Top 10 Museums in Reykjavik | History, Culture & Vikings!

People visiting the Perlan exhibitionWhat are the best museums in Reykjavik? Are they only about Vikings, whales, and elves? Is there really a penis museum in Reykjavik?  Read about some of the best museums in Reykjavik to visit on your trip to Iceland. Discover Iceland's history, culture, and magical northern lights.

Check out our list of the 10 best museums in Reykjavik and find out where you should go to learn about Icelandic history and culture.

Iceland is best known for its stunning landscape and unique food, but equally impressive is the country's history and culture. In Reykjavik, there are numerous museums and exhibitions where you can soak up some knowledge about Iceland. So if you're spending some time in Reykjavik, why not check out a museum or two (or 10)?

We recommend purchasing a 24-hour City Card, which will get you free admission, or a discount, for some of the museums on this list. You can also get a card that lasts 48 hours and 72 hours, which is perfect if you want to explore multiple places during your trip! You can pick up the card at Reykjavik City Hall and at various museums around the city.

With the card, you'll also receive a discount at numerous restaurants, free admission on the city buses, free entry to Reykjavik's swimming pools, and many other perks.

Keep in mind that this list does not contain any art museums, as we have a separate article dedicated entirely to Reykjavik's Best Art Museums.

That being said, let’s take a detailed look at some of the best museums in Reykjavik. The vast majority of museums here are in the capital city, so the following places can also be considered some of the best museums in Iceland.

Are Museums Free in Iceland?

In most cases, no. Museums are generally not free in Iceland. But that doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck! There are still many attractions and museums that can be visited for free. One thing to keep in mind is that many museums do offer free admission to children 17 and under as well as discounts for students.

10. Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center

The northern light exhibition at the Aurora MuseumStarting off this list of the top museums in Iceland is Aurora Reykjavik, a new science museum and interactive exhibition. It's the latest addition to our collection of the 'best museums in Reykjavik,' and for a good reason.

From a historical glimpse into what our ancestors believed about the aurora borealis to a modern look at the science behind the colors, this museum is not just for kids; even adults will enjoy this interesting and educational experience. It's sure to enhance your aurora borealis experience, especially if you're planning to go on a northern lights tour!

In addition to all of the informational exhibits, there are also interactive ones and even VR headsets to experience the aurora for yourself. However, as you may have already guessed, the feature attraction of Aurora Reykjavik is a large, high-definition time-lapse of the northern lights.

Picture of the Aurora northern lights photo simulator and selfie boothPerhaps the best part about this museum – at least for the adults – is the specially equipped photo booth designed to recreate the settings of the aurora. Here, with the assistance of helpful staff, you can learn how to optimally adjust your camera’s settings for those aurora photo sessions.

If you're interested in visiting this unique museum about the northern lights, make sure to book your entry to Aurora Reykjavik now!

Aurora Reykjavik
- Address: 
Grandagardur 2, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 9 AM - 9 PM

9. The Saga Museum - Sogusafnid

A scene from the Saga Museum exhibition, showing historical figuresA great way to get to know Icelandic history is with a visit to the Saga Museum (Sogusafnid), where history comes alive! It's located next to the Aurora Reykjavik and is often referred to as the Viking Museum in Reykjavik to travelers.

This relatively small museum is jam-packed with information about Iceland’s first settlers. It even uses life-like wax replicas of Icelandic historical figures to recreate key moments in the country’s history!

As you enter Iceland’s Viking museum, you are given an audio guide – in either Icelandic, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, or Swedish – that automatically plays as you walk past the realistic figures.

People taking an audio tour at the Saga Museum, looking at the exhibitionThe Saga Museum is a great stop before a tour of the country. It's an obligatory stop among first-time tourists and one of the best museums in Reykjavik. Here you’ll learn about the rich history of the places you are about to visit, which in turn makes each of those experiences more rewarding and memorable.

For example, you can discover how Iceland’s parliament, Althingi, was founded around 930 AD at Thingvellir National Park and what events led to law-speaker Thorgeir throwing his Norse idols into Godafoss waterfall in North Iceland.

The replicas in the museum were created based on descriptions found in the Icelandic Sagas and other historic manuscripts. The clothes, weapons, and everyday objects have all been handcrafted using traditional methods.

Make sure you bring your camera because you'll have the chance to dress up as a Viking in these handmade clothes after the tour; helmet, chainmail, sword, and all!

