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Friday, July 8 update: Saga Museum and Whales of Iceland

As I noted yesterday, the Saga Museum has moved to a new home by the harbor. Similar to the Settlement Center in Borgarnes, admission includes an audio guide, which walks you through the numbered exhibits.

saga wide

It takes about half an hour. The stories are lively, and kept the kids’ interest for most of the time, though there were a few brief periods where they got a little bored. But then something recaptured their interest; look for the viking figure that actually moves. It’s very subtle!

saga man

(It’s not that guy, though.)

This is one of the more expensive museums in Iceland; Admission is 2100 krona for adults, and 800 krona for “children”; I was told that means kids 6-12. Under 6 should be free. That means that a hypothetical family of 2 adults and 2 kids who are 8 and 10 would pay 5800 krona, or $47. I can’t think of a museum that would cost much more.

But, my kids really enjoyed it. The audio guide ensures that they will take their time, and offers a high likelihood that they will get something out of it. The wax figures are very realistic (and some of them are even fairly violent). All of that makes for a memorable experience.

Just down the street from the Saga Museum is one of the Reykjavik City Museums, the Reykjavik Maritime Museum. However, the parking lot was full, and the lot at the Saga Museum says you can only park there for the Saga Museum. So we decided to save the Maritime Museum for another day. You may end up having to park by the old harbor, which would make for about a 10 minute walk. Don’t forget your hats, as it can be windy down by the water.

Whales of Iceland

Instead, we headed a few blocks away to the new Whales of Iceland museum. This is another very expensive museum; adults cost 2900 isk, which may be the most expensive museum in the country? Kids 7-15 cost 1500 krona. But, unlike in many other museums, you can end up saving quite a bit off of these “sticker” prices.

First, a family of 2 adults and 2 kids can get a family ticket for 5800 isk. (And any kids under 7 would also get in free.) Next, if you book online at least a day ahead, you save 15%. You’ll have to actually click “book” before you will see the discounted price. Suddenly our hypothetical family of 4 costs 4930 krona, or $40. That’s still a lot, but much cheaper than the original prices implied. And it includes coffee and tea.

So is it worth it? The museum does a good job of building anticipation, as you start with the smallest whales:

whale museum small whales

And then you turn the corner and see the giants:

whale museum big whales

Free coffee and tea can be found at the snack bar area at the end of the exhibit, along with a few cakes and other drinks which are for sale. Also included with your admission is an audio guide, which you can download onto your iPhone or Android phone. The good news is that the museum’s Wifi is stellar, which is especially good since I think the total audio guide download ends up being close to 300 MB.

I don’t actually know, since the download didn’t work on my Android phone:

whale audio tour broken

The next day, I was prompted to download an additional 193 MB of data, which is the actual audio. But that never actually downloaded. Hopefully your audio experience will be better than mine. If it isn’t, note that there is an iPad at the end of the exhibit that you can borrow; it has the audio guide installed already. You will also find an Oculus 3D device which lets you explore some 3D underwater environments.

UPDATE July 22: We went back to the whale museum, and I was able to get the app working on my phone. I think it was a permissions issue. I gave the app permission to use my storage:

whale app permissions

This is under Settings–> Apps–> Whales of Iceland. After adding the permissions (I gave it all 3), it was able to download the rest of the data, and it worked well.

whale app working

And the audio guide is excellent– it’s well thought out and engaging. I still think the app is bloated; an audio guide shouldn’t take up a quarter of a gig of space. But it’s worth listening to, whether you put it on your phone or are hopefully able to borrow a tablet from the museum.

If you plan to do a whale watching tour, this museum would make a great addition to that; they offer a package that includes a whale watching trip from Reykjavik and a visit to the museum, though we recommend a trip with North Sailing if you’ll be up in the northern part of the country. If you don’t plan to go whale watching, and your family isn’t overly interested in whales, this museum may not keep the kids’ attention. Note, however, that there is a trivia quiz they museum provides for kids, that offers a small prize if they complete it successfully. This was a hit with my kids. The audio guide may have kept their interest as well, though you may not have a device for all of the members of your family.

Both the Saga Museum and Whales of Iceland are excellent museums; they are less than a 10 minute walk from each other. (And the Reykjavik Maritime Museum is between them!) Either or both would be an excellent addition to your time in Reykjavik; you’ll have to decide if your family wants to learn more about Icelandic history or whales.

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Friday, July 8 update: Saga Museum and Whales of Iceland was last modified: July 22nd, 2016 by Eric