Lonely Planet Writer

Reykjavík's oldest house dating from 1772 to be turned into a museum

The oldest house in central Reykjavík has been bought by the city, and will be turned into a museum covering Reykjavík’s history, according to Iceland Review. The plan for the development of the 250-year-old building includes an underground passage that could connect it with the nearby Settlement Exhibition, which celebrates the Vikings arrival in Iceland.

Reykjavik's oldest house is about to become a museum
The oldest house in Reykjavik. Image by Ullstein Bild/Getty

The house, located at Aðalstræti 10 in the heart of Old Reykjavík, dates from 1772. At the time, the country was in desperate straits, with famine, smallpox, volcanic eruptions and oppressive rule from Denmark leaving the country on the edge of collapse. In 1783, the Laki crater erupted, spewing out lava and poisonous gas for eight months. The Danes even considered relocating the surviving population to Denmark. And although Reykjavík has a long history ­– Icelandic sagas claim it was the site of the country’s first settlement – the city only had a population of around 200 in the late 18th century.

As well as exploring those desperate early times, the new museum, which is due to open in 2018, will focus on the development of the city. This saw industries like tanning, curing, the wool trade, shipbuilding and fishing encourage trade, as Iceland moved slowly to independence.

Reykjavík Major Dagur B Eggertsson told Vísir: “we are starting to develop an exhibition and hope it can be ready by next year, when it will be 100 years since Iceland gained independence. Here we’d like to see an exhibition about Reykjavík’s beginning and development. We want visitors to be able to get an idea of how Reykjavík came into being. There are many interesting research projects now in relation to archaeological discoveries in the city centre and we would also like to respond to this great interest in urban planning and the development of the city.”

Reykjavik, Iceland with the old town in the background
Downtown Reykjavik and Old Harbour Image by: Egill Bjarnason /Lonely Planet

Reykjavík is now one of the greenest and safest cities in the world, with tourism is an increasingly important industry. Visitors come to tour the Golden Circle, see the Northern Lights and bathe in the Blue Lagoon, with city sights like the Hallgrímskirkja church also popular attractions.