The Hafnarfjörður Viking Festival



A co-founder of Local Adventures and guide, Arnar has a degree in physical education and is certified glacier guide. Along with his education he has worked in tourism for 20 years.

It is summer, and the midnight sun will be saluting you on sleepless nights. The air is getting warmer, and all the people of Óðinn’s gallows start hearing the bustling life. The smiths´ hammer striking, the musicians tuning their instruments for the night… The festival of Hafnarfjörður started.

The first market was held in 1995 by Fjörukráin, who imported Viking reenactors, as there were none in Iceland at the time. The founding members of Rimmugýgur were working for Fjörukráin at the time and decided that this had to be remedied. So when the second market was held in 1997, they founded a new group just a week prior. Taking part in every market since and being an instrumental part for Fjörukráin, in 2018 they passed the torch and Rimmugýgur have held the market since.

Celebrated in the coastal town of Hafnarfjörður for 27 years. This year the viking festival took place in the beautiful park of Víðistaðatún. With so many people, activities, and little stories. It would take a lifetime to get to know everything they had to offer. Nevertheless, we are going to try and give you an insight into a day in this magnificent event.

The Ambience

Starting at 11 a.m. the market starts opening its tents, each tent being the gateway to an artisan’s life and work. Even if this is a reenactment group, the artisans behind each item are as real as it gets. You can find tailors designing capes, the dye artisan with her almost permanent blue hands, the blacksmith working its way with a piece of metal that will soon be a useful item, the jeweler polishing its rings and cape brooches, the miscellaneous vendor smoking its pipe while helping the clueless observer about his wares, the mystic rune reading station…

These are merely some examples. The number of tents, stories, and amazing individuals behind each one was enough to spend wandering, asking, and specially, listening to them for several hours. I would love to share the stories I heard, nevertheless, those are theirs to share.

While walking through the market, you hear some people gathering and hear the cry of “VIKING GAMES!” . And sure enough, I was not strong enough to even try. With a lot of games of strength, equilibrium, and coordination. Children and young adults took the pleasure of playing and getting tired. This one you will have to go and please, do not stand there just watching, the games are for everyone who wants to join! I was not in the shape for it, so I could not participate. But I encourage you, young and vivid lector, to take part in them when the opportunity comes.

Family And Exercise

Oh, and did I mention children? Of course, I did because they are more than welcome! This is a space where children can learn stories, history, and have a wholesome family experience. This year you could see a lot of children running with their wooden swords, spears and little shields. And one would think this is dangerous. But thanks to our lovely hosts, the kids (and not so young) can fight a bit in a designed space. With some guiding, and of course the nursery tent close enough to take care of every accident (but let us hope for none, it does not hurt to hope for good weather).
The day goes on, and you had your coffee/beer/mead, whichever suits you from the bar, stretched with some games. But it is time for the professionals. Every day, an exhibition battle took place. This is done only by the fighters of the group, with metal weapons, and with enough care to not harm fatally their friends. Just enough harm to remember that this is fighting and not teatime with grandma. Jokes aside, this practice is dangerous due to using steel, even if not sharpened it can give a good concussion.

With that in account, the fighting shows are some of the most incredible I have seen. If I were to describe them in a few words, I would say they are realistic, hilarious at times, but always something that deserve attention, respect, and a huge ovation from the public.

The Music

After an already packed day immersed in the festival, the need for resting a bit starts to arise, and the bar tent offers the perfect condition for it. Artisan mead, beers, soft drinks, all accompanied by the music group of the year, Frænde. You could hear these amazing musicians through the whole festival, playing every day of it. Delighting the listeners with traditional songs and the unmistaken sound of the draglíra (hurdy-gurdy) will echo through the surroundings.

The group Frænde in one of their many performances at the Hafnarfjörður viking festival.
Image: The group Frænde in one of their many performances at the Rimmgýgur viking festival.

… And A Sad Farewell

And so, the Vikings of Iceland and their visitors enjoyed their days at the viking festival, which came to an end on the 18th of June. But do not fear! There is plenty of Viking history and cultural points through Iceland you can explore all year round. From the Icelandic Sagas Museum to the very places the sagas took place all around Iceland. The land of fire and ice is memorable by its mythological and folklore tales that take place within the country’s territory. If you feel adventurous, and curious about Iceland’s history, we offer a private tour we could tailor for your best experience.

Of course, we do recommend you visit Iceland in a small, guided hiking tour. We consider this the best option not to miss not so famous landmarks and the opportunity to learn about the local history. Getting to really know the places you are visiting. . But feel free to learn, explore, and adventure through Iceland, always with due respect to nature, and its various inhabitants, even those you do not get to see. 

P.S.: We took some pictures, but we think it is best for you to check out their own, professional collection of images through the following links:

Their Facebook page:

The collection of the 2024 festival:

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