The first weekend in August is known to Icelanders as Merchants’ Weekend. It’s a bank holiday—for Icelanders, a phrase synonymous with driving somewhere in the countryside to get messy drunk. However, as the years have passed, new family-friendly and alternative festivals have sprouted up on this weekend, all over the country. There’s something for everyone at this weekend ostensibly celebrating merchants, or perhaps more accurately, merchants who sell beer and hotdogs. Here’s a rundown of the highlights.
August 3-6, Laugarbakki, 7,000 ISK
If you’ve ever sat in a leather-clad circle watching someone make bizarre poses and aggressive facial expressions as they play black metal album cover charades, then Norðanpaunk might be your thing. The DIY extravaganza is best described as a family gathering where there’s no sponsors or vendors—just a bunch of freaks looking to make the Gathering Of The Juggalos for the Icelandic fringe community. This year’s lineup features US punk rock mavericks Limp Wrist, the mysterious NYIÞ, Börn, dj. flugvél og geimskip, and so much more. You can camp, cook—there’s a plethora of barbeques on site—or just chill with your fellow weirdos.
August 3-6, Húrra & Gaukurinn, 3,990-6,990 ISK
“Innipúkinn” is a slang word that translates literally as “Indoor demon”—a somewhat dramatic Icelandic version of “couch potato.” The festival was created 16 years ago specifically for people who prefer to stay in Reykjavík over Merchants’ Weekend, hanging out in proper concert venues with real sound systems, with not-from-a-can beer and easy access to a warm bed. Notorious for booking the A-team of the best new and established acts in Iceland, it’s consistently been a raucous banger. This year, see everyone from Hatari to Geisha Cartel to Une Misère to Logi Pedro—the best of all genres, really. Don’t miss the grass oasis covering the street outside the venues. It’s like the countryside, with bathrooms.
August 3-5, Bolungarvík, 6,000-10,000 ISK
Imagine this: You’re in the majestic Westfjords. You’re drinking a can of beer. Surrounding you are hundreds of people in Halloween costumes covered head to toe in mud. Confused? Don’t be. Mýrarbolti is the annual European Swamp Football Championship, where teams from all over compete for eternal dirty glory. While the football games are 100% serious, there are some silly editions, like the pink card, which makes the perpetrator of any injuries kiss the victims booboo, and the black card, which makes serious foulers wear a black head-bag for two minutes. Get a team together and sign up or just cheer from the sidelines. There will also be concerts by Daði Freyr, JóiPé x Króli, and more.
August 1-6, Vestmannaeyjar, 19,900 ISK
The OG Merchants’ Weekend festival is held in the Westman Islands. While it’s ostensibly a family festival, the gathering has become infamous for scary drunken antics (and a series of actual sexual assaults). That said, they’ve been trying to exorcise the festival’s demons in recent years. This year, Páll Óskar, Emmsjé Gauti, Jón Jónsson, Áttan, and many more will be taking the stage, so it’s basically the epitome of mainstream Icelandic culture. Put on your lopapeysa and rain boots, grab your favourite beer koozie, and be ready for all weather. A little rain won’t dampen the party here.
Ein með öllu
August 2-5, Akureyri, pay individually for different events
Ein með öllu (“One with everything,” the classic Icelandic hot-dog order) is back with a four-day 2018 instalment of their beloved festival in Akureyri. With four fun-packed days of concerts, museum shows, walking tours, markets, and classes, there’s a wide variety of activities on offer. Sirkus Íslands will be performing during three nights of the festival, and there will be concerts featuring Flóni, Birnir, Hjálmar, Emmsjé Gauti, Páll Óskar, and Úlfur Úlfur. You especially don’t want to miss an epic AQUA ZUMBA class at the Akureyri pool.
August 2-5, Neskaupstaður, no price listed yet
The picturesque town of Neskaupstaður in the rural Eastfjords is the perfect getaway for Merchants’ Weekend, and they will once again be be hosting their annual family-friendly festival offering that classic Icelandic pairing of nature and nightlife. They have only confirmed a few acts so far, but the line-up is already impressive, featuring Stuðmenn, Stjórnin, Dúndurfréttir, Logi Pedro, Birnir, and more. Bring the kids.
August 2-6, Kirkjulækjarkoti, Fljótshlíð, Free tickets, but 1,400 ISK for camping
If you find all this drunken weekend revelry a little too sinful, this Christian festival will be your true sacrament. A five day holy extravaganza, there’ll be daily prayer sessions, pool visits, all the hymns you can sing, and much more. Guests this year include Preacher extraordinaire Andreas Nielsen, who is known for his prowess on the football field as well as his power on the pew. Along with that, they also have a special program for the tots. Yours in Christ.