Those keen on gaining insight into Iceland’s history should head to the National Museum. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre and across the so-called pond, the museum’s permanent exhibition aims to sum up a grand history in an afternoon’s serving.
Split up over two floors, the exhibits starts at the beginning (aka around 800 AD), progressing through periods of Christianity and both Norwegian and Danish rule up to the modern day. Highlights include the carved drinking horns, attributed only to Iceland, miraculously preserved textiles, and the skautbúningur costume — formal attire for women in the 1800s, seen in its modern, plasticized version above. Did you know that while the majority of Icelandic men can be traced back to Norway and Denmark, the women mostly hail from the British Isles? I did not.
Additional rotating exhibits are also always available for viewing; during my visit, one was devoted to the photography of Valdimar Thorlacius, depicting Iceland’s hermits and loners and their living spaces to great effect. (Admittedly I’m a real sucker for arresting images of work-worn people and haunting landscapes!)