Adventure Vacations Iceland Iceland Reykjavik

The Reykjavik Children’s Culture Festival

Written by Kirstie Pelling

The Reykjavik Children’s Festival

To many people a break in Iceland involves either extreme sport, extreme landscape or extreme partying. But its capital Reykjavik is keen to attract families too, to enjoy the thermal beach and pools, the buzzing city life, and the variety of culture and heritage on offer. This includes the Children’s Culture Festival; a week long extravanganza of children’s culture, culture for children and culture with children. We’re off to join in some of the activities, to celebrate the arrival of the Icelandic summer, and to be inspired by Iceland’s youth…

Culture for, by and with children

“Iceland is on fire! Are we still going?” shouts Cameron , dumping his school bag at the front door. With only hours until we fly, it’s not what we need. Thinking about the volcano that halted British flights for days a couple of years ago, I check my airline tickets and consult my phone for the latest flight news. There’s nothing about Iceland in the headlines.

“But it is. A boy in my class told me. His mum went there.”

“Do you think he meant ‘land of ice and fire?’” I suggest. “It’s what people call it.”

He thinks about this for a moment. “Well that wouldn’t work. How could you have ice and fire together? The ice would just put out the fire.”

“Well I’m not sure,” I say. “We’ll have to find out.”

It’s not often as a family we venture into the complete unknown. We travel a lot, sure, but Western Europe isn’t the challenge it used to be; partly it’s because we’re familiar with it, and partly it’s because it’s all becoming so samey. McDonalds is McDonalds in any country, and on most trips I’m surprised afresh by the prevalence of Tesco and Spar, even in the countryside. But I suspect Iceland is going to be very different.

We’ve been invited out to attend the Reykjavik Children’s Festival. It’s a festival that coincides with the start of Icelandic summer, and it’s remit is simple; culture by the children for the children, with the children. Its programme is more complicated. We only had the Icelandic version to start with and Google Translator wasn’t very enlightening.

Our first challenge – to learn a little Icelandic

The theme is ‘the source’

“In the morning we can meet some students for ‘cookies and wierd beards’ and then spend an afternoon making karaoke with a carrot.” Says Cameron with glee. “It sounds brilliant!”

The theme for this year’s festival is ‘the source.’ “What does that mean?” asks my son.

“Well I’m not sure..”

“I love sauce,” says Hannah. “Ketchup is my favourite.”

“I don’t think it’s that kind of sauce.” I reply.

“What kind of sauce is it then?”

“Well I’m not sure… “ I say

“We’ll have to find out.” Cameron finishes my sentence with a grin.

Hallgrimskirka in Reykjavik, Iceland

Looking out across Reykjavik to Hallgrímskirkja

The Children’s Festival programme

We now have the translated version of the festival programme, which is weird-beard free. And we’ve set up all kinds of strange and wonderful events including art, happiness and musicology workshops. Thankfully karoake with a carrot is still firmly in our schedule. We intend to see for ourselves what our children and others can learn from Icelandic culture. With a population of just over three hundred thousand and a wild, uninhabited landscape, we’re pretty sure that the experience will be very different and very inspiring.

We’re flying with Icelandair and it’s the first time Hannah has been in a plane, so that should be interesting. We’re checking out some of Reykjaviks finest hotels including Hilton Reykjavik Nordica and Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Marina.

And we’re going to track down ‘the source,’ whatever it may be.

In between children’s festival performances and workshops, we plan to do some thermal bathing at The Blue Lagoon and a city beach; check out the Vikings in the city’s Saga museum and in the outdoors with some Viking horseriding. We hope to visit the geysers of the Golden Circle, and go whale watching.

A colleague at Late Rooms has told us about a bar that serves minke whale and puffin. Our children have very conventional tastes when it comes to food. But maybe we’ll get them to try such delicacies without them realising. How? Well that’s where ‘the sauce’ might come in handy.

“ I wonder if Iceland does Ketchup?” I say out loud.

“Well I’m not sure,” says Cameron. “We’ll have to find out.”


This post is part of our 2012 Iceland Season.  We visited Reykjavik in April for the Children’s Culture Festival, then spent a summer exploring the wilder parts of the country expedition style by car and bike.  We’re grateful to Visit ReykjavikIcelandair and Icelandair Hotels, Reykjavik Excursions and The Blue Lagoon for their support in helping bring you this season of posts from the Reykjavik Children’s Culture Festival. 

Read more from our Icelandic Spring 2012 Reykjavik Children’s Festival season:


About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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