Music is a huge part of Icelandic culture and the sheer output and creativity found in the Icelandic music scene is staggering, especially considering the small size of the population. Read here about all the best music events in Iceland.

Every year, new and returning music festivals bring in talent and audiences from all over the world, itching to experience music in this remote and magical setting. In the coming months, there are some exciting events ahead, from major music festivals to holiday concerts. Here are the ones we’re most excited for.

Iceland Airwaves

Iceland‘s biggest and most renowned music festival takes place in the first week of November. The festival has grown in leaps and bounds every year from its humble beginnings in a flight hangar in 1999. Attracting artist from Iceland and all over the world, the festival is a great showcase for newer acts as well as giving audiences the opportunity to see world famous artist in an unusual location. The Airwaves festival is truly a city-wide festival, from the flight hangar it moved to Reykjavik‘s bars and clubs filling the downtown area with music. For the past couple of years, the bulk of the acts have performed in the beautiful Harpa concert hall. This year the festival is expanding cross-country with over 25 artists performing in Akureyri in North Iceland over two days. The festival head-liners include everyone‘s favourite banjo-playing hipsters Mumford & Sons as well as the transformative sounds of Seattle‘s Fleet Foxes. Representing the locals are hip-hop king Emmsjé Gauti and new kids on the block JóiPé X Króli, as well as returning 90‘s legends Maus and 200.000 Naglbítar. There’s no shortage of interesting bands in the line-up, Scottish cult legends Arab Strab will play a show as a part of their ten year reunion mini-tour, Norwegian newcomer Sigrid will play her first show in Iceland and Belgian experimental orchestra The Colorist will team up with Icelandic star Emiliana Torrini for a colourful classical and contemporary collisions. The off-venue Airwaves festival grows bigger every year and retains the old-school, homely feel of the old days of Airwaves. Artist will play in pubs, shops, cinemas and swimming pools, making sure that if you’re in Reykjavík you can’t escape the music. And why would you want to!

Sónar Reykjavík

Sónar Reykjavík is an annual music festival in Reykjavik. This festival brings together music, creativity and technology. The festival takes place in March and turns Reykjavik into one big festival venue. Sónar Reykjavík features both local and international musicians and bands. The festival takes place over a weekend and is held on four stages of the unique Harpa Concert HallHarpa‘s underground carpark is transformed into the SonarLab nightclub – traditionally the festival’s stronghold for heads-down, no-frills sets, by international and local DJs. All programming is co-curated by Resident Advisor.  As the festival takes place during Northern Lights season in Iceland, you might spot the aurora borealis on your way to or from the venue. If you are in Reykjavik when the Sónar festival takes place you are in luck because there is so much happening, like off venue concerts. Attending Sónar Reykjavik is a great way to get to know Icelandic culture, music and people!

Sigur Rós and the Norður og Niður festival

Concluding their 18 month world tour and marking the first time for five years they play in their home country, Sigur Rós is taking over Harpa for four days of music, performance art, art installations, film screenings and more. But the main event is without a doubt Sigur Rós who will be playing every night for the four day festival run. The masters of ambiance have wowed audiences all over the world with their unique sound and transformative live shows and their curation of Harpa is a world-class event that no true art fan should miss. One of the most successful Icelandic bands of all time, Sigur Rós hasn’t let fame get to their heads and are always looking for ways to give back to the community that fostered them. Part of that is the Norður and Niður festival. Norður and Niður means North and Down in Icelandic, essentially “go to hell” but the festival line-up seems more like we’re going to heaven. With artists like Jarvis Cocker, Juliana Barwick and Kevin Shields, as well as a host of Icelandic performers there should be something for everyone to enjoy.

Christmas concerts

Going to a Christmas concert has become an unmissable part of the Christmas preparations for many Icelanders. Every year some of the country’s most famous singers will throw a Christmas extravaganza, usually in the Harpa concert hall, and get everyone in the mood for holiday cheer. Sigga Beinteins’ annual concert is extremely popular as she is one of the country’s most beloved pop singers. She, along with featured guests, sing Christmas tunes in both Icelandic and English and her charming stage presence makes the experience feel cosy and intimate. Another beloved singer is Björgvin “Bó” Halldórsson. A pop sensation in his younger days, the Icelandic Elvis if you will, Björgvin has been a fixture in the Icelandic music world for decades. He’s joined by singers, actors and a big band for a theatrical and glamourous evening of beloved Christmas songs from all over the world. And if that still hasn’t gotten you in a holiday mood, Norwegian legend Sissel Kyrkjebø visits Iceland for the second time, after four sold out shows last year, to infuse your Christmas with a little soul and gospel. Sissel’s enchanting soprano has seen her work with singers like Placido Domingo, José Carreras and Diana Krall. The Christmas spirit is certainly alive and well in Harpa in December.

Are you planning a short break in Reykjavik to do some sightseeing and take advantage of its fabulous music scene? Check our our Classic Reykjavik City Break itinerary and our great selection of day tours!

Aslaug Torfadottir

Aslaug writes scripts and plays and does copious amounts of research by watching hours upon hours of Netflix and visiting the local theaters and restaurants. Her favorite spot in Iceland is Skardsvik beach on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, with Husavik village a close second. Her favorite Icelandic saying is „Þetta reddast“ – roughly translated as „Eh…it‘ll be fine.“