Top 20 Festivals in Iceland

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Local musician Högni Egilsson on stage at Iceland Airwaves.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.


Image from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Roman G.


Icelandic people love to party, as is evident by the many events, parties, celebrations, and festivals held throughout the year. Ranging from small tiny country fairs to large-scale music events with international headliners - there is always a good time to be had if you know where to look.

So where do you look? Don’t worry. We’ll help you figure out what’s happening in Iceland and when. Many of these events take place in the capital of Reykjavik and are a perfect way to experience the city while staying in one of the many hotels in Reykjavik. Others are strewn all over the country, taking place in the backdrop of stunning landscapes.

If you're exploring the country as a part of one of many fantastic self-drive tours, you might even experience some of these festivals if you get your timing right. If a particular event sounds right up your alley, you could hire a car and check it out for yourself.

The festivals in Iceland are a great way to get acquainted with local culture, whether it be through music, film, food, or something else. Now let's dive in and learn about the rich cultural, artistic, and musical festivals Icelanders throw every year.

An Overview of Festivals in Iceland

A jazz musician on the streets of Reykjavik.It’s a surprise to many people that Iceland has such an abundance of events and festivals each year. With roughly 390,000 people, the country has a thriving art scene and strong preservation of cultural heritage.

Besides Reykjavik, pretty much every village in the country throws a festival or event each year, whether small or big. Music festivals have a long history in Iceland, as do art festivals. Icelanders also have a great love for camping and the outdoors, and the people of rural Iceland have a strong sense of pride in their settlements and what makes them unique.

We'll kick off with the best music festivals you can find in Iceland first, as these are the most popular with international visitors.

Top 5 Music Festivals in Iceland

Iceland produces many artists, some of them known internationally, such as BjorkSigur Ros, and Of Monsters and Men. This also results in some phenomenal music festivals. Here are some of our favorites: 

5. Reykjavik Jazz Festival

Top 20 Festivals in IcelandFounded in 1990, the Reykjavik Jazz Festival is the second longest-running music festival in Iceland. As the name suggests, the festival showcases a wide range of jazz styles, from bebop to big band, performed by both established and emerging artists, including a strong representation of Icelandic musicians. 

The Reykjavik Jazz Festival takes place in both large and smaller venues where jazz aficionados and more casual listeners can treat themselves to some quality tunes. Listening to some smooth tunes after taking a Reykjavik Food Walk Tour is a recipe for a great evening in the city.

4. Eistnaflug Metal Festival

The otherwise peaceful town of Neskaupstadur begins rumbling around July every year before erupting with the Eistnaflug metal festival. Featuring a wide array of metal subgenres, as well as some "softer" stuff, such as punk and rock, it is the perfect venue to bang your head.

Despite the heavy metal atmosphere, Eistnaflug is known for its inclusive and friendly atmosphere. The brutality of the metal is also amplified when put into contrast with the quaint and charming houses of Neskaupstadur and the serene landscape, which makes for a rather unique experience.

If you're making the journey to Eistnaflug, makes sure to check out the best things to do in East Iceland and check out the best accommodations in East Iceland to make the most of your trip.

 3. Braedslan Music Festival

Located about two hours from Neskaupsstadur is Borgarfjordur eystri, a tiny fishing village in East Iceland. If your timing is right, you can experience world-famous bands in this small village playing inside an old herring shed. Welcome to Braedslan.

This music festival takes place in late July every year. The venue is small, and tickets are limited, so get yours early. Since 2005 artists and bands such as Belle and Sebastian, Emilíana 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.

2. Aldrei For Eg Sudur

Aldrei For Eg Sudur is an annual music festival held in Isafjordur, the unofficial capital of the Westfjords region of Iceland. Founded in 2004 by local musician Mugison and his father, the festival coincides with Easter weekend, showcasing both diverse music and community spirit.

The festival's peculiar name, which translates to "I Never Went South," encapsulates the sense of local pride in Isafjordur that the town is known for. Since the bands volunteer their work, admission is free, and the idea is that the concert-goers should be the stars of the show, with the talent taking the backseat. Stay

In addition to rocking your socks off, the stunning natural backdrop of the Westfjords makes visiting Aldrei For Eg Sudur an unforgettable experience. There are several great accommodations available in Isafjordur, and our Ultimate Guide to the Westfjords has everything you need to start exploring the area.

1. Iceland Airwaves

Iceland Airwaves is an annual music festival held in Reykjavik in November, drawing its name from the first show in 1999, which was held in an airplane hangar at the local airport. Since its inception, the festival has cemented itself as a staple in Iceland's cultural scene, showcasing megastars and lesser-known bands with a healthy mix of Icelandic and international talent. 

