Reykjavik Stories and Tips

Festival of the Sea

Coastguard vessels Photo, Reykjavik, Iceland

There are many festivals year round going on in Reykjavik. We discovered during our visit that the Festival of the Sea was happening on our last full day in the city. We were excited about experiencing a festival and decided to go along and see what was happening.

The first Sunday in June is Seaman's Day in Iceland. They celebrate the sea faring culture of Iceland and also all of its sailors. Every ship remains in harbour over the entire weekend and all the sailors are given the day off. There are celebrations, music, fun activities, food, competitions and demonstrations - it is a great time to be in Reykjavik especially.

Everything was happening, unsurprisingly, in the harbour area. We headed down there in the early afternoon. There was a great atmosphere, lots of locals and everyone was in great spirits. We discovered the celebrations this year were extra special because this was the 100th anniversary of the harbour.

All the ships in the harbour were decorated with bunting and flags. There was a great children's play area set up especially for the festival. It was absolutely wonderful - very rough and ready, made out of all kinds of discarded things (old rope, old reels etc.) but such a lot of fun. We wandered around trying out stilts made from old pieces of wood, a fishing game, skittles and so much more. Some things were a little on the dangerous side, no health and safety here, but it was actually very refreshing (coming from the UK where health and safety takes over everything). Our son had such a great time, playing, making new friends and trying everything out.

We saw a procession of cyclists - all dressed in old fashioned costumes and riding every sort of weird and wonderful old fashioned bike you could imagine.

Right by the harbour and the maritime museum, children were able to abseil across a little area of water. There was a big line for this, but it was free (as was everything else).

There were bands playing on the harbourside, food available to buy and a display of weird fish. You could send a message in a bottle, have a puffin or whale watching trip on a boat (you paid but there was a big discount) and there were a few ships you could go onboard and explore.

We went onto the coastguard vessel - it was really impressive and there was so much to see inside. You could literally go anywhere, our 9 year old loved it and thought it was a great adventure.

We stayed most of the day at this wonderful festival. On the way back we stopped and had a look inside the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre. This is definitely also worth doing. The building is made from 10,000 shimmering glass windows - you cannot miss it. It is impressive inside and out. There is a really nice cafe on the ground floor - great coffee and delicious snacks. We also liked the little gift shop selling really high quality (and very expensive) souvenirs, it is definitely worth a browse. Go up to the top levels - you get an amazing view down to the ground floor.

The Festival of the Sea was a wonderful end to a fabulous holiday in Iceland. If you can go to a festival while you are there, I would definitely recommend it. Every member of our family loved this day out.

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