Verslunarmannahelgin, the Icelandic Labor Day Weekend

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Iceland, Music, NatureTags , , , , ,

The first weekend in August, just a regular weekend for you perhaps, but for Icelanders this is our biggest festival weekend of the year and the most travelled one. We call it Verslunarmannahelgi or (Labor Day Weekend), a three day long weekend that many people use to get out of town to different camp sights around the country, many of which offer outside festivals with live music and entertainment for the whole family.

Some popular festivals held on this big party weekend are Þjóðhátíð í eyjum held in Westman Islands, Ein með Öllu in Akureyri, Mýrarboltinn in Bolungarvík and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name just a few.

 

Þjóðhátíð – Westman Islands

The biggest festival of the weekend and an event that many look forward to all year round is Þjóðhátíð í Eyjum.  It starts on Thursday and ends on Monday and is held in the Westman Islands.  With a population of barely 4.000 inhabitants, the population of the island rises to 16.000 during Þjóðhátíð.

It is a long fun filled weekend with all sorts of entertainment, two music stages, big Sunday night bonfire and firework show.  People gather in the valley in their ‘lopapeysa’ (Icelandic wool sweater) and sing along to classic songs, both in Icelandic and English.

 

Ein með Öllu – Akureyri

A family festival held in Akureyri (the capital of the north). You can expect the city to be full of live with entertainment for the whole family, concerts and a firework show on Sunday night.

 

Mýrarboltinn – Bolungarvík

Mýrarboltinn or ‘Swamp soccer’ is a popular football match held in Bolungarvík in the North West fjords of Iceland.  The match takes place on a mud covered field so get ready to get mud filthy. Everyone can sign up for the match and in addition to the football there is live music and party throughout the weekend.

 

Innipúkinn – Reykjavík

Will you be in Reykjavík for the weekend? Don’t worry..there is a music festival held in Reykjavík as well called Innipúkinn.
Innipúkinn is a small indoor music festival held in Reykjavík on Labor Day weekend at music venues like Húrra and Gaukur á Stöng both located in down town Reykjavík.  You can see the line up and purchase festival tickets here.

Many Icelanders often plan this weekend or their camping location according to the weather forecast because who wants to set up camp in pouring rain.

Happy Verslunarmannahelgin!

12 fun facts about Iceland and Icelanders

Posted on Categories Culture, Equality, Food, Iceland, Nature, TraditionTags , , , , , ,

Since you’re visiting Iceland; we wouldn’t want you to be too shocked or surprised by our wonderfully unique culture or quirky habits. So here are 12 fun facts about us and our country so you can be properly prepared.

 

1. We LOVE Ice Cream

Cold temperature does not discourage Icelanders from standing in line at the Ice cream shop regardless of the season. You will find a Ice cream shop in almost every neighborhood in the capital area. 

 

2. One of the most Eco friendly countries in the world

Roughly 90% of Icelandic homes enjoy heating and electricity from renewable energy and natural geothermal resources. This is one of the main factors that make Iceland rank one of the greenest environments in Europe.

This is also the reason why Icelandic people use outdoor swimming pools in the winter just as much as in the summer as they are all heated geothermally all year round. Going to the swimming pool for an Icelander is like going to church for some. It’s a place where locals come together, chill in the Jacuzzi and catch up with other locals. And of course it’s a blast for the kids with all the water slides.  

 

3. No mosquitoes

Yep, you can relax and enjoy a summer evening in Iceland without worrying about getting bit by these annoying insects.

 

4. Icelanders speak on the inhale

This may be a surprise to some Icelanders (only because it is so natural) but we often speak on the inhale, mostly when saying Já (yes). The reason is a mystery but if you pay attention; you’ll notice and hopefully get a giggle.

 

5. An egalitarian nation

Iceland became the first country in the world to democratically elect a female president in 1980 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and then an openly gay prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir in 2009.

