Part of what makes Icelandic food so awesome is the all natural ingredients, owing to the unspoiled nature and traditional farming methods. This in addition to the unusual flavours of traditional Icelandic cuisine and the elite-educated chefs of Iceland, makes for some unique culinary opportunities in Iceland. Add this it the sudden influx of exceptional international chefs taking part in Food and Fun, the Reykjavik nightlife and Icelandic nature experiences, and you've got something special on your hands.
During the festival, a group of world renowned chefs each takes charge of one of Reykjavik's more upscale restaurants. They create a complete menu of their own dishes, made entirely from completely natural Icelandic ingredients. For the entire duration of the festival you can get these items at all the participating restaurants. The festival culminates on the last day with a chef competition, where the master chefs each makes three courses from the pristine Icelandic ingredients, and the best chef wins the prize.
The Reykjavik Blues festival is a 5 day blues festival of continuous blues music all over Reykjavík. It features big name international blues artists alongside local acts and up-and-comers.
Among notable international artists that have played the festival in the past are David Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith Zora Young, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Deitra Farr, Guitar Shorty, Lucky and Tamara Peterson. Accomplished local artists include Vinir Dóra, Guðmundur Pétursson, Andrea Gylfadóttir, Ragnheidur Gröndal, Björn Thoroddssen, Sigurður Sigurðsson, Mike Pollock, Ásgeir Óskarsson, Langi Seli og Skuggarnir, Sigurður “Centaur“ Sigurðsson and Berglind Björk Jónasdóttir and Kristján Kristjánsson.
The festival comprises various events from saddle making to a 150-horse parade, to breeding shows at various stables around Reykjavík. The climax of the festival is at the Reykjavík zoo where the best specimens in show will be selected and awarded.The famous icelandic horse is unique because it has been isolated basically since the settlement of Iceland. It differs from its continental counterparts in many ways, for instance it is notably smaller, more like a pony than a horse, and it can walk with 5 gaits, as opposed to the 3-4 other breeds have. Whether you're a horse enthusiast or a new beginner this festival should be interesting to you.
DesignMarch is a design festival that consists of about 150 events showcasing Icelandic design of every type: fashion, furniture, food, jewelry, you name it! The program includes master classes, lectures and spontaneous events all over Reykjavík.
Reykjavik fashion festival is a fashion exhibition and runway show that coincides with DesignMarch. In march 2014 the runway in Harpan, the magnificent concert hall in by the downtown Reykjavik harbour, was used to display everything from traditional-inspired slow-fashion wool items, to dystopian-futuristic animal print, to prison-inspired black and white stripes. From the quaint traditional Icelandic look, to the raw creative energy of its population, the show is really something to see.
“Aldrei fór ég suður” is a music festival in Ísafjörður in the Northern West Fjords, or as the organizers say “on the edge of the inhabitable world”. The festival is self-titled “the music festival of the common man”, since the focus is on local names and normal people, but bigger Icelandic bands appear en masse. The festival was founded by modern folk/blues icon Mugison and his father, Papamug, who come from the area.
The name of the festival, which literally means “I never went south”, takes some explaining. The festival is the “music festival of the people”, and the name “I never went south” refers to a classic song of the same name, by working-class folk icon Bubbi. The topic of the song is the plight of the rural working class living in a fishing village that slowly dies while all the young people move south to the city. The protagonist of the song never went south and stayed in his town. The name of the festival therefore refers both to classic Icelandic music and to a certain pride in the rural working class.
The RAF focuses on innovation and the intersection between different areas of art. It brings together major exhibition spaces and unusual venues all over Reykjavik, bringing both old and new art to as many as possible. The festival's history goes back to 1970, and since then it has been the venue for hundreds of local and international artists to perform and form connections, inspire each other and others, and revitalize the art life of this northernmost capital in the world.
The Viking Festival is an annual festival of dressing up like vikings and experiencing the various aspects of viking culture: fighting exhibitions, telling of old stories, traditional wrestling, archery, music, food, drink and dance. In addition, it features a flea market with people dressed in period garb displaying and selling their viking-style handcraft, from weapons to clothes to jewelry.
Iceland is one of the original Viking countries. In Viking culture, the summer solstice on 21st of June was an important event and the occasion of solstice celebrations such as the Viking Festival. In 2013 more than 200 local and international vikings are expected to make an appearance. The festival will take Place at Fjörukráin (“The Seaside Tavern”) in the Viking Village in Hafnafjörður. Hafnarfjörður is a municipality close to both the international airport in Keflavík and to Reykjavik and is easy to reach from anywhere in the capital city area
The 17th of June is the national day of Iceland, and Icelanders celebrate it carnival-style with parades and flag-waving and out-door concerts. All this as the city center is taken over by ad-hoc kiosks selling helium balloons, flags, toys, cotton candy and abnormally large popsicles. The festival originated in 1944 when Iceland became independent from the Danish crown. The date was chosen because it was the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson, national hero and pioneer of the Icelandic independence movement.
The lobster festival (Humarhátíð) is pretty self-explanatory. It's a weekend carneval of preparing and eating lobster in different ways, with a flea market, parade, concerts and workshops operating all over town. On the menu are lobster mousse, lobster lasagna, lobster thermidor, grilled lobster and smoked salmon, and of course the classic lobster soup. The festival will be celebrated the 21th year in a row in 2014.
