Located in Reyðarfjörður on the east coast of Iceland, the Icelandic Wartime Museum invites visitors from all over the world to experience life in Iceland during World War II.
For those visiting Iceland, we invite you to immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of this beautiful island-nation. An inevitable part of this history includes occupation and war, which the Iceland Wartime Museum seeks to portray and inform. Iceland’s vibrant history includes exploration, settlement, times of peace, self-government, occupation, and war behind the backdrop of remarkable geographical surroundings. In this article, we aim to give you some historical facts about the people and geography, a brief history, and information about visiting the Wartime exhibition.
Today, Iceland is a sovereign republic island-nation of around 364,000 inhabitants. Iceland itself is in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, east of Greenland, its closest neighbor. Europe is the nearest mainland continent to it and explains its historical political ties and culture.
A Brief History of Iceland
Iceland was one of the last places on Earth to find a human settlement. When it did, it was thought to be by the Norse around the end of the 7th Century AD.
Human settlement brought with its governance and the early Icelanders introduced the Althing, one of the earliest known parliaments in the world. Iceland was a commonwealth until civil war broke out and allowed an opportunistic invasion by the Norwegians and Danish in the 11th Century.
For almost the next 700 years, Iceland became a territory of Norway and Denmark. At the turn of the 19th Century, Iceland reached a form of limited independence while still acknowledging the Danish monarchy – until World War II.
World War II in Iceland
At the beginning of WWII, Germany invaded Denmark, cutting Iceland off from its source of protection. Until this time, Denmark ruled Iceland’s foreign affairs, but this had to change. Following, Denmark’s invasion left Iceland exposed, the British offered protection to the island, but the Icelandic government refused, as it considered itself diplomatically neutral at the time.
After Germany successfully invaded Norway, Britain felt it could not allow the strategically-located Iceland to fall into enemy hands, and so on the 10th May 1940, Britain invaded Iceland. The island remained occupied by the British and the Americans until the war’s end.
Life in Iceland During WWII
The Iceland Wartime Museum aims to portray a glimpse at life during the war under British and American occupation.
Around 25,000 British troops were stationed in Iceland throughout WWII. The forces represented a ‘peaceful’ invasion – Iceland offered no resistance, and there was no formal or overt hostility between the Icelanders and the British. Iceland could no longer be considered neutral and lost lives nonetheless, mainly to the German navy attacking its seafaring folk. There were approximately 4000 soldiers in Reydarfjordur, which doesn’t seem like a vast number. However, the population of the town at that time was 300 people, so the proportion was overwhelming.
Life in Iceland during the occupation received a considerable boost in terms of an influx of wealth. The occupying forces spent money and meant many new jobs for the Icelandic people, which boosted the standard of living.
Not everything was rosy, as the Icelandic people were drawn into a war and lost lives, as mentioned. There was also tension between the soldiers and the citizens, particularly relationships between the women of Iceland and the male British soldiers – many children were born with fathers who returned home to Britain.
The Icelandic Wartime Museum
The Iceland Wartime Museum reveals much about life during this time. The Museum features movies with footage of the epoch and knowledgeable staff who provide insight into the displays.
There are many preserved materials from this time. That includes military equipment, weapons, vehicles, uniforms, and objects that represented life in Iceland, such as women and children’s clothes. The Museum itself is a preserved relic. It was built into the barracks of a large hospital base which was used throughout World War II.
We recommend a visit to the Iceland Wartime Museum – not just for those interested in wartime history, but for all those who wish to see a part of life and a time that should stay close to our memories. The Museum offers a slice of life in a time of significant global events and turmoil, revealing much about how humans adapt in a time of crisis.
How to reach Reydarfjordur
The Museum is located in Reyðarfjörður, which is on the eastern coast of Iceland. It is named after the fjord at the foot of which the town is situated.
To travel to Reyðarfjörður, tourists will need to fly into the capital, Reykjavik, and commute on from there. You can do so by bus or preferably by rental car. The town is 673 km or 418 miles away from the capital. You can add this fantastic Museum as a stop while crossing the east region of Iceland, which you will visit on your trip throughout the Ring Road.
Beautiful cottages and hotels are abundant where you may stay to experience the life and surroundings of this lovely place and take the time to visit the Icelandic Wartime Museum. Apart from the Museum, we recommend dining at several local restaurants and exploring the land surrounding the town. In short, stay for some time – relax and soak in the atmosphere of all we have to offer!
Icelandic Wartime Museum Information
- Address: Heiðarvegur, Reyðarfjörður, 730 Reyðarfjörður
- +354 470 9063
- Opens at 1:00PM. Closes at 5:00PM
Reydarfjordur, East Iceland
Reyðarfjörður, where the Iceland Wartime Museum is located, is on the eastern coast and has a population of just over 1,100. So you can get an idea; the most populated town is the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, on the south-western coast, with a population of about 123,000 inhabitants.
As its name shows, it is a fjord, and it is actually the longest and widest fjord of the eastern region of Iceland. Its natural harbor made fishing and whaling the primary industry of the area. It eventually became a trade center for the whole east fjords region.
Geography and Environment
Iceland, in general, has spectacular geography and climate. The island is geographically young and sits on the juncture of the two continental plates of Eurasia and North America. As the island sits on these two plates, it has allowed the formation of the stunning glaciers and fjords for which Iceland is famous for.
Reydarfjordur will provide a solitude feeling, you, and just nature. This is also a fantastic point to see the Northern lights, which attracts many tourists from around the world. They are renowned for their celestial beauty, and Iceland is one of the premier places in the world from which to view this stellar phenomenon.
Apart from these landmarks above, the east region is home to majestic waterfalls, it is also famous for fantastic landscapes, towering mountains, lava fields, making this land a magical place to visit. Through dark times, the beauty of this land still shone. make sure to add the museum to your itinerary while in this region of Iceland.