Little Black Book: Iceland’s Performing Arts Scene


Bifröst University

Originally a business school, Bifröst University offers a Masters in Cultural Management.

Iceland University of the Arts

The Iceland University of the Arts has an extensive range of undergraduate and graduate degrees in Performing Arts, Arts Education and Music, including a Masters in Performing Arts taught in English.

Nordic Ambition

Nordic Ambition is a mentorship programme for theatre leaders in the Nordic region. This one-year programme develops participants’ leadership skills and promotes Nordic networks between the 350 member theatres throughout Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Applications open in March and the programme begins the following June.


Dark Music Days Festival

Established by the Society of Icelandic Composers in 1980, the annual Dark Music Festival takes place in January. It is known for premiering new and often experimental compositions performed by artists from both Iceland and overseas.

HIMA Festival

Founded in 2013, the Harpa International Music Academy’s (HIMA) summer festival is an inspiring event focusing on both training and performance. Participants enjoy daily solo lessons, chamber music, masterclasses, seminars and concerts.

Reykjavik Arts Festival

Reykjavik Arts Festival is a biennial multidisciplinary festival focusing on making contemporary and classical works by national and international artists accessible to all. The theme of the 2024 edition (1-16 June) is “HERE”, a multi-faceted concept that encourages expression and exploration of the present moment and zeitgeist.

Reykjavik Dance Festival

Founded in 2002, Reykjavik Dance Festival takes place in November with national and international mini festivals, workshops and residences taking place throughout the year to celebrate dance and choreography.


Iceland Music Information Centre

Iceland Music Information Centre (IMIC) is the national centre for Icelandic classical and contemporary music. Founded in 1968, this non-profit society’s aim is to make contemporary Icelandic compositions easily accessible and to support the country’s contemporary and classical music scene. 

At the beginning of each year IMIC hosts PODIUM at Dark Music Days, a showcase of the country’s most exciting projects and artists in contemporary music.

Performing Arts Centre Iceland

Situated in Reykjavik, the Performing Arts Centre Iceland was founded in 2022 by stakeholders from across the performing arts sector in Iceland. The centre is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Commerce and aims to increase the visibility and complicity of the performing arts both in Iceland and abroad.

This year the centre awarded ISK 1.5m in travel grants to individuals and organisations. These included ISK 525.000 to dancer and choreographer Lovísa Ósk Gunnarsdóttir for a When the Bleeding Stops performance at this month’s Aerowaves’ Spring Forward Festival in Dublin and ISK 225,000 to Perplex Theatre Company to support their visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Performing Arts Companies

Performing Arts Centre Iceland

The Akureyri Theatre Company (ATC), founded in 1908, is the only professional theatre company outside of Reykjavik. It is primarily based at Samkomuhúsið which was Iceland’s largest theatre at the beginning of the 20th century.

The ATC performs classical and new plays written by both Icelandic and international playwrights, including three to seven productions of its own each year.

Iceland Dance Company 

Artistic Director: Erna Ómarsdóttir

Established in 1973, the Iceland Dance Company (IDC) is the national dance company of Iceland. Based in Reykjavik City Theatre, the IDC is a progressive modern dance company focussing on presenting ambitious works to audiences both in Iceland and overseas.

Icelandic Opera

Opera Director: Steinunn Birna Ragnarsdóttir

The Icelandic Opera was formed in 1980 to give singers the opportunity to perform and to make opera more accessible to Icelandic audiences. In 2011 it moved from Reykjavik’s old cinema, Gamla bíó, to Harpa, where it puts on at least two operas, educational activities, collaboration projects and concerts each season.

Although more than 400,000 visitors have attended performances by the Icelandic Opera, the attendance record is still held by its 1982 performance of Strauss’ The Gypsy Baron which was seen by over 23,000 visitors at 49 screenings.

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Chief Conductor and Artistic Director: Eva Ollikainen 

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra (ISO) is the country’s national orchestra, and Harpa Concert Hall’s resident orchestra, giving around 100 concerts each season. 

Founded in 1950, the ISO gives weekly concerts in Harpa from September to June and has toured widely, including performances at the BBC Proms and New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Conductor and composer Daníel Bjarnason is Artist in Association and Vladimir Ashkenazy, who conducted the ISO regularly since the early 1970s, is Conductor Laureate.


Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre

The Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center is one of the most iconic buildings in Reykjavik, known for its stunning architecture and world-class performances. This state-of-the-art venue is home to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Icelandic Opera and Reykjavik Big Band and hosts a variety of concerts, operas and events throughout the year.

Hof Cultural Centre

The Hof Cultural Centre is located in Akureyri and represents the heart of northern Icelandic culture attracting thousands of visitors each year. It is home to Hamraborg, the only other concert hall in Iceland, besides Harpa, that is designed for symphonic music. 

The hall seats up to 600 people and the seats are designed in such a way that even if one is empty it still looks like it is occupied by a man wearing a suit.

National Theatre of Iceland 

Director: Magnus Geir Þórðarson

The National Theatre of Iceland (NTI) opened in 1950 and provides a platform for the country’s playwrights to showcase their works. Each season the NTI hosts up to ten new productions and other repertoire including Icelandic and international contemporary and classic works. The theatre welcomes around 100,000 people each season and boasts five stages, the Main Stage seating 500. 

The NTI is an ensemble theatre with around 25 actors employed on a permanent basis and in 2020 received an official Equal Pay certification.

Reykjavik City Theatre 

Artistic Director: Brynhildur Guðjónsdóttir

The Reykjavik City Theatre (RCT) dates back to 1897 and is one of Iceland’s oldest and most prestigious cultural institutions. In 1989 RCT received a new modern home measuring 11,000 square metres complete with three stages.

The Main Stage, which seats 546 guests, has a revolving stage, a fly tower with hydraulic flying facilities and an orchestra pit for 50 musicians. The New Stage is a black box offering multiple possibilities and seats up to 250, while the versatile Small Stage has an audience capacity of up to 200.


Built in 1913, Tjarnarbíó (meaning “Pond Cinema”) is Reykjavik’s foremost independent venue. It has an interesting history as the auditorium was originally an “icehouse”, the backstage area was the capital’s fire station and during WWII the University of Iceland took it over and turned it into a cinema, hence its name. 2010 saw the culmination of the theatre’s total renovation and it has been the home of Iceland’s independent performing arts scene ever since.


Vesturport is a small theatre in Reykjavik with seating for up to 49 people. It is a  popular space for companies such as the Reykjavik City Theatre and the National Theatre to develop their work before appearing on the world stage. It was founded in 2001 by Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir and Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, one of Iceland’s most beloved and established actors.