The signature atmosphere of Iceland Airwaves comes from its use of a variety of venues throughout Reykjavik, which includes formal concert halls, tiny bars, and churches. There's no specific genre associated with the Iceland Airwaves, which features everything from rock, pop, electronic, folk, and jazz to experimental music. Past performers include Bjork, Kaiser Chiefs, Vampire Weekend, and Sigur Ros. 

Accurately describing itself as the biggest party in Reykjavik, Iceland Airwaves is bar none the best way for music lovers to get acquainted with Iceland. Check out the selection of hostels in Reykjavik for a place to sleep between concerts.

Top 5 Art & Culture Festivals in Iceland

Despite its small population, Iceland boasts a high number of professional artists and has a rich and vibrant artistic scene. Throughout the year, several festivals pop up, celebrating art in different forms, most of which take place in the cultural hub of Reykjavik. Here are some to keep your eye on:

5. LungA

LungA, an art festival in Seydisfjordur in East Iceland, has grown every year since it began in 2000. It takes place for a week in the middle of July every year and has become a melting pot of ideas and artistic vibes. We'd recommend staying at one of the charming hotels or guesthouses in Seydisfjordur while you're there.

The festival includes workshops, market pop-ups, gallery exhibitions, fashion exhibitions, and live music, among other activities that vary from year to year. The quaint and quiet atmosphere of Seydisfjordur is a large part of the non-profit festival's charm as it fills up with artists from all over.

4. Reykjavik Arts Festival

Reykjavik Arts Festival is a longstanding event that takes place every other year in May or June. Established in 1970, the festival is renowned for its extensive program showcasing a wide range of art forms, including music, theater, dance, visual arts, film, and literature.

The event typically spans two weeks in late spring or early summer and hosts local as well as international artists. Reykjavik Arts Festival not only celebrates established artists but also provides a platform for emerging talent, presenting innovative, challenging works to a diverse audience. Over the years, it has hosted iconic figures such as Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson.


See also: The Top 12 Art Museums in Reykjavik


3. Food & Fun

If you're a fun-loving foodie, you should head to Reykjavik in February, when the Food and Fun festival usually takes place. This culinary circus pairs some of the most renowned chefs from around the world with local talent 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. Combined with some Icelandic nightlife, Food and Fun is a great way of experiencing Reykjavik.



2. Reykjavik Fringe

The Reykjavik Fringe Festival takes place in midsummer and is a celebration of all art forms on the fringe. The festival is a collaboration with festivals of the same type in other Nordic countries and has been running since 2018.

Local and international artists perform all over the city, often with an unusual twist on the art form. Whether it's dance, stand-up comedy, burlesque, children's shows, or circus, the Reykjavik Fringe Festival has the most diverse schedule out of any festival in Iceland. 

1. Reykjavik International Film Fesitval (RIFF)

The Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) is one of Iceland's biggest and most diverse cultural events, taking place from late September into mid-October. The festival lasts for 11 days and shows a wide range of dramas and non-fiction films from multiple countries.

Screenings are held in cinemas in Reykjavik, mainly in the arthouse cinema, Bio Paradis, in the center of Reykjavik. However, one of the selling points of the festival is the more offbeat venues, with screenings have taken place in interesting locales, such as swimming pools and even lava tunnels.

Top 5 Merchants Weekend Festivals

Merchants' Weekend, known as "Verslunarmannahelgi," is a bank holiday weekend and the most awaited holiday for many Icelandic people. Held during the first weekend of August, it commemorates the country's hardworking tradespeople with a long weekend of festivities. Across the nation, towns host a variety of festivals, many of which involve camping. Here are some of the best Merchant's Weekend Festivals



5. Ein Med ollu

Top 20 Festivals in IcelandEin med ollu (“One with Everything” - the Icelandic phrase you say when you order a hot dog with all the trimmings) is a family-friendly gathering that brings to the table everything you'd expect from a Merchants' Weekend festival.

Taking place over three days, the schedule includes concerts, sports competitions, farmers' markets, and much more. As the festival is held in Akureyri, the unofficial capital of the north of Iceland, it is one of the most popular festivals of the weekend, drawing in people from all over the country. The area is very beautiful, and it's highly recommended to stay there for a bit longer in one of the many cozy hotels in Akureyri to fully take in the charms of the town.

4. Nordanpaunk

If you're looking for a different type of fun over the weekend, Nordanpaunk offers quite a rougher alternative. This punk festival, held by the small village of Laugarbakki, describes itself as a gathering for difficult people who listen to difficult music.

