Reykjavik For History Buffs

In comparison to much of the rest of the world, Reykjavik is a pretty new city. It might seem like the only things to do in Iceland have to do with hiking and the outdoors, but the world's most northern capital is still full of a rich and colorful history that makes it (and the rest of the country) a great destination for history geeks like myself! 

Personally, I think that traveling to a new country because a more enriching end fulfilling experience when you get to know the history behind a destination. It gives an explanation as to why things are the way they are, and adds more significance to the things you see. Just like you can't really get to know a person until you know their past, you can't get to know a place until you know its history. 

When in Reykjavik, check out these spots for an insight into its past to get a better understanding of its present and future. 

 
 

Since it's believed that Reykjavik was the first official settlement in Iceland, it's only fitting that their national museum is located there. 

If you're looking for a place to get a great introduction and overview of Iceland's history and what the country has to offer, make this museum your first stop. It's a great place to visit even if you're not hugely into historical sites, since there are plenty of interactive exhibits. You can also get an idea of what else there is to see around the country! Plus, it's a good place to check out if you want to get out of the rain - which there's a lot of in Reykjavik. 

There are over 2,000 historical objects and the museum always a few temporary exhibits in addition to their permanent collection. Make sure to check out the bronze figure of Thor that dates back over a thousand years! 

 

FOR VIKINGS FANS: The Settlement Exhibition

 

This was one of my favorite things in Reykjavik! It's a museum that's built around the excavation site of a real Viking longhouse that is estimated to have been inhabited from around 930 - 1000. You can also see the remnants of a wall that is one of the oldest man-made structures ever found in Iceland!

The longhouse has one of the most advanced and intact hearths ever found in a Viking excavation, and it's amazing to see the way that the earliest settlers of Iceland lived during the first 100 years on the Island. I recommend taking your time to read about all the different artifacts and trying out all the interactive elements of the exhibit. Also, don't forget to try your hand at the old Norse games and activities they have available! 

 

FOR THE FAMILY: Arbaer Open Air Museum

 

Everyone can explore and see what traditional Icelandic life was like a hundred years ago by visiting the fantastic Arbaer Open Air Museum! 

The museum is a collection of over 20 different buildings that come together to make a little historic town square, village and even a farm. The buildings are mostly originals that were relocated from central Reykajvik and provide you with an opportunity to get a peak into how people survived Iceland's harsh climate before modern conveniences.

Different exhibitions show different historic periods, and if you visit in the summer you can see animals, too! There are special exhibits and events all throughout the year, so there's something for the whole family to enjoy! Plus, it's nice to be able to walk around outside around the buildings and feel like you're really taking a trip into the past. 

 

FOR THE TRAVELER: Viðey Island

Take a ferry to Viðey and not only discover why it's a popular getaway for citizens because of its beauty, but learn about its thousand year history! 

The island became inhabited pretty soon after the mainland, and was even home to the first monastery in the southern region. There's been interesting stories from each century of Viðey's inhabited history, and you can explore some of the historic sites that span hundred of years! And if you're lucky, you'll get to spot some puffins!

To get there you'll need to purchase tickets at one of the places that sells them / the dock. Click the link below to visit the ferry's website. 

 

FOR THE FOODIE: Grillmarkadurinn

 

"The Grill Market" is inside a reconstruction of Reykjavik's New Cinema that stood in that location from 1920-1998 when it was destroyed by a fire. The restaurant is luxurious, modern and its design is inspired by the natural elements that make up Iceland's landscape. 

The restaurant also works closely with local farmers in order to work with what's in season and make sure the customer gets the best ingredients and experience. If you're up to treating yourself, it's the place to go to try a course of traditional Icelandic food, like reindeer burgers or whale steak! 


Iceland is a bustling and thriving modern city that only seems to be on the upswing. While it has only recently begun to catch traveler's attention (thanks to movies and cheap flights from its airlines), it has a rich and vividly colorful history that is worth exploring and becoming familiar with.

Taking a look at some of the historical elements that have made Iceland so unique and able to thrive in such a harsh climate is something that I guarantee will only make you appreciate your experience visiting even more! 

 
 

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