As you probably know, Iceland was settled by Nordic Vikings in the 9th century.
Icelanders are very proud of their heritage, even if it is sometimes violent. The word víkingur is a noun and means a person who went out on “víking,” which literally means piracy. They were sea merchants who also practiced piracy and forays and enslaved people but were generally farmers when they were at home.
There are quite a few places where you can learn about Vikings in Iceland and Iceland’s cultural heritage.
When you land in Iceland, you land at Keflavik International Airport. In Icelandic, the terminal is called Leif “The Lucky” Eiríksson’s terminal, so you’ve just landed, and you’re already reminded about Iceland’s cultural heritage.
The museum Viking World is not far from the airport in Njarðvík (part of Reykjanesbær). It’s built around a ship called the Icelander. It is a replica of a Viking ship that sailed from Iceland to New York in 2000 to commemorate Leifur Eiríksson’s journey to the New World a thousand years before.
The Vikings of the North Atlantic exhibition tells the story of the Viking expansion across the North Atlantic. It is produced in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institute in the US as a part of the millennial celebration of Leifur’s journey to Vínland.
The Settlement of Iceland exhibition deals with archaeological findings from Reykjanes Peninsula. When ruins of a longhouse were found in Hafnir, it was believed to be a traditional homestead from the Age of the Settlement. However, it was later revealed that even though the longhouse was conventional in form, the outhouses which always accompanied such houses were completely missing. Is it possible that the house was an outpost of explorers and adventurers before the settlement?
The final exhibition is the Fate of the Gods, on Norse mythology and myths. Visual arts, storytelling, and music vividly show the world of the Gods.
Address: Víkingabraut, 260 Njarðvík
Opening hours: Every day 10:00 – 16:00
MINK Viking Portrait Studio.
Have you ever dreamed of dressing up as a Viking and having photographic evidence of doing so? Look no further than to MINK Viking Portrait Studio.
The proprietor Guðmann Þór Bjarmundsson specializes in turning modern people into fierce Vikings.
You will find everything you need to become a Viking in the studio. Clothes, weapons, and other Viking paraphernalia. Guðmann will then bring out the Viking from within. He’s very good at what he does, and everyone will get a brilliant Viking photo.
Address: Laugavegur 11, 101 Reykjavik (the entrance is on the side of the house, on Smiðjustígur).
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00 – 18:00
You will find the Saga Museum in the Grandi area of downtown Reykjavik. There you get to experience the Icelandic Sagas. The museum intimately recreates key moments in Icelandic history that have determined Icelanders’ fate, giving a clear view into how Icelanders have lived for more than a millennium.
Address: Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavik
Opening hours: Every day 10:00 – 17:00
If you’re interested in real physical Viking things but do it outside, then Hofstaðir in Garðabær might be for you. In 1994, an archaeological dig in Garðabær revealed the largest longhouse ever found in Iceland. It is from the end of the 9th century and is about 30 meters long and 8 meters wide on the outside. The size of the living area is about 170 m2. The walls were made from turf, and stone slabs were laid in the entryway and just outside the building, but the rest of the floor was mud. A long fire was in the middle of the building, and the columns were made from wood. There was likely a sleeping loft as well. The walls on the inside may have been paneled.
The ruins are outside, and it is possible to read about them on information plaques.
Address: Kirkjulundur, 210 Garðabær
Opening hours: Every day, all day
The Settlement Exhibition
For more of a museum feel, we recommend the Settlement Exhibition. It is at Aðalstræti 16, in downtown Reykjavik and it’s an open excavation where Viking ruins meet digital technology.
The museum is underground, and its main attraction is the 10th-century longhouse found during an excavation in 2001. At one end of the house is a fragment of a turfed wall which turned out to be the earliest evidence of human settlement in Reykjavik, dating to before AD 871±2.
The museum focuses on how life was in Reykjavik when people lived in the house for only about 70 years. Interactive technology immerses you in the world, including how Viking Age buildings were constructed.
Additionally, your ticket to the museum is valid to Reykjavik City Museum’s newest exhibition: Reykjavik… and the story continues. Connected to the Settlement Exhibition via an underground tunnel, you are led towards downtown Reykjavik’s oldest house, all the while learning the history of Reykjavik from the settlement age to the modern day.
The Settlement Exhibition’s museum shop is also excellent if you want Viking-related souvenirs.
