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Annual events in Reykjavík

Reykjavík is always growing in popularity and adding new, interesting cultural events each year. Below are some of our staff’s favourites. For more details about what's on in Reykjavík, please visit the city’s official tourist information site.

What’s on in Reykjavík each year?

Winter Lights Festival: February 
This festival aims to lift spirits and brighten the winter darkness with a collection of dazzling events. Over the weekend a number of quality light-art installations will be exhibited throughout the city centre, illuminating some of the most prominent buildings and public spaces. Other core events of this festival are Museum Night and Pool Night, during which the city’s museums and pools stay open late and offer free admission.

Food and Fun: March 
Blending local and international culinary talent with fresh natural ingredients, the Food and Fun festival is a recipe for fun! Collaborating with Reykjavík’s finest restaurants, world-acclaimed chefs prepare special menus consisting of only Icelandic ingredients. These menus are available to the public at the participating restaurants during the festival, and diners may get a chance to meet the chefs.

DesignMarch: April 
DesignMarch showcases Icelandic product design, architecture, furniture, graphic design and interiors. Participants get to attend talks, workshops, exhibitions and other events and the growing festival attracts thousands of guests. Recent big names to attend and speak at the event include fashion mogul Calvin Klein and David Bowie collaborator and graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook.

Reykjavík Art Festival: June 
Established in 1970, Iceland’s premier cultural festival showcases the best of local and international theatre, dance, visual art and music. Besides the emphasis on Icelandic culture, both past and present, the festival also hosts distinguished artists and performers from around the world. The festival spans several days at the end of May with programmes to suit all ages and interests.

Iceland National Day: 17 June 
Commemorating Iceland’s independence from Denmark on 17 June 1944, National Day is one of Iceland’s most popular events of the summer. In Reykjavík, the festivities include something for all ages and interests with a colourful parade, street performances, games for kids and free outdoor music concerts lasting late into the evening.

Secret Solstice Festival: June
This relative newcomer on the Icelandic music festival scene has something for everyone. Launched in 2014, the festival offers singer songwriters, DJs, rock bands, and hip hop acts from Iceland and abroad, tearing up multiple stages over four days and nights, under the midnight sun. Secret Solstice is a great festival to discover new artists as well as enjoy headliners like Radiohead and Die Antwoord.

Innipúkinn Festival: July 
Innipúkinn is a small annual music festival, held in downtown Reykjavík over Iceland’s bank holiday weekend. Past performers have included Cat Power, Blonde Redhead, Mugison, Raveonnettes, Hjálmar, Trabant, Seabear, Jonathan Ritchman, Mínus, Dikta, FM Belfast and many others. Along with the music programme, this event also features a music market, pub quiz, BBQs and more.

Reykjavík Pride: August 
This colourful festival draws tens of thousands of people into Reykjavík every year to show solidarity with the LGBT community and celebrate Iceland’s progressive position on human rights. Along with the opening ceremony party, numerous concerts and dances and other small events throughout the programme, the main attraction by far is the energetic, family-friendly parade through the city centre on Saturday afternoon, complete with lots of rainbows and glitter.

Reykjavík Marathon: August
Started in 1983, this annual event now attracts over 10,000 participants from Iceland and abroad, with 1 km and 3 km “fun runs” for children and adults, a 10 km race, a half marathon, a 42.2 km team relay and the granddaddy of the event – the full marathon. The programme starts early in the morning and races start and finish at Lækjargata in the centre of Reykjavík. Runners also gain free admittance to all of Reykjavík’s thermal baths and swimming pools after the races. There is no registration on the morning of the event – runners must pre-register online or at the event expo the day before.

Reykjavík Culture Night: August
As soon as the marathon runners have cleared the course, the streets of downtown Reykjavík fill up with tens of thousands of others for Culture Night, a celebration of Iceland’s diverse cultural scene. There are plenty of free events throughout the day, including outdoor concerts, film screenings, art and photography exhibitions, street performances and an impressive fireworks show by the harbour to end the night. The city’s museums also stay open late for this occasion. If you want to celebrate like a true Reykjavík local, look for the signs that say “vöfflur” for a free waffle and coffee at the homes of local residents!

Reykjavík International Film Festival (RIFF): September/October
Founded in 2004, RIFF has grown into one of the best-kept secrets of the international film festival circuit, drawing over 25,000 guests annually. Along with film workshops, director talks and discussion panels, this multi-day event offers a number of screening venues in downtown Reykjavík to showcase a variety of documentaries, full-length features, shorts, animations and other notable films from Iceland and abroad, including world premieres and award winners from other festivals. The winner of RIFF’s competition is awarded the Golden Puffin at the end of the festival. Tickets can be purchased at screenings or in advance online.

Iceland Airwaves Music Festival: October/November 
In 1999, the first Iceland Airwaves was held in an airplane hangar, as a showcase for local DJs. Since then, this annual festival has exploded onto the international music scene, attracting some of the hottest new bands from the USA, Europe and Iceland to play at various venues in Reykjavík. Called the “hippest long weekend on the annual music festival calendar” by Rolling Stone magazine, Iceland Airwaves draws thousands of international visitors to sample the sounds of the fresh musical talent, both foreign and local, while offering an opportunity for other adventures in Iceland. Tickets do tend to sell out early and quickly for this event, but there are always some free off-venue shows to catch at bars and cafes around the city.

New Year’s Eve: 31 December 
Icelanders are known for going a bit overboard on this holiday! Shops are generally open until 13:00 while most bars, clubs and music venues are open to the crowds of merrymakers late into the night. While Icelanders traditionally dine with family on this day, visitors can enjoy dinner at one of Reykjavík’s fine restaurants (RSVP highly recommended) before joining in the evening celebrations, including huge neighbourhood bonfires held across the city. As midnight rolls around, everyone heads outside to a good viewing spot, champagne and sparklers in hand, to watch the unbelievable amount of fireworks set off to welcome the New Year. Afterwards, the partying continues into the wee hours of the morning. Not surprisingly, 1 January tends to be a quiet day. To make the most of this holiday, see our Iceland New Year’s tour packages.

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