Legend has it that every year on the first weekend of August a great and mighty Icelandic boat dude would disembark his vessel and pass out on the shoreline after a couple of brennivin-fuelled choruses of “Ja Ja Ding Dong.” And thus Merchants’ Weekend was born. (Don’t quote us on that one).
You’ll find the Grapevine Party Crew strewn across the island this bank holiday, celebrating capitalism in true Icelandic style: attending a series of enriching cultural events.
So you’re stuck at home in Reykjavik instead of passing out in a sheep-filled field somewhere near Sauðárkrókur? Boo hoo. Quit moaning, you can still get shit-faced in the capital and they’ll even throw in some great music too. Innipúkinn started up 18 years ago for city dwellers who value quality sound systems and even higher quality acts and couldn’t be bothered to make the traditional trek into the countryside for Merchants’ Weekend. Indoor demons (the literal translation of “Innipúkinn”) can enjoy a stellar line-up this year—Reykjavíkurdætur, GDRN, Skoffín and gugusar, to name but a few. The crème de la crème of Icelandic music, access to actual bathrooms and going home to a real bed (fingers crossed)—we’ll let you do the math.
Ok so Þjóðhátið is cancelled this year, but in the light of the festival’s troubling history maybe that’s not something to get overly worked up about. Don’t fret, a puffin in the know tells us that the Westman Islands are actually worth visiting sober, so why not go anyway? The region boasts phenomenal hiking routes and a fab volcano museum. And for the foodies, restaurant Slippurinn offers some of the best of Nordic cuisine. Time to start living it up large in the Westman Islands folks.
There was no Secret Solstice festival this year (which we’re still sad about) but the crew behind the festival is now putting on this special concert series at Dillon Whiskey Bar. If COVID’s ruined your holiday plans or you simply can’t summon enough mental energy to venture out of the house, the whole thing’s going to be live-streamed. Better than nothing right? Much better in fact because this Merchants’ Weekend BENSON, Rokky, GG blues and Fox Train Safari will be gracing the Dillon stage.
You like art? We got art. Ok, more specifically we’ve got a shit ton of Samúel Jónsson’s art. That’s right, the Westfjords beloved “artist with a child’s heart” has a whole festival dedicated to him—we’re talking guided walking tours, family-friendly workshops, food, coffee, and more!. There’s even going to be a play about the legend’s life at Kómedíuleikhúsið. But it’s not all about Samúel, there’s some other great artists featured too, including Magnús Thor Sigmundsson and Monika Abendroth. All of this quirky goodness is going down in Selárdalur. The Westfjords is where it is AT.
The Berjadagar Festival is just as charming as you’d expect a festival named after a blueberry to be. Ólafsfjörður will be transformed for the weekend into a classical music hub, not that we needed any further excuse to visit our favourite of northern Iceland’s ski-obsessed towns with back-to-front pools that are deepest at the point of entry. Each night there’ll be a series of performances from Icelandic musicians in the town church and the Tjarnarborg Culture House—both of which have acoustics that even Prince Albert would envy.
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!