 

6. Icelandic babies nap outside

Also no matter the season, it is very normal to see strollers and prams outside a coffee shop or a home as parents often let their babies nap outdoors (bundled up of course). 

 

7. Beer was illegal for 74 years

Yep, there was a ban put on alcoholic drinks in Iceland in 1915. In 1935 the ban was partially lifted where stronger spirits were legalized but beer was not included until March 1, 1989.

 

8. The smallest nation ever to qualify for World Cup finals

A mere year after making into the quarter finals at the 2016 Euro cup with an epic win against England, the Icelandic football team beat the odds again by qualifying for the world cup finals in 2018.

 

9. No surnames or family names

The Icelandic phone book lists people by their first name and the reason is that Icelanders do not use family names. Instead they use the traditional Nordic naming system where the last name is taken from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son.  Jón Ólafsson’s offspring, for example, might be Einar Jónsson and Sigríður Jónsdóttir.

 

10. No McDonald’s or Starbucks

Fast food restaurants do exist in Iceland but you will not find a McDonalds or Starbucks anywhere unlike in most other cities.

 

11. Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.

Iceland has only waged one war, and it can barely be called war. Its name is Þorskastríðið, The Cod War, political disputes between the governments of Iceland and the UK over fishing grounds. The only weapons Icelanders used were scissors, to cut the enemies fishing nets…we won!

 

12. The Icelandic police does NOT carry guns.

The only officers permitted to carry firearms are on a special force called the Viking Squad, and they are seldom called out. One man has been shot by the police, ever.

Icelandic Street food and Food Halls

Posted on Categories Culture, Food, Iceland, ReykjavikTags , , , ,

Street food and Food Halls have been more and more prominent in Reykjavík in recent years. After all street food is the heart and soul of international cuisine and food halls offer the convenience of having selection of food from all over the world in one place. 

 

Box Street Food

Box Street Food is a great place if you would like to get a taste of different street food in one place. It’s open Thursday to Sunday June 1-June 29th and is located in Skeifan shopping area (a bit outside of downtown). The vibe is very raw with pallets, trucks and raw metal containers offering street food, pop up shops and a large screen that will be showing all the World Cup matches along with a music stage where musicians perform for all the hungry and thirsty people. Dishes are sold for low prices, and guests are encouraged to try different dishes, instead of buying one meal at one restaurant.

There are many other popular street food and food trucks in Reykjavík like Bæjarins beztu, the famous hot dog stand that offers one menu item only and Fish and Chips Vagninn located by the old harbour.  

 

See more in our blog ‘Reykjavík for the budget conscious’.

 

 

Hlemmur Food Hall (Hlemmur Mathöll) 

Hlemmur Food Hall opened in August 2017 and is located inside the legendary ‘Hlemmur’. Hlemmur  used to be the main public bus stations/terminals in Reykjavík and a regular hangout for many punk kids and other interesting characters. The food hall is inspired by the great European food halls, offering 10 different vendors.  So whether it may be Vietnamese street food at Bành Mí, Mexican burritos at La Poblana, freshly baked bread and cinnamon buns at Brauð&Co or cured meats with a glass of french wine or champagne at Kröst, you can be sure to find it there.  You can also be sure to find many locals visiting Hlemmur Mathöll, mostly for the delicious food but also because of the history of the building.

 

Grandi Mathöll

Doesn’t look like much on the outside but it’s awesome on the inside. This new Reykjavík culinary treasure, located in a refurbished fish factory at Grandi Harbor District, celebrates Icelandic culture and industry. Grandi Mathöll offers a great sample of the best street food Iceland has to offer. You will find both traditional Icelandic cuisine like smoked Icelandic lamb from Fjárhúsið (The sheep stable) or fresh Icelandic vegetables from Rabbar Barinn and also dishes from elsewhere in the world like KORE a grub-delicious Korean street food.  

