Sigur Rós band members - Wikimedia Commons: Shimelle Laine

Are there any famous people or celebrities in Iceland ? Who is the most famous person to have come from Iceland ?

For such a small population as the Icelandic one, it’s quite surprising how many Icelanders have become world-known. Like in every country in the world Iceland has nationally famous athletes, musicians, actors, tv presenters and politicians – most of them unknown to the rest of the world. These are people you will meet or see in the streets of Iceland and not have a clue who they are – you are bound to see at least one famous person whilst you’re in Iceland (you might just not realize it!)

Famous Icelandic musicians

The most internationally famous Icelander by far is the singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir. She was first noticed as the singer for The Sugarcubes and then went on to be an international music sensation.

Other internationally famous Icelandic bands and musicians include Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men. Emiliana Torrini, Múm and Gus Gus have a big following as well – just to name a few! You can read more about Icelandic music here.

Famous Icelandic politicians

Iceland made the headlines in newspapers around the world with the financial collapse and a volcanic eruption in 2010 but shortly after, the politician and former comedian Jón Gnarr became the talk of the town – as well as being internationally recognized. You can read about him in this article about the 10 weirdest things about Icelanders.

Iceland also had the first nationally elected female president in the world, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (from 1980-1996) as well as the first outspoken lesbian prime minister in the world, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

Iceland's beautiful women and strong men

Historically Iceland has been known for having the most beautiful women and the strongest men (per capita), due to the fact that Iceland has won Miss World four times (Guðrún Bjarnadóttir in 1963, Hólmfríður Karlsdóttir in 1985, Linda Pétursdóttir in 1988 and Unnur Birna Vilhjálmsdóttir in 2005) and the title Strongest Man in the World 8 times in the 1980’s and 1990’s (Jón Páll Sigmarsson and Magnús Ver Magnússon both won it 4 times each).

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson is currently Iceland's (and Europe's) strongest man. He's also known for playing the Mountain in Game of Thrones.

Famous Icelandic TV and film producers

Sigurjón Sighvatsson is Iceland’s most famous and established movie producer, based in Hollywood. Baltasar Kormákur is establishing himself in Hollywood as a director and producer as well, most recently making Everest. Friðrik Þór Friðriksson remains the only Icelandic director to be nominated for an Oscar (for the best foreign movie Children of the Nature in 1991).

And lastly I’ll mention Magnús Scheving, the founder/writer/producer/original sports-elf of Latibær – or Lazytown – known to every parent in the world.

Famous Icelandic literature authors

Without a doubt the most famous, current, Icelandic writer would be Arnaldur Indriðason, author of various crime fiction stories that have been translated into various languages and published in 26 countries. He’s also won numerous awards.

Arnaldur Indriðason

Iceland seems to produce many excellent crime fiction writers, as Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is also quite known for her crime novels.

Iceland is proud of its sagas and literature and one Icelandic author has won a Nobel Prize, Halldór Laxness, who passed away in 1998.

Famous Icelandic athletes

Eiður Smári Gudjohnsen is a world known footballer who has for example played for Chelsea and FC Barcelona. Gylfi Sigurðsson has also become a known name in football as he made his name in the Premier League with Swansea. Iceland has produced a few good football players - but definitely produces better handball teams than football teams. The Icelandic handball team received silver medals in the 2008 Olympics and has won numerous World Cups. The most famous Icelandic handballer, Ólafur Stefánsson announced his international retirement from playing after the 2012 Olympics.

Icelandic silver handball team - from Wikimedia Commons

Icelanders also seem to excel at CrossFit and Anníe Mist Þórisdóttir is a double world champion at CrossFit - the first female to win that title twice. Katrín Tanja Davíðsdóttir won the 2015 CrossFit championships.

Are famous people in Iceland really famous?

Icelandic population is small but rich in culture and because of its size and intimacy, ‘famous’ people are mostly left alone and they cherish their privacy in the country. There are no bodyguards or an army of paparazzis hanging around. If you feel like knocking on the president’s door, he’ll probably invite you in for coffee (if he isn’t too busy).

This makes Iceland a popular destination for foreign celebrities.

Text by Nanna Gunnarsdóttir