The culture of Iceland is rich and varied as well as being known for its literary heritage which stems from authors from the 12th to 14th centuries. Other Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silversmithing, and wood carving. The Reykjavík area has several professional theatres, a symphony orchestra, an opera, and a large number of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums. There are also four active folk dance ensembles in Iceland. Iceland’s literacy rate is among the highest in the world, and a love of literature, art, chess, and other intellectual pursuits is widespread.
Icelandic art has been built on northern European traditions of the nineteenth century, but developed in distinct directions in the twentieth century.
Thanks to its vast and varied landscape, Icelandic art is popular for showcasing the environment. It has close ties to other Nordic countries’ art, sharing similar styles.
The music of Iceland includes vibrant folk and pop traditions. Well-known artists from Iceland include medieval music group Voces Thules, alternative rock band The Sugarcubes, singers Björk and Emiliana Torrini, and post-rock band Sigur Rós. Iceland’s traditional music is related to Nordic music forms. The only folk band whose recordings are marketed abroad is Islandica.
Icelandic national costume, collectively known in Icelandic as Þjóðbúningurinn has enjoyed various levels of popularity since the term was coined in Iceland in the 19th century, during the fight for independence. Since 2001 the national costume is regulated by Þjóðbúningaráð (The National Costume Authority), which preserves the correct techniques of making them and instructs people.
Iceland offers wide varieties of traditional cuisine. Þorramatur (food of the þorri) is the Icelandic national food. Nowadays þorramatur is mostly eaten during the ancient Nordic month of þorri, in January and February, as a tribute to old culture. Þorramatur consists of many different types of food. These are mostly offal dishes like pickled ram’s testicles, putrefied shark, singed sheep heads, singed sheep head jam, blood pudding, liver sausage (similar to Scottish haggis) and dried fish (often cod or haddock) with or without butter.
Much of the cuisine centres on Iceland’s fishing industry. Traditional dishes include Hákarl (putrefied shark), graflax (salmon marinated in salt and dill), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hrútspungar (pickled ram’s testicles), and slátur (sausages made from sheep entrails). A popular food is skyr made of cultured skim milk, in the summer time it may be served with bilberries as a dessert. Brennivin is an Icelandic liquor made from potatoes and caraway.
Icelandic is a North Germanic language, the main language of Iceland. It is an Indo-European language belonging to the North Germanic or Nordic branch of the Germanic languages. Historically, it was the westernmost of the Indo-European languages prior to the colonisation of the Americas. Icelandic, Faroese, Norn, and Norwegian formerly constituted West Nordic; Danish and Swedish constituted East Nordic. Norwegian Bokmål later becoming influenced by the latter two languages, the Nordic languages are now divided into mainland Scandinavian languages and Insular Nordic (including Icelandic).
Icelandic literature refers to literature written in Iceland or by Icelandic people. It is best known for the sagas written in medieval times, starting in the 13th century. As Icelandic and Old Norse are almost the same, and because Icelandic works constitute most of Old Norse literature, Old Norse literature is often wrongly considered a subset of Icelandic literature. However, works by Norwegians are present in the standard reader Sýnisbók íslenzkra bókmennta til miðrar átjándu aldar, compiled by Sigurður Nordal on the grounds that the language was the same.
The architecture of Iceland draws from Scandinavian influences and, traditionally, was influenced by the lack of native trees on the island. As a result, grass- and turf-covered houses were developed. Later on, the Swiss chalet style became a prevailing influence in Icelandic architecture as many timber buildings were constructed in this way. Stone and later concrete were popular building materials, the latter especially with the arrival of functionalism in the country. Contemporary architecture in Iceland draws its influences from many sources, with styles varying greatly around the country.
Sports in Iceland are very popular. For nine recent years, Iceland remains a very healthy nation. Popular sports include handball, football, athletics, basketball, golf, volleyball, tennis, swimming, and chess; horseback riding on Icelandic horses is also popular and recently Australian Football and Archery.
Local and national festivals include the annual National Day, celebrating the country’s independence in 1944, Sumardagurinn fyrsti which celebrates the first day of summer, and Sjómannadagurinn which is held every June to pay tribute to the country’s seafaring past.