People wearing Viking costumes at the Saga Museum

Saga Museum
- Address:
Grandagardur 2, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM

8. The Icelandic Punk Museum

M&M statue by the entrance of the Punk museum in Iceland

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Hyppolyte de Saint-Rambert. No edits made

When exploring the nation’s culture and history, one cannot forget Icelandic music! The Icelandic Punk Museum hides at the bottom of Bankastraeti street in downtown Reykjavik and is one of the more unique places you can visit during your trip in Iceland.

You can learn about this country’s punk scene, chronicled from the early years to the new wave uprising, which paved the way for some of the nation's most beloved artists, including Bjork and Sigur Ros.

Much like the punk scene itself, the museum is underground, in a location that couldn’t be more fitting for a museum of this kind: a former public toilet. The toilets were shut down in 2006 only to be reopened a decade later in an unceremonious ceremony by Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols as a museum chronicling the Icelandic punk scene.

Entrance of the Punk Museum in Reykjavik

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Ziko van Dijk. No edits made

The stalls serve as mini display rooms for the collection of photographs, posters, handbills, stage equipment, and instruments. There are streaming videos of classic club shows, and headphones hang from the ceiling, each playing a different Icelandic punk song. You can also try on leather jackets and strike a pose with a guitar or behind the drums.

Despite its small size and odd history – or perhaps because of it – this quirky and offbeat punk shrine is one of the best museums in Iceland.

The Icelandic Punk Museum
- Address: Bankastraeti 2, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 6 PM, except Mondays, 10 AM -10 PM

7. Whales of Iceland

Main hall of the Whales of Iceland exhibitionFew other nations have as extensive of a history with whales as Iceland and the Whales of Iceland exhibition is another highly recommended Reykjavik museum. It's also a great way to learn about the whales and dolphins you may encounter (or have already seen) on a whale-watching tour in Iceland, so we recommend pairing a visit to Whales of Iceland with a tour!

The museum is located in the Grandi area, a short walking distance from the Reykjavik Old Harbor, from which most of the city’s whale-watching tours depart.

The museum is located in a large warehouse and holds 23 life-size models of the whale species found in Icelandic waters, ranging from the small harbor porpoises to the enormous blue whale. 

The whale replicas hang from the ceiling, are all hand-painted, and each model has personal characteristics based on a real whale found in the ocean. The models are also soft and squishy, and you are allowed to touch them (gently)!

The exhibition is quite atmospheric; blue lighting and whale noises are played through the sound system, giving you the sense of being underwater. You can also get a better feel of swimming alongside orcas or dolphins with the museum’s virtual reality glasses.

A guided tour of the Whales of Iceland exhibitionYou can download the museum’s multilingual guidance app to your phone or borrow a tablet at the front desk to learn about the biology and habits of these magnificent creatures. There are also guided tours of the exhibition two times a day. Odds are that the sheer size of the whales will have you in awe and stick with you forever. If you want to learn about the gentle giants of the sea, book your admission to the Whale of Iceland Museum now!

Whales of Iceland
- Address: 
Fiskislod 23-25, 101 Reykjavik
Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM
- City Cardholders receive a 30% discount on the admission

6. Reykjavik Maritime Museum

Entrance to the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, Sjominjasafnid

Nothing has been more vital to Iceland’s survival than fishing, so it should be no surprise that there's an entire Iceland history museum dedicated to the nation’s maritime past. You can check out the country’s seafaring heritage at the Reykjavik Maritime Museum in the newly renovated part of Reykjavik's harbor, known as the Grandi area.

The museum gives a good insight into the life and times of Icelandic fishermen, showing how fishing has formed the nation. It displays classic fishing artifacts, detailed model ships, mock-ups of wireless signal rooms, and a compass repair shop, among other things.

Here you'll gain a deeper understanding of this tiny island nation as you learn about the country's dramatic relationship with the sea, the scale of hardship the fishermen had to endure, and the gradual growth of modern Iceland through fishing.

The entrance of the Maritime Museum in Reykjavik features a staircase wrapped around a sculpture of the sea, complete with fisth

Of course, there's also a section of the Cod Wars (not to be confused with the Cold War), a series of confrontations between Iceland and the United Kingdom on fishing rights in the 20th century. You can even take a tour of the Odinn, a Coast Guard vessel that survived 3 of these wars.

The museum is also part of a museum collective, which is known as "Reykjavik City Museum – One Museum in five unique places". We recommend checking out the other great locations belonging to the museum, especially since you'll find some of them further on this list!

