15 BEST Museums in Reykjavik [May 2019]

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15 BEST Museums in Reykjavik [May 2019]

With some of the world’s most untouched natural landscapes, Iceland is a country many travelers are eager to tick off their bucket list. While Iceland is known for its majestic waterfalls and active volcanoes, it also has some of the most unique museums located right in its capital city of Reykjavik!

Reykjavik is the largest city in Iceland, and most importantly, the country’s cultural and gastronomic epicenter. Because of this, the museums in Reykjavik reflect the city’s flourishing art scene as well as it’s historic 1,500-year-old past.

From learning about the fascinating creatures that swim below Iceland’s surface to exploring the world of ancient Viking settlements, you can find it in a museum here in Reykjavik. Also if you are making the trip there, you should definitely check out our article about the best day trips from Reykjavik.

#1 – The Saga Museum

History Museum

Photo credit - Wakeupreykjavik

Photo credit – Wakeupreykjavik

  • Life-size dioramas and models
  • Iceland’s biggest moments
  • Cost: 2200 kr (adults), 1700 kr (children)
  • Suggested duration: 2 -3 hours

Step back into time and explore Iceland’s rich history at the Saga Museum! Starting from the island’s first settlements, the Saga Museum showcases key turning points in Icelandic history.

See life-size replicas of Icelandic Vikings, see how earthquakes rocked the villages, and learn about the impending Black Death! And with the included audio guide, you won’t miss a single fact as you explore the dioramas at the Sag Museum.

Editor’s NoteIf you are going to stay in Reykjavik, you should check out our article about where to stay in Reykjavik.

#2 – The Settlement Museum

Archaeology Museum

Photo credit - Museumguide

Photo credit – Museumguide

  • Buildings built in 871 AD
  • Turf longhouse settlements
  • Cost: 1700 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration: 2 -3 hours

Located deep beneath the Reykjavik’s surface is the impressive site of the Settlement Museum. With some of the country’s oldest relics, the Settlement museum shows how humans lived over 1,000 years ago.

Besides the excavated big halls and longhouse buildings, you can also find ancient objects from the Viking Age that were discovered throughout Iceland. This beautifully maintained and well-preserved village was once home to the country’s first human habitats and settlers.

#3 – Perlan Museum

Science Museum

Photo credit - Extremeiceland

Photo credit – Extremeiceland

  • Planetarium shows included
  • Learn about Icelandic nature
  • Cost: 3900 kr (adults), 1950 (children)
  • Suggested duration: 3 – 4 hours

Reykjavik’s Perlan Museum dives deeper into the natural beauty of Iceland’s landscapes. Walk through real ice caves and glaciers and learn about volcanoes and plate tectonics that make Iceland so famous.

The Perlan Museum also has a planetarium show that allows you to witness the beauty of the Arora Northern Lights. On top of that, the Perlan Museum is perched on top of the hill in Öskjuhlíð, with some of the most stunning panoramic views over the entire city.

Skip the line and spend more time in the Ice Caves with this door to door shuttle and entrance ticket.

 

#4 – The National Museum of Iceland

History Museum

Photo credit - LonelyPlanetimages

Photo credit – LonelyPlanetimages

  • Planetarium shows included
  • Learn about Icelandic nature
  • Cost: 2000 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration: 3 – 4 hours

With over 2,000 artifacts, the National Museum of Iceland is one of the most popular museums in Reykjavik! Each exhibit takes you through a different period of Icelandic history, from Viking settlements to present day culture. With so many different installations, you’re sure to learn something new.

Take the hop-on-hop-off bus tour to see the National Museum as well as dozens of other sites around Reykjavik!

 

#5 – Reykjavik Maritime Museum

Maritime Museum

Photo credit - Icenews

Photo credit – Icenews

  • Exhibits on fishing, sea life, and battles
  • Ship models and mockups
  • Cost: 1700 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration:1 -2 hours

Sailing and Iceland go perfectly hand in hand. At the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, you’ll be able to learn all about Iceland’s seafaring past and impact on the world. Located on the modern side of Reykjavik’s port harbor, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum has everything from old fishing equipment to detailed model ships.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the coast guard Óðinn ship, which was used for three different battles during the Cod Wars with the UK.

 

P.S. – Save a bit of cash in Reykjavik with our EPIC guide to the most AWESOME hotels in Reykjavik!

