New Year's Eve in Reykjavík

Top 10 Festivals in Iceland

Nanna Gunnarsdóttir
Nanna Gunnarsdóttir
Verified Expert


See all festivals in Iceland here and find out what's happening in Iceland this week. Which events are the best and biggest, when and where are they?

There are many festivals, events, parties and celebrations in Iceland and they are all over the country, all throughout the year. They range from small country fairs to large scale music festivals with international headliners. Weekly a variety of events take place in the capital city, Reykjavík, and it's hard to keep track of everything that's happening in this bustling city.

To help you figure out what's on in Iceland, visit Guide to Iceland's office within Reykjavík City Hall for information. We also have a list of weekly events and useful venues to look up just below. 

Events in Reykjavík can range from intimate music gigs with local and international performers, stand up comedy gigs, symphonic orchestra performances, theatre productions, gallery openings, special movie screenings, cabaret nights and drag-queen shows to some of the biggest festivals that make up the exciting cultural landscape of this exciting city.

We've also listed our top 10 festivals all over Iceland, with a wide spectrum of arts and culture.

Finally, at the end of this article, you can find a list of all the different festivals that take place in Iceland, big and small.

Weekly Events in Reykjavik

What's on in Reykjavík

There are multiple weekly events in Reykjavík that are worth checking out. Jazz lovers have a lot to choose from, the stand-up and theatre improv scene is booming, as well as the cabaret and drag scene. Not to mention the literature, poetry and more classical performances. And if you want to do something more active, such as yoga or give tango or swing dancing a chance, then there are regular beginners classes available for free!

This should give you an idea of what's on in Reykjavík:

Every Sunday in Reykjavík:

Every Monday in Reykjavík: 

  • Stand up comedy in English at Gaukurinn. Starts at 21:00. Free entry.
  • Live jazz at Húrra. Starts at 21:00. Free entry.
  • Boardgamonday at Stofan café from 20:00, and at Hlemmur Mathöll from 16:00-21:00. Play boardgames in a cosy atmosphere. Free entry.
  • Tango beginners class at Kaffi Sólon (2nd floor). Class from 20-21, milonga afterwards until 23:00. Free entry.
  • Salsa, Bachata or Kizomba dance night at Pablo Discobar. These nights happen frequently on Mondays, but occasionally on Thursdays. Best to check their event site to check for times and location. From 19:30. Free entry.

Every Tuesday in Reykjavík: 

  • Live jazz at Kex Hostel. Every Tuesday at 20:30. Free entry.
  • Tango dancing at Hlemmur Square. From 20:30-23:00. Free entry.
  • Bach concert at Dómkirkjan church by Ólafur Elíasson. From 20:30-21:00. Free entry.

Every Wednesday in Reykjavík: 

  • Happy hour and live jazz at Peterson suite. Happy hour(s) from 16:00-01:00, jazz between 21 and 23, open mic. Free entry.
  • Lindy Hop dance evenings at Peterson suite. Free entry.
  • Improv Iceland. Local theatre improvised shows at Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn between October and May. Mostly in Icelandic, but sometimes in English when there are guest performers. Shows start at 20:00. Entry fee is 1500 ISK. Weekly shows in English in June and July at Tjarnarbíó. For more information visit Improv Iceland.
  • Jazz at Múlinn Jazz Club in Harpa most Wednesdays. Look up their schedule in advance. Entry fee: 2000 ISK.
  • Salsa dance nights at Oddsson. From 19:30. Free entry.

Every Thursday in Reykjavík:

  • Bachata dance night at Hressó. Occasionally these nights are on Mondays instead. Best to check their event site to check for times and location. From 22:00. Free entry.

Every Friday in Reykjavík:

  • Tango Milonga at Kramhúsið. Free entry practica from 21-22, and milonga from 22:00-midnight. Entry fee: 1000 ISK to the milonga, but free for people younger than 30.
  • Most Fridays at Bíó Paradís there are Friday party screenings at 20:00. Classic fun films with offers at the bar. 1800 ISK entry.

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest days of the week, but the schedule is too varied to have the same events each week.

It's recommended to look up what's on at Harpa Concert Hall - where you can find multiple festivals, international performers, ballet productions, Iceland's Symphony Orchestra, stand up comedy and much, much more.

Reykjavík's main theatres are Þjóðleikhúsið (National Theatre) and Borgarleikhúsið (City Theatre), although you're more likely to find performances in English at the independent theatres of Tjarnarbíó and IÐNÓ.

