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Top 10 Festivals in Iceland

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Discover the best festivals in Iceland and what makes them so unique. Which Icelandic festivals are the biggest? What are the best festivals in Reykjavik? And when and where are the festivals? Read on to find out the answers to these questions and more.



There are many events, parties, celebrations, and festivals in Iceland, and they occur across the country throughout the year.

Iceland festivals range from small country fairs to large-scale music events with international headliners.

There are even various weekly events in the capital city, Reykjavik. So much so it can be hard to keep track of everything that's happening in this bustling city.

Don’t worry. We’ll help you figure out what’s happening in Iceland and when. We also have a list of weekly events and popular venues to look up below. 

Reykjavik festivals and events can range from intimate music gigs with local and international performers to stand-up comedy gigs, symphonic orchestra performances, theatre productions, gallery openings, special movie screenings, cabaret nights, and drag-queen shows.

There are also more prominent festivals in Iceland that contribute to the country’s exciting cultural landscape.

This article will highlight the wide variety of festivals and events of all kinds that happen across the country. We’ll also include our list of top 10 Iceland festival recommendations, along with weekly events you should take advantage of on your stay here.

Dive in and learn about the rich cultural, artistic, and musical festivals Icelanders love to get involved in and include others, both locals and visitors, in their joy.

An Overview of Festivals in Iceland

New Year's Eve in Reykjavik

It’s a surprise to many people that Iceland has an abundance of events and festivals each year.

With only 360,000 people, the country has a thriving art scene and cultural heritage. Icelanders also have a great love for camping and the outdoors.

Besides Reykjavik, pretty much every village in the country throws a festival or event each year, whether small or big.

There are art festivals, music festivals, camping festivals, food festivals, dance festivals; the list goes on and on.

Let’s dive into the music festivals in Iceland first, as these are the most popular with international tourists.

Music Festivals in Iceland

Iceland produces many artists, some of them known internationally, such as Bjork, Mum, Sigur Ros, Olafur Arnalds, Gus Gus, Emiliana Torrini, and Of Monsters and Men.

This also results in some phenomenal music festivals. 

The three largest ones are: 

Smaller music festivals tend to take place in the countryside. These include heavy metal/hard rock festival Eistnaflug in Neskaupsstadur in July, the rock festival Aldrei for eg sudur in Isafjordur during Easter, and the international Braedslan music festival in Borgarfjordur Eystri in July.

You can hire a cheap car to drive around the country, attending various Icelandic festivals and events for a truly unique experience.



Camping Festivals in Iceland

Outdoor camping festivals are also popular Iceland events. The weekend attached to the first Monday in August (unless Aug. 1 is on a Monday, then it's the last weekend in July) is known as “Verslunarmannahelgi” in Icelandic.

This is a bank holiday weekend and the most significant camping weekend of the year. If you’re driving the South Coast of Iceland at this time, you’ll be fortunate to avoid the queue of cars going to the ferry to get to the Westman Islands.

Multiple festivals take place this weekend. Some of the more well-known ones include Ein med ollu (“One with Everything” - the phrase you say when you order a hot dog with all the trimmings) in Akureyri and Innipukinn (for the ones that don't want to go camping) in Reykjavik.

There’s also Thjodhatid held in the Westman Islands, the biggest and most epic Iceland festival taking place during this bank holiday weekend.

The population of the Westman Islands is normally just over 4,000 people but rises to 16,000 for this one weekend. It’s 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.

Additionally, a special “Thjodhatid song” is made for the festival every year. On Sunday night, everyone in the valley where the festival takes place sings this song and many other known Icelandic songs together under a torch-lit sky.

The locals put up “white tents” where they come together to eat smoked puffin and cakes, play the guitar, and be merry.

If you’re feeling bold, knock on someone's tent and politely ask if you can join in - if you're lucky, you might get some free smoked puffin, which is an absolute delicacy.



Country Fairs and Smaller Festivals

There are many small traditional festivals such as: 

These are so small and local that they mostly don't have a website dedicated to the event, and if they do, it's unlikely to have an English version.

The smaller festivals are mostly 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 many celebrations occur - eating, drinking, mingling, and dancing.