Summer Festivals in Iceland

Posted on Categories Activities, Culture, Events, Festivals, Iceland, Music, Nature, Reykjavik, TraditionTags , , , ,

Icelandic summer may not be the warmest or sunniest but that doesn’t stop Icelanders from celebrating it in various ways.

There are tons of festivals, big and small, held throughout the country every summer. The bigger once you may have heard of but the smaller local festivals probably not, but they can be just as fun. It’s a good opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals of the town.

The list of summer festivals is long but here you can learn about a few of our favorites.

 

JUNE

FISHERMAN’S SUNDAY
Fisherman’s Sunday, held the first Sunday in June to celebrate and honor the hard work and sacrifices of the Icelandic fisherman and importance that the fishing industry has had on the Icelandic culture. Each town has a celebration by the harbour with sea related entertainment for the whole family.

Learn more about Fisherman’s Sunday in our ‘Seaman’s Sunday blog’.

 

SECRET SOLSTICE
The Secret Solstice Music Festival takes place in Reykjavik over the summer solstice during the brightest part of the year. With over 150 acts both local and international, performing on several stages this festival has become one of the biggest music festivals in Iceland.

Learn more about Secret Solstice in our ‘Secret Solstice blog’.

 

KÓTELETTAN
A BBQ festival held in Selfoss, a town in the south of Iceland, with the focus on Icelandic meat and barbecuing. In addition to the presentation of Icelandic food there is an impressive program for the whole family from morning until night.

 

JULY

IRISH DAYS
An Irish festival held in Akranes, a port town located on the West coast of Iceland. The town was supposedly settled by the Irish in the 9th century so every July, the town celebrates so-called Irish days to commemorate their Irish heritage and celebrate the summer at the same time. It’s a family festival with Irish themed entertainment from morning until night.

 

FJARÐARBYGGÐIN HIKING WEEK
This is one of Iceland’s biggest outdoor recreation events held in Fjarðarbyggð located in the East fjords of Iceland. It is 8 days of entertainment and organised activities to suit the entire family which spans from family walks to historical walks and even to challenges for hiking mountaineers, as well as categories in between.

 

EISTNAFLUG
A metal festival held in Neskaupstaður a quaint little town located on the Norðfjörður fjord on the Eastern coast of Iceland. Eistnaflug is held annually on the second weekend of July each year.

 

BRÆÐSLAN
A fun annual music festival held the last weekend of July in Borgarfjörður Eystri which is located in East Iceland about 70 km from Egilsstaðir. The line up is usually mostly local bands. Most people camp and many bring their whole family.

 

AUGUST

VERSLUNARMANNAHELGIN / LABOR DAY WEEKEND
The first weekend of August is the Icelandic Labour Day weekend, a three day long weekend and the most travelled weekend in Iceland. Icelanders pack their camp gear and wool sweaters and flock out of town to set up camp at various festival sights around the country.  The main festivals are Þjóðhátíð in the Vestman Islands, Neistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður and Innipúkinn in Reykjavík to name a few.

 

FISKIDAGURINN MIKLI / THE GREAT FISH DAY
An annual festival held in North Iceland in a town called Dalvík,  held the first or the second Saturday in August. Fish producers invite guests to a sea food buffet between 11:00 and 17:00 at the harbour in Dalvík. The reason for this generous offer is to get as many people as possible together to taste fish and enjoy a good day in Dalvík. In the evening there is a big concert down by the harbour.

 

GÆRAN
Gaeran, which means lambskin rug, is a music festival held in Mid-August in the northern part of Iceland, in the town of Sauðárkrókur. The festival focuses on offering a wide variety of genres, from folk to rap and everything in between.

 

CULTURE NIGHT

Another annual event held in Reykjavík on the Saturday on or around August 18th, the anniversary date of Reykjavík city. It is by far the biggest celebration in Reykjavík and brings almost a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets to celebrate with music, arts and more.

See more on Culture Night in our previous blog.