Updated: Aug 10
Iceland’s natural beauty is renowned, but the country’s rich history and culture is also fascinating to discover. In fact Iceland has some exceptional museums and cultural centres with some really innovative and fun exhibits. Visiting them is a great compliment to any trip. We all know about Iceland’s famous weather. So what better way to make use of a rainy day or two than whiling away a few hours in a museum? Many are found in the capital Reykjavik, but there are several more important sites around the country. Read on for our top ten most interesting museums in Iceland.
The National Museum of Iceland
This is one of the best museums for a really well rounded insight into the history, and culture of Iceland. Exhibits are beautifully presented and interactive displays allow you to find out a raft of interesting facts and stories. Visitors can see traditional dress and artefacts relating to every day life. They will also find out about the development of trade, seafaring and farming. Religious beliefs and rituals are explored and there’s often a changing photography exhibition included. Overall this is a really well thought out and engaging museum. If you only visit one museum on Icelandic history, we’d recommend this one.
Visit The National Museum of Iceland at Suðurgata 41, Reykjavik
Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm
The Penis Museum
Otherwise known as the Phallological Museum. Yes, that’s right, a whole museum dedicated to the phallus! There’s not too much more to say about this one, other than they put on a stand up show. The museum hosts around 200 different penises from a wide range of animal species. Quite the collection!
Visit the Phallological Museum at Laugavegur 116, Reykjavik.
Opening hours are daily, 10am – 6pm
Árbær Open Air Museum
This open-air folk museum is located in a suburb of Reykjavik, so it’s ideal to visit if you are heading out of the city on a campervan road trip. The museum is set up as a small town with around 20 buildings. Visitors gain an insight into what life was like before the industrialisation of Iceland. Staff and tour guides dress in traditional 19th Century attire. Visitors can take a look inside the homes of labourers, clerks and shopkeepers learning about everyday domestic and farming life.
Visit the Open Air Museum at Kistuhylur 4, Reikjavik
Open daily 10am – 5pm (June to August) and 1pm – 5pm (Sep to May)
Reykjavik Maritime Museum
Showcasing Iceland’s relationship with the ocean, the Maritime Museum is another of the country’s really well put together heritage museums. Visitors will learn all about boat building and the lives of fishing families. Archive photography brings the theme to life and you can see all sorts of interesting fishing paraphernalia and take a tour of a lifeboat.
Visit the Reykjavik Maritime Museum atGrandagarður 8, Reykjavik
Opening hours are daily 10am – 5pm
This fantastic museum offers an engaging insight into Viking history and culture. It is perched on the edge of the sea in the town of Reykjanesbæ in South West Iceland. Visitors will find out about Viking lore and mythology, touching on the Icelandic sagas, as well as seeing archaeological finds. There is an excellent reproduction of a Viking ship dominating the main exhibition hall.
Visit Viking World at Víkingabraut 1, Reykjanesbæ
Opening hours are daily 7am – 6pm
Perlan Wonders of Iceland
Housed in the monumental Perlan building this impressive exhibition takes you on a journey through the wild forces of nature. Visitors will walk through an actual ice cave and see the northern lights in a planetarium show. They will find out about glaciers and geothermal activity, as well as spotting wildlife with the help of virtual reality. This is a great exhibition to visit before heading off on a golden circle tour as it gives great insight into the natural world that you will encounter.
Visit the Perlan building at Varmahlíð 1, Reykjavik
Open daily 9am – 7pm
The Settlement Exhibition
This underground museum has been built around the exciting finds of an archaeological dig in Reykjavik. The remnants of buildings here are thought to date from the very beginning of Icelandic culture. So when you set foot in the main hall you are treading the same ground that the original Vikings did when they settled Iceland in around 930 AD. There are the remains of a Viking long house along with other relics on display. Touch screens give insights into Viking culture and the changing nature of Iceland over the centuries.
Visit Settlement Exhibition at Aðalstræti 16, Reykjavik
Opening hours are daily 9am – 6pm
Reykjavik’s Culture House is one of the capital’s most elegant buildings. Behind its handsome white façade are four floors celebrating Icelandic culture in its many forms. Visitors will find paintings and sculpture alongside important manuscripts and historical artefacts. The top floor hosts a contemporary Icelandic art exhibition, and offers a great introduction to the other art museums in Reikjavik.
Visit Culture House at Hverfisgata 15, Reykjavik
Open daily 10am – 5pm (closed on Mondays Sep-May)
The Saga Museum
A visit to the Saga Museum brings Icelandic history to life. The museum is designed as a walk through the Icelandic sagas with life size models of the important figures in Icelandic history. Visitors are given an audio guide upon entering and follow a route around the museum. It is a great way of getting an overview of the rich history of Iceland.
Visit The Saga Museum at Grandagarður 2, Reykjavik
Open daily 10am – 6pm
This museum offers a multimedia experience where you can learn all about the northern lights. Visitors can interact with digital play and display exhibits and find out about the myths, legends and facts surrounding the beautiful aurora borealis. If you visit Iceland in summer when there is no chance to see the lights for yourself, this is a great alternative, and teaser for your next trip.
Visit Aurora Reykjavik at Grandagarður 2, Reykjavik
Open daily 10am – 10pm
You might also be interested in our article on the top art galleries in Iceland.