, Agent Fresco, and Of Monsters and Men. This year’s winning band, Ateria, says horsing around together is key to making good music.

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