Eistnaflug is a three day hard rock festival in Neskaupstaður. It usually features 30-40 hardcore, metal, punk, rock and indie bands, performing at a central indoor stage. The lineup is usually mostly Icelandic, with a few international names making an appearance. Usually the population of Neskaupstaður is only 1.400 people, but during Eistnaflug it roughly doubles.
Bræðslan is a an annual music festival set up in an abandoned fish-smelting plant in Borgarfjörður Eystri, in the east of Iceland. It started in 2005 as a way to support the cultural life of the Icelandic countryside, the organizers emphasize a professional and ambitious program. The show itself is accompanied by off-venue concerts in Borgarfjörður Eystri, Fjarðarborg, and Álfacafé.
On the first weekend in August, Icelanders take the monday off for a bank holiday called “the shopkeepers' weekend” (Verslunarmannahelgin) - which is ironic because the only people who work this weekend are the shopkeepers. By far the biggest event for this weekend is Þjóðhátíð, which is celebrated in the Westmanislands, south of Iceland. The festival consists of thousands of young people camping in Herjólfsdalur valley for a music festival, bonfires, crowd singing and all round party.
The other big festival on the shopkeepers' weekend is Innipúkinn. This music festival is held in Reykjavík at various locations around town. The word Innipúkinn refers to a child who refuses to go and play outside, so the festival jokingly refers to people who refuse to leave the city for the weekend.
Iceland in general is very accepting of different lifestyles, which is evidenced by the all-inclusive party that is the Gay Pride Parade. In recent years, attendance has been over 70.000, which in a city of only 200.000 basically means that everyone and their mother is there! In general it's seen as a great event, or even a family festival, and not exclusively a LGBT rights march. With the hallmark festive carneval-style floats, open air concerts and all round party, it is truly a good time to be had by all. Click here for more information.
Dalvík is a small fishing village in northern Iceland. Every year the town throws its famous “fish days”, a festival revolving around preparing and eating different seafoods. The menu changes year to year but among the staples is the fish burger. This is prepared from various types of fish, using 8 meter long barbecues in different locations around town. The night before the great fish day, the whole town joins in and offers passers-by fish soup at home or out in the yard.
The festival brings together the best jazz musicians from the Nordics, as well as France, the US and Austria, among others. You can experience exhilarating international jazz concerts while club hopping in the downtown area during this week long festival. Click here to see the program for the 2013 Reykjavik Jazz festival.
The first Reykjavik Marathon took place in 1984, when 214 brave souls took the challenge and went the distance. This means that 2013 will be the 30th consecutive time it is held, this time with at least 13.000 people in 6 different running events, including the full marathon, a half-marathon, a 10 km, a 3 km and the children's run, called the “Lazytown” race.
Culture night is a festival of culture and the arts which takes over the whole downtown area, with sporadic events in the greater Reykjavík area. It consists of concerts on a main stage in downtown Reykjavík, with smaller local stages around the downtown area, as well as small concerts and performances in various locales, cafés, and in the streets. The celebration reaches a climax with a concert of major icelandic bands on the main stage and a fireworks display at the end of the night. In recent years it has seen an estimated 100.000 people in attendance, or one-third of the 320.000 inhabitants of Iceland.
The Reykjavík International Film Festival spans more than a hundred movies with a focus on young talent and independent movies. It has seen growing attendance every year since 2004 and in recent years over 20.000 people have attended the screenings. The festival has become an indie favorite covered by major media such as Variety, the Guardian and IndieWire. It has been visited by such indie movie icons as Jim Jarmusch, Hal Hartley, James Marsh, Milos Forman and Anton Corbijn.
Airwaves is one of the main music festivals in Iceland and it is also quite big internationally. It consists of a couple-hundred different shows from different bands, big and small, in all different genres, playing all over Reykjavík simultaneously. It features mostly up and coming bands, though the lineup will usually include at least a few big-name bands. In the past Björk, Sinead O'Connor and Yoko Ono have played there, to name a very few. Quite a few bands have played Airwaves right before making it big, so it's become respected on the indie circuit. In addition to the festival, many off-scene shows spring up spontaneously around town.
David Fricke from Rolling Stone called it "the hippest long weekend on the annual music-festival calendar" and Jonah Flicker, from Pitchforkmedia, said it had an "unbelievable zest for music and celebration". Airwavestakes place over a five-day weekend (otherwise known as “most of the week”) from wednesday to sunday, the third week in october.
The Christmas festivities start early in December in Iceland, when people put their seven-pronged advent lights in their windowsills along with other decorations. Iceland has no less than thirteen(!) santa-clauses, or “jólasveinar”, who each in turn leaves a small gift in a well-behaved child's shoe, which stands on the windowsill where they sleep. The naughty children, of course, get eaten by the santa clauses' troll of a mother, Grýla, unless the christmas cat gets to them first.
New Years is a big deal in Iceland, as Icelanders spend 100 million ISK every year on fireworks, and blow them up in a single evening, mostly at exactly midnight. Remember this is a nation of only 320.000 people, and two thirds of those live in or around Reykjavík. What it all adds up to is a multicolored apocalypse, a citywide chaos of exploding light. It's really a sight to see.