Reykjavík Maritime Museum

How the ocean formed a nation

Sjóminjasafnið í Reykjavík
Reykjavík Maritime Museum

A harbour museum exploring Iceland's dramatic relationship with the sea.

This waterfront museum explores Iceland’s dramatic relationship with the sea, and how the ocean formed a nation. Explore the new permanent exhibition Fish & folk - 150 years of fisheries, the temporary exhibition Melckmeyt 1659, the real coastguard ship Óðinn, and enjoy the terrace views across the harbour.

The survival of the Icelandic nation depended on generations of brave fishermen heading into the unknown. Over the centuries, traditional methods of catching and working with fish transformed into a science that helped create and maintain a modern society.

The museum’s exhibitions and artefacts bring our ocean history to life, from battling the waves to the 'Cod Wars', and beyond. And you can take a guided tour onboard the Óðinn, a 900-ton coastguard ship with its own stories to tell.

Fish & folk – 150 years of fisheries

The permanent exhibition Fish & folk – 150 years of fisheries at the Reykjavík Maritime Museum is about the history of the Icelandic fisheries, from the time when rowing boats gave way to large fishing vessels in the late 19th century, through to the 21st century. The story is told from the perspective of Iceland’s biggest fishing port, Reykjavík, and vibrantly presented through objects, text, pictures and games.

The value of fish to the Icelandic nation cannot be overstated. Over the centuries fish has been a staple of the Icelandic diet, and one of the nation’s most important exports. The Fish & Folk exhibition is built around the central character of this history: the fish itself. The fish is followed from the ocean, into the net, onboard the boat, onto dry land and to its final destination – the plate.

The setting for the exhibition, in the Maritime Museum on Grandagarður, is an appropriate one, as the building once housed a flourishing fish factory. The exhibition is both entertaining and educating and is equally of interest to those familiar with the fisheries and their history, and those who have no experience of the sea.

The temporary exhibition Melckmeyt 1659 - Underwater Archaeological Survey was a Dutch merchant ship that wrecked by Flatey Island in the 17th century. In this exhibition, visitors will gain a number of fascinating insights about trade-in Iceland during the 17th century, the Melckmeyt and its crew and the various methodologies used by marine archaeologists. On display are some of the artefacts recovered from the wreck.

Climb aboard the Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn

A former warrior of the Cod Wars, the Óðinn is a 900-ton, former coastguard ship that now rests in the harbour. Daily guided tours reveal the fascinating history of this great vessel, from towing ships to land and freeing stranded fishing boats, to saving crews from the sea. Climb aboard and explore, surrounded by the atmospheric sights and sounds of the harbour.

There are three, one-hour guided tours a day at 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00.

The history of the museum.

The Reykjavík Maritime Museum is located by the old harbour in Reykjavík, in a building that was originally built as a fish freezing plant. It was founded in the year 2004 and opened its first exhibition in June 2005. In February 2008 the museum got a new addition to its exhibitions, namely the former Coast Guard Vessel Óðinn. The ship is secured to the pier next to the museum and is accessible for guests to visit on guided tours. The Museum came a part of the Reykjavík City Museum in June 2014.

Icelanders have from the time of settlement depended on fishing. The settlement at Faxaflói Bay was founded on fishing and fish processing. Since the 19th century, the growth of the cities Reykjavík and nearby Hafnarfjörður was largely based on the fisheries, as well as improved living conditions in the 20th century. The fishing industry has been the foundation of prosperity in Iceland. The main purpose of the museum is to collect items and accounts that tell this story and make exhibitions that are based on those findings.

The Reykjavík Maritime Museum has recently undergone a major renovation and was reopened on June 8th 2018 with a brand new permanent exhibition called Fish & folk - 150 years of fisheries.