Perlan Museum

Perlan Museum – the Pearl of Reykjavik

One of the most popular museums in Iceland’s capital is the Perlan Museum. Here you will find interactive elements, a planetarium, an ice cave, and much more. Read on to learn more about this place and why it’s worth a visit!

perlan museum

Perlan's History

Perlan has not always been a world-class Exploratorium, it was constructed as a heating tank. This explains the building construction – a huge glass dome that rests on top of six district heating tanks, each of which can hold about 4 million liters of geothermal water.


The first idea for the construction of a magnificent building on Öskjuhlíð hill came from Jóhannes Kjarval, a famous Icelandic artist. And his concept was the following: “the temple sides were to be covered with mirror slabs, so that the northern lights could approach the feet of men – the roof was to be decorated with crystals in every color, and a floodlight was to be at the top of the ridge that illuminated all the tanks. The house itself was supposed to correspond to the light of day and the symbols of the night.” And you could see how the idea turned into an amazing building on the top of a hill.


And the hill – Öskjuhlíð – is something to mention. Did you know that over 176,000 trees have been planted there? Now it is a popular recreation zone for Icelanders, where you can enjoy picturesque views, and moss in all forms and even walk towards the public beach, Nautholsvík, located nearby.  

Perlan Exhibitions ​

Within Perlan, there are museums with interactive exhibitions, activities, and even a Planetarium. There are so many places to visit that it’s best to plan on staying a few hours to experience everything Perlan has to offer.


The first floor 

Start with the beginning – the Iceland Timeline exhibit. The story of Iceland begins 64 million years ago and is one of constant change and rebirth. It is a story written in fossil records, geological formations, ancient myths, and modern stories, as well as in the evolution of Iceland’s ever-changing plant and animal life. 


Next is the Forces of Nature exhibit, where you’ll learn which natural forces have shaped the island and which are still active. A little further on you can see Iceland’s animal inhabitants, even extinct ones. A realistic model of the Látrabjarg cliff rises 10 meters into the air. Visitors feel as if they are standing at the base of the cliff, looking straight up – a truly breathtaking view. One can see puffins, gannets, guillemots and many other birds, both sitting on the cliff and digitally animated in the binoculars. In the Cinematic Underwater Journey, visitors can see whales swimming beneath their feet, animated whales rather than real ones, of course. Captivating information and stories make this exhibit both entertaining and educational.


After exploring all these exhibits, you’ll probably want to rest a bit, and the planetarium is perfect for that. A huge dome and comfortable seats welcome you there. The show is all about the northern lights, embodied by the goddess of dawn Aurora. It is a story with many tales, combining science and art into a unique experience. You’ll travel from Reykjavik to outer space and immerse yourself in the mysterious auroras that occur throughout the solar system. And if you haven’t been lucky enough to see the aurora dancing in the sky, you can make up for it at the planetarium. The amazing show is also accompanied by great Icelandic musicians – Ragga Gísla and Petur Jonsson – who wrote songs especially for the show. 


And if you missed a volcanic eruption in Iceland (and there have been a few lately), you can see the best pictures and videos of them here in Perlan. From fire to ice – the last highlight of the first floor – is the ice cave. It is a man-made cave where snow and ice were brought from the nearby Bláfjall mountain. It is the first of its kind in the world! It is 100 meters long and was built with over 350 tons of snow. You can experience what it is like to be inside the glacier, see breathtaking colors and even sit on the ice throne!

Planetarium Northern Lights

The second floor  

On the second floor you can visit an extensive exhibition of the Icelandic Natural History Museum. Here you can discover the secrets of water in Icelandic nature, learn all the names of waterfalls and marvel at minerals and stones. One of the interactive exhibitions is dedicated to Icelandic glaciers. Here you can learn about the Icelandic glaciers, their grim future and the effects of global warming.  Guests are also introduced to the unusual life forms that live on glaciers, and can leave a message for a melting glacier (or future visitors).

Food and more!

On the fourth floor, you can visit the observation deck, which offers a 360-degree view of Reykjavík. You can see the city center, the sea, and the mountains around the city. There is also a 230-meter-long zipline here. It is open during the warmer months of the year. Visitors can whiz down from the top of Perlan overlooking Reykjavík and Öskjuhlíð.


On this floor, you can also buy some souvenirs and eat ice cream. And on the 5th floor is the Perlan restaurant with a breathtaking view.

You can easily book your adventure online at or buy a ticket on-site.  To reach Perlan from Reykjavík city center, you can either walk and enjoy the view of Öskjuhlið, drive there or take the bus. 

So the Perlan Museum is definitely worth a visit when you are in Reykjavík! Here you will learn everything about Icelandic nature: northern lights, glaciers, volcanoes, marine life, seabirds, minerals, etc. During a visit you will feel like a real adventurer in an ice cave, enjoy a first-class show in the planetarium and admire the 360° view over Reykjavík. What are you waiting for?

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