A Little Time and a Keyboard: The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik Shines a Light on Archaeology and Viking Life

The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik Shines a Light on Archaeology and Viking Life

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reykjavik's Settlement Exhibition unearths the ruins of Iceland's earliest Viking settlers in an engaging exhibit.

Reykjavik, Iceland is one of my favorite cities in the world and home to one of my favorite attractions -- The Settlement Exhibition. We first visited the museum during our first Iceland adventure in 2012. The museum housing the remains of a Viking longhouse adeptly uses multimedia to introduce visitors to methods for interpreting archaeological finds. Our first experience left such an impression on us that our family jumped at the chance to return last week.

Hands on elements at The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik give families a unique way of exploring Viking history.
Hands on elements ignite curiosity.

Uncovering the Beginnings of Reykjavik:

The museum maintains the foundations of a Viking longhouse discovered during an excavation in preparation for the construction of a new hotel. Relics had been previously uncovered nearby leading to speculation this site may have Viking relics as well. After the discovery of the longhouse, the determination of constructing a museum on the site was made. The longhouse dates back to the Settlement Era of Iceland with the beginning of settlement around 870.

Intact walls of a Viking longhouse in The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Intriguingly intact walls of a Viking longhouse!
Finding intact walls and a hearth such as in Reykjavik present a pretty intriguing example of Viking construction. Other portions of the structure would have been constructed out of turf and wood thus would not survive the elements throughout the centuries.

360 exhibit displaying Viking relics in Reykjavik.
360 exhibit displaying other relics.
Encircling the longhouse are exhibits displaying other Viking relics as well as further explaining the climate and what Viking life was like. One of the most interesting relics to me happen to be a glass bead. At the time, the Vikings were not able to blow glass so this would have been treasured possessions from far away. I wonder what the true story is. Was the bead obtained through trade or possibly a raid?

Segments of a turf wall at The Settlement Exhibition Reykjavik date to the Viking era.
These segments of a turf wall are some of the oldest structures in Iceland.
Located near the longhouse exists the remains of a turf wall that actually predates a known volcanic eruption at the time of settlement.

Hands-on elements engage children in learning at The Settlement Exhibition.
Hands-on elements inviting exploration.
Other elements show how longhouses were constructed and give more details on the function of each portion of the home. Buttons allow visitors to press and consequently light up different portions of the ruins as they read, observe and interpret.

Fun Elements For Children:

The museum has a particular fun section where children can play Viking games. Each game posed a particular challenge and was pretty interesting to play. So much fun!

Playing Viking games at The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik.
Playing Viking games!

Another portion of the play area encourages children to be Vikings!

Take a Peek from Above!

Before going on your way, be sure to take a peek from above! What a cool element from street level. This museum is truly a gem and not to be missed when you are in Reykjavik.

Things to know:

  • A gift shop has some interesting items for souvenirs.
  • Restrooms are available.
  • Lockers are available for stowing backpacks.
  • The museum is located within walking distance of other Reykjavik attractions, stores and restaurants.
  • The museum is free for children under 18 and seniors over 70.
**Disclosure: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are 100% mine.

The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik Shines a Light on Archaeology and Viking Life


  1. I love the story about the glass bead. And how cosy do those Viking beds look? Seems like a great place for kids. Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids.

    1. The beds look cosy, don't they? It is definitely one of our favorite museums. Thanks for having an awesome #CultureKids linky! Great resource!

  2. I loved visiting here when I was in Iceland - it was before my daughter came along so I didn't remember the games, but it's fascinating to be able to take a look at the city and country's history. #culturedkids

    1. It is so fascinating! I loved the use of multimedia to explain the ruins. It is very interesting how much you can learn from artifacts and ruins. Thanks for visiting. :)

  3. This sounds fascinating - Reykjavic is waaay up there on the list so earmarking this for our eventual visit. #culturedkids