Nordic-pagan traditions and customs, the language, which has changed little over many centuries, and the European way of life, which has been influenced by the mainland, shaped Iceland’s culture. In addition to Christian and national holidays, these include Icelandic Language Day (Dagur íslenskrar tungu), the North Germanic festival of sacrifice Þorrablót and the polytheistic Ásatrú cult. Old handicrafts such as silver handicrafts, weaving and knitting, wood carving are cultivated and preserved.

The beginnings of Iceland’s literary history (including Old Norse literature) are connected with Old Norse sagas and Eddas of the 13th century. G. Gunnarsson , J. Svensson , Nobel Laureate H. Laxness are read worldwide. Jón Kalman Stefánsson (* 1963), who was nominated for the alternative Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018, tells stories of women over three generations in “Ásta’s Story” (2019). Since the turn of the millennium, TV crime series and crime fiction such as Arnaldur Indriðason (* 1963) and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (* 1963).

Works of fine art are mainly shown in Reykjavík, e. B. in the Center for Icelandic Art, Living Art Museum. The history of Icelandic painting (Þórarinn B. Þorláksson, * 1867, † 1924) and sculpture (Ásmundur Svein-son, * 1893, † 1982) begins with the 19th century and is now up to the conceptual art (Sigurdur Gudmund-son, * 1942) International significant. In the 20th century Iceland produced its own classical music, in which choral music can look back on long traditions. The pianist Víkingur Ólafsson is internationally known(* 1984) for his Bach interpretations. In addition to the singer and actress Björk, Iceland’s pop music has a relatively large density of musicians and successful rock bands such as “Sigur Rós” and “Of Monsters and Men”. Around 50 film, art and music festivals such as the “Secret Solstice” take place mainly in the capital and are an event for national and international artists and visitors.

According to allcitycodes, Icelandic film has been specifically sponsored by the Icelandic Film Center since the 1990s, resulting in highly acclaimed, idiosyncratic films that laconically show the Nordic landscape and outsiders as well as bizarre characters. “Children of Nature – A Journey” by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (* 1954) tells about the breakout of a farmer from a nursing home and in 1992 was the first Icelandic film to be nominated for an Oscar abroad. In 2020 the composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (* 1982) received the Oscar for the best film music in the feature film »Joker« (2019).

Among the sports, golf, chess, bridge and horse riding are particularly popular. Iceland’s handball players and soccer players play at world level. You and your trainers are happy to be hired by European clubs and around the world. Glíma, a type of wrestling, is considered the Icelandic national sport.

World Heritage Sites in Iceland

World Heritage Sites (K) and World Natural Heritage (N)

  • Thingvellir National Park (K; 2004)
  • Surtsey volcanic island (N; 2008)

Old Norse literature

Old Norse literature, term for literature written in Old Norwegian and Old Icelandic.

It includes the Eddic poetry (Edda) and the Skaldendichtung, the latter in the 10./11. Century flourished on Iceland, which had been settled by Norwegians since the 9th century. The seals were then written down in the 13th century. Since the late 12th century, the saga literature (saga), which is the only genre in prose within medieval Germanic literature, emerged in Iceland.

The skaldic poetry as the oldest type of Old Norse bound poetry includes price songs, ridicule and abusive verses, love poetry and diverse occasional poetry. It has been created since the Viking Age (around 800–1050), especially at Scandinavian royal courts, by poets (»skalds«) who are mostly known by name and can often be dated well because it is linked to historical events; it reached a second bloom in poems of religious content in Iceland from the 12th century onwards. The Skaldic meters, of which the Dróttkvætt is the most important, are characterized by the strictly regulated syllable counting of the line, by the combination of inner rhyme and allotted rhyme and by the multi-part description of simple terms (the kenning).

The Edda songs  - mostly preserved in a single manuscript (Codex Regius) – are much more difficult to date, the heroic songs of which take up material from the South Germanic and Nordic heroic sagas that go back to the time of the Great Migration. The mythological songs of the gods, however, mostly show all the characteristics of a very recent development (in any case only after Christianization, i.e. from the 11th century) and in some cases are only at the same time as other forms of historical processing of the pagan past (such as the Snorra Edda) originated in the 13th century. – The Snorra Edda or Prose Edda (Edda) is a textbook for skalds written by Snorri Sturluson, which is also important for the knowledge of mythological and heroic tradition.

Icelandic saga literature has its origins in Latin hagiography and historiography. Already in the earliest works on Icelandic history, in the Íslendingabók by Ari Thorgilsson (1st half of the 12th century) and Landnámabók, the Saga style is indicated: a sober and objective form of presentation by an authorial narrator. The most important group are the Icelandic sagas (Íslendinga sögur). The king sagas (Konunga sögur; e.g. the Heimskringla of Snorri Sturluson are close to historiography), at the center of which are the Norwegian kings. In the prehistoric sagas (Fornaldar sögur) one used, inter alia. back to the Nordic treasure trove of heroic legends and motifs from the Viking Age. – Individual areas of saga literature are clearly dependent on the influence of continental literary tradition: sacred literature (e.g. Byskupa sögur), prose versions of courtly epic narratives (Riddara sögur), didactic literature (e.g. Konungs skuggsjá), scientific literature (e.g. grammatical treatises), historical works.

Iceland Culture