Everything You Need to Know About Iceland’s Independence Day

Chris Ayliffe, Founder of Arctic Meta

Iceland, a land of dramatic landscapes and vibrant culture, is not just a traveler’s paradise but also a nation with a rich history of independence and celebration. Every June 17th, Icelanders come together to celebrate their National Day, or Þjóðhátíðardagur, with a unique blend of tradition, pageantry, and pure joy. If you’re planning to visit Iceland during this festive time, there’s no better place to stay than the Hill Hotel in Flúðir. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about Iceland’s Independence Day and how to make the most of it at the Hill Hotel.

What is Iceland’s National Day (Þjóðhátíðardagur)?

Iceland’s National Day, known locally as Þjóðhátíðardagur, is a celebration marking the foundation of the Republic of Iceland. This day commemorates Iceland’s declaration of independence from Danish rule on June 17, 1944. It’s a day of national pride, reflecting on the country’s journey to self-governance and celebrating Icelandic culture in all its glory.

When is Iceland’s National Day?

Iceland’s National Day is celebrated annually on June 17th. This date was chosen to honor the birth of Jón Sigurðsson, a leading figure in Iceland’s independence movement. The day is a national holiday, with festivities taking place throughout the country, making it a perfect time to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture.

A Brief History of the Icelandic National Day

A man celebrating Icelandic National Day under a rainbow at Skogafoss waterfall

The journey to Iceland’s independence is a fascinating tale of resilience and determination. For centuries, Iceland was under Norwegian and then Danish rule. The early 19th century saw a growing movement for independence, spearheaded by Jón Sigurðsson, whose birthday was ultimately chosen for the National Day.

Jón Sigurðsson was a passionate advocate for Icelandic independence and worked tirelessly to gather support for the cause. His efforts laid the groundwork for the eventual declaration of independence, which came on June 17, 1944, amidst the backdrop of World War II. With Denmark occupied by Germany, Iceland seized the opportunity to declare its independence in a peaceful manner. The ceremony took place at Þingvellir, a site of immense historical significance, as it was the location of Iceland’s ancient parliament, the Althing. This day marked the birth of the Icelandic Republic, with Sveinn Björnsson becoming the country’s first president.

How is Iceland’s National Day Celebrated?

Seydifjodur church in East Iceland during the summertime

Iceland’s National Day is celebrated with a mix of official ceremonies, parades, entertainment, and community gatherings. The day typically starts with a formal ceremony in Reykjavik, followed by parades featuring the Fjallkonan (Mountain Woman), a symbolic figure representing Icelandic nature and spirit.

Throughout the day, towns and cities across Iceland come alive with concerts, street performances, and traditional dances. Families and friends gather to enjoy picnics, games, and the festive atmosphere. It’s a day where the entire nation comes together in a joyous celebration of their identity and heritage.

One of the highlights of the day is the appearance of the Fjallkonan, who recites poetry and embodies the spirit of Icelandic nature and womanhood. This tradition, along with the numerous parades and cultural performances, makes National Day a vibrant and memorable experience.

Where Are the Best Celebrations?

While Reykjavik hosts the largest and most spectacular celebrations, National Day festivities can be found throughout Iceland. Akureyri, the “Capital of the North,” also offers vibrant celebrations with parades, concerts, and cultural events. Smaller towns like Flúðir, where the Hill Hotel is located, provide a more intimate but equally spirited experience of Icelandic hospitality and tradition.

In addition to Reykjavik and Akureyri, towns like Ísafjörður, Egilsstaðir, and Vestmannaeyjar also have their own unique ways of celebrating National Day. Each location offers a different perspective on Icelandic culture, allowing visitors to experience the diversity and richness of the nation’s traditions.

What Are the Local Traditions For Icelandic National Day?

A hiker standing in the midst of the Icelandic Highlands during Iceland's National Day

One of the most cherished traditions is the appearance of the Fjallkonan. Dressed in a national costume, the Fjallkonan recites poetry and embodies the spirit of Icelandic nature and womanhood. This tradition highlights the deep connection Icelanders have with their natural surroundings.

Parades featuring children and scouts in traditional outfits are another staple. You’ll see flags waving, bands playing, and people of all ages joining in the procession. In Reykjavik, the day often includes a speech from the President and other dignitaries, reflecting on the significance of independence and national unity.

Street performances and concerts are common, with stages set up in public squares and parks. Traditional Icelandic music and contemporary performances blend together, creating a festive atmosphere that resonates with people of all ages.

Another interesting tradition is the consumption of traditional Icelandic foods. Pylsur (Icelandic hot dogs) are particularly popular during the festivities, and you’ll find food stalls offering skyr, fresh seafood, and other local delicacies.

What is There to do on Iceland’s National Day?

Live music in Reykjavík during Icelandic National Day

Whether you’re in Reykjavik or staying at the Hill Hotel in Flúðir, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy on Iceland’s National Day. From formal ceremonies to family-friendly events, here’s a taste of what you can expect:

– Explore Local Markets: Many towns set up markets selling local crafts, food, and souvenirs. It’s a great way to experience Icelandic culture and support local artisans.