#6 – The Icelandic Phallological Museum

Biology Museum

Photo credit - Dailymail

Photo credit – Dailymail

  • Over 215 mammal penises and penile parts
  • Built in 1974
  • Cost: 1700 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration: 1-2 hours

The Icelandic Phallological Museum wins the award for the most unique museum in Reykjavik, hands down! This museum contains a wide collection of different penises from all types of mammals. If you’re interested in learning more about this biological appendage, then make sure to spend an hour or two wandering through this interesting and intriguing museum.

And while it might sound like an X-rated exhibit, the Icelandic Phallological Museum is actually educational and family friendly!

 

#7 – Tales from Iceland

Cultural Museum

Photo credit - Reykjavik

Photo credit – Reykjavik

  • Watch films about culture, news, politics, nature
  • Free coffee and hot chocolate
  • Cost: 2200 kr (adults), 1100 (children)
  • Suggested duration: 2 -3 hours

After a long day of exploring the natural wonders of Reykjavik, stop by Tales of Iceland to unwind and learn more about Icelandic culture. You’ll be treated to plush comfy sofas and free coffee and hot chocolate as you watch different films about the country. The 14 films show unique perspectives of the country through the eyes of different filmmakers.

There are cinematographic films about nature and music to homemade tourist videos detailing the quirky cultural differences. It’s a relaxing and educational way to learn more about Iceland!

#8 – The Reykjavik Punk Museum

Cultural Museum

Photo credit - TripAdvisor

Photo credit – TripAdvisor

  • Opened by the Sex Pistol’s Johnny Rotten
  • Music artifacts and objects
  • Cost: 1000 kr
  • Suggested duration: 1 hour

Spike your hair into a mohawk and channel your inner rocker at the Reykjavik Punk Museum! One of the newest museums in town is solely dedicated to Iceland’s ever so popular punk rock music scene. You’ll find stage equipment, instruments, and even signed photography and posters.

Learn about how the punk scene paved the way for some of Iceland’s top musical talent, like Björk and Sigur Rós. When you arrive you might think you went to the wrong address – the museum fittingly located in an old underground bathroom!

#9 – Culture House

Cultural Museum

Photo credit - Whatson

Photo credit – Whatson

  • Stunning building designed by Johannes Magdahl
  • A holistic overview of Icelandic culture
  • Cost: 2000 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration: 1 – 2 hours

Mixing art with history, the Culture House has everything Icelandic under one roof. If you only have time to visit one museum, then the Culture House is a great place to soak in as much as possible.

From contemporary paintings and sculptures to historic artifacts and objects, the museum covers centuries of Icelandic history. Make sure to start your visit at the “Points of View” exhibit, which takes you through different themes of Reykjavik life.

 

Love History? These are the 25 COOLEST historical facts about Reykjavik!

#10 – Arbaer Open Air Museum

Living History Museum

Photo credit - Whatson

Photo credit – Whatson

  • Monthly rotating exhibitions
  • Costumed and acting tour guides
  • Cost: 1700 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Suggested duration: 2 -3 hours

Arbaer Open Air Museum takes you back in time to see real buildings and homes of Icelandic settlements! The museum has recreated a small town, with over 20 different buildings including a town square, a farm, and traditional Icelandic houses.

The costumed tour guides take you through what daily life was like in the village. If you’re interested in learning how people lived before the growth of industrialization, then spend an afternoon at the Arbaer Open Air Museum!

Visit the Arbaer Open Air Museum for free (along with 7 other museums) with the Reykjavik City Card.

#11 – Whales of Iceland

Natural History Museum

Photo credit - whalesoficeland

Photo credit – whalesoficeland

  • Touch and pose each of the wale models
  • Underwater theme and whale sounds
  • Cost: 2900 kr (adults), 1500 (children)
  • Suggested duration: 2 -3 hours

Get up close and personal with Iceland’s majestic sea creatures, whales! At Whales of Iceland, you can explore 23 life-size models of these larger than life animals. Designed and handpainted by hand, the whales are extremely lifelike and resemble the actual whales found right off the Reykjavik coast.

They’re even soft and squishy to touch! If you want to see them in action, strap on your Samsung VR gear to see the whales move above you.