Gaukurinn is the home to the Icelandic drag scene Drag-Súgur, with weekly or bi-weekly performances. Reykjavík Kabarett puts up regular performances all over town, and the Reykjavík Poetry Brothel has an event year-quarterly at IÐNÓ.

Bars that often have live music or other entertaining events include Kex Hostel, Húrra, Gaukurinn, Dillon, Bar 11 and Paloma. Other art venues (not bars) that have regular live music events include Mengi, the Nordic House and Hannesarholt.

Also be sure to check the Happy Hours of the various bars in Reykjavík.

Festivals in Iceland: An overview

New Year's Eve in Reykjavík

It comes as a surprise perhaps to many people that Iceland has an abundance of events and festivals each year. With a population of only 330 thousand people the country has a thriving art scene and cultural heritage, besides the locals having a great love for camping and the outdoors.

Besides Reykjavík, pretty much every village in the country throws some sort of a festival or event each year, small or big ones. There are art festivals, music festivals, camping festivals, food festivals, dance festivals, the list goes on and on.

Music Festivals in Iceland

Iceland produces a vast amount of artists, some of them known internationally such as Björk, Múm, Sigur Rós, Ólafur Arnalds, Gus Gus, Emiliana Torrini and Of Monsters and Men.

This also results in some phenomenal music festivals, the three largest ones being Iceland Airwaves (in November), Secret Solstice (in June) and Sónar Reykjavík (in February).

Smaller music festivals tend to take place in the countryside and include the heavy metal/hard rock festival Eistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður in July, the rock festival Aldrei fór ég suður in Ísafjörður during Easter and international Bræðslan music festival in Borgarfjörður Eystri in July. You can hire a cheap car to drive around the country, find them and have a great time in Iceland. 

Camping Festivals in Iceland

The weekend attached to the first Monday in August (if the 1st of August is on a Monday, then it's the last weekend in July) is known as 'Verslunarmannahelgi' in Icelandic. A bit of a mouthful. This is a bank holiday weekend and the biggest camping weekend of the year.

VARIOUS festivals take place this weekend, for example Ein með öllu (One with Everything - the phrase you say when you order a hot dog with all the trimmings) in Akureyri and Innipúkinn (for the ones that don't want to go camping) in Reykjavík.

Nevertheless, the biggest festival happening this weekend is in the Westman Islands: Þjóðhátíð. The population of the Westman Islands is normally just over 4000 people but rises up to 16,000 for this one weekend. It is a camping festival that starts on a Thursday and finishes on Monday.

Thursday has a 'hook-up' ball, intended for people to find someone to hook up with for the remainder of the festival. Friday evening has a massive bonfire and Saturday a firework display. Every year a special 'Thjodhatid song' is made for the festival. On Sunday night everyone in the valley where the festival takes place sing this song as well as many other known Icelandic songs together under a torch-lit sky.

A tip: The locals put up 'white tents' where they come together to eat smoked puffin and cakes and play the guitar and be merry. Knock on someone's tent and politely ask if you can join in - if you're lucky you might get some free smoked puffin, an absolute delicacy! 

Country Fairs and Smaller Festivals

There are many lovely smaller festivals such as Danish Days in Stykkishólmur, French Days in Fáskrúðsfjörður in the east of Iceland, Lobster Festival at Höfn í Hornafirði, Harbour Ball at Drangsnes in the Westfjords and Fiskidagurinn mikli (The Big Fish Day) in Dalvík, held the first or second Saturday in August.

These are so small and local that they mostly don't have a website dedicated to the event, and if they do, then it's hard to find it in English. These smaller festivals are more known due to word of mouth.

For most of these smaller ones you need to make friends with the locals so you get invited to their homes where a lot of the celebrations take place, eating, drinking, mingling and dancing.

Art, Culture and Theatre Festivals

There are plenty of artistic festivals, and festivals that focus on a specific genre of arts in Iceland. 

This includes Reykjavík Fashion Festival, Iceland Improv Festival, Tango on Ice Festival, Reykjavík Fringe Festival, Reykjavík's Art Festival and Culture Night. 

National Celebrations

There are also some national celebrations obviously, such as Christmas and Independence Day celebrations. The Icelandic independence day is on the 17th of June, when celebrations take place all over the country in different forms.

And the occasional sport victory celebrations when the whole city turns into an impromptu street festival.

One thing is for certain, you'll never be short of cool, fun and interesting festivals when you're in Iceland! 

The top 10 festivals in Iceland

Following is a list of the most popular festivals in Iceland. Most of these events take place in the summertime and over the course of one weekend you might have to choose between 3 or 4 different ones.

Here I'm going to list the 10 biggest ones - but there are MANY more to choose from! You can see a full list of Icelandic festivals and events at the bottom of this article.