Art, Culture and Theater Festivals

There are plenty of arts festivals in Iceland that focus on a specific genre of art. 

These include the Reykjavik Fashion Festival, Iceland Improv Festival, Tango on Ice Festival, Reykjavik Fringe Festival, and Reykjavik Culture Night.



National Celebrations

There are also some national celebrations such as Christmas and Independence Day celebrations.

Iceland’s independence day, known as Icelandic National Day, is June 17. Celebrations take place all over the country in different forms.

There are also the less frequent sporting victory celebrations when the city becomes an impromptu street festival.

These are few and far between in Iceland. But a few years ago, Iceland was fortunate to participate in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and beat England in the 2016 Euros before that.

One thing is for sure: you'll never be short of fantastic, fun, and exciting festivals when you're in Iceland!



Top Iceland Festivals

The following is a list of the most popular festivals in Iceland.

Most of these events take place in the summer, and you might have to choose between three or four of them on a single weekend.

There are so many incredible Icelandic festivals to pick from; it was tough choosing just 10. However,  these are our top recommendations – if you’re lucky to be in Iceland when a festival happens.

10. LungA Art Festival

LungA, a small art festival in Seydisfjordur in East Iceland, has grown every year since it began in 2000.

Only 300 people showed up for the final concert when it started, but now about 4,000 people show up each year. It takes place for a week in the middle of July every year.

This festival includes workshops, market pop-ups, gallery exhibitions, fashion exhibitions, and live music, among other activities that vary from year to year.

This non-profit festival takes place within a tranquil and beautiful fjord that fills with artistic people from all over for this one week.

9. Braedslan Music Festival

If you fancy driving as far away from Reykjavik as possible, then you'll end up in Borgarfjordur Eystri.

You can experience world-famous bands in this small village, playing inside an old herring shed. As far as concerts in Iceland go, this is one of the more unique venues.

This Icelandic music 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 want to fit in, remember to bring a wool jumper. 

8. Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF)

The Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) occurs annually 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.

RIFF highlights independent filmmaking from all over the world, emphasizing up-and-coming filmmakers.

If you want to see something new and innovative in film, this is the place to be.

Screenings are held in cinemas in Reykjavik, mainly in the arthouse cinema, Bio Paradis, in the center of Reykjavik. However, some screenings are also popping up in other interesting places, such as swimming pools.

In 2016, the film Frankenstein was screened in the swimming pool Sundholl Reykjavikur, built in 1937, as seen in the video above. (Icelanders love both movies and swimming pools - so it's a great combination!).

7. Food and Fun Festival

If you like food and having fun, you should head to Reykjavik in early March. The Food and Fun Festival occurs annually in late February or early March. 

Renowned chefs from around the world come to Reykjavik to do what they do best, make delicious food using only Icelandic ingredients.

The chefs collaborate with the finest restaurants in the city and make up a menu that the restaurant serves for one week only.

Each restaurant has a set menu for a fixed price.

Throw in a bit of outdoor adventure and Reykjavik's nightlife, and then you genuinely have both food and fun!

6. Aldrei for eg sudur Rock Music Festival

I Never Went South or “Aldrei for eg sudur” is a free rock music festival held every Easter in Isafjordur.

Every artist performing is playing for the fun of it and giving their work for free to those lucky people living or visiting the Westfjords.

The festival originated from the musician Mugison. He got the idea to have a music festival in his hometown for local talents, and since then, the festival has grown in popularity each year.

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

5. Reykjavik Arts Festival

The Reykjavik Arts Festival takes place every other year in May or June. In 2018 the festival was held from June 1-17. It wasn’t held in 2020 or 2021, so everyone is looking forward to 2022.

A variety of national and international dance, theater, 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 and has been held since 1970.

4. Culture Night in Reykjavik

Culture Night or “Menningarnott” is an annual one-day festival in Reykjavik, generally held on a Saturday in late August, around Aug. 18-22.

The festival features dance, design, music, art, concerts, games, pop-up shops, and all sorts of interactive activities around town.

Galleries and museums are open, and there’s free entry to everything. The Reykjavik Marathon also takes place on the same day.

