Kornhús 01.06.2011 to 01.01.2013

Reykjavík during WWII

On 10 May 1940, Iceland was occupied by British troops. A little over a year later, the British presence was replaced by the US military. The wartime occupation had a huge impact on Icelandic society, not least in Reykjavík.

Blessað stríðið

The military authorities offered plenty of employment for Icelanders on a variety of projects and services, and after a long period of unemployment during the Great Depression this gave a much-needed boost to the Icelandic economy.

Icelanders sold large quantities of fish to Britain, in spite of the German embargo and the risk of U-boat attacks. Over 200 Icelandic seamen died during World War II.
In 1940 the population of Iceland numbered 120,000, of whom about 38,000 lived in Reykjavík. In June 1943 about 50,000 Allied troops were stationed in Iceland, the majority in and around Reykjavík. At the height of the occupation, military personnel were almost as numerous as the population of male Icelanders.
Relations between the Icelanders and the foreign military were generally good. Naturally enough, relationships developed between Icelandic women and men in uniform. But many of the foreign troops found their stay in Iceland difficult: they complained of the cold, and tedium.

Reykjavík life was transformed during the war years. The military camps made their mark on the town, and troops were everywhere. Restaurants, shops and services flourished. Popular culture, social life and consumption were transformed by new influences and increased imports. Reykjavík grew and prospered. At the end of the war Icelanders moved into the abandoned military camps to make their homes there.

World War II had such a dramatic impact on Icelandic society that it has sometimes been called blessað stríðið (the “lovely” war)



Árbær Open Air Museum


110 Reykjavík

Tel: (+354) 411 6320


For groups (10+) bookings please send a request to:


Opening hours

Opening hours

Sept-May 13:00-17:00

June-August 10:00-17:00

daily guided tours at 13:00

Christmas & New Year

Closed 24-26 Dec and 31 Dec-1 Jan.

Guided tours on 24 and 26 Dec at 1 PM


Maundy Thursday 13:00-17:00

Good Friday - closed

Easter Sunday - closed

Easter Monday 13:00-17:00




2,150 ISK

Children (0-17 years)

Free admission



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1,320 ISK

Reykjavík Culture Year Pass

7,450 ISK

City Card holders


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