Growing Grander (ESA)


Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir's picture

In 2013, I wrote about the development of the Grandi area on the opposite side of the Reykjavík wharf, from primarily servicing the fishing industry to housing interesting shops, galleries, restaurants, cafés and museums. And Grandi is only growing grander.

There are now four museums at Grandi, covering very different areas.

Reykjavík Maritime Museum

Opening in 2005, the Reykjavík Maritime Museum was one of the first new residents at Grandi. The museum is located in a building which used to facilitate fish processing and a freezing plant. With a view of the harbor, visitors can take in the authentic atmosphere while learning about the history of Icelandic seafaring and the fishing industry, vital to the national economy.

The Maritime Museum’s exhibitions feature Icelanders’ relationship with the sea through the centuries and illustrate the development from rowboats to modern trawlers and cargo vessels, as well as the construction of the Reykjavík harbor.

Docked at a specially-built pier alongside the museum is the Coast Guard vessel Óðinn. Guests can step onboard and learn more about the patrol and rescue vessel, which saved the crews of grounded and sinking ships, and towed nearly 200 ships to safety. It also participated in all three Cod Wars against Britain in the latter part of the 20th century.


Saga Museum

Previously located in landmark building Perlan, the Saga Museum has now moved to Grandi where it opened one year ago. The museum has long been popular for its life-like wax figures, serving as colorful historical figures and staging dramatic scenes from the Icelandic sagas and Icelandic history.

The exhibition includes the bloody battle at Örlygsstaðir during the Age of the Sturlungs, Snorri Sturluson working on his <i>Snorra Edda<p>, the execution of Jón Arason, Iceland’s last Catholic bishop, and the burning of Sister Katrín, Iceland’s first heretic, at the stake.

Clothing, weapons and everyday objects were constructed using traditional methods. The weapons were specially crafted and the wool and linen articles dyed by hand. Visitors are invited to try out Viking costumes and swing a sword or an axe while posing for a picture.

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Aurora Reykjavík

The northern lights are one of the biggest attractions in Iceland but the celestial spectacle can only be seen when there is auroral activity, when it’s dark outside and the skies are clear. There have been many opportunities for viewing the northern lights this winter but for those who weren’t in luck, Aurora Reykjavík – the Northern Lights Center is the next best thing.

At the museum, which opened at Grandi in 2013, an HD panoramic film of auroral displays is running continuously. Visitors can read stories and legends about northern lights from around the world, learn about the science behind the fascinating phenomenon and marvel at spectacular photos of the auroras by some of Iceland’s best photographers.

On the museum’s website,, aurora forecasts are posted, along with information about northern lights tours.

Whales of Iceland

The grandest museum to open in the Grandi area so far must be the brand-new Whales of Iceland, claiming to be the biggest whale exhibition in the world. A 20-meter (66-feet) long replica of a blue whale, the largest animal in the world, hanging from the ceiling is sure to leave guests awestruck. It appears to be swimming among other whales and the bluish lighting creates the illusion of being underwater.

The objective of the museum’s founder, Hörður Bender, was to educate visitors about the lives and stories of the whales found around Iceland. He teamed up with biologist Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir to create as accurate as possible replicas of the 23 whales which can be observed at the museum. The exhibition also includes a killer whale, sperm whale, narwhale and different species of dolphins.

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If you’re looking for a way to spend a day in Reykjavík, especially if the weather is bad, museum-hopping at Grandi is an idea.

If the weather is good, you could start at Harpa concert and conference center, then have a cup of strong coffee at Café Haiti at the wharf or lunch at one of the seafood restaurants before moving on to the museum district.

Afterwards, if the sun is shining, an ice cream at Valdís might be in order.

Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – eyglo(at)

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.