Iceland’s National Museum is an ideal attraction for anyone interested in exploring the country’s fascinating history. Alongside temporary exhibits, the museum’s permanent exhibition, “Making of a Nation,” employs more than 2,000 artifacts to chronicle Icelandic history from the Viking settlement through the introduction of Christianity and up to today.
Among the museum’s extensive collection are various weapons, drinking horns, and a bronzed figure of Thor. Its most prized possession, however, is a 13th-century door that features intricate medieval carvings depicting scenes from the legendary 12th-century knight’s tale Le Chevalier au Lion. The museum goes into some depth covering the period from the 1600s to today, detailing how Iceland long struggled under foreign rule before finally gaining independence in the 20th century. Some of the most impactful displays are simple household items conveying everyday life during the country’s toughest times.
A private sightseeing tour that can be customized to your interests can include a visit to the National Museum of Iceland.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The National Museum of Iceland is a must-visit for those with an interest in history.
- The museum’s free smartphone audio guide provides a wealth of illuminating insights.
- Children under 18 and people with disabilities get free entrance.
- Your entrance ticket also gets you into the Culture House, home of the National Library and Archives.
- The on-site Cafe Kaffitar serves light refreshments, coffee, and Icelandic delicacies.
- The Museum Shop sells books on Icelandic culture and handcrafted souvenirs.
How to Get There
The museum is located at the top of a gentle hill, around a 10-minute walk from downtown Reykjavik. Public bus numbers 1, 3, 6, 11, 12, and 14 stop in front of or near the museum, and it is also a stop on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour.
When to Get There
The National Museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm. From September through April it is closed on Mondays. The museum is also closed on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. If you visit on a Saturday morning, you can join a free 45-minute guided tour of the “Making of a Nation” exhibition.
The Yule Lads
Each December, the Yule Lads come to the National Museum of Iceland to visit and entertain children. The Yule Lads are a strong tradition in Icelandic folklore: They are 13 boys believed to enter homes over the 13 days leading up to Christmas to leave gifts in well-behaved children’s shoes. The lads were originally believed to be mischievous, hence their nicknames such as “sausage swiper” and “door slammer.”