Given its compact size, Reykjavik’s contribution to culture is an outsized one: the city is the birthplace of big names in the fields of art, music, and literature, including Björk and Halldór Laxness. Here are just some of the ways that you can make the most of your visit by diving into the city’s cultural scene.
A Reykjavik landmark, Harpa Concert Hall was designed by Henning Larsen Architects and Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson; the design of the modern, honeycomb structure was inspired by Icelandic nature and Arctic light. The building plays host to the National Opera and Symphony but even if you don’t have the chance to attend a performance, a tour lets you see areas that aren’t open to the public and provides insight into the construction of the architectural masterpiece.
Visit an Art Museum
Iceland’s largest and most-important visual arts institution, the Reykjavik Art Museum is spread across three different buildings in Reykjavik. Located by the old harbor, Hafnarhús exhibits works by local and international contemporary artists, including Icelandic pop artist Erró. Kjarvalsstaðir by Klambratún houses the works of one of Iceland’s most influential artists, Jóhannes S. Kjarval, while Ásmundarsafn in Laugardalur exhibits the sculptures of Ásmundur Sveinsson. Access to all three is included in the Reykjavik City Card.
Learn About the Contemporary Art Scene
As well as national institutions, Reykjavik is home to a number of independent contemporary art galleries, such as i8 on Tryggvagata and BERG Contemporary on Klapparstígur. Spend an afternoon popping in and out of galleries and then learn more about the contemporary scene by meeting a local artist for dinner.
Discover Iceland’s Musical Heritage
Home to world-famous acts such as Björk, Sigur Rós, and Of Monsters and Men, Reykjavík has a rich musical legacy. Visit Keflavik’s Icelandic Museum of Rock‘n’Roll to dive into the history of Icelandic popular music and then browse independent record stores 12 Tónar and Lucky Records for releases by local acts. Check the calendar to see who is playing at Reykjavik’s great music venues, which include Gaukurinn and KEX. Music lovers should try to time their visit to coincide with the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival, which takes place across the city.
Dive into Icelandic History
From the Vikings and independence movement to the political protests of the past decade, Reykjavik has been the setting of many dramatic historical events. Learn about them on a walking tour of the capital with a local storyteller. If Viking history piques your interest, pay a visit to the Saga Museum or head for the nearby town of Reykjanesbær, home of the Viking World Museum.