Icelanders are proud that they still speak the ancient language of the Vikings, but they certainly don’t just live in the past. Their cherished ancient heritage lives on in harmony with the most exciting innovations from the world of arts and culture today. This refreshing mix of local, traditional, progressive and cosmopolitan culture appeals to almost every taste.
Iceland was the last European country to be settled, mostly by Norsemen in the 9th and 10th centuries. They came mainly from Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia, and from the Norse settlements in the British Isles, from where a Celtic element was also introduced. The language and culture of Iceland were predominantly Scandinavian from the outset, but there are traces of Celtic influence in some of the ancient poetry, in some personal names and in the appearance of present-day Icelanders.
All branches of the arts flourish in Iceland, especially painting, which started in earnest at the turn of the century. Literature has always been the mainstay of Icelandic culture but other aspects of the national heritage that used to be important in past centuries include manuscript illumination, woodcarving and folk music.
There are many theatre companies in Iceland, including a National Theatre. In Reykjavík there is a symphony orchestra, an opera house and ballet company. International performers make regular visits, especially to the Reykjavík Arts Festival.
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