A total of 1.8 million guests visited museums and related activities in 2021, increasing by 12% from 2020. Proportionally the number increased the most at nature museums, by 54%. The number also increased at art museums and fish museums but for history museums the number decreased by 13%. Looking at a five year period, from 2017-2021, the number of museums guests decreased by 23%.
Most museum guests visited museums within the Capital region, just under 1.1 million, or 62% of the total number of guests. Second most guests visited museums in the South region, just under 321 thousand, or 18%.
In the three years since Statistics Iceland started publishing separate numbers for accredited and principal museums on the one hand and other museums on the other, the number has divided quite evenly between the two types. However, 2021 was the first year when the number was higher for accredited and principal museums.
Number of foreign museum guests decreased substantially since 2017
Out of the 116 museums that collected information on the number of guests in 2021, 85 turned in separate numbers for foreign and Icelandic guests. The number of guest who visited those 85 museums was 1.1 million in 2021, or 63% of the total number of guests.
Within this group, the number of foreign museum guests decreased by 57% between 2017 and 2021. Within the period the number decreased by 15% from 2018-2019 and by 85% from 2019-2020. It then increased again by 150% from 2020-2021.
The number of Icelandic guests decreased from 2020-2021 by 10% and by 11% from 2017-2021 in museums that distinguish between Icelandic and foreign guests.
Numbers for 2020 corrected
When analysing data for 2021, an error was noticed by Statistics Iceland in the 2020 data, where several museums had inserted the wrong region in their answers. This has now been corrected and web tables updated accordingly.
About the data
Information about accredited museums comes from the Museum Council of Iceland. Information about other museums and related activities is collected annually by Statistics Iceland.
Information for 2021 was collected from a total of 128 operators of museums, exhibitions, and related activities. In total data was collected for 135 museums, seven of which are categorised as submuseums, operated by other main museums.
Of those 128, 116 returned information about the number of guests and 85 were able to divide the guests into Icelandic and foreign. It is worth noting that Statistics Iceland’s list of museums, exhibitions and related activities is not exhaustive but updated annually with the information available at each time. In addition, some museums are unable to provide information, even though they are on the list, and the data collected each year is thus not exhaustive for all running museums and related activities within the reference period.