The sagas are a unique window into the history of Iceland during the Middle Ages, from the Viking era to the christianisation of the Scandinavian people.
The Þjóðmenningarhúsið (Culture House) presents a very interesting display of the medieval manuscripts telling these sagas. It is a great starting point for anyone who wishes to know more about Icelandic culture (and, perhaps, Icelanders' deep interest for books and history).
However, I don't know how this compares to the National Museum, since I did not have time to see both museums.
The Asmundur Sveinsson Sculpture Museum is dedicated to the works of the sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson (1893-1982). Asmundur Sveinsson was one of the pioneers of Icelandic sculpture. The Museum building was designed and built mostly by the artist himself from 1942 to 1950. The artist donated the house and his collection to the City of Reykjavik after his day, and a museum dedicated to his memory was opened in 1983. Surrounding the museum is a sculpture garden, adorned with sculptures by Mr. Sveinsson. - See travelouge.
Every day except on Christmas and New Years day
The National Einar Jonsson Museum (Hnitbjörg). The house was built by the artist Einar Jonsson (1873-1954). The building served as his studio, as a gallery for his works and even as his home. The artist donated all his work to the Icelandic people and the museum was opened in 1923 and was the first art museum in the country. A garden adorned with 26 bronze casts of the artist’s works is located behind the museum.
Iceland's National Museum of History is a little bit out from central Reykjavik, but it's worth taking the 10 minute stroll to get here, even if you're not all that keen about history. An important aspect of the museum is that most of the exhibits have captioning in English as well as Icelandic. Moroever, the museum also features scores of interactive video and computer displays that are also bilingual. This is really a state-of-the-art museum.
The history of Iceland is unusual in that it is in large party the story of a "New World". That is, Iceland was settled by people who chose to be here, and what's even more noteworthy, they did not encounter any indigenous folk when they arrived. A lot of non-Icelanders are under the impression that Iceland was settlers by hordes of semi-savage Viking warriors. That's at best a half-truth, as Iceland was actually settled by farmer people from the north-lands who may have been related to the Vikings, but who were much more in search of land to settle and farm. Which is not to say that the people who settled Iceland never fought among themselves.
Another interesting tidbit of history that I learned at the National History Museum is that the _male_ farmer-settlers of Iceland may have originated in the Norse heartlands of Scandinavia, but there is very convincing evidence that their women-folk were by and large not of Norse heritage, but instead came from the Celtic fringes of the British Isles and northern europe. What you can learn today from DNA evidence!
The one part of the museum I was disappointed with was the section that dealt with the most recent century of Iceland's history. I felt that the museum curators were absolutely determined to to avoid offending anyone, and so they left out any sense of conflict or difficulty. Strange but true: this museum does a better job of portraying Iceland's first century of existence than it does Iceland's achievements of Independence and prosperity.
The Culture House in Reykjavík reopened in April 2000. It is a public exhibition and conference center and a venue for the promotion of Icelandic history and cultural heritage. The Culture House is formerly the Museum Building built 1906-1908 to house the National Library, the National Archives, the National Museum and the Museum of Natural History. All these institutions have now moved. - Hverfisgata 15 (city centre), next to the National Theatre.
Ásmundur Sveinsson was one of the pioneers of sculpture in Iceland. He studied at the Swedish Academy of Fine Arts.
find more info about him at:
The Icelandic Phallological museum
The promotional leaflet describes this as “a unique collection, the only one of its kind in the world”. I'm sure that must be true. It contains a collection of the penises from over 100 creatures. The man who runs the museum is extremely friendly and helpful but there is something a little bit weird about a bloke who wants to show you his lamp shades made out of bulls scrotums (with hairs still visible!).He hasn’t yet got a human specimen, but a man from London has provided a rubber casting of his pride and joy. The museum owner explained that he is looking for donations, but to qualify it must be at least 5 inches long. He gave my husband a very predatory look when he asked whether that was to be measured hard or soft.
There's an internet site at http://www.mh.is/vefir/phallus. It costs 400kr to enter the museum.
As you walk around Reykavik you will notice numerous works of sculpture everywhere from local artists.
This is the Einar Jonsson Gallery And Sculpture Garden which we visited at about 10 pm, gallery closed of course. Located very close to Hallgrimskirkja.
LISTASAFN REYKJAVÍKUR: HAFNARHÚSIÐ
Reykjavik Art Museum: Harbor House
The best place if you like the modern arts. Always changing, always there’s a new collection. When I was there, there were two amazing collections: Rax Rinnekangas: Spiritus Europæus 1980-2000 (Photographs in parallel thematic from Spain, Germany, Poland, Russia. All countries are the same…) and the sculptures of Gestur Þorgrímsson (stone cold, best served with some sweet drum ’n bass in your ears). Entry ticket: orange matrica. “Must see” collection - as well from Erró - in a “must see” building. There’s a very nice window cleaner girl too.
This pic: Erró: Desert Storm
If you are a fan of contemporary art or just want to satisfy your cultural hunger while shopping, go to Safn on Laugavegur. The gallery has three floors of contemporary art and there are no entrance fees.
The place is a showcase for Icelandic artists, so you might not have heard any of them. Don't allow this to let you down, as you may found a new favourite.
If you happen to an avid fan of Erró, one of the most famous and contradictonary Icelandic contemporary artists, consider visiting Reykjavik Art Museum at Hafnarhús, near the Reykjavik harbour.
If you don't really care for his art, the place has still nice architecture, but other exhibitions are not of very high quality.