Gray Line Iceland - Summer Celebrations in Iceland

Posted by Admin on 12 Jun 2024

Iceland Summer Celebrations

When summer arrives in Iceland, it’s celebrated with a packed calendar of cultural events, outdoor festivals, and national holidays.

As the Midnight Sun shines across the country, Icelanders make the most of the longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures with a lively selection of events that reflect their heritage and history.

Some are based on ancient customs, while others are more modern in concept, bringing communities together in celebration of the Icelandic summer - and you’re invited too!

Minningarnott in Reykjavik

May

Labor Day Hátíðisdagur Verkamanna

Like most European countries, the first Monday in May is a national holiday for the workers. In Iceland, it’s called Hátíðisdagur Verkamanna.

Eurovision Song Competition

Icelanders go mad for Eurovision, an international music competition the country has embraced since it first competed in the 1980s.

Look out for special events and parties around the final in mid-May.

International Museum Day

Museums around Iceland celebrate their place in society with special events and activities designed to raise awareness and encourage more people to visit.

International Museum Day takes place on or around May 18th each year.

June

Reykjavík Arts Festival Listahátíð í Reykjavík

Every other year, the Reykjavík Arts Festival brings together artists from the world of theater, film, dance, music, and the visual arts.

Since its early days in the 1970s, Reykjavík Arts Festival has invited hundreds of artists from around the globe to perform or exhibit at the festival.

Events take place all over the city in the first two weeks of June.

Fishermen’s Day Sjómannadagurinn

On the first Sunday in June, Icelanders honor the contribution of the country’s seafarers and fishermen with a national holiday, Sjómannadagurinn (Fishermen’s Day).

Fostering a sense of pride in Iceland’s maritime heritage, Fishermen’s Day is celebrated in coastal villages and towns around the country with boat parades, sea rescue demonstrations, and fishing and swimming competitions.

Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival

Mid-June sees a four-day festival of Viking storytelling, mock battles, roast lamb feasts, and archery competitions in Hafnarfjörður, close to the capital.

The oldest and most significant festival of its kind in Iceland, a visit here will make you feel like you have gone back in time!

The Viking Festival takes place between June 13th and 18th this year.

National Day Þjóðhátíðardagurinn

Iceland declared its independence from Denmark on June 17th, 1944, and this date is celebrated by significant events all around the country.

The date was chosen to honor Jón Sigurðsson, who led the independence movement culminating in the foundation of the Republic of Iceland - June 17th was his birthday.

Look out for street parades, musical performances, dance recitals, and speeches from community leaders in the capital and every town and village around Iceland.

Many Icelanders will proudly wear traditional dress, and one will be chosen to be the Fjallkonan (The Lady of the Mountain), who symbolizes the spirit of Iceland through poetry readings.

Midsummer Jónsmessa

Named after John the Baptist, Jónsmessa, also known as Midsummer Night, is celebrated on June 24th.

Jónsmessa is not an official holiday, but it is a magical night in Iceland, a country still holding strong beliefs in the supernatural.

On Midsummer Night, it’s said that cows will speak, seals will become human, and elves and hidden people (huldufólk) will be out in force, playing tricks on the unwary.

Traditional Midsummer Night parties include bonfires and feasts, where you should try to stay awake all night!

It’s said to be good for your health to run around the bonfires naked, reconnecting with nature and the country’s mystical heritage.

Lobster Festival Humarhátíð

If you find yourself in Höfn in southeast Iceland in late June, you can enjoy the “Lobster Festival” with special events celebrating this local seafood specialty.

Humar is the Icelandic word for the local species of lobster, the langoustine, and it’s the focus of a fun food festival on the weekend of 24th-27th June 2024.

July

National Horse Championships Landsmót Hestmanna

The Icelandic horse, an integral part of the nation’s culture, is celebrated with a week-long competition held every two years in different places around the country.

Landsmót was first held at Þingvellir, and the tournament is one of the most spectacular sporting events in the country, with thousands of spectators.

The 2024 Landsmót will occur in the first week of July at Víðidalur, on the capital’s outskirts.

Siglufjörður Folk Festival

In early July, the north Iceland village of Siglufjörður puts on a five-day folk music and dance festival of local and international acts, focusing on local and Scandinavian songs.

This year’s festival takes place between July 3rd and 7th.

LungA Festival (Seyðisfjörður)

The LungA Art Festival, held mid-July in Seyðisfjörður in the Eastfjords, is an annual week-long cultural event featuring musical performances, theatrical performances, and artistic installations.

LungA encourages collaboration and offers a platform for emerging artists, so you might see the next big thing in Icelandic culture here!

This year’s LungA festival will take place between July 15th and 21st.

Bræðslan (Borgarfjörður eystri)

Borgarfjörður eystri is famous for the enormous puffin colony that forms here from April to August every year.

On the third weekend in July, this small village in the Eastfjords also plays host to a thrilling music festival in an old fishing factory.