Address: Aðalstræti 16, 101 Reykjavik
Opening hours: Every day 10:00 – 17:00
The National Museum of Iceland
Obviously, the National Museum’s permanent exhibition is of a much grander scale than The Settlement Exhibition’s. The permanent exhibition is called Making of a Nation – Heritage and History in Iceland and tells the country’s history from the settlement until modern times.
The aim is to cast a light on the Icelanders’ past by placing the cultural heritage preserved by the National Museum in a historical context, guided by the question: What makes a nation?
The beginning of exhibition begins in the 9th century, and it will lead you all the way to the 21st. Many beautiful items from the Viking Age, including jewelry, tools, and even a makeshift pagan grave, are a part of the museum.
The museum shop has many beautiful reproductions of Viking Age jewelry for sale.
Address: Suðurgata 41, 102 Reykjavik
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10:00 – 17:00 (open every day in the summer months)
Fjörukráin – The Viking Village
The town of Hafnarfjörður is not only the home of the elves but also of Vikings. In downtown Hafnarfjörður, you will find the Viking Village. The main house, Fjörukráin, is a Viking Restaurant open for dinner guests from 18:00 every day.
Their emphasis is the Viking Age, and the décor reflects that. They offer an authentic Viking feast with traditional meals served in old-fashioned Viking-style trays. There’s no dull moment because you can expect various treats and surprises from their singing Valkyries and Vikings.
The village comprises a hotel and a small guesthouse decorated in a medieval theme.
Address: Víkingastræti 1-3, 220 Hafnarfjörður
Opening hours: Every day from 18:00, open for groups for lunch.
Viking Tattoo Artists
If you want permanent marking, a couple of tattoo artists in Reykjavik specialize in Viking-related tattoos. Sigurboði and Hrafnhildur are a couple of those artists and a couple in real life. Sigurboði works at Oblivion Tattoo, and Hrafnhildur is a traveling tattoo artist; both do hand-poke tattoos and specialize in Viking-related tattoos and magic symbols.
They consider themselves witches and Vikings and have their own band, which plays Viking music. So you won’t go amiss checking them out.
As mentioned above, Sigurboði and Hrafnhildur are in a Viking music group. It is called Vévaki, and they just released an album. You can check it out on Spotify, for example. They said their emphasis is on worshipping nature and using the (pagan) gods to help do so instead of directly worshipping Thor.
Skálmöld is another band worth checking out. It is a Viking / folk metal band. The name translates to the Age of the Swords. It also means lawlessness and refers to the Age of the Sturlungs in Iceland. It was a time of civil war which broke out between Icelandic clans and ended in Icelanders asking the Norwegian king to come rule over the land.
All band members are members of the Icelandic Fellowship of the Æsir faith.
The Icelandic Fellowship of Æsir faith is one of the biggest in the world. They do weddings, funerals, name-giving ceremonies, and whatever a religious body would do.
They have an open house on Saturdays between 14:00 – 16:00, where you can talk to them and ask them questions.
Address: Menntasveigur 15, 102 Reykjavik
Office hours: Mon-Fri 13:00 – 16:00, open house: Sat 14:00 – 16:00
The Viking Festival
Every year in June in Hafnarfjörður, there is a Viking festival. It is usually held around Iceland’s National Day, June 17. There’s a market, Viking fights, games, music, crafts, and a Viking school for kids, among other things.
If you are in Iceland in the middle of June, this is worth checking out.
If you want to experience the Viking era firsthand, we recommend Eiríksstaðir in West Iceland. If you visit them, you will meet Viking reenactors who will tell you renowned tales of the 10th century. You will be able to try authentic Viking tools and get to know the craftsmanship, architecture, and Viking clothing, all made by hand with original tools and methods.
The house is in the Dalabyggð region and was the starting point for one of the most exciting chapters of the history of mankind: The Viking Age Expansion. The house is a replica of a typical Viking-age house, but it is believed that Eirik the Red and his son Leif the Lucky lived there.
Please note they are only open in the summer.
Address: Haukadalur, 371 Búðardalur
Opening hours: May 15-30, 13:00 – 16:00, June 1-19, 11:00 – 16:00, June 20 – September 30, 10:00 – 16:00.
Buying a Viking-related souvenir is easy in Reykjavik or Iceland. You will find some in almost every store. We have already mentioned the museum shops at the Settlement Exhibition and the National Museum, which we highly recommend. But if you want something silly, you will find fun little trinkets at any of the many tourist souvenir shops downtown.
Bookstores and museum shops also have books on Vikings, for example, the Icelandic Sagas.
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