– Enjoy Live Music and Performances: Throughout the day, you’ll find stages set up with musicians, dancers, and other performers showcasing Iceland’s vibrant arts scene.

– Indulge in Icelandic Cuisine: National Day is a perfect excuse to indulge in traditional Icelandic dishes. Look out for food stalls and restaurants offering classics like pylsur (Icelandic hot dogs), skyr (a yogurt-like dairy product), and fresh seafood.

– Join in the Fun and Games: Many communities organize games and activities for children and families. From sack races to tug-of-war, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained.

– Visit Historical Sites: Use the National Day as an opportunity to explore Iceland’s rich history. Sites like Þingvellir National Park, with its historical significance, provide a deeper understanding of the country’s heritage.

– Participate in Outdoor Activities: Given Iceland’s stunning landscapes, National Day is also a great time to partake in outdoor activities. Hiking, horse riding, and exploring geothermal areas are popular options.

What is There to do in Reykjavik?

Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik Iceland on Iceland's National Day

Reykjavik, the heart of Iceland, is the epicenter of National Day celebrations. Here are some highlights to look forward to:

Morning Ceremony At Austervelli

The day kicks off with a solemn yet inspiring ceremony at Austurvöllur Square, in front of the Parliament House. Dignitaries, including the President, deliver speeches, and the national anthem is sung. It’s a moment of reflection and pride, setting the tone for the day’s celebrations.

Parade From Hallgrímskirkja

No National Day in Reykjavik is complete without the grand parade starting at Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic church overlooking the city. The parade winds through the streets, featuring the Fjallkonan, marching bands, and various cultural and community groups. It’s a colorful, lively procession that brings the city to life.

National Holiday Fun in Hljóskálagarden

Hljómskálagarður Park transforms into a hub of activity on National Day. Families flock here for picnics, games, and entertainment. You’ll find stages with live music, food stalls, and plenty of activities for kids, making it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the festivities.

Celebrations in Klambratún Park

Another popular spot is Klambratún Park, where locals and visitors gather for more live performances, food, and family fun. The park’s spacious lawns are ideal for a leisurely afternoon of celebration, surrounded by the buzz of National Day joy.

Visit the National Museum of Iceland

For those interested in delving deeper into Icelandic history and culture, the National Museum of Iceland offers fascinating exhibits. On National Day, the museum often hosts special events and activities that provide insights into Iceland’s journey to independence.

Enjoy Reykjavik’s Nightlife

As the day’s celebrations wind down, Reykjavik’s vibrant nightlife takes over. Many bars and clubs host special events and live music performances, ensuring that the festivities continue well into the night. It’s a great way to mingle with locals and experience the city’s dynamic social scene.

How Can You Enjoy Iceland’s National Day at The Hill Hotel in Flúðir?

Hotel suits at the Hill Hotel in Flúðir Iceland

Staying at the Hill Hotel in Flúðir offers a unique and tranquil way to experience Iceland’s National Day. Located in the picturesque countryside, the hotel provides a serene escape while still being close enough to partake in the festivities. Here’s how you can make the most of your stay:

– Join Local Celebrations: Flúðir may be small, but it boasts a warm community spirit. Check out local events, such as parades and gatherings, to get a taste of rural Icelandic celebrations.

– Relax in Hot Springs: The Flúðir region is famous for its geothermal activity. After a day of celebration, unwind in one of the nearby hot springs, enjoying the natural beauty and soothing waters.

– Explore the Golden Circle: Use the National Day as an opportunity to explore the Golden Circle, which includes Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall. The Hill Hotel’s convenient location makes it easy to visit these iconic sites.

– Enjoy Hotel Amenities: The Hill Hotel offers cozy accommodations, delicious Icelandic cuisine, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Relax in the comfortable lounge or take a leisurely stroll

around the hotel grounds.

– Participate in Special Hotel Events: The Hill Hotel often organizes special events for guests during National Day. From traditional Icelandic meals to cultural performances, these events provide an intimate and authentic experience of the holiday.

– Engage in Outdoor Activities: The beautiful surroundings of Flúðir offer numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. Hiking, horseback riding, and fishing are just a few of the options available. The hotel staff can assist in arranging these activities to enhance your stay.


The Icelandic flag flying at the edge of a fjord in Iceland during Iceland's National Day

Iceland’s National Day is more than just a holiday; it’s a vibrant celebration of the country’s history, culture, and spirit. Whether you’re in the bustling streets of Reykjavik or the serene countryside of Flúðir, you’ll find a warm welcome and a festive atmosphere that makes this day truly special.

Staying at the Hill Hotel in Flúðir not only gives you a peaceful retreat but also places you in the heart of Icelandic tradition. From local parades to relaxing hot springs, your National Day experience will be unforgettable. So pack your bags, join the festivities, and celebrate Iceland’s independence in style!

By immersing yourself in the rich traditions and joyous celebrations of Iceland’s National Day, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the nation’s culture and history. The Hill Hotel in Flúðir offers the perfect blend of relaxation and festivity, ensuring that your visit to Iceland during this special time is nothing short of magical. Whether you’re exploring the vibrant streets of Reykjavik or the scenic beauty of Flúðir, Iceland’s National Day promises an experience filled with joy, pride, and unforgettable memories.

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