The Perlan Museum, literally “the pearl", is a unique and eye-catching structure in Reykjavik towering from the Öskjuhlíð hill.
Historically a geothermal hot water silo, this structure became one of the major tourist attractions in the capital once it was revamped into an ultra-modern museum and exhibition center.
At over 25 m in height, it dominates the Reykjavik skyline with its iconic glass dome. The building was originally a water silo until in 1991, the whole structure was refurbished and repurposed, and a hemispherical structure was added to the summit.
In a nutshell, the Perlan is an exhibition center where you can learn everything about Iceland's natural heritage, its unique volcanism, geothermal energy, the Northern Lights, glaciers, oceans, fauna, flora... This is a fantastic interactive and educational tour for old and young alike!
In addition to the museum, which extends over 4 floors, there is a panoramic terrace on the fourth floor with a unique 360° view of Reykjavik, a renowned restaurant on the fifth floor, and a dazzling planetarium.
The Perlan is located south of Reykjavík, slightly outside the city center, and is quite easy to get to with or without a car.
Indeed, the free shuttle from Harpa at the Reykjavik harbour takes you directly to Perlan. This bus runs every day from 9AM to 5.30PM and leaves every 30 minutes from Harpa (stop 5). It takes 20 minutes by bus to reach the museum.
For the hikers among you, it's only 25 minutes from the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, and by car it's easy to find and there is a car park right in front of the Perlan.
You can buy tickets directly on site, of course, but it is strongly recommended to book your visit ahead of time as the museum is rather popular, especially in summer, and early bookings allow you to skip the line on the way in.
There is a package offered which we recommend:
It takes about 2 hours to do the whole tour of the Wonders of Iceland exhibit and follow up with the Northern Lights show.
On site, there is also the famous panoramic restaurant and a souvenir shop, a coffee shop, and the superb panoramic terrace that offers incredible views of the capital.
The exhibition offers an in-depth look at the unique natural heritage of Iceland with some very modern interactive technology.
Among the wonders of Iceland, you will discover a 100 m long artificial ice cave which is just as cold as the real thing since the temperature is kept at around -10°. This cave is a world first, made from over 350 tons of snow straight from the Icelandic mountains.
An exhibition dedicated to glaciers will provide a glimpse into the geology of these structures and their future with climate change. You'll see an interactive map of Vatnajokull that illustrates what the largest glacier in Europe will become over the next century with the impact of global warming.
Local fauna is not forgotten, and you can study an artificial cliff representing Látrabjarg with an educational showcase of the Icelandic birdlife and learn the best spots on the island to observe each species. There's even sets of binoculars to observe video of blurry and distant birds, like a bird-watching simulator, which is actually quite fun.
Large marine mammals, including whales, of course, get their time in the spotlight on cutting-edge panoramic screens, because who says education can't be fun? There are high-tech video exhibits on volcanism and geothermal energy to teach you about the various volcanic phenomena or plate tectonics. Don't miss the exhibit dedicated to the three main types of earthquakes.
It would be a real shame to go to Perlan and not see the Aurora Borealis show in the planetarium: “Áróra”. This is the most cutting-edge technology in the museum, with 8K and 3D video with 7.1 surround sound for an incredibly immersive video.
It explains in layman's terms what an aurora borealis is, how it forms, where you can see them... The show lasts about twenty minutes and is always a hit with old and young alike. But keep in mind, the show is only in English, with a showing every hour from 10AM until 9PM.
The Perlan is without a doubt one of if not the most fun museum in Iceland, and this is not an outing you want to miss during a stay in Reykjavík.