Past headliners have included Of Monsters And Men, Mammút, Belle & Sebastian, Emiliana Torrini, and Damien Rice.

Bræðslan takes place on July 27th this year.

August

Merchants' Weekend Verslunarmannahelgi

Also known as Commerce Day or Shop Workers’ Day Off, the first weekend of August is the biggest social event of the year in Iceland.

Dating back to 1894 and originally intended to give sales clerks a day off, it’s now a national holiday falling on a Monday, making it a long weekend for all Icelanders.

Everybody stops work, heads for the countryside, and celebrates with a fun-filled three-day weekend.

Music festivals pop up all over the country, and you’ll find lots of places will be closed to join the party!

The most famous of these is the National Festival (Þjóðhátíð), held in the beautiful bowl-shaped valley of Herjólfsdalur in the Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar).

The first Þjóðhátíð was held in 1874 to mark a thousand years of settlement in Iceland.

However, because Vestmannaeyjar was a ferry trip away from the mainland, the locals put on their own “National Day” party instead.

Today, Þjóðhátíð has become the biggest festival in Iceland, with around 16,000 people participating in a four-day outdoor party, with mass crowd singalongs to traditional Icelandic songs, and finishing with a giant bonfire.

Ironically, most of the crowd travel there from the mainland, reversing its early origins!

Visitors are welcome to join the festivities if they can find space on the ferry to Vestmannaeyjar from the mainland.

This year’s National Festival will take place between August 1st and 4th.

Other regions in Iceland host their own events, including camping trips, sports competitions, and community gatherings.

Innipúkinn Music Festival

If you find yourself in the capital city during “Merchant’s Day” weekend and don’t want to travel to one of these outdoor festivals, Innipúkinn might be for you!

Innipúkinn is an annual three-day music festival held in various indoor and outdoor venues in the capital this year from August 2nd to 4th.

The name means indoor devil, a joking reference to people who want to stay in town and enjoy music events at two indoor venues and an outdoor stage without having to camp!

If you want to join in, you can buy one- or three-day passes when tickets go on sale.

Herring Festival (Siglufjörður)

The Herring Festival has been held in Siglufjörður in North Iceland during the first weekend of August since 1991.

Siglufjörður was the center of Iceland’s herring fleet during the first half of the 20th century, employing thousands of people until 1970 when the herring shoals declined.

The Herring Festival features a series of events to tell the story of those boom years when this little village was responsible for 20% of Iceland’s exports to the rest of the world.

This year’s festival will take place between August 1st and 4th.

Reykjavík Pride Hinsegin Dagar

One of Iceland’s most colorful festivals, Reykjavík Pride is an exuberant celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, brightening the streets of the capital in the first week of August.

Iceland is recognized as one of the world’s most inclusive and tolerant countries, and Pride’s history stretches back to 1993.

The Pride Festival celebrates Icelandic diversity and acceptance with a series of events culminating in the eye-catching Pride Parade, featuring decorated floats and live music.

This year’s Pride will take place between August 6th and 11th.

Culture Night Menningarnótt

Held since 1996 on the first Saturday after August 18th every year, Menningarnótt (Culture Night) is a non-stop day and night of art, music, dance, and fireworks at venues across Reykjavík.

The date was chosen to mark the city’s “official birthday” when Reykjavík received its trading charter from the Danish King on August 18th, 1786.

Galleries, museums, shops, and cafés stay open long into the night to celebrate all the city offers, making Culture Night one of the biggest events on the Icelandic arts calendar.

Even residential gardens will become art spaces for the day!

The celebrations start early, with as many as 15,000 running the Reykjavík Marathon through the city streets in the morning.

Culture Night culminates in an enormous fireworks display, symbolizing the closing of the summer festival season.

Bringing the community together to celebrate Icelandic creativity, the event’s slogan is “Come on in” - and you’re on the guest list!

All events are free of charge.

This year’s Culture Night will be held on Saturday, August 24th.

Reykjavík Jazz Festival

The Reykjavík Jazz Festival has been attracting local and international artists since 1990.

A five-day music festival focusing on jazz, blues, fusion, and improvised music with musicians from Europe and Iceland, you’ll find gigs and concerts happening at venues all over the city, including Harpa, the stunning opera hall.

This year’s Jazz Festival is scheduled for August 27th to 31st.

September

The Réttir

September brings the Réttir, a nationwide roundup where Iceland’s farmers retrieve their stock from the mountains and valleys on horseback and ATVs, aided by their trusty sheepdogs.

This farming festival features a spectacular sorting process at circular pens with separate sections where farmers pick out their animals.

It’s a countryside party where communities come together to help each other herd their sheep and have a few drinks and a singalong at the end of the day.

Visitors are often welcome to join in!

Summer in Iceland is a joyful time of endless daylight and high-spirited celebrations that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage and communal spirit.

From ancient traditions like Jónsmessa to more modern events like Reykjavík Pride and Culture Night, Iceland’s summer celebrations offer much for you to enjoy.

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