The festival has a strong focus on DIY, with everybody who attends contributing in some way. While the music might be a bit on the harder side (which contrasts nicely with the quaint surroundings of Laugarbakki), the festival prides itself on being welcoming, inclusive and safe.

3. Sildaraevintyrid

Top 20 Festivals in IcelandSildaraevintyrid (The Herring Adventure) is a festival that takes place in Siglufjordur, a town located in the northern part of Iceland. The festival draws its name from a glory period in the 20th century when the village's herring industry boomed. This interesting period can be further explored at the Herring Era Museum, which is located in the village.

The festival is a family-friendly one with the goal of creating a venue for the inhabitants of Siglufjordur to come together and celebrate, as well as introducing visitors to everything that the charming town has to offer. You can expect everything from accordion music to a foam party and lots of delicious seafood. Make sure to book accommodation in Siglufjordur ahead of time if you're planning to enjoy the festivities.

2. Innipukinn

Although many Icelanders eagerly await the Merchants' Weekend to go road-tripping, others have no interest in such things and would much rather stay at home in the capital. Thus, Innipukinn (The Homebody) was born, a music festival specifically designed for people who don't want to go camping.

The festival takes place in Reykjavik and offers a wide variety of music in trendy venues within walking distance of each other. As many people will be out of town during the weekend, Innipukinn is generally the most happening thing in downtown Reykjavik at the time. If you're the type to close your curtains at the sight of a sunny day, this might be the festival for you.

1. Thjodhatid

Thjodhatid, held in the Westman Islands, is the biggest and most epic festival taking place over the Merchants' Weekend and is one of the largest cultural events in Iceland. The population of the islands quadruples during the duration of the festival, which is the most anticipated event of the year for many regular attendees. 

The festival was originally held in 1874 when the inhabitants of the Westman Islands could not, due to poor weather conditions, partake in the celebration of the millennium of Icelandic settlement on the Icelandic mainland. Thjodhatid has since grown to become the largest multiday festival in Iceland. The festival takes place in a large valley where concerts and other festivities take place.

On Friday, there is a huge bonfire; on Saturday a fireworks display and on Sunday, everyone in the valley sings together to well-known Icelandic classics. The locals put up white tents where they come together to eat smoked puffin and cakes, play the guitar, and be merry.

While Thjodhatid might not be the best time to explore the islands, the landscapes, and wildlife there are nothing short of beautiful. A great way to experience their stunning nature is on one of the many great Westman Islands Tours. You can visit the islands as part of a day tour from Reykjavik, or enjoy all that the archipelago has to offer by staying at accommodation in the Westman Islands.

Top 5 Country Fairs and Smaller Festivals

Throughout the year, many country fairs and smaller festivals are held in towns and villages all over Iceland, each of which focuses on a different aspect of culture or heritage. These fairs provide a unique opportunity for locals and visitors to come together, celebrate their community, and enjoy a range of traditional activities and entertainment. Here are a few examples of smaller festivals in Iceland:

5. French Days in Faskrudsfjordur

Top 20 Festivals in IcelandThe French Days in Faskrudsfjordur are celebrated on the third weekend of July and last for three days. This festival commemorates the area's link with French fishermen who came here in previous centuries and left their mark on Faskrudsfjordur.

Activities during the festival are a mix of French and Icelandic culture. An example of that is the French boules games pétanque which has become an indispensable event of this festival weekend. Although the festival officially starts on a Friday night with a bonfire, the schedule has been getting larger throughout the years and now typically begins on a Wednesday.

An interesting detour to make while visiting Faskrudsfjordur is to make the short drive to Stodvarfjordur to see Petra's stone and mineral collection - a museum featuring thousands of personally collected rocks that has become one of the top attractions in East Iceland.



4. Danish Days in Stykkisholmur

Top 20 Festivals in Iceland

The town of Stykkisholmur on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula was historically an important commercial center during the time of Danish rule in Iceland. The Danish connection was so strong that it is said that the residents of Stykkisholmur didn‘t speak a word of Icelandic on Sundays - only Danish.

The Danish heritage of the town is celebrated annually during Danish Days, a four-day celebration in July where the Danish flag is proudly flown, and streets are renamed to fit the theme. The activities, which are similarly translated with Danish names, aim to appeal to all ages, culminating in a large dance on Sunday. Find the perfect accommodation in Stykkisholmur to get to know the town better.



