In this article I will share photos of the 20 prettiest pieces of street art and murals in Reykjavik that I found. The capital of Iceland may not be known as the most vibrant, beautiful city around the world. It actually rather feels like an easy-going town where most houses could use some maintenance… Nevertheless, Reykjavik does have a great street art scene. It is actually one of the main things that makes it worth to spend some time in Reykjavik.
Street art city
Reykjavik is often referred to as Greykjavik, especially in winter when the city only gets a few hours of sunlight. We also visited Reykjavik on a grey day, although it was in summer. The street art definitely brightens up the northernmost capital. Reykjavik has had street art and murals since at least the early 90s, but most pieces that you will see are from the last 5-10 years. Nowadays Reykjavik is actually in the top 10 street art cities around the world!
Several of these murals in Reykjavik were created in the context of the Wall Poetry Project. This is a commissioned street art project connected to the annual music festival Iceland Airwaves. Those particular pieces of street art were inspired by songs (which adds a story to it) and mix different artistic styles. This article unveils a tip of the iceberg of all the street art in Reykjavik.
Let’s get started!
This article is written in chronological order of the street art that we came across when walking from the Town Hall (Radhus) parking lot in the west of Reykjavik to the harbor area in the northeast. See map below for more details. So it is not in order of preference, because I think that’s up to the reader to decide for themselves.
- Start and end at: Radhus Parking (Ráðhúsið, Tjarnargata 11), open daily 07:00-00:00h, ISK 240 ISK for the 1st hour and ISK 120 for every hour thereafter, credit cards and coins accepted
- Duration: app. 4 hours on foot
This hand with Coca-Cola bottle looks-like a commercial, painted on the side of Messinn. Although I personally prefer the restaurants on the country side of Iceland, out of all the restaurants in the center of Reykjavik, this is a place where you can eat decent food. It is located at a relatively busy street, at Laekjargata 6.
2: Horses in the night
These five figures riding three blue horses with a black background is quite a mysterious piece of work. Apparently the artist John Gent was inspired by John Grant’s song ‘Pale Green Ghost’ but I am seeing blue not green? This is one of the murals done for the Reykjavik Wall Poetry Project in 2015. This street art can be found just behind Hverfisgallerí, Hverfisgata 4-6. You can also visit it between #13 and #14 as per below.
This isn’t the prettiest street art of Reykjavik, yet it still intrigued me. What would the artist want to tell with this one? Apparently this street art is already here since at least 2014, at this badly maintained garden (or overgrown parking lot) just behind Laugavegur.
4: Dim Sum
Previously this place at Bergstaðastræti 4 was called MB Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant. Now it is a Chinese take-away. The bench with ‘Hola Señorita’ in front seem to have disappeared, however the street art on the wall is still there. Photo left below.
5: Ode to Mother
Laugavegur is a main shopping street in Reykjavik full of murals (street art on the walls). This huge black-and-white mural is located on the corner of Laugavegur and Klappastígur, on the shop of Mjúk Iceland (Laugavegur 23). It is quite eye-catching, although you it may make you wonder: what is it that you actually see? Someone described it as “a hallucinatory haze”. The Caratoes created it here for the Wall Poetry Project at least five years ago. This piece of art was inspired by and named after a song called ‘Ode to Mother’ by Icelandic band Ylja.
6: RWS self-portrait
This is a self-portrait of group of artists called RWS. You can see their logo on the T-shirt the girl in the middle is wearing. They are responsible for a number of street arts and murals in Reykjavik. Just off Laugavegur. See map below.
This wolf themed mural was created by American artist Elle for the Wall Poetry Project, inspired by the song ‘Tuttugu og Eitthvað’. The figure looks a bit like an elf, surrounded by a bunch of wolves. Elves play a more evil role in the Icelandic culture than many foreigners think, for example they are held responsible for unfortunate events like certain road accidents on Iceland.
8: Leopard cat
About 2.5 meters wide, I like this street art of a feline with a tiger tail, leopard body and a cat’s head who looks around the corner. Cats are fascinating animals; domesticated and pretty, but never really lost their true nature as feline hunters. This piece of street art by Arnór Kári reflects that remarkably well.
Just hanging out with the other flittering fellas… I love birds and these look so cute! The bright colors and the details of the birds are done really well. Visible on the side of Fish & Co at Frakkastígur 25, in a side street of Laugavegur. See map below.
10: Fantasy Bakery
The owner of the Brauð & Co (Frakkastígur 16) must have thought: if I embellish my bakery shop, it must attract more customers. And with success. The fantasy street art really brightened up this building, loved by locals and tourists alike. Step in for a freshly baked delicious cinnamon roll!
This mural of a vampire in the neck of a woman is hard to miss at Laugavegur 64-66. Unfortunately someone has tainted it with some ugly tags underneath, what a shame. Blood sucking bastards! Artists *FACE and Agent Fresco created this mural for the Wall Poetry Project. They were inspired by an Icelandic saga (medieval mythological story) called Laxdæla Saga. In Nordic mythology a so-called draugur is a creepy creature who can draw the hugr (will) from someone’s body. In Reykjavik there is also a Saga Museum, where you can learn more about this medieval mythology.