Some locals even open up their houses and invite guests to come in and have some home-baked waffles for free. So it's an excellent way to get to know the locals and see someone's home.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Reykjavik for Culture Night, you’ll experience a wild and fun atmosphere like no other, particularly around the streets of Laugavegur.

The evening always ends with a beautiful fireworks display near the Harpa. This display is only surpassed by Iceland’s famous New Year's festivities.

3. Reykjavik Pride

Reykjavik Pride has become one of the largest festivals in Iceland, if not the largest one.

The festival celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters, friends, and family. The entire center of Reykjavik is taken over by colorful costumes, loud party music, people dancing, and glitter everywhere.

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

It doesn’t matter whether you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, straight, asexual, female, male, young, or old. Everyone attends Reykjavik 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 on the second weekend in August.

2. Iceland Airwaves Music Festival

Icelandair throws a giant music festival every year in Reykjavik called Iceland Airwaves.

The festival promotes emerging and established national bands and musicians and features international performers.

The festival takes place in November every year, and they start announcing the line-up in February. Artists have included Bjork, Asgeir, PJ Harvey, and Fleet Foxes.

The festival takes place in various venues around Reykjavik, and in 2017 it even took place in Akureyri in North Iceland as well for the first time.

A ticket to the entire four-day Iceland Airwaves Music Festival 2022 costs about 137 USD.

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 events, also taking place in various venues around Reykjavik.

1. Secret Solstice Music Festival

The Secret Solstice festival is a relatively new event in the Reykjavik music festival scene – the first festival was only held in 2014.

However, this yearly festival has quickly established itself with big headliners such as Radiohead, Of Monsters And Men, Deftones, Wu-Tang Clan, Die Antwoord, the Foo Fighters, and The Prodigy, just to name a few.

The summer solstice happens around June 21 each year when Iceland is greeted with the beautiful midnight sun. Before 2014 there was a massive gap in Iceland’s summer festivals calendar; this one solved it.

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

Some marketing slogans have included 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 in one area within the Laugardalur recreational area of Reykjavik, next to Reykjavik's largest swimming pool. It's possible to camp right by the festival, but it's unnecessary.

Secret Solstice VIP tickets with extravagant extras are available for a hefty price.

However, a general festival pass only costs around 191 USD for four days of partying in the world’s northernmost capital under the midnight sun.

Weekly Events in Reykjavik

What's on in Reykjavik

There are multiple weekly events in Reykjavik that are worth checking out.

Jazz lovers have a lot to choose from, the stand-up and improv comedy scene is booming, as well as the cabaret and drag scene. Plus, there’s literature, poetry, and classical performances.

And if you want to do something more active, such as yoga or give tango or swing dancing a try, then regular beginner classes are available for free.

This list should give you an idea of what's going on in Reykjavik.

Sunday Events in Reykjavik

Monday Events in Reykjavik 

  • Gaukurinn - English stand-up comedy Starts at 9 p.m. Free entry.
  • Hurra - Live Jazz Starts at 9 p.m. Free entry.
  • Stofan Cafe - “Board Game Monday” from 8 p.m. Hosted at Hlemmur Matholl from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Play board games in a cozy atmosphere. Free entry.
  • Pablo Discobar - Salsa, bachata or kizomba dance night. These nights frequently happen on Mondays but occasionally on Thursdays. Best to check their event site to check for times and location. From 7:30 p.m. Free entry.

Tuesday Events in Reykjavik

  • Tango dancing - held at Hlemmur Square. From 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Free entry.
  • Domkirkjan church - Bach concert by olafur Eliasson. From 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free entry.

Wednesday Events in Reykjavik 

  • Peterson suite - live jazz between 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Happy hour(s) from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Lindy hop dance evenings also. Free entry.
  • Thjodleikhuskjallarinn - local theater shows by Improv Iceland between October and May. Mostly in Icelandic, but sometimes in English when there are guest performers. The shows start at 8 p.m. Entry fee is about $12.
  • Tjarnarbio - weekly theatre shows by Improv Iceland in English. Only shown in June and July.

