Good Vibes in Iceland's Northern-Most Town
On a map, Siglufjörður is a remote outpost hemmed in by the tall peaks of Troll Peninsula, a stone-throw from the Arctic Circle. But come closer and the busy streets of cute cafés and award-winning museums will reveal the world-famous destination.
Siglufjörður’s lure began at the turn of the 20th century when Norwegian fishermen discovered incredibly rich waters of herring. Some four decades later the town was among Iceland’s largest: sailors and ‘herring girls’ flocked to the booming outpost to strike rich, if not spending all the money at the bars and cinemas (the town had two!).
The herring era went bust – that silvery fish cares little for economic stability - and after decades of decline, the town was revived by turning industrial buildings into cafés, ski resorts and breweries.
The Herring Era Museum
The best example of Siglufjörður's modern remake is the award-winning Herring Era Museum.
Housed in an old herring factory - a cluster of five buildings - the museum goes beyond the industrial and nautical artifacts and paints a vivid picture of the boom-and-bust cycle defining Siglufjörður and many more towns along Iceland’s northern coast.
The museum’s shop is fun to browse as well, with some unique souvenirs.
The Folk Music Centre (and its festival)
One of the oldest homes in Siglufjörður - a small wooden house in the center of town - houses the Folk Music Centre. While Iceland is better known for its prestigious literary heritage, folk music (known as þjóðlög) are often forgotten and overlooked.
The museum is only open at the peak of summer. In early July, the four-day Folk Music Festival attracts performers and attendees from all over.
Herhúsið, an artist residency at the center of town, seeks residence working in music, along with other art forms.
Siglufjörður’s Culinary Scene
Herring is, surprisingly, not a common menu item in Siglufjörður. Other types of fish, however, are very much the course of the day.
Torgið restaurant caters to groups and families with a menu ranging in variety and price; soup and pizzas, lamb chops and cod. Fish & Chips Siglufjörður, on the other hand, fits the entire menu into its name; fantastically fresh. Across the road is the local bakery, Aðalbakarinn, with warm and cold lunch options. The bakery also has a bar (!) serving the local Segull 67 Brewery.
Fine-dining comes down to Hotel Sigló, a glorious landmark by the sea, and Siglunes Restaurant where the Moroccan master chef Jaouad Hbib has created a culinary experience unlike any in this part of Iceland. Book ahead.
Winter in Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður becomes a destination for Icelandic travelers over winter when the Skarðsdalur Ski Area opens up some of the best slopes in Iceland. International skiers prefer the extreme: off-piste skiing on the Troll Peninsula, via snow-cat or helicopter. More on skiing in northern Iceland.
Getting to Siglufjörður
Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður, separated by two mountain rigs on the Troll Peninsula, were a day-trip distant before the opening of Héðinsfjarðargöng Tunnel in 2010.
The tunnels - perhaps to avoid more rivalry between the towns - is named after the deserted fjord between them: Héðinsfjörður. The quiet inlet, hardly accessible before the tunnel, offers fishing in Héðinsfjarðarvatn and lovely walks.