Interesting Museums Around Iceland Skip to content
Boats in a museum
Photo: Golli. Museums are a great way to explore Icelandic history.

Interesting Museums Around Iceland

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Iceland is full of interesting museums and galleries that illustrate a fascinating history of how the nation coped with living in such a remote and harsh location. Every small town or village has something to showcase, and taking the time to stroll through a museum gives a vital context to Icelandic culture and society. The largest collection of museums will be found in Reykjavík, but for the really quirky and interesting ones, it’s best to venture out to the countryside. Here are seven museums that will make a road trip around Iceland that much more memorable: 

War and Peace Museum – Hvalfjörður

The occupation of Iceland by British and American militia during World War II shaped Icelandic infrastructure and society in tangible ways that are still apparent to this day. The sudden influx of foreign powers thrust a small, quasi developed fishing nation into the modern era faster than anyone was prepared for. The War and Peace Museum gives a detailed look at the tumultuous years between 1940 and 1945 and also boasts a great little café where visitors can enjoy a light meal. As a bonus it’s located right outside Reykjavík, in Hvalfjörður valley, which is the perfect road trip to take on a time crunch.

Photo: Golli. Hvalfjörður valley where The War and Peace Museum is found

Þuríðarbúð – Stokkseyri

Stokkseyri, a small town on the south coast of Iceland, has a lot to offer, including some of the best kayaking waters and a famous lobster restaurant. But hidden within the town is a true little gem of a museum, a refashioned sailor’s cottage in 18th century style, with stone walls and a grass roof. The cottage is named after Þuríður Einarsdóttir, a rare female sailor who rose up to the position of foreman on her brother’s fishing ship. The cottage gives a great glimpse into the past when similar living quarters lined the shores of Iceland and served as resting places for sailor’s in between their tours at sea.

Eiríksstaðir Living History Museum – Haukadalur Valley

Another replica of fascinating history is the Viking Longhouse of Erik the Red, a fully rebuilt longhouse in the beautiful Haukadalur Valley where Erik the Red lived with his family before heading out to sea toward Greenland to discover new worlds. The longhouse museum is an authentic Icelandic experience seeing as Erik the Red is a figure in at least two of the Icelandic Sagas. The museum takes visitors back to the 10th century where they will get a comprehensive overview of Erik and his family’s remarkable history, but his son, Leifur heppni, or Leif the Lucky, is reported to have been one of the first Western men to discover North America.

Shark Museum – Bjarnarhöfn

For people visiting Iceland, tasting a bite of ammonium fermented shark with a sip of Brennivín is a fun gimmick, but for decades, shark fishing was an important profession for Icelanders. The Shark Museum in Bjarnarhöfn in Stykkishólmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, showcases just that, with the option of a taste to go with the show. The museum not only has an intricate display of the history of the Greenland shark as it relates to Iceland, but it also educates visitors on the biology of this fascinating animal that very little is known about still to this day.

Stykkishólmur - Stykkishólmshöfn - Breiðafjörður - Snæfellsnes
Photo Golli. Stykkishólmur is well worth a visit for a bite of Icelandic shark history

Wilderness Center – Fljótsdalur Valley

In East-Iceland, nestled in the wilderness of Fljótsdalur, close to the town of Egilsstaðir, is a fairly recent addition to Icelandic museums. The Wilderness Center is an interactive experience, meant to showcase life as it was for Icelanders who lived in the wilderness in forgotten times. Visitors are immersed in a past world where everything is made to resemble life on the edge of the world and for those who want to go all in it’s even possible to stay overnight in the Center’s refurbished hotel.

Caves of Hella

In the 18th century, twelve man made caves were discovered close to a farm called Ægissíða, close to Hella, a town on the South Coast of Iceland. The caves remain the oldest archaeological site in Iceland and it is believed that they were made long before Vikings ever set foot on the land. At the Caves of Hella museum, visitors take a tour through four of the caves that have been opened to the public, and get a detailed history of them from one of the descendants of the family who originally lived in Ægissíða farm nearly 200 years ago.

Maritime Exhibit – Neskaupstaður

Neskaupstaður is a small town on the very Eastern tip of Iceland that houses a three in one museum that should not be missed on a visit to the east. The museum is set in a three story house with an art gallery and a natural history museum and on the second floor is a maritime exhibit created by engineer Jósafat Hinriksson. The exhibit showcases artefacts and machinery that were used through the years both in fishing and carpentry in Iceland. It’s an interesting look into the development of tools in these professions and the resourcefulness of Icelandic workers that had limited equipment.

Photo: Golli. Neskaupstaður in East-Iceland

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