Thursday Events in Reykjavik

  • Check back later for new Thursday events.

Friday Events in Reykjavik

  • Tango Milonga - at Kramhusid. Free entry practice from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m, and milonga from 10 p.m. to midnight. Entry fee: about 8 USD to the milonga, but free for people younger than 30.
  • Bio Paradis - Friday party screenings at 8 p.m. Classic fun films with offers at the bar. About 14 USD to enter.

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.

Reykjavik's main theaters are Thjodleikhusid (National Theatre) and Borgarleikhusid (City Theatre).

However, you're more likely to find performances in English at the independent theaters of Tjarnarbio and IdNo.

Gaukurinn is the home to the Icelandic drag scene Drag-Sugur, with weekly or bi-weekly performances.

Reykjavik Kabarett puts up regular performances all over town, and the Reykjavik Poetry Brothel has an event year-quarterly at IdNo.

Bars that often have live music or other entertaining events include Kex Hostel, Gaukurinn, Dillon, and Bar 11.

Other art venues (not bars) with regular live music events include Mengi, the Nordic House, and Hannesarholt.

Also, check the happy hours of the various bars in Reykjavik. Even if no events are going on, it’s always good to save some money on Iceland’s expensive alcohol.

All Festivals in Iceland

Name & Website

Date

Location

Dark Music Days

January

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival

February

Reykjavik

Sonar Reykjavik

February

Reykjavik

Stockfish Film Festival

February/March

Reykjavik

Food and Fun 

March 

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Folk Festival

March 

Reykjavik 

Battle of the Bands - Musiktilraunir

March

Reykjavik

AK Extreme

April

Akureyri

Tectonics

April

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Blues Festival

April

Reykjavik

I never went south

April

isafjordur

Gardabaer Jazz Festival

April

Gardabaer/Reykjavik

RAFLOST

May

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Arts Festival

May

Reykjavik

Saga Festival

May

Stokkseyri

Vaka Folk Festival

June

Akureyri

Reykjavik Midsummer Music

June

Reykjavik

IS NORD

June

Borgarfjordur

Vid Djupid Summer Courses and Music Festival 

June 

isafjordur

Independence Day celebrations

June 17

All over the country

Secret Solstice

June

Reykjavik

JEA Jazz Festival

June

Egilsstadir

Kirkjubaejarklaustur Chamber Music Festival

June

Kirkjubaejarklaustur

Lobster Festival

June

Hofn

Viking Festival

June

Hafnarfjordur

Skalholt Summer Concerts

June/July

Skalholt

Reykjavik Fringe Festival

July

Reykjavik

Folk Music Festival

July

Siglufjordur

Eistnaflug Metal Festival

July

Neskaupstadur

The Blue Church Concert Series

July

Seydisfjordur

LungA Art Festival

July

Seydisfjordur

Reykjavik Accordion Festival

July

Reykjavik

Reykholt Chamber Music Festival

July

Reykholt

Braedslan

July

Borgarfjordur Eystri

Neistaflug

July

Neskaupstadur

French Days

July 

Faskrudsfjordur

Innipukinn

August

Reykjavik

Thjodhatid i Eyjum

August 

Westman Islands

The Great Fish Day

August

Dalvik

Reykjavik Gay Pride

August

Reykjavik

Extreme Chill Festival

August

Varies

Danish Days

August

Reykjavik

Ponk a Patro

August

Reykjavik

Cycle Music and Art Festival

August

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Jazz Festival

August

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Cultural Festival

August

Reykjavik

Melodica Acoustic Festival Reykjavik

August

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Dance Festival

August

Reykjavik

Night of Lights

September

Reykjavik

Rokkjotnar

September

Reykjavik

Slaturtid

September

Reykjavik

Tango on Ice 

September

Reykjavik 

Reykjavik International Film Festival

September/October

Reykjavik 

Frostbiter Horror Film Festival

November

Akranes

Iceland Airwaves 

November 

Reykjavik 

Christmas celebrations

December

All over the country

Whether you’re looking for a mad rave or artistic tranquility, Iceland’s festivals have you covered. We’d love to hear your experiences of attending any festivals in Iceland in the comments below.