1. Secret Solstice Music Festival

The Secret solstice festival is a relatively new music festival in the Reykjavík music scene, with the first one only being held in 2014. This yearly festival has however quickly established itself with headliners such as Radiohead, Of Monsters And Men, Deftones, Wu Tang Clan, Die Antwoord, Foo Fighters and Prodigy to name a few.

The summer solstice happens around the 21st of June each year, when Iceland is granted with a beautiful midnight sun, and before 2014 there was a massive gap in festivities in Iceland at this prime time of summer. 

Secret Solstice always has one secret headliner (hence the name) but outrageous marketing has also helped secure its place as one of Iceland's best and most popular festivals.

Fancy attending the world's first party inside a glacier? How about partying inside a volcano with a private concert? Or on a boat?

The main stages are all in one area within Laugardalur recreational area of Reykjavík, right next to Reykjavík's largest swimming pool. It's possible to camp right by the festival, but it's not necessary.

VIP tickets with some extravagant extras are available for a hefty price tag, but a general festival pass only costs you 24,900 ISK for 4 days of partying in the northernmost capital of the world under the midnight sun.

2. Iceland Airwaves Music Festival

Icelandair throws a big music festival every year in Reykjavík called Iceland Airwaves. The festival promotes a lot of emerging and established national bands and musicians but also has international performers.

The festival takes place in November every year and they start announcing the line-up in February, which in the past has, for example, included Björk, Ásgeir, PJ Harvey and Fleet Foxes. The festival takes place in various venues around Reykjavík and in 2017 it took place in Akureyri in north Iceland as well for the first time.

A ticket to the whole festival costs 21,900 ISK.

A tip: If you can't afford a ticket to Iceland Airwaves or if it's sold out, be sure to check out the free Off-Venue, also taking place in various venues around Reykjavík.

3. Reykjavík Pride

Reykjavík Pride has become one of the largest festivals in Iceland, if not THE largest one! The festival celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and their supporters, friends and family. The entire centre of Reykjavík is taken over by colourful costumes, loud party music, people dancing and glitter everywhere!

The main day is the Saturday when festivities start with a large parade in the centre of the city, and ends with parties all night long. This celebration is free to attend.

Whether you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, straight, asexual, female, male, young or old - it doesn't matter. Everyone attends Reykjavík Pride. The former mayor even showed up in drag every year and the current president gives a speech celebrating diversity.

The festival always takes place in the second weekend in August. 

4. Culture Night in Reykjavik

Culture Night or 'Menningarnótt' is a one-day festival taking place in Reykjavík, on a Saturday in late August, normally around the 18th-22nd of August. 

Dance, design, music, art, concerts, games, pop-up shops and all sorts of interactive activities happen all over town. Galleries and museums are open and there's free entry to everything. The Reykjavík Marathon takes place on the same day.

A tip: People open up their houses and invite guests to come in and have some home-baked waffles for free - so it's a good way to get to know the locals and see someone's home.

5. Reykjavík's Art Festival

Reykjavík's Art Festival takes place every other year in May or June. In 2016 it was held between the 21st of May until the 5th of June but in 2018 it's between 1st and 17th of June. A variety of national and international dance, theatre, design and art will be displayed across the city.

It's possible to buy tickets to individual events and performances with varying price tags.

This is one of the oldest and most respected art festivals in Europe, being held since 1970.

6. Aldrei fór ég suður Rock Music Festival

I Never Went South or 'Aldrei fór ég suður' is a free rock music festival held every year during Easter in Ísafjörður. Every artist performing is playing for the fun of it and giving their work for free.

The musician Mugison got the idea to have a music festival in his hometown for local talents and since then the festival has grown and is getting more and more popular.

The festival takes place yearly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

7. Food and Fun Festival

If you like food and like having fun, you should head to Reykjavík in early March. The Food and Fun Festival takes place in late February or early March yearly. 

Renowned chefs from around the world come to Reykjavík to do what they do best: make delicious food - using Icelandic ingredients. The chefs collaborate with the finest restaurants in the city and make up a menu that the restaurant serves for one week.

Each restaurant has a set menu for a set price.

Throw in a bit of outdoor adventure and Reykjavík's nightlife and then you have both food - and fun!

8. Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)

Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF) takes place every year from late September into mid-October. The festival lasts for 11 days and shows a wide range of dramas and non-fiction films from over 40 countries.

The festival highlights independent filmmaking from all over the world with an emphasis on up-and-coming filmmakers. Basically, if you want to see something new and innovative in film, this is the place to be.