Walk a bit further up to Laugavegur 70 and spot a mural of a gyrfalcon, Icelands’s national bird.
This mermaid mural by street artist Raus can be found at Njálsgata. Photo left below.
13: Mythical fish
Diagonally opposite of the famous Harpa building of Reykjavik, on the other side of the bend road, there is this mythical blue fish on the wall of a residential building at Skúlagata 4. It is literally a few hundred meters from the sea, so I guess that’s what inspired the unknown artist. An unusual piece of art with distinctive style.
In black-and-white, with grey background, 27 creepy masked figures walk around while holding lamps. Created by an artist called Phlegm on a wall at Aegisgata 7, near the harbor. Not the most cheerful piece of art but well done with many details. You can watch it for a while and still discover new things.
15: Fist against Fear
This ‘fist mural’ as I call it, is actually called ‘Heavy stones fear no weather’. It was created in 2016 by Swiss artists Wes21 and Onur for the Wall Poetry Project. They were inspired by a song called Empire of Icelandic indie folk/rock band Of Monsters and Men, which was formed in Reykjavík. It’s about not fearing mountains and heavy rain, which is quite a relevant message for any Iceland road tripper!
It’s right on the side of a restaurant. Is it a turkey? Nope, it’s a phoenix (fönix in Icelandic). This piece of art by Sara Riel, who studied arts in Berlin, is not at the Fönix restaurant, but at Forréttabarinn on Nýlendugata near the harbor. The phoenix mural is there since 2012. The restaurant is one of the best in the city, with normal mid-range prices compared to other restaurants we ate at during our Iceland roundtrip.
Check out Hverfisgata for another mural by Sara Riel, the Mushroom, or Njalsgata for Furry Flight.
17: Girl with Cello
This girl with cello is one of my favorite pieces of street art here in Reykjavik. Little birds fly out when she’s playing her instrument. Isn’t it our job as humans to be collecting great moments? I totally agree with Urban Nation, who created this beautiful mural. It can be found in the Vesturbær neighborhood, on the corner of Nýlendugata and Bakkastigur, close to the port. See map below.
18: Man of the house
Australian artist Guido Van Helten, who grew up in street art capital Melbourne, made several wonderful pieces of street art in Reykjavik, and this is one of them. I call it ‘The man of the house’. It is based on a picture of the grandfather of the lady who owns the house, the house her grandfather built. You can find this house on the corner of Seljavegur and Vesturgata. See map below.
19: Aquarium alley
Just a few houses down at Seljavegur with the Man of the house, there is an alley that gives you the feeling of walking through a huge aquarium tunnel or something. It’s quite a funny type of street art, although one of them looks a bit mean too.
20. Duck Girl
“Home is where you take a family – family is who you make it” is the text that comes along with this beautiful mural made by Nomad clan + Hera. It’s on a building that is currently under reconstruction (summer 2020), opposite the bend between Olís Ánanaust and the Saga Museum. Possibly the bird in the girl’s arms is an Eider duck, where I also wrote about in my earlier article Langhus Farm: riding an Icelandic horse in northwest Iceland. One of the best murals in Reykjavik.
Temporary and unique
These Reykjavik street art photos were taken in the summer of 2020. Whenever you visit Reykjavik, the presence individual pieces of street art cannot be guaranteed, but one thing is for sure: there will always be street art in Reykjavik. Certain pieces may disappear, for example because the building was demolished, but there will be enough talented street artists who can make new murals elsewhere, or international artists will be flown in to brighten up the walls of Reykjavik.
I feel this is what makes street art so unique. The transience and the art’s ability to reflect the present, what is happening here now? Street art is a great way of learning more about the culture and what is on the minds of a city’s residents. I guess that’s also why it’s gaining more and more popularity.
The street art in Reykjavik can be found literally on the street, as shown already on the first picture in the article of Rainbow Street. There is a part of Laugavegur, the main shopping street of Reykjavik, which is called the Lighthouse Village Creative Quarter. It includes several pieces of street art that are literally made on the street.
With this article I do not want to give the impression that this is a complete overview of all the street art in Reykjavik. There are loads more. Just wanted to show you the 20 pieces of street art that I saw and that you can see in the center of Reykjavik in half a day, as a handy guide, nothing more, nothing less.
I do realize that I have missed a few great pieces while walking around the city, including some of Guido van Helten’s most important work (*flushed with shame*). And apparently there is also a flying unicorn somewhere… Oh well, I guess you always need a reason to return for.
Map Reykjavik street art
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and more! It is smartphone friendly; you can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. To customize the map to your interests, simply (un)select categories. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
Where to stay in Reykjavik
Hopefully you can find (half) a day to admire Reykjavik’s street art yourself, perhaps the day (before) you will fly out for example? Should you need a place to stay in Reykjavik, the day(s) after your arrival or before your departure from Iceland for instance, then I would recommend staying at either:
Both are stylish, very centrally located and provide all convenience you may need while staying in Iceland’s capital for a reasonable, market price.
I hope you liked this article and found it useful. What are your favorite pieces of street art in Reykjavik? My personal favorites are # 9, 17, 18 and 20. Please let me know should you have any questions or additional tips, feel free to post a comment below.
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Interested to discover more street art around the world? Earlier I posted the article Exploring colorful Lisbon street art.