Holidays in Iceland

Like in all Nordic countries, the holidays in Iceland are quite a few compared to many other countries. When you travel around here, you need to be aware when the mandatory days off are, when most stores, services and such are closed. Although we have mandatory holidays, the rules for closing shops has been amended a bit to serve all you guys who wants to travel around Iceland

There are 16 days each year when it’s mandatory, well, more or less, when you’ll find most places in Iceland closed. gas stations are for example hardly ever affected by this and keep their ordinary hours.  Before you go on a trip, it’s good to be aware when these days are so you won’t get stuck without food somewhere.

  • New year’s day – Nýársdagur. One of those days when everything seems almost deserted for most people are just lying home, enjoying the entry of the new year.
  • Maundy Thursday – Skírdagur. A christian holiday that falls on the Thursday before Easter. Again, most stores and services are closed.
  • Good Friday – Föstudagurinn langi. The last Friday before Easter and could be one of the days where you’ll find most places really closed.
  • Easter Monday – Páskadagur. The Monday after the Good Friday. Again, most places will be closed.
  • First day of summer – Sumardagurinn fyrsta. This day always appear on the first Thursday after the 18th of April. This is not a christian holiday. It’s the first day of summer in the old Norse calendar. Legend say if the night of First day of summer freezes, it means winter and summer freezes together and means we get a good summer with great weather. You’ll find some stores and services being open on this day, especially restaurants and such.
  • 1st of May – 1. Maí. The international worker’s day. Every year you’ll see a big march going down Skólavörðustígur & Laugarvegur in Reykjavik, a very peaceful one. Not everything is shut down here and is usually like the First day of summer, you’ll find places open here and there.
  • Ascension Day – Uppstigningardagur. This day comes 40 days after Easter and always on a Thursday. Most places will be closed but a few restaurants will be open.
  • Pentecost -Hvítasunnudagur Is on the 49th day after Easter day and is the tenth day after Ascension Day. One of those days when most stores are closed so plan ahead.
  • Whit Monday – Annar í Hvítasunnu.  The second day after Pentecost. Another day when most stores and such are closed.
  • 17th of June – Þjóðhátíðardagur Íslands. Iceland’s national day, the day of independence, the birthday of Jóns Sigurðsson, the leader of the fight for independence.
Icelandic National Day
  • Commerce day (Tradesmen’s Day) – Verslunarmannahelgi.  This is by far, the biggest camping weekend in Iceland. If you want to stay in a more busy place, you’ll need to book in advance most likely or arrive very early when this weekend arrives. This weekend starts on the first weekend in August where Monday is the Commerce day. If your flight home is on that Monday, make sure you you are in Reykjavik/Keflavik very early or you drive to Reykjavik the day before the seriously HEAVY traffic Monday! If not, there is a big chance you’ll miss your flight since you will be stuck in traffic.
  • Culture night – Menningarnótt. This is not a holiday but tourists residing in Reykjavík needs to be aware of this one. It takes place roughly around the middle of August and the center of Reykjavík will be closed down for traffic early in the day. Not even people living there can’t drive to their homes after the gates come up. This is important to have in mind if you are on a road trip and need to get back to your accommodation if it is downtown. It also means you can’t get a taxi and have to walk outside of the gates. If your plane leaves late, you should leave well before the fireworks starts. After they are done, the traffic situation will be a nightmare for a few hours.
Culture night in Reykjavik
  • Christmas eve – Aðfangadagur. After 12 o’clock on the 24th of December, most stores closes and that includes most restaurants too. You might find super expensive grocery stores like 10-11 to be open but that is not an certainty. There are a few restaurants that have decided to cater for the tourists and are open part of the evening but you will have to research to find out which those few might be. After 6pm almost everything will be closed.
  • Christmas day – Jóladagur. The day when most people wear their pajamas the whole day and don’t go anywhere and that includes all stores too. Opening times for places are roughly like on Christmas eve but it’s the whole day instead.
  • New year’s eve – Gamlárskvöld.  Usually everything closes at 1pm but things are slowly changing for New year’s eve. If you want to have a nice dinner during the evening, you will have to order it, the more popular restaurant, the earlier you have to order.  There is one event that takes place on New year’s eve which one might call a phenomenon. At 22:30 (10:30pm), all roads in all towns and villages will be deserted, well almost! That is due to an annual TV show that comes on called Áramótaskaupið, the New year’s comedy where the producers makes fun of events from the past year.

If you are planing a vacation in Iceland, check out if it coincides with any of the holidays. The only thing you have to keep in mind is to make sure you have food and shelter except when it comes to the Commerce day when you really have to plan your return if your flight home is on that Monday. If you get stuck in traffic, there is nothing you can do except be patient.

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