Best art museums in Reykjavik: discovering the city's artistic wonders

From natural masterpieces to iconic works, explore Reykjavik’s rich artistic history at these top art, design, and alternative museums.

Visitors to Reykjavik will find no shortage of interesting places to visit, from mainstream attractions to some unique hidden gems. However, the city of Reykjavik also has a rich artistic history, producing a number of notable painters, sculptors, illustrators, and other artists over the years. With this in mind, it is worth highlighting some of the amazing art museums and galleries that can be visited during your vacation to Iceland.

Whether you are looking for classic artwork, contemporary art that breaks new ground, museums focused on design and applied art, or want some kid-friendly places to visit and appreciate art during your stay, you can rest assured you'll find just what you're looking for. This guide covers 10 of the very best art museums in Reykjavik.

Best art museums in Reykjavik

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1. Explore Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstaðir

Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstaðir is one of three different museums which collectively make up the Reykjavik Art Museum. The Kjarvalsstaðir location showcases modern art, such as paintings and sculptures from well-known local artists. This includes works from the renowned Icelandic artist Jóhannes S. Kjarval.

Highlights:

Admission to the museum is included as part of the Reykjavik City Card. In addition to the art exhibits on display, the museum includes a cafe and a gift shop.

Address and opening hours:

Flókagata 24, 105 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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2. Take a trip to the Living Art Museum

The Living Art Museum is a nonprofit artist-run museum which showcases contemporary art. It is one of the most fascinating art galleries in Reykjavik, with a focus on innovative, conceptual, and experimental creations. Admission to the museum is completely free.

Highlights:

Exhibits showcase work from local and international artists. Additionally, the museum sometimes hosts events based around live performances and film screenings.

Address and opening hours:

Grandagarður 20, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00 PM-6:00 PM.

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3. Enjoy a multi-sensory experience at Chromo Sapiens

Purchase a ticket for the Multi-Sensory Art Installation Chromo Sapiens and experience an art museum with a difference. The exhibition contains art created by Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, who also goes by the name 'Shoplifter'.

Highlights:

Chromo Sapiens consists of three cave-like structures. Immerse yourself in an experience that makes effective use of color, as well as your senses of hearing and touch.

Address and opening hours:

Rafstöðvarvegur, 110 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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4. Spend time at the Whales of Iceland Museum

The Whales of Iceland Museum is an interactive museum featuring life-size models of more than 20 types of whales. A Whales of Iceland Museum Entrance Ticket grants admission to the museum and includes an audio guide. The life-size models will give you a greater appreciation for the scale of these creatures.

Highlights:

Visit the Fin Whale Theater to learn about conservation efforts.

Address and opening hours:

Whales of Iceland, Fiskislóð 23, Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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5. Head to the National Museum of Iceland

The National Museum of Iceland may not be a dedicated art gallery, but it is still one of the best art museums in Reykjavik, thanks to its extensive art haul. In fact, the museum has Iceland's largest public collection of images.With a National Museum of Iceland Entry Ticket, you'll learn about Iceland's history, culture, and traditions.

Highlights:

Items held by the museum include drawings, paintings, prints, and a collection of more than 6 million photographs.

Address and opening hours:

Suðurgata, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

Best design museums in Reykjavik

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6. Check out the Museum of Design and Applied Art

The Museum of Design and Applied Art is one of the best art museums in Reykjavik if you're interested in practical and functional art. Many of the items on display have been donated to the museum, although it also purchases artifacts of historical significance. Explore exhibits for different aspects of design, including graphic design, book design, and ceramics.

Highlights:

Some of the most interesting items in the museum are related to Icelandic bathing culture.

Address and opening hours:

Garðatorg 1, 210 Garðabær, Iceland. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 12:00 PM-5:00 PM.

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7. Venture to the Settlement Exhibition

The Settlement Exhibition is a museum that highlights archaeological discoveries related to the founding and evolution of Reykjavik. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in architectural design, as it features excavated remnants from the city's past, including 10th-century buildings. The exhibition was created by Reykjavik City Museum.

Highlights:

A trip to the Settlement Exhibition is included within the Private Icelandic Viking Age Walking Tour, which lasts around 3 hours.

Address and opening hours:

Aðalstræti 16, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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8. See the Reykjavik Maritime Museum

The Reykjavik Maritime Museum is dedicated to the maritime history of Reykjavik and Iceland as a whole. Not only does it tell the story of fishing and other similar activities in the region, but it also showcases boat and ship designs.

Highlights:

One of the main exhibitions at the museum is the Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn. The boat was originally built in 1959 and was used as a patrol and rescue vessel by the Icelandic Coast Guard

Address and opening hours:

Grandagarður 8, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open daily, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

Alternative museums in Reykjavik

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9. Visit the Aurora Reykjavik Museum

Aurora Reykjavik, The Northern Lights Center is a museum focused on the northern lights. With your Aurora Reykjavik Entrance Ticket, you can enjoy 360 degrees of virtual reality, and learn more about the science and folklore that surrounds the natural phenomenon.

Highlights:

Check out the photo simulator to get some amazing snapshots. This is especially great if you visit outside of the period where the northern lights phenomenon is visible.

Address and opening hours:

Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open Monday-Friday 9:00 AM-9:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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10. See the Sun Voyager sculpture

If you're interested in seeing art in Reykjavik away from the main galleries, one of the most famous pieces in the city is on public display. The Sun Voyager is a Jón Gunnar Árnason sculpture, symbolizing hope, freedom, and discovery. It resembles a Viking boat and is crafted from stainless steel.

Highlights:

The Sun Voyager is located at the seaside in central Reykjavik, which makes it ideal for photo opportunities. It is also included as a stop-off point during the Reykjavik City Walking Tour.

Address and opening hours:

Sæbraut, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland. Open 24 hours.

FAQs

Are there any free-entry days for art museums in Reykjavik?

Iceland celebrates International Museum Day on May 18. Many of the museums in Reykjavik offer completely free admission on this day. Some museums also offer free admission days as special promotions at different points throughout the year.

What are some unique and lesser-known art museums worth visiting in Reykjavik?

The Whales of Iceland Museum is one of the most unique art museums in the city, featuring life-size model whales. Artists operate the Living Art Museum, a nonprofit organization offering free admission, while Chromo Sapiens is a multi-sensory art experience based within cave-like structures.

Which art museums in Reykjavik have works by famous artists?

Reykjavik Art Museum features work from Jóhannes S. Kjarval, Erró, and Ásmundur Sveinsson. Chromo Sapiens showcases work from Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir, who is better known as Shoplifter.

Are the art museums in Reykjavik wheelchair accessible?

Most of the art museums in the city are wheelchair accessible, although some exhibitions within those museums may be harder to reach. Examples of wheelchair-accessible museums include Reykjavik Art Museum, the National Museum of Iceland, the Whales of Iceland Museum, and Chromo Sapiens.

Are there any art museums in Reykjavik that are suitable for children and families?

All of the major art museums in the city are kid-friendly, but children are perhaps most likely to enjoy the Whales of Iceland Museum, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum, and the Aurora Reykjavik Museum.