Iceland Museums: The Next Generation - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland Museums: The Next Generation

Iceland Museums: The Next Generation

Published April 16, 2019

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Art Bicnick & John Rogers

There was a time when museums were carefully arranged collections of musty taxidermy and dusty antiquities. Recent years, however, have seen a revolution in the range of museum experiences on offer. Many contemporary museums now employ interactive displays and new technology to simultaneously educate and entertain. Iceland has its fair share of places to check out—whether you’re interested in whales, volcanoes, glaciers or culture, there’s something for you.

Wonders Of Iceland
Perlan, Reykjavík
If stormy weather blows your glacier trip off course, visit the Wonders of Iceland museum. The impressive displays include a simulated ice tunnel, complete with frigid air temperatures and a selfie spot so realistic it’ll fool your Instagram followers. In the main hall, projected glacial vistas let you see the glaciers’ different shapes and sizes, while stop-motion videos of glacial retreat reveal how fragile these majestic phenomena are. There’s also an 8k aurora planetarium in case the Northern Lights prove elusive. JR

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Whales of Iceland
Fiskislóð 23-25, Reykjavík
Whilst IRL whale watching is fun, it’s a seasonal activity. In the winter, there are fewer whales around, and sailing conditions might not be ideal. At such times, Whales of Iceland offers an indoor option with a huge display of life-sized model whales. You can meander between these oceanic giants, getting a different kind of understanding of just how vast they really are. Kids and adults alike will have a literal whale of a time. JR

Tales From Iceland
Snorrabraut 37, Reykjavík
The Tales From Iceland museum endeavors to showcase Iceland through both the eyes of locals and foreigners through documentary shorts. On the first floor, watch videos detailing everything from foreign children whingeing about Icelandic weather to international artists getting to work deep in the countryside. Upstairs, a plethora of news video installations teach you about Iceland’s cultural history, from the roots of Icelandic’s football fanaticism to the country’s historical domination in bridge. Expect to spend a few hours at this underrated gem. HJC 

Lava Centre
Austurvegur 14, Hvolsvöllur
Iceland’s landscape is both shaped and ravaged by its volcanic history. The Hvolsvöllur Lava Centre peels back the thin mantle of the earth to reveal the systems that lie beneath. You’ll see visually appealing displays that show the different types of volcanoes that dot the horizon, impressive simulated eruptions, and a stunning model that shows the vast rift that lies right beneath the surface, leaving you with a new understanding of Iceland for your onward drive. JR

Eldheimar Volcano Museum 
Heimaey, Westman Islands
Vestmannaeyjar—The Westman Islands—hit the worldwide news in 1973 when a volcano erupted almost directly under the sole town on the archipelago. Eldheimar is a striking museum built around some of the houses that were devastated by the eruption, during which the islands were completely evacuated. This dramatic passage of history is brought to life via newsreel footage, an alarming rumbling passageway, and an interactive exhibit showing the spread of lava over the island. JR

Read more guides to Iceland here.

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