June 17th marks Iceland’s National Day when, in 1994, the country claimed independence from Denmark and a separate independent republic was formed. The date was in fact chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jón Sigurosson, leader of the 20th-century Icelandic independence movement and across the country, Icelandic National Day is celebrated in traditional style, with parades led by brass bands, flag bearers, speeches and music. If you’re planning a city break to Reykjavík in the coming months, here’s a look at some upcoming events and festivities taking place in the Icelandic capital…
Land of the Midnight Sun, Iceland is renowned over the summer months for its magical midnight sunset displays and Reykjavík in particular is particularly well placed for viewing the skies ablaze with myriad shades of gold and pink as the sun dips below the horizon. Amongst the recommendations for best vantage points are the lighthouse at Grotta in Seltjarnarnes, the Pearl, or on the waterfront by Sólfar, the impressive Sun Voyager sculpture constructed from steel by Jon Gunnar Arnason. From here, the incredible views over Mount Esja, augmented further by the hues of dusk and dawn, have to be seen to be believed. Truly memorable.
On August 23rd, you’ve got the Reykjavík Marathon, held to coincide with the city’s Culture Night (Menningarnótt), a national event where Icelandic inhabitants flock to Reykjavík to watch the fireworks, concerts and Icelandic dance recitals. Back to the marathon, the course is flat and smoothly paved and takes runners west out of the city centre before turning east along the coast from where participants have a beautiful view of the mountains and natural surroundings just north of Reykjavík. After the 15 km point, the course turns westward, winding back through the city centre along Laekjargata (one of the city’s oldest streets) to the finish line.
Moving into the autumn months, the Reykjavik International Film Festival (RIFF) gets underway between 25th September and 5th October this year and whilst not perhaps in the same league as Cannes, Venice, Berlin or San Sebastián, the festival shows a wide range of non-fiction films and dramas from over 40 countries, with an emphasis on up-and-coming filmmakers. The 2014 line-up has not yet been announced, yet you can expect the city to be pretty busy at this time.
For fans of The Beatles, most of you are probably more than familiar with the band’s connections with Liverpool and even Hamburg, where they spend a considerable chunk of the early 60s, yet did you know that just off Reykjavík’s coast on Kollafjörður Bay’s Viðey Island lies the Imagine Peace Tower, a memorial to John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono? Projected from a white stone monument into which “Imagine Peace” is carved in 24 different languages, the tower consists of a tall beam of light shooting vertically into the sky, reaching heights of up to 4,000 metres. The tower is lit every year from the 9th of October (John’s birthday) all the way through until the 8th of December, the day on which he was shot.
If the music and festival scene is more your thing, then Iceland Airwaves is one event not to miss. Taking place between 5th – 9th November, Iceland Airwaves prides itself on being one of the premier annual showcases for new music across the globe, with previous international acts including Bloc Party, Florence and the Machine, Klaxons, Flaming Lips and Fatboy Slim sharing the stage with Icelandic favourites such as Bjork and Of Monsters and Men. This is the perfect opportunity to blend a spot of musical appreciation with some of Reykjavík’s stunning natural beauty – the perfect city break combination!