The Reykjavík Maritime Museum
- Address: 
Grandagardur 8, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM
- Admission is free for City Cardholders

5. Perlan - Wonders of Iceland

Perlan at sunset with Reykjavik in the backgroundDuring your time in Reykjavik, you might notice the iconic Perlan building towering over the city from a hill in the Oskjuhlid area. The hemispherical structure provides visitors with an unmatched, panoramic view of the capital area from its observation deck. Guests can also immerse themselves in Icelandic nature without even leaving the city!

Perlan Museum has several exhibits focusing on Icelandic nature. The Perlan 'Wonders of Iceland' exhibition features an ice cave constructed inside one of the hot water tanks on which the Perlan dome sits.

The museum urges visitors to use their senses during the tour; you can observe the ice and touch it while listening to the sounds and feeling the cold. Rest assured, museum staff can provide you with warm clothes for the chill if requested.

People exploring the ice cave at Perlan MuseumAfter walking through the labyrinth of ice, guests are led to the second floor. There you'll find an interactive wall showing the forces of the glaciers and the volcanic activity under you, as well as multimedia displays covering everything about glaciers.

Another exhibition at Perlan Museum is 'Forces of Nature,' where you can learn about the volcanic activity of Iceland. There you can find information about different volcanic eruptions and how they have affected the nation throughout time. You can feel their power by experiencing the ground shaking and seeing the different kinds of lava that can form.

Perlan's Aurora Northern Lights planetarium show will take you on a journey through time and space and allow you to witness the spectacular display of the northern lights, even in the summer. 

There's also a fun and interactive exhibition on Icelandic water and even a virtual reality telescope that allows you to explore the birdlife—including puffins—at a reconstruction of the Latrabjarg cliffs.

At the end of your visit, we recommend relaxing at the Perlan restaurant, café, or ice cream parlour and visiting the observation deck for a fantastic view of the city!

If you want to learn and experience the nature of without leaving the city, book your admission to the Wonders of Iceland exhibition now!People enjoying the Latrabjarg cliffs reconstruction at Perlan Museum

Perlan Museum
- Address: 
Varmahlid 1, 105 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 9 AM - 10 PM

4. The National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland is a great place to learn about Icelandic history

Photo from The National Museum of Iceland Admission Ticket, Valid for One Year

The National Museum of Iceland houses many treasures of Iceland’s history, so it may not be a surprise that it ranks high on this list. The vast collection includes arts and crafts, tools and furniture, religious artifacts, and archeological remains.

The museum's permanent exhibition, 'Making of a Nation,' begins with the ship in which Viking settlers crossed the ocean to their new home and ends in a modern airport. The section describing the settlement era features swords, drinking horns, a bronze figure which likely depicts the thunder god Thor, and the Valthjofsstadur door, a priceless medieval church door featuring a carving of the legend of Lion-Knight. 

Upstairs is a collection that spans from 1600 to the modern era. There, you’ll understand the country’s plight under foreign rule and its struggle for independence. You can listen to voices of the past (albeit in Icelandic) through headphones, and there's a special room where you can play with objects and take photos.

Viking drinking horns at permanent exhibition in the National Museum of Iceland

You can learn all about the museum’s artifacts through the free smartphone audio guide, available in nine languages, as well as an English audioguide focusing on LGBTQ+ history in Iceland. There are also guided tours in English on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

You'll also find special, temporary exhibitions on everything from ancient riding equipment to modern apartment buildings. These change regularly, so make sure to check out what's on offer during your visit! Book a hassle-free entrance ticket to the National Museum now!

A display at the National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland
- Address: Sudurgata 41, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM
Admission is free for City Cardholders

3. Adalstraeti: The Settlement Exhibition & Reykjavik… the story continues

Entrance to the Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik

The Settlement Exhibition is part of the Reykjavik City Museum and is located underground. Its subterranean location has a practical reason: it's built around an archeological site. In 2001, the nearby buildings' renovations were about to start when archeologists began finding a few relics. These turned out to be the oldest remains of human habitation in Reykjavik, including a 10th-century Viking longhouse!

The longhouse is believed to have been inhabited from 930-1000 AD, and older still is a boundary wall at the back of the museum, built around 871 AD. What's equally impressive is that these buildings were discovered at the very place where Iceland’s first settlers are said to have made their home, as described in the old Icelandic Sagas, written some 200 years after the event.

At the exhibition, visitors can walk around the unearthed longhouse and look at various artifacts to glimpse into early Icelandic life. You'll find multimedia tables that show information about the area’s history and ecology, as well as the residents’ daily activities, such as ironwork and carpentry. 

There's even a panorama showing you how Reykjavik would have looked at the time of the longhouse!

