I have a confession to make. I like museums. Which, let’s be honest, is probably not all that surprising. During my trip to Iceland, I had the opportunity to visit three museums and learn more about the history of Iceland.
Built in 1765, this is one of the oldest (still standing) houses in Iceland. It now houses a museum focused on the history of the house and the coastal town surrounding it.
This was my favorite museum that I visited. I could have spent most of the day here. The collection of approximately 15,000 local artifacts was impressive for many reasons, not the least of which was that the items were all collected by or given to a now 94-year-old man. This is the personal collection of a man passionate about his region’s history.
Our guide through the museum provided a fascinating history of the hardships faced by the Icelanders as they settled the country. It was a place that was beautiful, but brutal. To survive required hardiness and creativity – bowls made out of whale vertebrae, shoes made out of fish. Survival in this place was hard won.
Outside of the main building were other examples of Icelandic buildings, including traditional turf houses.
If you stop here, and you should, definitely plan on spending more than the brief hour I had to spend.
As the name suggests, the museum is focused on the history of the Vikings and their role in settling Iceland (although the Nordic people came as setters and farmers, not raiders).
The highlight of the museum is the Íslendingur. The two story exhibit of the Viking ship discusses the ship’s journey in 2000 to recreate the original Viking voyage of Leif Ericsson to Newfoundland.
This museum is relatively small and does not take long to peruse, but provides a quick history that gives a greater context for understanding the early history of Iceland.
So, there you have it. A small handful of museum to consider visiting while in Iceland. With more time in Reykjavik, I would have also liked to visit the National Gallery, The National Museum, The Settlement Exhibition, and perhaps the Culture House or The Saga Museum. Another time…