#12 – Reykjavik Museum of Photography

Art Museum

Photo credit - Myguidereykjavik

Photo credit – Myguidereykjavik

  • Photography of all styles
  • A trendy and affordable gift shop
  • Cost: 1000 kr (adults), 1500 (children)
  • Suggested duration: 1 -2 hours

With over 5 million photographs from artist around the world, the Reykjavik Museum of Photographer is one of the largest galleries in the city. It showcases photographs dating back to the 1800s until the present day.

You’ll see all types of styles including portraits, landscapes, advertising, and even family photos. After a short tour, check out the gift shop to purchase some of the photography books the museum has published! Visit the museum website to see the schedule of rotating photographers.

Learn more about the whales with an audio guided tour!

#13 – Reykjavik Art Museum

Art Museum

Photo credit - guidetoiceland

Photo credit – guidetoiceland

  • Established and emerging artists
  • Don’t miss the Erró exhibit
  • Cost: 1800 kr (adults), 1100 (children)
  • Suggested duration: 4 – 5 hours

Taking place in three different locations around the city, the Reykjavik Art Museum is the largest art museum in all of Iceland. Managed by the Reykjavik government, the museum has over 20 different rotating exhibits in three visually different buildings.

You’ll find eccentric Icelandic pop art to sculpture gardens to international architecture and everything in between! This is also a great deal because your ticket includes admission to all three museums within a 24 hour period.

#14 – Volcano House

Natural History Museum

Photo credit - Filmfantravel

Photo credit – Filmfantravel

  • Feel the geo stones with your hands
  • Watch some of Iceland’s craziest volcanic eruptions
  • Cost for Documentary Show: 1790 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Cost for Exhibition: free
  • Suggested duration: 1 – 2 hours

It’s no surprise that Iceland is home to some of the world’s most wild and active volcanos – over 200 to be exact! At the Volcano House, you can learn more about the country’s volcanos, as well as see different geological stones and gemstones that were found.

Don’t miss the documentary show that runs every hour. It details the most famous volcanoes (and eruptions) that have taken place in Iceland over the last centuries. Best of all, everything is hands on!

#15 – The Einar Jónsson Museum

Art Museum

Photo credit - Trover

Photo credit – Trover

  • Museum gifted by Einar Jónsson himself
  • Indoor and Outdoor exhibit
  • Cost for Indoor exhibit: 1000 kr (adults), free (children)
  • Cost for Outdoor exhibit: free
  • Suggested duration: 1 – 2 hours

All art enthusiast know that Einar Jónsson was Iceland’s most famous sculpture of his time. This museum solely exhibits his most famous works, including his giant size bronze statues in the sculpture garden.

After the museum was built in 1923, Jónsson himself moved into the penthouse apartment, which can also be toured if you’re looking to learn more about the artist himself. This museum is off the beaten path, but it’s a hidden gem worthy of exploration!

Stop at the Einar Jónsson sculpture park during your guided walking tour of the Reykjavik!

FAQ

How many museums are in Reykjavik?

There are about two dozen museums in Reykjavik. For a city that’s only a 123,000 people, that’s quite a lot!

How many free museums are in Reykjavik?

There are very few free museums in the city. On the other hand, many museums offer free admission to children under the age of 18. With the purchase of a Reykjavik city card, you can enjoy admission to 8 different museums (as well as many other Reykjavik attractions) for free.

What are the hours of the museums in Reykjavik?

Most museums in Reykjavik are open seven days a week, usually from 9 or 10 am until 5 or 6 pm. Museums can be open on national holidays but have different hours than their normally advertised times. Check the museum website for exact hours.

What can I bring in Reykjavik Museums?

Photography is usually allowed in Reykjavik museums but without the use of flash or tripods. Some of the city’s larger museums, like the National Museum, require you to check in your large bag or backpack before touring the exhibits.

Final Thoughts

Although you might have come to Iceland to admire the Northern Lights or trek the glowing blue glaciers, you’ll quickly discover that there is much more to Reykjavik than natural landscapes. As you can see, the museums in Reykjavik are just as diverse as the city itself.

There really is something in Reykjavik for every type of traveler and every type of museum-goer. Not only will have you have to chance to dive deeper into Iceland’s history, but you’ll also learn a thing or two about it’s untouched and unspoiled landscapes.

Whether it’s the contemporary art scene or the majestic natural wonders, Reykjavik is one of the world’s most fascinating cities.

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About the Author Aaron Hovanesian

Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.