3. The Lobster Festival in Hofn 

Top 20 Festivals in Iceland

The best lobster you'll get in Iceland will likely be at Hofn, the lobster capital of Iceland. For the last thirty years, the inhabitants of Hofn have held the Lobster Festival in June to celebrate lobster fishing, which makes up a large part of their livelihood.

The Lobster Festival is everything you'd expect from a fair of its kind. Visitors will have plenty of lobster-themed dishes to try out served by the locals. There are also sporting events, concerts, and much more. If you're visiting the Glacier Lagoon or other nearby attractions during late June, consider stopping by for some delicious langoustine. Explore the selection of hotels and accommodations in Hofn if you're planning to partake in the festivities.

2. Irish Days in Akranes

Top 20 Festivals in Iceland

Image from Private Akranes Town Tour.

Yet another festival that celebrates a settlement's international heritage is the Irish Days in Akranes. The original settlers in the area are believed to have come from Ireland and settled in Akranes sometime after 880. While this is not conclusive, it makes for a nice excuse to throw a great festival

The festival takes place in July, with people flocking to Akranes to take in the fusion of Irish and Icelandic cultures. The Irish flag can be seen everywhere, and the events are lively. One of the more bizarre competitions is the annual competition for the most redheaded Icelandic person. 

1. The Great Fish Day in Dalvik

The Great Fish Day is an annual festival held in Dalvik that celebrates the town's fishing heritage and the importance of the industry in the local community. Although the town itself is relatively small, the festival itself has become very popular, sometimes attracting tens of thousands during the weekend it's held.

There is a great sense of community during The Great Fish Day, and visitors will be delighted to get to try some delicious and free fish soup. While many companies donate ingredients for the soup, the inhabitants hand it out to the guests. If you're not much for soup, you'll have plenty of alternatives to choose from. Sushi, fishburgers, fish hot dogs, herring on rye bread - you name it.

The popularity of the festival can make it tricky to attend, as camping areas and accommodations tend to fill up quickly. Book a hotel in Dalvik well in advance to not miss out on this unforgettable experience.

All Festivals in Iceland

The list above is in no way exhaustive, as there are many more festivals taking place in Iceland throughout the year. Here is a somewhat comprehensive list of all the festivals in Iceland and where to find them.

Name & Website

Date

Location

Dark Music Days

January

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Winter Lights Festival

February

Reykjavik

Stockfish Film Festival

March

Reykjavik

Food and Fun 

March 

Reykjavik

Battle of the Bands - Musiktilraunir

March

Reykjavik

Beer Festival

March

Reykjavik

DesignMarch 

March

Reykjavik

Frostbiter Horror Film Festival

March

Akranes

Reykjavik Blues Festival

April

Reykjavik

Aldrei For Eg Sudur 

April

Isafjordur

AK Extreme 

April

Akureyri

Childrens Culture Festival

April

Reykjavik

RAFLOST 

May

Reykjavik

Skjaldborg Documentary Festival

May

Patreksfjordur

International Museum Day

May

Reykjavik

Reykjavik International Literary Festival

June

Reykjavik

Reykjavik Arts Festival

June

Reykjavik

Vid Djupid

June 

isafjordur

The Color Run

June 

Reykjavik

Irish Days

June

Akranes

RUSL Fest

June

Reykjavik

The Runner's Festival

June

Isafjordur

Lobster Festival

June

Hofn

Viking Festival

June

Hafnarfjordur

Skalholt Summer Concerts

June/July

Skalholt

Reykjavik Fringe Festival

July

Reykjavik

Folk Music Festival

July

Siglufjordur

Omar

July

Varies

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

Kotelettan BBQ and Music Festival

July

Reykjavik

Thjodhatid

August 

Westman Islands

The Great Fish Day

August

Dalvik

Innipukinn

August

Reykjavik

Ein Med Ollu

August

Akureyri

Danish Days

August

Stykkisholmur

Nordanpaunk 

August

Laugarbakki

Sildaraevintyrid

August

Siglufjordur

Reykjavik Jazz Festival

September

Reykjavik

Night of Lights

September

Reykjavik

Extreme Chill Festival

September

Reykjavik

Reykjavik International Film Festival

September/October

Reykjavik

Hvammstangi Puppetry Festival

October

Hvammstangi

Sequences Art Festival

October

Reykjavik

Cycle Music and Art Festival

October

Reykjavik 

Reykjavik Dance Festival

November

Reykjavik 

Iceland Airwaves 

November 

Reykjavik 

New Years Eve Run

December

Reykjavik

 

Whether you’re searching for world-class music, delicious food, or quirky local customs, Iceland’s festivals have you covered. We’d love to hear about your experiences of attending any festivals in Iceland in the comments below.

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