From Iceland — Music History on Display on New Walking Tour

Music History on Display on New Walking Tour

Published May 24, 2016

Music History on Display on New Walking Tour
Photo by
Isaac Wurmann

From Harpa to Hitt Húsið, Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen knows his way around Reykjavík’s music scene. As Arnar describes it, Iceland’s music community is “like a village,” and on his new guided walking tour he’s introducing people to its characters and history.

The Reykjavík Music Walk, which had its first tour last Wednesday, guides people through some of the most important sites for the city’s long line of musicians. Along the way, walkers are treated to anecdotes from Arnar about the biggest names in Icelandic music, from Þursaflokkurinn to Björk to Sigur Rós.


Beginning at Harpa, the walk makes its way along the harbour front, passing Björk’s old apartment and The Sugarcubes’ old jam space along the way. Pink ukulele in hand, Arnar points at buildings that once housed shows for rising talent. Now, many of these buildings have either been turned into hotels or torn down.

“We’re seeing a lot of hotels rising here and people are a bit worried about it,” he explained. “They’re saying, ‘hey, people are coming here because of [the music scene] and if there are only grey hotels, that’s not really a place you want to visit.”

The tour snakes its way into the Vesturbær neighbourhood before walking down Austurstræti, where Arnar stops in front of Hitt Húsið, the organizer of Musiktilraunir, a competition for young musicians in Iceland.


“That competition—which is really the only one of its kind here in Iceland—almost anyone who has done anything abroad, as of late, has competed in that competition,” he says on the importance of Musiktilraunir. “Be it Jónsi or Björk or Of Monsters and Men.”

From there, Arnar guides walkers to Fríkirkjan, the green-roofed church by Tjörnin, where Sigur Rós played a show at Iceland Airwaves in 2001. After the show, which was attended by representatives from many major labels, the band was promptly signed to MCA.

The tour wraps up with visits to newer landmarks in the city’s music community, such as Mengi, before ending at one of the many record stores in Reykjavík’s downtown.


Arnar said starting the Reykjavík Music Walk seemed like an obvious idea. “Seeing the interest in Icelandic music, I thought, ‘wow, not having a Reykjavík music walk is kind of weird. It’s like going to Liverpool and there’s not a Beatles walk.’ ”

Admission to the walk is free (but donations are accepted), and walks leave at 11:30 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the Harpa Concert Hall.

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