Siglufjörður walk through Iceland's history of boom and bust, vividly told at the Herring Era Museum

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 Herring Era Museum spans 2500 square meters of museum space that was once full of that small, silvery fish

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. 

Þjóðlagasetur Íslands, the Folk Music Centre

Þjóðlagasetrið, The Folk Music Centre, packs a lot of tunes into a small wooden house

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.

Hotel Sigló

Hotel Sigló, a town landmark, is among the largest hotel in northern Iceland

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.

Siglufjörður view

Main Street. Winter arriving and the sun barely rising above the mountains

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. 

Ólafsfjörður Swimming Pool

The swimming pool in Ólafsfjörður beats the indoor bath in Siglufjörður - just 15 minutes away via the Héðinsfjarðargöng Tunnel

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. 

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Siglufjörður: Remote Town With History and Great Vibes