The surrounding screen on the settlement exhibition in Reykjavik, showing the nature as it would have looked like at settlement

In 2022 the Settlement exhibition was expanded upon. It now connects directly to another exhibition, "Reykjavik...the story continues", which traces the history of Reykjavik from settlement to the present day.

Visitors will get to see the development of the city through time as they walk through an underground exhibition space that leads from the Settlement Exhibition to the oldest house in Reykjavik, Adalstraeti 10.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is a recreation of Reykjavik's main street as it was in the late 19th century, where visitors can witness the people of the past going about their daily lives through virtual reality binoculars. You'll also be able to check out a recreation of an old store!

The entry ticket is valid for both exhibitions, and you can enter through either the Settlement Exhibition or Adalstraeti 10.

If you want to delve deep into Iceland's history, we recommend this private 2.5-hour Viking Age walking tour with a visit to the Settlement Exhibition.

Museum staff at the Adalstraeti exhibition in Reykjavik in the oldest house in the city

The Settlement Exhibition
- Address: 
Adalstraeti 16, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM
- Admission is free for City Cardholders

2. The Phallological Museum

The exhibition room of the Phallological museum in IcelandNo list of the best museums in Reykjavik could be considered complete without mentioning the Icelandic Phallological Museum. When it comes to quirky Iceland museums, this is the undisputed king!

The museum itself is not huge, and you probably won't spend many hours there. Still, it's definitely worth a visit just to say that you've been to the penis museum - and for the endless jokes that will inevitably accompany your visit.

The penis museum, as some tourists call it, was founded in 1997 and initially housed in the town of Husavik before relocating to central Reykjavik and its current location on Kalkofnsvegur.

There are over 200 penises and penile parts from almost all land and sea mammals in Iceland, from a tiny hamster member to a 6-foot-long specimen from a sperm whale.

Iceland is a land of myths and folklore, so you can also find a section on trolls, a merman, and ghost appendages. There are even 4 human specimens, along with silver molds of the national handball team of Iceland, which won the silver medal at the Olympics in 2008! If you're interested, there is a donation station where you can reserve your third leg for the museum.
The front desk and gift shop in the Phallological museum in IcelandVisitors can also see an extensive collection of toys, trinkets, and utensils related to the museum’s theme. There's an excellent gift shop, so you have no excuse not to bring home a penis-shaped bottle opener or a fridge magnet to commemorate the visit. Additionally, there's a café serving all kinds of phallological drinks and goodies which you can enjoy after visiting the museum.

The Phallological Museum
- Address: Kalkofnsvegur 2, 101 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 7 PM
- City Cardholders receive a 20% discount on the admission

 1. Arbaer Open Air Museum

Houses at the Arbaer Open Air Museum, staff dressed in traditional Icelandic clothes while taking care of farm animals

One of the best ways to experience Icelandic history is by visiting the Arbaer Open Air Museum, where you’ll find a large display of 19th and 20th-century Icelandic houses. It is one of the five places that make up the Reykjavik City Museum.

The museum consists of more than 20 buildings preserved and relocated to form a small town, a square, and a farm, giving visitors a sense of how Icelanders used to live before the country underwent its industrialization.

Each building is different and has its own story. You’ll find homes of people with diverse occupations and social statuses, from a professor's residence to the home of landless laborers. There are also structures from different eras, such as traditional turf houses and WWII storage huts, and you can visit an old corner store!

The old corner store at the Arbaer open air museumIn keeping with the living history theme, the employees and tour guides dress in traditional Icelandic attire and even work the farm, including sheep, cows, and chickens. There's also a children’s room at the museum with traditional mid-century toys for the young ones.

The museum is in Arbaer, a suburb of Reykjavik city, and although it's a bit way out of the city center, getting there doesn’t need to be all that tricky. You can take one of the city buses that stop in the museum’s vicinity or take a rental car. If you have a City Card, both the bus ride and the museum admission are free.

A traditional farm at the Arbaer open air museum in Reykjavik

Arbaer Open Air Museum
- Address: 
Kistuhylur 4, 110 Reykjavik
- Open: Daily from 10 AM - 5 PM during June - August and 1 PM - 5 PM during September - May
- Admission is free for City Cardholders

Have you visited these museums? What did you think? Are there other museums you would have liked to see on this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Link to appstore phone
Installer Islands største rejseapp

Download Islands største rejsemarkedsplads til din telefon for at administrere hele din rejse på ét sted

Scan denne QR-kode med dit telefonkamera, og tryk på det link, der vises, for at lægge Islands største rejsemarkedsplads i lommen. Indtast dit telefonnummer eller din e-mailadresse for at modtage en sms eller en e-mail med downloadlinket.