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How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

In recent years, Iceland has hit the travel scene in a big way. And, given that the country is very safe for visitors, has gorgeous scenery straight off of a postcard, and is where you can often see the Northern Lights (a major entry on my bucket list that still needs to be checked off!), it's no wonder that people are clamoring to book their trips here.


While visiting the Blue Lagoon, Glymur waterfall, and Lake Myvtan can be cornerstones of a fantastic visit, I'm a firm believer of diving into the museums and arts of a country to really get a feel of the history, literature, and culture. So, in between trying to capture the perfect picture of the Aurora Borealis and taking a dip in the thermal-heated Blue Lagoon, make some time to immerse yourself in Iceland's rich culture at these incredible museums in and around Reykjavik.

Saga Museum

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com
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If you find yourself wanting an immersive tour through the history of Iceland, head straight to the Saga Museum. The 17 3-D exhibits each focus on a notable moment (the Black Death, The Battle at Orlygsstadir) or important figure (Leifur the Lucky, Sister Katrin, Snorri Sturluson) in Icelandic history. Kids will love the life-sized figurines placed in each exhibit area. And if all of that wasn't enough, there is an area where you can dress up like a Viking and take pictures.

Gljutrasteinn-Laxness Museum

I really, really cannot resist a visit to an author's home. Perhaps I'm hoping to tap into the literary genius that's sure to still be floating around inside?

For other book lovers, don't miss the Gljutrasteinn-Laxness Museum, which is housed in the residence of the late Halldór Laxness. Laxness won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1955 (and remains the only Icelander to do so) and was a prolific novelist, poet, and playwright. On the self-guided audio tour, you'll be able to walk through Laxness' home, which has been left exactly as it was when he died in 1998. Even if you're not familiar with his works, it's a fascinating look into the daily life of a literary genius.

Reykjavik Art Museum

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com
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Here, at the largest art museum in Iceland, you'll be able to explore buildings on three different properties and contains over 3,000 square feet of exhibition space. If you're interested in contemporary Icelandic artwork, take in the ever-expanding collection of artist Erró at the Hafnarhús location. Two of Iceland's most important painters, Johannes S. Kjarval and Asmunder Sveinsson, are spotlighted in the Kjarvalsstadir and Asmunder Sveinsson Sculpture Museum.

Reykjavik Maritime Museum

When you're living on an island, maritime occurrences are just as important as those that occur on land. Founded in 2005 to record the ins and outs of Iceland's watery history, visitors to the Maritime Museum can learn about everything from the country's cod wars of the mid-1900s to how the Coast Guard continues to patrol the icy waters surrounding the country. Families traveling with little kids will enjoy exploring the docked Coast Guard ship just outside the museum.

The Settlement Exhibition

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

Immerse yourself in 10th century Viking life in this incredible museum. Explore the beginnings of human life in Reykjavik with the archeological artifacts here: the 10th century longhouse is the star here. Interactive exhibits and historical background help visitors understand how these early settlers made a life in Iceland's often unforgiving climate.

Don't forget to take a peep at my favorite part: the Settlement Sagas, a collection of medieval manuscripts that are now on public display for the first time in their very long histories. The manuscripts were written during the 12th century, but they recount information that dates back as early as the 9th century. No wonder that UNESCO named Reykjavik one of its "Cities of Literature" back in 2011. Sounds like my kind of place!


National Museum of Iceland

Dating to 1863, the National Museum of Iceland is a cornerstone of the country's culture. This is another fantastic place to explore Iceland's history, where visitors can learn about the Vikings, medieval artwork, and contemporary issues. The main collection is supplemented by visiting collections, so you're sure to find something incredible with every visit.

Culture House

In the Culture House's six exhibits, visitors can see manuscripts from Iceland's major authors (including Halldór Laxness, above), visual histories of the country, and beautifully illustrated medieval manuscripts. One of the permanent exhibits, Points of View, takes visitors on a pictorial history of the country's beauty.

Arbaer Open Air Museum

With grass topped buildings and traditional Icelandic architecture, the buildings of the Arbaer Open Air Museum allow you to step back in time. Many of the 20 buildings onsite were moved from central Reykjavik as a way to preserve "old Iceland" and its culture. The plot of land where the Museum is located was a working farm until the early 1900s, and several of the buildings are refurbished from the farm's earliest days. Peek into a house decorated as it would've been in the 1920s, learn about children's toys in one of the permanent exhibits, and learn about the Catholic Church that was turned into a sports hall.

Aurora Reykjavik

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

If you'd like to see the Northern Lights, this small but informative museum is a great place to start before turning your eyes to the sky. The interactive displays allow visitors to learn more about the myths behind the colorful lights and the science that creates them. If you can't go home without the perfect photo of the Aurora Borealis, make sure to stop by one of the museum's photo booths, where you can get tips on how best to use your camera when shooting the lights.

Have you visited Iceland? Which of these cultural Iceland tourist attractions would be on your itinerary?

How to Immerse Yourself in Iceland's Rich Culture | CosmosMariners.com

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