About Viðey

Unspoiled nature reigns on the island of Viðey, which has a unique place in Icelandic history. Birdlife abounds on the island, while out­stand­ing works of modern art also make their mark. We hope that you will enjoy your stay and that you help us keep the Island the trea­surous pearl that it is.


Viðey was inhabited from soon after the sett­lement ofIce­land around 900 AD. In 1225 a mona­stery was founded on the island by Þorvaldur Gissurarson, with the ass­ist­ance of scholar/chieftain Snorri Sturluson. The first mona­stery in the sout­hern quarter, it soon grew wealthy. At its zenith it was the second richest mona­stery in Iceland, own­ing up to 116 estates.

In 1539 the mona­stery came to a dramatic end when it was rai­ded by Danish soldiers when the Reformation was imposed on the Icelandic church.

For the next two cent­uries, Viðey belonged to the royal estate of Bessastaðir. A home for pau­p­ers was loca­ted on the island.

Skúli Magnússon

Skúli Magnússon was the first Icelander to become Treasurer, and for half a cent­ury he was one of the most powerful men in the coun­try. He had Viðey House built as his official resi­dence; it was completed in 1755.

But Skúli did not only make his mark on Viðey. He also founded the first industrial enterprise inIce­land, the Innréttingar wool­len works­hops, which led to the beg­inn­ing of urban develop­ment in Reykjavík. Hence he is known as the Father of Reykjavík.

Skúli died on Viðey island in 1794 and buried bene­ath the altar of the church he had built there 20 years before.

The Stephensen family

In 1794 Ólafur Stephensen, the first Icelander to be Governor of Iceland moved to Viðey, where he lived until his death in 1812. He was renow­ned for his hospitality. His son Magnús Stephensen, presi­dent of the High Court, took over the estate at his death, and in 1817 he bought the island from the royal estate. He instal­led a print­ing press on the island, which functi­o­ned 1819–44. Magnús died in 1833, and the island remained in the Stephensen family until the end of the 19th century.

20th cent­ury

In 1901 Eggert Briem and his wife Katrín Pétursdóttur started large-scale farm­ing on Viðey. They built a cattle-shed hous­ing 48 cows and sold about 200,000 litres of milk per year to the inhabitants of Reykjavík.

In 1907 Pétur J. Thorsteinsson and Thor Jensen founded the P. J. Thorsteinsson & Co. fis­hing comp­any, with a share capital of a million krónur, a huge amount at the time. Hence it was always known as Milljónafélagið (the Million Corporation). It was loca­ted at the eastern end of the island, where a village of houses and fish process­ing facilities developed, adjacent to the best har­bour facilities onFaxa­flói Bay. At that time Reykjavík had no proper harbour.

The Million Corp. went out of bus­iness in 1914, but fish process­ing cont­inued. In 1924 the Kári comp­any made the island its fis­hing headquart­ers, and the pop­ulation of the village rose to a high point of 138 in 1930. A year later the fis­hing comp­any fai­led, after which the island­ers began to move away. By 1943 the village was uninhabited.

Farming cont­inued on Viðey until the 1950s, after which the island was unin­habited. By 1968, when Viðey House and the church passed to the National Museum of Iceland, the build­ings were sev­erely dilapi­da­ted. In 1986 the Icelandic state presented the build­ings to the City of Reykjavík. Renovation work on the build­ings was completed in 1988.


Vegetation flouris­hes on Viðey island, which was for cent­uries reg­ar­ded as one of the best esta­tes inIce­land. The fields yielded large quan­tities of hay, and traces can still be seen of walls built to keep graz­ing livestock out of the hayfields. Over the cent­uries, the natural mars­hes of the island have been drained to provide more agricultural land. Today 156 species of vascular plants grow on Viðey, or one-third of the flora of Iceland.

Treasurer Skúli Magnússon made vari­ous horticultural experi­ments in the 18th cent­ury, grow­ing e.g. potatoes, cabbage and tobacco, and plant­ing trees. One of Skúli’s experi­ments was a resound­ing success: the caraway plants he introduced still flourish all over the island. The caraway plant generally ripens in August.


Many of the oldest sources on Viðey island relate to its bir­d­life. Over the cent­uries, the eider (Somateria moll­issima) colony on Viðey was an import­ant resource, providing costly eiderdown. After decl­in­ing in the first half of the 20th cent­ury, the eider pop­ulation of Viðey is reco­ver­ing, and the eider is now the comm­o­nest bird on the island. Its major breed­ing areas are on eit­her side of the Þórsnes hea­dland: this area is closed to visitors dur­ing the nest­ing season.

Other common birds on Viðey island include the fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis), greylag goose (Anser anser), snipe (Gallinago gall­inago), the purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima) and oystercatcher (Haematopus ostr­a­legus). A few years ago the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) started to breed on Viðey island. A total of about 30 species breed on the island, which is thus a great attraction for bird-lovers. The ponds on the ist­hmus (Eiðið) are especially rich in birdlife.

Please show consi­deration for the birds on the island: keep to the mar­ked foot­p­aths and do not dist­urb nests or nest­ing birds.


Two million years ago Viðey was an active volcano, which is known as the Viðey volcano, and the rock of Viðey island is the oldest in the Reykjavík area. At the end of the last Ice Age, 12–13,000 years ago, the sea level rose due to the melt­ing of the glacial ice, and the island was inunda­ted. When the sea level dropped, the island rose once more from the sea 9–10,000 years ago.

Viðey island is about 1.6 km in total area, compris­ing Heimaey (HomeIsland) and Vesturey (WestIsland), which are lin­ked by a narrow neck of land or ist­hmus, Eiðið. The eastern­most part of Heimaey is known as Austurey (East Island).

Spectacular rock formati­ons can be seen along the shore of the island, as well as on Virkishöfði (Battlement Headland) and Eiðisbjarg. The island is const­antly being eroded by the forces of the sea, and this is especially cle­arly seen at Kríusandur and Þórsnes.

Please take care when walk­ing along the cliffs.




104 Reykjavík


(+354) 411-6360

(+354) 519-5000

Contact us:

Viðey Island


Ferry Schedule

Ferry Schedule


Daily from 15 May - 31 Aug. Starting at 10:15 (am) going to Viðey. Last ferry from Viðey is at 18:30 (6:30 pm).


1 Sept - 14 May. Only ferry service during weekends from 13:15-15:15.




2,100 ISK

Children 7 - 17 years

1,050 ISK

Children 0 - 6 years

Free, accompanied by an adult

67+ and people with disabilities

1,890 ISK

City Cardholders


The prices are valid for 2023

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