Just over 2.6 million visits were made to museums in Iceland in 2018. Visits have thereby increased by over a million in the last ten years. The visits were 2.3 million considering only visits to museums which are able to provide information about the nationality of their guests, of which 770 thousand were by Icelandic nationals but roughly 1.6 million by foreign guests.

Foreign visits increased proportionally much more than visits made by Icelandic nationals in the period from 2009 to 2018. Since 2014, visits by Icelandic nationals have actually decreased while visits of foreign guests has almost doubled and in 2018 foreign guests accounted for 66.7% of all museum visits compared to 35% in 2009.

1 A little under 82% of museums were able to provide information on the number of national and foreign guests for 2018. The number of visits reported by those museums accounts for 88% of all visits.

This increase in museum visits by foreign guests likely relates to the vast increase in tourism in Iceland and comparing the number of museum visits to numbers of foreign visitors reported by the Icelandic Tourist Board supports that assumption.

History museums most popular
History museums are most popular among both Icelandic nationals and foreign guests. Visits to other types of museums have also increased in the last ten years and the share of both nature and art museums was greater in 2018 than in 2009 for both groups. The share of zoological gardens has decreased for both groups with actual visits of Icelandic nationals decreasing and those of foreign guests increasing.

The share of Icelandic nationals and foreign guests differs between types of museums. The share has also changed dramatically in the last ten years with the share of foreign guests increasing for all types of museums. The share has changed the most for nature museums where the share of foreign guests went from 42% in 2009 to 86% in 2018. In 2018 the majority of visits to history museums was also by foreign guests but national guests were the majority for art museums and zoological gardens.

In 2018, roughly 1.4 million museum visits took place in the capital area and 624 thousand in the South region, or 53%, and 24% of all visits. Visits to museums in the other six regions together accounted for 23% of total visits. Distribution of museum visits to the different regions also varies by type of museums. The highest share of the capital area, 83%, pertains to art museums and the lowest to history museums, 37.6%.

Number of employees also increasing
Museum employees have also grown in number since 2010, both those who only work in the sector during the summer season and those who are employed at the end of the year. The data does not distinguish between part time and full time employees, but volunteers are excluded.

The growing numbers of museum employees reported by the museum is in line with the register based data on cultural employment where the numbers for museum employment (NACE rev. 2 R91.02) has been rising slowly since 2012.

About the data
Statistics Iceland’s museum statistics concern the operations of museums and related activities, including zoological and botanical gardens, open for the public and able to provide information regarding the number of visits each year. Data collection takes place each fall and museums are then asked to provide information regarding the previous year. This means that in the fall of 2019 data was collected for the year of 2018. This data is then published in the spring of 2020.

Statistics Iceland collects data from the museums themselves. A list of museum is updated yearly and includes all museums accredited by the Museum Council, as well as other museums which are open to the public in the reference period.