There are lots of museums in Iceland. Plenty enough museums for anyone – and even a few too many for some people!
All this means is that you have to choose carefully and follow your own internal compass about what excites you. Here are a few suggestions for you; but please note that although Icelanders usually translate listasafn as ‘art museum’, this article is not about art galleries!
First things first: The National Museum of Iceland is great. Considering that Iceland is a small country with a relatively short, peaceful and isolated history, the museum could hardly be more interesting in fact. And this has been recognized in the international awards it has received for innovation, layout and interactivity. From first settlement to modern times, the museum should be your first stop if you want to ‘know’ Iceland.
If you want to concentrate on the earliest bit of all, you should definitely check out the 871 +/-2 Settlement Exhibition underneath Hotel Reykjavík Centrum. It is the archaeological remains of the oldest settlement in Iceland – probably the home of Ingólfur Arnarson himself. It was uncovered during the expansion/relocation of the hotel and was simply too important to move…or to destroy. So, they decided to leave it where it was, as a museum, in the basement of the hotel. It was a grand and ambitious project which seems to have worked out really well for all involved.
Those interested in the famous Icelandic sagas should not miss seeing them up close and personal at the beautiful Culture House on Hverfisgata – as well as several other exhibitions in the famous building.
We assume you’ve heard of the Icelandic Penis Museum? Yes of course you have. It’s an impressive collection which includes members from every mammal species in (and around) Iceland.
The countryside of Iceland has folk museums coming out of its ears. Mostly they are small museums detailing how life used to be in the local area – and they are usually set in period buildings and very interesting places to visit. Some stand-out examples are to be found in Ísafjörður, Skógar, Glaumbær and Húsavík .
Other museums you may (or may not) want to search out include museums dedicated to sheep, salt fish, herring, Arctic foxes, seals, reindeer, aviation, music, witchcraft, dolls, seafaring, French fishermen and ghosts – among many others…