The Settlement Center is a museum in Borgarnes, a town of west Iceland. Here, you can visit two exhibitions, with one about the Age of Settlement, and the other about viking and poet Egil Skallagrímsson, of Egils Saga fame.
Each exhibition takes around 30 minutes to navigate, and there is a gift-shop where visitors can pick up souvenirs. There is also a restaurant on site.
Cover photo from: The Settlement Centre Facebook.
At the settlement exhibition you’ll learn about the discovery of Iceland. This includes information on who was first to arrive here and when, how sailors braved the North Atlantic to get here, and why they were rushing to flee Norway and make their home on a far-flung, deserted island.
It also shows how the Icelanders formed clans around the island, and discusses the country’s development until the end of the Age of Settlement in 930 AD, with the founding of the Alþing, or parliament, in Þingvellir. This marked the beginning of the Commonwealth Age, which lasted until the island was absorbed into the Norwegian crown.
The museum is as interactive as it is informative, making it fun for the whole family. Information is written in multiple languages, and you can rent a headset which will provide further information throughout the exhibition.
The audio guides have Icelandic, English, German, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Norwegian versions.
Those who know nothing about the settlement of Iceland will find the exhibition to be a thorough and entertaining lesson in Nordic history. Those who already have some idea will be impressed by the primary sources in the museum, as well as the way the story is portrayed by Icelanders.
At the Egils Saga exhibition you‘ll learn about the legendary viking and poet Egil Skallagrimsson. His story has been memorialised in the form of a saga, which is a long-form, poetic piece of text.
There are many sagas from these days, which reveal to the reader a huge amount of information regarding how people lived in Iceland a millennium or more ago. Saga-writing was just the beginning of Iceland’s long and influential history of literary tradition.
Egil’s father, Skalla-Grímr, sailed to Iceland early in the settlement age and settled in Borgarfjörður, where Egil was born and raised. His life would be one of drama and intrigue, violence and vengeance, making the saga one of the country’s most renowned and beloved.
It is even suspected, due to the quality of the writing and similarity to other texts, that Egils Saga was written by legendary historian and poet, Snorri Sturlurson, who recorded a wealth of information about Nordic lineages and beliefs.
Again, the exhibition is interactive and modern, with audio guides written in multiple languages.
This exhibition is not quite as inviting to the very young, but is an excellent place to learn about Iceland’s history and the blood-feuds that defined life in its earliest days. It is a must-see destination for those passionate about literature, due to the saga’s continuing influence in Icelandic writing today.