- National Museum of Iceland (Reykjavík; www.natmus.is): This museum’s permanent but innovative and ever-evolving exhibit, “The Making of a Nation,” covers the entire span of Icelandic history and culture. You might anticipate a numbing encyclopedic survey, but the curators’ selective restraint manages to say more with less.
- Einar Jónsson Museum (Reykjavík; www.lej.is): The work of Iceland’s most revered sculptor draws heavily on classical mythology and traditional folklore, with a virtuoso command of gesture and ingenious meshings of human and beastly forms. His romantic symbolism carries deep emotional and spiritual resonance.
- Glaumbær (Varmahlíð; www.glaumbaer.is): If you visit just one of Iceland’s museums housed inside preserved 19th- and early-20th-century turf-roofed farm buildings, make it Glaumbær in the northwest. The most affecting moments are when you imagine the smell of burning peat and the sounds of the family clan puttering about these dark, damp, snug rooms through the long winters.
- Harbor House Museum (Reykjavík; www.artmuseum.is): Erró—the most prominent Icelandic artist of the late 20th century—has donated most of his life’s work to this contemporary art branch of the Reykjavík Art Museum. The exhibit spaces are inside a 1930s-era warehouse, perfectly suited to Erró's vast, cartoon-style montages.
- Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll (Keflavík; www.rokksafn.is): Opened in 2014, this beautiful ode to Icelandic rock tells the history of the island’s vibrant music scene, from the first radio signal at the neighboring air base. The highly interactive exhibits allow visitors to tap the bass, play drums, and even step up to the turntables.
- Settlement Center (Borgarnes; www.landnam.is): With state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits dedicated to Egils Saga and the first 60 years of Icelandic settlement, this engaging museum tries almost too hard to turn learning into a kind of amusement-park fun-house—but we’re not complaining.
- Eldheimar (Heimaey; http://eldheimar.is): Most of the hundreds of houses buried during the 1973 eruption were never dug out. Like the ruins of Pompeii, this one house was excavated, and its remains are like a time capsule of that dramatic moment.
- Skógar Folk Museum (Skógar; www.skogasafn.is): This is without a doubt the greatest of Iceland’s many folk museums, with an enormous artifact collection ranging from fishing boats to carved headboards and makeshift mousetraps. One of the quirkiest relics is a hollow fishbone used as a straw to feed milk to young boys so that they would not be prone to seasickness.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.