Screenings are held in cinemas in Reykjavík, mostly in arthouse cinema Bíó Paradís in the centre of Reykjavík but also in interesting new places, such as in swimming pools. In 2016 the film Frankenstein was screened in the swimming pool Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, built in 1937, as seen in the video above. (Icelanders love both movies and swimming pools - so it's a great combination!)

9. Braedslan Music Festival

If you fancy driving as far away from Reykjavík as possible, then you'll end up in Borgarfjörður Eystri. In this small village, you can encounter world-famous bands, playing inside an old herring shed.

This festival takes place in late July every year. Only about 900 tickets are sold, so get your tickets early!

Since 2005 artists and bands such as Belle and Sebastian, Emiliana Torrini, Damien Rice and Of Monsters and Men have played at this small but charming music festival. The surroundings are breathtaking and if you really want to fit in, remember to bring a wool jumper.

10. LungA Art Festival

LungA, a small art festival in Seyðisfjörður in east Iceland has been growing every year since it was formed in 2000. When it started 300 people showed up for the final concert but now about 4000 people show up. It takes place for a week in the middle of July every year.

Workshops take place, markets pop up, there are gallery exhibitions, fashion exhibitions, music displayed... anything you want to do is up to you to make it happen!

This is a non-profit festival that takes place in an otherwise tranquil and beautiful fjord that is swarmed with artistic people from all over for this one week.

All festivals in Iceland

Name & Website Date Location
Dark Music Days January Reykjavík
Reykjavík Winter Lights Festival February Reykjavík
Sónar Reykjavík February Reykjavík
Stockfish Film Festival February/March Reykjavík
Food and Fun  March  Reykjavík
Reykjavik Folk Festival  March  Reykjavík 
Reykjavík Fashion Festival March  Reykjavík
Battle of the Bands - Músíktilraunir March Reykjavík
AK Extreme April Akureyri
Tectonics April Reykjavík
Reykjavík Blues Festival April Reykjavík
I never went south April Ísafjörður
Gardabaer Jazz Festival April Garðabær/Reykjavík
RAFLOST May Reykjavík
Reykjavík Arts Festival May Reykjavík
Saga Fest May Stokkseyri
Breiðholt Festival June Breiðholt/Reykjavík
Vaka Folk Festival June Akureyri
Reykjavík Midsummer Music June Reykjavík
IS NORD June Borgarfjörður
Við Djúpið Summer Courses and Music Festival  June  Ísafjörður 
Independence Day celebrations June 17th All over the country
Secret Solstice June Reykjavík
JEA Jazz Festival June Egilsstaðir
Blue North Music Festival June Ólafsfjörður
Kirkjubæjarklaustur Chamber Music Festival June Kirkjubæjarklaustur
Lobster Festival June Höfn
Viking Festival June Hafnarfjörður
Skálholt Summer Concerts June/July Skálholt
Reykjavik Fringe Festival July Reykjavík
Folk Music Festival July Siglufjörður
Rauðasandur Festival July Rauðasandur
Eistnaflug July Neskaupstaður
The Blue Church Concert Series July Seyðisfjörður
Frum - Contemporary Music Festival July Reykjavík
LungA Art Festival July Seyðisfjörður
Reykjavik Accordion Festival July Reykjavík
Kexport July Reykjavík
Reykholt Chamber Music Festival July Reykholt
Bræðslan July Borgarfjörður Eystri
Neistaflug July Neskaupstaður
French Days  July  Fáskrúðsfjörður                     
Krás foodmarket July/August Reykjavík
Síldarævintýrið July/August Siglufjörður
Innipúkinn August Reykjavík
Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum  August  Westman Islands 
The Great Fish Day August Dalvík
Reykjavik Gay Pride August Reykjavík
Extreme Chill Festival August Varies
Danish Days August Reykjavík
The Icelandic Chamber Music Festival August Reykjavík
Pönk á Patró August Reykjavík
Cycle Music and Art Festival August Reykjavík
Gæran August Reykjavík
Reykjavík Jazz Festival August Reykjavík
Reykjavik Cultural Festival August Reykjavík
Melodica Acoustic Festival Reykjavik August Reykjavík
Reykjavik Dance Festival August Reykjavík
Night of Lights September Reykjavík
Rokkjötnar September Reykjavík
Sláturtíð September Reykjavík
Tango on Ice  September Reykjavík 
Reykjavík International Film Festival September/October Reykjavík 
Everybody's Spectacular November   Reykjavík 
Frostbiter Horror Film Festival November Akranes
Iceland Airwaves  November  Reykjavík 
Christmas celebrations December All over the country